Risk and price too high for Markelle Fultz | Bob Brookover
The Sixers would have been better off keeping the first-round pick they are trading to the Celtics instead of going for a player whose team was so bad during his one college season.
I confess that I have never seen Markelle Fultz play a basketball game and I was not at his 76ers workout Saturday in Camden. Still, it is hard to stamp a seal of approval on what the franchise is about to do.
If, as expected, the 76ers complete a trade with the Boston Celtics on Monday that gives them the first overall selection in the draft for a second straight year, there is only one way that it will go down as a great decision. Fultz, who turned 19 less than a month ago, must be the game's next great point guard in an era that has placed so much emphasis on that position.
For what the Sixers are reportedly sending to the Celtics, they must get the next Russell Westbrook, the next James Harden, or the next Steph Curry in return. Anything less and this trade will join so many other franchise failures since 2001, when the Sixers made their last appearance in the NBA Finals.
Look at the individual numbers from Fultz's only collegiate season at the University of Washington and you'd believe that he can be exactly what the 76ers must believe he is. His one-and-done stats - 23.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 41.3 percent from beyond the three-point arc - were more impressive than what Westbrook did during his two years at UCLA and comparable to what Harden did during his two seasons at Arizona State.
That's significant because they all played in the same conference, although it was called the Pac-10 when Harden and Westbrook were in college and is the Pac-12 now.
Curry, meanwhile, was one of the most prolific scoring point guards in NCAA history, averaging 25.3 points per game during his three seasons at Davidson. He no doubt slipped to seventh overall in the 2009 draft because of his size and the fact he played at a mid-major school.
Teams should have been more impressed by his ability to win. Davidson went 55-20 during his three seasons at the school and reached the Elite Eight before losing a two-point game to Kansas when he was a sophomore.
What scares me about Fultz is his one-and-done team resumé at Washington. The Huskies went 9-22 overall, 2-16 in the conference, and finished the year on a 13-game losing streak. I can't imagine a team with LeBron James or Curry or Harden or Westbrook being that bad regardless of the supporting cast around them.
Remember, there were questions about Ben Simmons a year ago because LSU did not make the tournament in his one-and-done season before the Sixers selected him first overall. And yet Simmons' LSU team was 19-14 overall and actually finished third in the SEC with an 11-7 record.
Read the accounts of Fultz's one season at Washington and he is credited with playing hard and caring a lot from start to finish, which speaks volumes about his character. You also have to like that he chose Washington because it was the first big-time school to express interest in him when he was not even on the radar as a major-college recruit at DeMatha Catholic in Maryland.
But that's not enough to make me believe he is definitely better than UCLA's Lonzo Ball or Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox, the other two point guards who will definitely be selected in the top 10 Thursday. It also would not have been enough to make me give up one of the two potentially high first-round picks I have in the next two seasons.
Reportedly the Sixers will keep their pick from the Los Angeles Lakers next season unless it is the second, third, fourth, or fifth overall selection. If it's No. 1 overall or lower than fifth, the Celtics will get Sacramento's 2019 pick. I hate the idea of giving up any pick that could be among the top five for a guy who played JV basketball as a high school sophomore.
And I'm surely not convinced Fultz will be better than Kansas forward Josh Jackson, whom I have seen play. I believe Jackson will be the best player from this draft because he improved so much as the season progressed. That's just a guess, just an opinion. Of course, history tells us that the guys making the picks are also just guessing based on their own educated opinions. It also tells us they are often wrong.
Study NBA draft selections from 1994 through 2013 - a 20-year period in which all the players have been eligible for at least three years in the league - and you'll find the success rate between picking first and third is relatively small.
For the purpose of our study, we used basketball-reference.com's win shares statistic to determine the rankings of players in each of those drafts. It is a statistical measurement similar to baseball's WAR - wins above replacement - that has grown in popularity in this century.
In that span, the first overall pick has graded out as the best player four times and ranked among the 10 best players from his draft class 14 times. The third overall pick has graded out as the best player twice and also ranked among the top 10 in his class 14 times.
Give me extra picks in the top five in an effort to get it right rather than putting so many eggs in the basket of a guy whose team went 9-22 last season.