What Makes Markelle Fultz An NBA Draft Favorite – FiveThirtyEight

If early reports turn out to be accurate, Markelle Fultz is headed to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers traded the third pick in this year’s draft and a protected first round pick in either the 2018 or 2019 draft to the Boston Celtics. It’s a mammoth deal for both teams, and it has ramifications for the long-term outlooks of both. But lost in the commotion of assets changing hands and the deal’s implications on other big-ticket trades are the particulars about the player at the heart of the deal: Fultz himself.

Playing in the Pacific Northwest on a nontournament team (and missing a chunk of time because of injury) made Fultz one of the most anonymous presumptive No. 1 picks in living memory. Just about every argument about the Washington Huskies guard is phrased in the subjunctive — a theoretical commodity more than a concrete set of skills. But dig down into what actually makes his game so good and it becomes obvious in a hurry that Fultz is a monster.

Fultz has been billed as a pick-and-roll playmaker, which is true but vague. He doesn’t sit up high and find long, surprising passing lanes like James Harden does, nor does he feint and jab on a defense until it cedes ground like Chris Paul does. Fultz’s game is built around his jumper and his handle. He’s a strong shooter off the dribble and a strong enough dribbler to operate in tight spaces and get to the rim, where he’s an excellent finisher. This means defenses have to crowd him wherever he is on the floor, whether it’s 25 feet from the rim or having turned the corner on a pick and roll. And if a defense sends help, he’s a willing passer to the open man, even if that

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