Markelle Fultz said during the draft process he wanted to be the top pick in the draft “really bad,” and on Thursday the Philadelphia 76ers made that a reality.
The 6-foot-5 point guard is headed to Philadelphia after spending one year at Washington, as the 76ers pulled off a trade with the Boston Celtics days earlier to move up two spots from No. 3 and select Fultz.
Fultz is only three years removed from playing junior varsity basketball in his native Maryland, and now will begin his NBA career a 2½-hour drive away from home.
“When I heard my name called … it was like God calling me,” Fultz said after being selected.
In his one season with the Huskies, Fultz led all freshmen with 23.2 points, and also averaged 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 25 games, while showcasing top-pick talent despite playing on a team that finished a 9-22 campaign with 13 consecutive losses.
“He brings to the table a great athleticism,” Philadelphia general manager Bryan Colangelo said Thursday night. “He is multitalented in terms of his offensive skill set. He gets to the basket, he penetrates, he’s elusive, he can handle the ball. He’s what you’d call your prototypical combo guard, a combo guard that can score in many ways including shooting from the perimeter. It’s an opportunity that we feel, just basketball-wise, playing alongside Ben Simmons, playing alongside Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and others — many others — that it was the right player, the right piece to move this situation forward.”
Fultz will join a Sixers core that is heavy on promise but light on NBA success. Thanks to the philosophy of the previous managerial regime led by former general manager Sam Hinkie, the 76ers punted on immediate success to stockpile assets and build for the future. Dubbed “The Process,” it has netted high-pick talents Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Simmons. However, injuries have sidetracked the franchise from seeing how its young talent fits together.
Okafor has been the closest thing to an ironman of the incumbent Philadelphia trio, having played in 103 of a possible 164 games in his first two seasons in the NBA.
Conversely, Embiid missed the first two years of his career because of injury. Drafted No. 3 overall in 2014, the 7-footer from Cameroon didn’t make his NBA debut until this past season, playing in only 31 games due to a combination of injury and a preemptive rest plan. In his limited action, Embiid showed true promise and has become the living embodiment of Hinkie’s vision, having nicknamed himself “The Process.”
Simmons, last year’s No. 1 overall pick, missed the entirety of the 2016-17 season because of a broken foot. As a result, he and Fultz will be the first teammates to be No. 1 overall picks and rookies at the same time.
Fultz’s selection at No. 1 is also historic as it makes the Washington Huskies the first program to provide the first overall pick in both the NBA and WNBA drafts in the same academic year. Huskies senior Kelsey Plum was taken No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Stars in April’s WNBA draft.
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