Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade ups/downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Last season's consensus No. 1 prospect, Ben Simmons, ended up Philadelphia. Could that happen for a second straight draft?
Fultz is widely considered the easy No. 1 choice for the Boston Celtics, fresh off a beatdown in the Eastern Conference finals. And for good reason. Fultz was unleashed on the NCAA last year and he put up 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game while playing for the lackluster Huskies.
Unlike the rest of the top-five prospects, Fultz didn't find himself in the NCAA Tournament. Still, that probably won't affect his pursuit of becoming the No. 1 pick, thereby making a fall to No. 3 all the more unlikely.
The case for Fultz
The Washington point guard played just 892 minutes in college, but he looked like the real deal during that short period. Fultz was unable to make a bad team good by himself (9-21 record) and had poor floor spacing around him as opposing teams focused on him.
He thrived anyway. He has an elite ability to shoot off the dribble, creating with his strong handle and finishing with a jumper. Fultz shot 41.3 percent from three-point range and over 38 percent off the catch, meaning he doesn't necessarily even need to be the guy with the ball in his hands.
But when he gets in transition, you certainly want the rock in his hands. He's explosive, able to change speeds in an instant and take off for the basket before slowing down and utilizing his elite finishing ability. Despite teams loading the paint and helping off his teammates, he could still finish at the rim.
Fultz has strong court vision and can find teammates well, hence his 5.9 assists despite those aforementioned sub-par courtmates. He navigates screens extremely well, both splitting them occasionally and getting around them. It will be fascinating to see how he deals with the extra space he'll get at the next level with some NBA-quality shooters around him.
Defensively, he has the size to be great with his height and wingspan. He's been able to get into passing lanes and can defend the rim against opposing guards, racking up 1.2 blocks to go with 1.6 steals per game.
The case against Fultz
No prospect is without flaws, although Fultz is likely the most NBA-ready of the top players with the polish in his game. One chief concern for Fultz is his shooting. He shot well from three but was just 64.9 percent from the free throw line. His form is solid on jumpers, particularly how high he releases the ball, but there is reason to believe he won't be quite as good from the field in a larger sample size.
The biggest issue for him, though, is how locked in he is defensively. Simply, he wasn't locked in and engaged there all the time last season. How much of that had to do with Washington being a non-competitive team is up for debate, but it is a question he has to answer at the next level. There are no days off with the overall talent at point guard in the NBA.
Finally, he dealt with knee soreness that kept him out of six games while a Huskie. By all reports, he appears to be medically fine with nothing structurally wrong. It's not really worth too much worry, but the Sixers haven't had much injury luck with prospects recently.
There is a very limited chance that Fultz falls to No. 3. Chances are, either the Celtics will select him at No. 1 or they will trade the selection for a bonafide All-Star (Paul George or Jimmy Butler, anyone?), in which case the Pacers or Bulls would likely take Fultz.
Lonzo Ball isn't working out with the Celtics and doesn't really fit there. The team could use a wing or a rim protector, but Fultz is likely too good to pass up. If the Celtics passed on Fultz, the Lakers probably snatch up the Washington product.
Therefore, the only realistic chance the Sixers have to grab this year's premier talent is to trade up with the Celtics. The teams don't seem to fit all that well on a trade. The Celtics are looking for a star to add to their roster and consolidate their assets while the Sixers would likely offer a package consisting of only a series of top-flight draft picks. This makes Fultz to Philly a pipedream.