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2017 NBA Draft: Sixers feel they’ve found ‘perfect complement’ in Markelle Fultz

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The team sounds thrilled to get their guy.

NBA: Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Talk to the average person about draft philosophy, and odds are you’ll end up debating the merits of best player available vs. fit. Sitting at No. 3 a week ago and with no perfect marriage of both in sight, the Sixers made a dramatic move to position themselves at the top of the draft board.

As far as Bryan Colangelo is concerned, the Sixers were able to get the best of both worlds by moving up to select Markelle Fultz.

“We felt like the value of moving from three to one was relevant in that we moved into position to take what we think is the ideal fit for this roster, said Colangelo. “Markelle is a tremendous athlete, a tremendous young man, we think he’s going to fit the culture of this organization.”

He would go on to say the same thing in much simpler terms: “The right player, the right piece, to move this situation forward.”

And for once, it’s nice for the Sixers be able to slot in the guy who is the clear No. 1 player without having to make concessions for a weird fit. The Sixers are where they are today because they did not break from the best player available philosophy, for better or for worse. Maybe some picks aimed more toward “fit” in years past would have had them progressing on a steadier path, but steady doesn’t necessarily translate to being meaningful.

This time around, no one has to make any concessions to be excited about Fultz walking through that door. That includes Brett Brown, who has had to make chicken noodle soup out of chicken shit for large stretches of his four-year tenure, even if he’s always been a hell of a lot more diplomatic about it. He sounded over the moon about the opportunity to implement Fultz alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

“I think for a variety of reasons, when you look at his ability to shoot, when you look at his ability to create, on a catch-go or off a live ball, that he can coexist with Ben and Joel the easiest out of all the [prospects],” said Brown. But where he may have differed from consensus is in his view of Lonzo Ball, who Brown mentioned as an inferior fit alongside Simmons and Embiid.

“When you thought there was a chance we could get Lonzo Ball, you studied him, and you realized, that is a point guard, said Brown. “I think we would have found a way to make that work, but I feel that with Markelle and his sort of variety of ball skills and positional skills, you feel it a lot clearer that the fit can be a little more seamless.”

Though the Sixers only had things come together on the Fultz front over the last week or so—Brown said he was flying to Sacramento to see Josh Jackson when things kicked into high gear—this is a kid they’ve had their eye on for some time. Colangelo recalled early conversations with Sixers VP of Player Personnel Marc Eversley, and said Fultz leapt off the page from the beginning of their scouting journey.

“I believe through some of the postseason tournaments last year,” said Colangelo. “Not only did Markelle go and have a pretty good stage with USA Basketball, but he emerged really as a lead prospect at some of those games. I’m looking at a whole host of talented players last year, but Marc Eversley said, ‘That guy, he’s going to be the one.’ And he was right. A whole year of scouting has confirmed our thoughts.”

Sixers fans have been waiting for the team to come together for much longer than that, been waiting for a team to rise from the muck for much longer than that. After years of waiting, years of debating what to do or who to take, this time it was simple.

“I think he’s a perfect complement to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons,” said Coach Brown.

Other Notes

  • BC was clearly feeling himself after the big trade-up. He sort of laughed at all the assembled media at the Sixers’ practice facility, and remarked that it, “Feels like this is the center of the basketball universe right now.”
  • Though a lot of people expressed concern about Washington’s 9-22 record with Fultz in tow, Colangelo dismissed all concerns about his win-loss record, detailing research they did with coaches, teammates, and other people who know Fultz. “We dug very deep on this, and feel that regardless whatever the performance was, it’s not relevant to what Markelle represents as a player.”
  • Brett Brown is confident about Fultz turning into a plus defensive player. “I think if you take a high character person, you take an athlete, you have the foundation to coach him to be an elite defender. I think down deep, he understands the knock against him. And I believe that when we get him with our program, he understands how we see the world here—it’s going to be an evolution no doubt—but it’s a willing defensive player.