The scouting community was nearly all-in on Markelle Fultz, but it doesn’t appear his rookie classmates feel the same way. In the league’s annual rookie survey, Fultz was passed over in almost every major category for Lonzo Ball, and it will only add more fuel to the fire for a player who took an unconventional journey to the top of an NBA draft class.
While Fultz earned some decent recognition in “Who will be Rookie of the Year?” voting, coming in at third with 17.1 percent of the field, he fell short of Lonzo Ball (20 percent) and the leader in the clubhouse, Dennis Smith (25.7 percent). I actually think this is the least egregious claim, seeing as Fultz and Ben Simmons will be taking away from one another’s chances to an extent. Though it’s also worth mentioning this here: the rookies haven’t correctly predicted this since 2007, and they picked Kris Dunn to win last year. Whoops!
The tougher one to swallow is the “Which rookie will have the best career?” voting, in which Fultz got a paltry two votes. That tied him with Ben Simmons—which is equally, if not more ridiculous—and Harry freaking Giles, who looked like a giraffe on ice skates at times for Duke, injury issues aside. Here’s what the leaderboard looked like ahead of the Sixers rookies:
1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers -- 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston -- 18.4%
3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix -- 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas -- 10.5%
5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento -- 7.9%
6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia -- 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento -- 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia -- 5.3%
Fultz was named the second-best playmaker, but his chunk of the vote (7.7 percent) was dwarfed by Ball’s (71.8 percent). Simmons was the real loser here, not getting a single vote despite the likes of Jayson Tatum (???) and Frank Mason getting a nod.
Given what they gave up to move to No. 1, the Sixers are betting on his classmates being very wrong about his potential. His short stint in Vegas—and his obscured season at the University of Washington—did not exactly help build his public profile, even if the talent and flashes were blinding. That’s okay, because he can make all these guys remember him when the season starts this fall.
He doesn’t have Big Baller Brand to help him achieve that goal, but he does have an army of Philadelphians ready to celebrate his every move, and ultimately, I think that’s what counts.