Draft Target: Markelle Fultz

Much speculation has surrounded whether or not the Celtics will retain the rights to swap draft picks with Brooklyn this summer. If they decide not to make a catastrophic move, Washington guard Markelle Fultz could be the answer come draft night.

While the prospect of trading for an established All-Star such as Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls or DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings is enticing, the possibility of garnering the Brooklyn Nets first-round selection in what is shaping up to be a fantastic draft class is an opportunity worthy of ecstasy. The Boston Celtics’ roster might be chock-full of backcourt options, however, they could create a gauntlet of guards with the prospects offered at the top of the 2017 draft class.

The prize of this summer’s selection process could be Markelle Fultz, an 18-year-old guard currently starring on a nightly basis for the Washington Huskies. Currently ranked first overall in Draft Express’ NBA Draft board, Fultz represents the total package woven into a 6’4″, 195-pound frame. In need of scoring? Fultz can provide it for you, posting 23.3 points per game. The Maryland native can score from anywhere on the floor using his astounding handles, his tremendous first-step off of the dribble, and his ability to create space for his jump-shot by using a dribble move.

Fultz is currently shooting the rock at a superb 48.2 percent clip, impressive given that he averages 17.7 shot attempts per outing. One aspect of his ability to release the rock that has scouts drooling is his effectiveness from beyond the three-point line. While many prospects at the pinnacle of draft boards, such as UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and Kansas’ Josh Jackson, sport severely unpolished three-point strokes, Fultz has showcased a reliable amount of marksmanship from three. On an average of 5.1 three-point attempts per 40 minutes, Fultz is knocking down 40.6 percent of his looks from long range, a telling statistic given that defenses are expending the majority of their resources attempting to prevent him from receiving an open look.

There are a few intricacies in his shooting motion that could stand to be improved upon, however, Celtics fans have witnessed the ability for a jump-shot to be vastly ironed out by watching the likes of Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley become featured shooters on an upper echelon postseason-caliber squad.

When this barrier is put in place and Fultz is required to relinquish possession of the ball, he does so in a mature manner. Per 40 minutes, Fultz averages 6.8 assists. His ability to blow past the first line of defense forces the opposition to dedicate help-side options to him, and he has the court vision necessary to expose this practice and find open cutters and options on the perimeter. This is one reason why Fultz would fit in exceptionally well in the offensive system of Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. Boston is a team reliant on the three-point land, surrounding penetrating guards such as Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart with three-point shooting targets on the outside.

Fultz’s ability to bypass defenders will allow for him to assimilate admirably into the Celtics’ offensive flow as teammates will have open looks on the perimeter as a result of his driving prowess. If the Huskies supplied him with a barrage of three-point shooters rather than a collection of lane-clogging big men, Fultz’s assist totals would undoubtedly compare with that of Ball, who posts 9.0 assists per 40 minutes. Currently, Fultz’s offensive rating sits at an eye-popping 118.8.

Additionally, Fultz has the build to be an effective point guard on both sides of the floor. His size allows him to garner 6.8 rebounds per 40 minutes, and he has the leaping ability to become a shot-blocking presence out of the backcourt as well, averaging 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes. Fultz has the lateral quickness to keep up with rapid NBA point guards also, averaging 1.8 steals per 40 minutes.

What should be the final straw in selling Ainge on Fultz’s dynamic potential is his superior basketball IQ. Despite his standing as a freshman, Fultz pilot’s the Huskies’ defensive efforts, as he calls out incoming screens with reckless abandon while consistently making the intelligent basketball maneuver. Fultz is also a tireless gym rat, something that would allow him to assimilate well into Boston basketball culture.

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