Should Markelle Fultz Be the Top Pick in the NBA Draft?
“I actually want to be the best to ever play this game. I think I have a pretty good chance to do that.”
That's what Markelle Fultz told Bleacher Report just two months ago.
Confidence will not be a problem with young Markelle, but confidence without production leaves you at the end of the bench and -- if you annoy your teammates with your incessant boasting -- eating lunch all by your lonesome.
So what do the numbers tell us about Fultz's chances to succeed in the NBA? Is his confidence merited? Based on his play at Washington, is Fultz a top-2 pick?
History says no.
Since the draft lottery was rolled out in 1985, a total of 13 guards have been selected first or second overall in the NBA Draft, and just four of those guards went number one. Fultz's 2016-17 college production -- in both win shares (WS) and win shares per 40 minutes (WS/40) -- was not up to par with those four numero unos.
* Data only available for Iverson's last season at Georgetown.
Due to complications with a knee injury, Fultz played only 25 games at Washington and, as a result, racked up just 3.8 win shares on the year. Never mind the injury and limited sample size, though: His .172 win shares per 40 minutes is last on the list by a decent margin (.024). Kyrie Irving's last collegiate season was also cut short, but look at those win shares. And he's been a pretty good pro.
As for the other three, there's no comparison. Wall, Rose and Iverson each played at least 37 games and produced 6.3 or more win shares for what were top-level programs. The trio kept it rolling in the Association, combining for four All-Rookie honors, nine All-NBA teams and 22 All-Star game appearances.
Fultz has the opportunity to reach that level, but in light of his numbers, it's less of a sure thing than one might expect.
As noted, a total of nine guards have been selected with the second overall pick in the NBA's lottery era. But, for comparison purposes, we'll look at the four players who were selected since the turn of the century. (Prior to that, win share data was not complete.)
|2015||D'Angelo Russell||Ohio St.||1||35||1,188||33.9||6.8||.229|
|2010||Evan Turner||Ohio St.||3||101||1,108*||35.7*||16.1||.247*|
* Data only available for Evan Turner's last season at Ohio State.
The production from Fultz resembles the college careers of Victor Oladipo and Jay Williams, but his tenure is one-third of their's. Things change for the worse when we zero-in on the per-40 production of each player in their last season before being drafted.
For the two Ohio State alums, the numbers stay the same. As for Oladipo and Williams, the numbers jump to .264 and .213 win shares per 40 minutes, leaving Fultz as the only player below the .200 mark. In fact, he's .041 below the group's lower limit.
If anything, it would appear that Fultz is the unlikeliest of top overall picks and only remotely similar to guards recently snatched up at the two spot. That's not to say the talent isn't there, but that the production is something of which teams (read: the Boston Celtics) should take heed as they decide between Fultz, Lonzo Ball, or a blockbuster trade.