Haughton's 2017 Sixers Mock Draft: Markelle Fultz solidifies most important position

Haughton's 2017 Sixers Mock Draft: Markelle Fultz solidifies most important position

With the NBA draft Thursday, our pundits will provide their latest Sixers mock drafts. Here’s Matt Haughton’s final version:

First round (first overall via trade with Boston): Markelle Fultz, PG, 6-4/195, Washington
What’s better than having the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft? Having it twice in a row.

The Sixers are poised to pull off the rare feat of selecting at the top of the draft in consecutive years when their reported trade with the Celtics becomes finalized. 

Fultz is the Sixers’ target and with good reason. He has ideal size from the point guard perspective and has the all-around game to match.

The Upper Marlboro, Maryland, native averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game during his lone season at Washington. Fultz shot 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from long range as a freshman.

Sure, the numbers some like to focus on are the 22 losses compared to just nine wins Fultz helped put together as leader of the Huskies. However, that can’t all be pinned on the 19-year-old, who more than held his own against stiff competition in the Pac-12.

Fultz is explosive with the ball in his hands as a playmaker or a scorer and has shown the ability to consistently knock down shots when playing off the ball. That will come in handy when Ben Simmons is facilitating the offense.

When you’re the Sixers and you’ve had 11 different players start at PG in Brett Brown’s four seasons as head coach (Sergio Rodriguez, Jerryd Bayless, T.J. McConnell, Isaiah Canaan, Kendall Marshall, Ish Smith, Tony Wroten, Michael Carter-Williams, Larry Drew II, JaKarr Sampson and Tim Frazier), you make a move to finally solidify the game’s most important position. 

Fultz should do that and much more for the franchise.

Second round (36th overall): Thomas Bryant, C, 6-10/241, Indiana
Did you think the Sixers would go very long without drafting a big man?

Even with all of the bigs the team has selected in recent years, the Sixers can still use some depth in the frontcourt. 

Bryant can provide that in a very big way. He is already large at 6-10 but covers even more ground when you consider his massive 7-6 wingspan.

Bryant puts that impressive size to use on the court. The former Hoosier combines a powerful presence with a high motor, as he averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds last season at Indiana.

What makes Bryant a bit unique for a collegiate big man is his improving three-point shot. He connected on 33.3 percent of his attempts from long range as a freshman before bumping that number up to 38.3 percent as a sophomore, something the Sixers discussed when the center worked out for them earlier this month (see story).

That amount of improvement is certainly something to be pleased with when you consider Bryant is just 19 years old and still has plenty of room for growth. He could be just what the Sixers desire to kick off their four second-round picks.

Second round 39th overall: Dillon Brooks, SF, 6-7/215, Oregon
Philadelphia loves a player with a fiery attitude, especially one that can score the ball.

Brooks is aggressive on the offensive end and improved each season at Oregon. He averaged 16.1 points while shooting career highs from the field (48.8 percent) and three-point land (40.1 percent) as a junior during the Ducks’ run to the Final Four.

Brooks has proven he can score at all three levels and has made a habit of connecting on big shots in the clutch. Plus, he does it all with an in-your-face demeanor that Sixers fans would absolutely eat up.

There are questions about Brooks’ commitment on defense and lateral quickness, but not enough to outweigh his other capabilities on the court.

With Robert Covington, Nik Stauskas, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Justin Anderson all potentially coming off the books for the Sixers after the 2017-18 season, the team is in desperate need of wing players. Brooks would be a good place to start adding to that position in the second round.

Second round (46th overall): Jonah Bolden, PF, 6-10/227, Serbia
The Sixers have selected at least one draft-and-stash candidate each year with Brown at the helm. And with the coach’s history in Australia, he just might convince Bryan Colangelo and the rest of the Sixers’ brass to snatch up Melbourne native Bolden.

Bolden has a wing's skill set in a big man’s frame. Even at his size, he is very fluid with his movements, has solid ball-handling ability and can shoot from range when on his game.

Bolden bolted UCLA for the professional ranks in Serbia after his sophomore season when he felt his talent wasn’t being utilized properly (Bruins head coach Steve Alford reportedly wanted him to strictly play PF and stick to the low block).

The decision appears to have paid off for the 21-year-old. Bolden averaged 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game on 47.2 percent shooting from the field and 41.9 percent from beyond the arc for KK FMP Beograd as he was given the freedom to play more on the perimeter. Those numbers were good enough for Bolden to win the Adriatic League Top Prospect award, an honor that has gone to NBA draft picks Dario Saric, Nikola Jokic and Ante Zizic the past three years.

Despite a checkered past with some on- and off-court issues, Bolden is worth taking a flier on in the second round.

Second round (50th overall): Jaron Blossomgame, SF/PF, 6-7/214, Clemson
The Sixers have possibly been waiting an entire year to make this pick, but they finally get Blossomgame at No. 50.

The Clemson forward worked out for the team prior to last year’s draft before opting to go back to school for his senior season. 

The return to college didn’t necessarily help Blossomgame’s cause. His offensive numbers dipped pretty much across the board (18.7 points per game to 17.7 points, 51.4 percent shooting from the field to 49.9 percent and 44.6 percent from three to 25.5).

However, teams already understand what they’re getting from him: energy. The versatile forward hustles at all times and is active all over the court, particularly on the defensive end.

“He's a competitor,” Sixers senior director of basketball operations Vince Rozman said after Blossomgame worked out for the team again earlier this month (see story). “It's pretty straightforward for him.”

Josh Hart drafted in 1st round, goes to Lakers; undrafted Kris Jenkins reportedly joins Wizards

Josh Hart drafted in 1st round, goes to Lakers; undrafted Kris Jenkins reportedly joins Wizards

Josh Hart heard his name called, while Villanova teammate Kris Jenkins did not.

Hart snuck into the first round of Thursday night's NBA draft, going 30th overall to the Utah Jazz. However, the Wildcat is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, via a trade.

While Jenkins went undrafted, it looks like he'll have a shot with an NBA team. Jenkins will join the Washington Wizards this offseason to compete for a roster spot, according to a report by NBA.com's David Aldridge.

After winning the national title as a junior with Villanova, Hart collected plenty of accolades in a standout senior season. The 6-foot-5 wing was named a consensus first-team All-American, Big East Player of the Year and took home the Julius Erving award as the top small forward in the country.

For the 32-4 Wildcats, Hart, a Silver Spring, Maryland native, averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game, while shooting 40.4 percent from three-point range.

"I'm my biggest critic," he said last week after a pre-draft workout for the Sixers. "I drive myself as much as I can. I demand perfection from myself."

As Hart travels west, Jenkins, on the other hand, will head home for his NBA opportunity. The 6-foot-6 forward, beloved for his buzzer-beating three-pointer to win Villanova its 2016 national championship, is from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He worked out for the Wizards in early June. He also worked out for the Sixers on Tuesday.

"It's a blessing," he said after his session with the Wizards, via the Washington Post. "You always root for the hometown team, you always want them to do well. Honestly it's humbling to be in this position, to grow up in this area, to have some games here and play college ball here and then come back and work out for the Wizards."

After flirting with the NBA draft process following their title-winning season, both Hart and Jenkins decided to return to school for their senior campaigns.

They both took to Twitter on Thursday night following the draft — Hart in excitement, Jenkins more in a humorous manner.

Sixers 'dug very deep' into Markelle Fultz's perceived weaknesses

Sixers 'dug very deep' into Markelle Fultz's perceived weaknesses

CAMDEN, N.J. — You don't have to do much research on Markelle Fultz to find his perceived shortcomings.

Washington finished 9-22 his only season there. Draft experts also questioned his effort, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

None of that concerned the Sixers when they made him the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night (see story).

"One of the weaknesses was, 'Does he bring it every night defensively? Did he have that killer instinct?'" Sixers head coach Brett Brown said following the pick. "I think if you take a high character person and you take an athlete, you have the foundation to coach him to be an elite defender."

There isn't much question about Fultz's offensive game. The 19-year-old guard averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in his only season with the Huskies. He also shot an impressive 41.3 percent from three-point range.

His skill set as a shooter and scorer seems to complement the skills of franchise centerpieces Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. With his selection, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is hoping the Sixers can start to build a winning culture.

But does Fultz's nine-win season at Washington concern him at all?

"You look at every aspect of evaluating a prospect," Colangelo said. "We've dug very deep on this and we feel that regardless of whatever the performance of the University of Washington Huskies was last year, it's not relevant to who Markelle represents, what he represents as a player, and how he is going to fit in and help us turn this program around."

Fultz took an interesting path to being the No. 1 pick. He didn't make the varsity team at famed DeMatha High School in Maryland as a sophomore (see story). A growth spurt helped bring more attention to his game.

He chose Washington because of the relationship he had developed with its coaching staff. He also thought he'd have the opportunity to play with sophomores Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray. Instead, both players were surprise one-and-dones and Fultz was forced to carry the team on his shoulders.

"He wasn't always considered the best prospect, but he emerged and earned the right to be the best prospect," Colangelo said. "You're talking about a young man who goes to the University of Washington, didn't have great team success. Unfortunately, part of that may be personnel driven, part of that may be circumstantial.

"To do what he did at the level of the Pac-12 and to be able to average 23 points a game, six rebounds and six assists. You're talking, again, about great performance on the floor, a player that does so many different things and we believe someone that's going to help make his teammates better. "

Colangelo mentioned that Fultz "has the tools" to become an excellent defender. Fultz stands at 6-foot-4 with an impressive 6-foot-10 span. He also has plenty of athleticism and strength to compete defensively against NBA ones and twos.

Brown acknowledged that defense could be the biggest hole in Fultz's game, but feels like he could get the most out of Fultz on the defensive end.

"I think that 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," Brown said. "It's gonna be an evolution, no doubt. But it's a willing defensive player and it's a willing athlete, a gifted athlete under a roof of a quality person. I think having those types of qualities lets you have a far better chance to mold him into the type of defensive player we need here."