With Markelle Fultz en route to Philly, De'Aaron Fox works out for Sixers

With Markelle Fultz en route to Philly, De'Aaron Fox works out for Sixers

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Try to forget all the rumors and speculation. Imagine the Sixers are on the clock with the third overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft. Assume Markelle Fultz is off the board, Boston-bound after the Celtics took him with No. 1.

In this scenario, De’Aaron Fox’s workout with the Sixers Saturday mattered. He’s a viable option at No. 3. Some argue he’s the right option. And no matter what’s going on between front offices, he was here, blocking out the noise, to show his worth.

“I've seen stuff, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter,” Fox said of where he might be selected. “Wherever I'm drafted, I'm going to go there and give my best effort.”

The next question pressed the issue. Fox kept his composure and reiterated. He seems to be ready for whatever happens.

“Some people go somewhere they don't want to go and they wreck havoc,” he said. “For me, I'm coming in, I'm young, I don't have much of a say. I'm going wherever I go. Trust me, you'll see me give my best effort.”

Fox’s head is level. He’s been all over the country working out for potential landing spots. Despite the projections and the talk, he still has something to prove. He wants people to know he is the best guard in this class.

“Everyone has critics. You could be the best player in the world. I mean, LeBron (James) has critics,” Fox said. “Just showing people, prove people wrong. I can't really do that until I'm drafted and get in the NBA. I'm just working, getting better and perfecting my craft.”

His craft attracts a lot of eyes. Fox is expected to be a top-five pick. In one season at Kentucky, playing alongside fellow top prospect Malik Monk, he posted 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He dropped 37 against UCLA in the Sweet 16, all while shutting down Lonzo Ball.

But his game has a noticeable flaw: His jump shot. That showed Friday in the portion of Fox’s individual workout available to the media. Fox received passes at spots around the arch and took uncontested shots. The quantity of the misses was more memorable than any makes. 

In answering questions afterward, Fox didn’t dance around his poor shooting numbers at Kentucky. He said he shot well in high school and, for some reason, struggled in college. But his stats came along at the season’s end. After not shooting higher than 25 percent from three in any month during the season, he converted on 43 percent of those attempts in March.

“I didn't really worry too much about it because I was getting to the rim whenever I wanted,” Fox said. “I was making free throws. So that aspect of my game, it came. I went along with it.”

This all is not to say he didn’t look good. Everyone knew his jump shot is not the focal point of his abilities, and he said he’s working to improve it. He worked over screens in a defensive drill and threw down some dunks on a fast break workout. He tossed aside the fact that this workout, most likely, was for nothing and came out and put in effort. And he was gracious when speaking with reporters, probably knowing just as well as they do who was coming in a few hours later.

He even entertained the thought of what it would look like if he did somehow end up here. Because even though he played as a ball-dominant point guard at Kentucky, one would have to assume Fox wouldn’t be used in the same capacity here; Ben Simmons is, for now, the Sixers’ point guard. That wouldn’t be a problem for Fox.

“I can work without the ball. I did it in high school,” Fox said. “Actually, one thing people don't know is — you might take this the wrong way — but me and Ben were actually on teams at LeBron camp. It was like my sophomore year, his junior year. So I’ve played with him before.”

So a reunion doesn’t sound too bad. Especially with Joel Embiid joining the fun.

“It's definitely intriguing,” Fox said. “Joel has such a big personality, they’re both great players. Being able to play with those two is kind of like — you see people building through the draft and I feel like I'll be able to complement them well. They're gonna be two great young players in the league.” 

But for now, and maybe forever, that’s all it is — intrigue. 

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."