By: Nick Galle
Greg Oden. Adam Morrison. Anthony Bennett. Sam Bowie.
There have certainly been some huge busts throughout the course of NBA basketball, but is Markelle Fultz, the number one pick of the 2017 NBA draft, one of the biggest busts that we have ever seen in NBA history?
Yes, saying that Markelle Fultz is potentially on pace to be the biggest bust in NBA history is an extremely bold claim. Fultz is still just 20-years-old and maybe Philadelphia is just not the place for the guard from the University of Washington to succeed. Fultz is still young enough to have the opportunity to end up in another NBA organization and have an outstanding career.
With that being said, Markelle Fultz played just 14 games of his rookie season before succumbing to a shoulder injury that would essentially destroy his jump shot. The first overall pick of an NBA draft not even being able to shoot a basketball? Not the best case scenario by any means. Through last season’s 14 games, Fultz averaged 7.1 points per game, 3.8 assists per game, and shot just 40% from the field. Does that sound like the stat line of the first overall pick? Didn’t think so.
Fast forward to this season, and Fultz has only appeared in 19 games. The Philadelphia guard has averaged 8.2 points per game, 3.1 assists, and has shot 41% from the field. Fultz’s numbers this season have essentially been the exact same as last year’s 14-game-campaign. Since Fultz has entered the league, the Philadelphia 76ers have played 131 regular season games. The first overall pick of 2017 has only appeared in 33 of those games. To put that in simplest terms, if you had to bet your life on Brook Lopez hitting a three, or Markelle Fultz playing in an NBA game, take Brook Lopez. The big man is shooting 38% from three this year, while Fultz has only played in 25% of the 76ers’ regular season games over the past two seasons.
But wait, can you really judge a guy who has dealt with a lingering injury for his entire NBA career thus far and call him a bust? Yes you can.
Through Greg Oden’s first two seasons in the NBA with Portland, he averaged a respectable 10 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, and shot 58% from the field. The 2007 first overall pick was not immediately a star, but with more time and experience in the NBA, he could have eventually reached his full potential. Oden might not have been a complete bust if injuries did not demolish his career.
Unfortunately, Makelle Fultz appears to be in the same situation as Greg Oden once was: a first overall pick in the NBA draft that truly does have talent and potential, but just can’t stay on the court due to lingering injuries. If Oden’s name often appears on lists of the worst NBA draft busts of all time, then Markelle Fultz better be there as well.
Markelle Fultz is not untalented by any means. After averaging 23.2 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, and 5.9 assists per game in college, there was no doubt that he was going to be the first player selected in the draft. The issue is that he is not even on the court for the 76ers. As the first overall pick in the draft, you are expected to make significant contributions to the team. You don’t have to be a superstar in your first year, but you are expected to help guide the team along the correct path to an eventual NBA title. Rather than helping Philadelphia, Fultz has put up a similar stat line to Miami’s Bam Adebayo who has averaged 7.3 points per game, six rebounds, 1.7 assists and shot 53% from the field through his first 115 career games.
Adebayo was taken with the 14th overall pick in the draft.
2017 Draft Class Guards Outperforming Fultz
Here are the guards of the 2017 draft class who have put up significantly better numbers than Fultz throughout their first two seasons in the NBA:
Lonzo Ball (2nd overall): 10ppg/6.2rpg/6.4apg/38%FG [99 games]
De’Aaron Fox (5th overall): 13.9ppg/3.1rpg/5.5apg/43%FG [120 games]
Dennis Smith Jr. (9th overall): 14.5ppg/3.5rpg/4.8apg/41%FG [98 games]
Donovan Mitchell (13th overall): 21.1ppg/3.7rpg/3.7apg/43%FG [124 games]
Derrick White (29th overall): 7.2ppg/2.8rpg/2.7apg/50%FG [57 games]
The Future for Fultz
We could give Markelle Fultz the benefit of the doubt and say that since he has been dealing with an injury, there is no way he can be in contention for the biggest bust in NBA history. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If you are the first overall pick of the draft and you don’t produce for the team that selected you, the underlying circumstances don’t really matter.
Perhaps Philadelphia is not the place for Fultz to succeed. With the trade deadline approaching in February, it’s not entirely impossible that the former college star gets dealt to a new team where he can have a fresh start and can get his career and health back on track.
The story of Markelle Fultz is a sad one. From a college player who averaged 23.2 points per game and shot 48% from the field, to an NBA player who was at one point too injured to even shoot at all, Fultz’s first two years have not been kind to him at all. Luckily at just 20-years-old, there is still time for Fultz to make a comeback and prove his worth, but for now he might just be on his way to being the biggest bust that this league has ever seen.
Cover photo via: Chris Szagola/AP
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