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Markelle Fultz is the real deal

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Freshman Markelle Fultz pulls up for a jump shot. 

Freshman Markelle Fultz pulls up for a jump shot. 

Freshman Markelle Fultz pulls up for a jump shot. 

CHRIS ARNESON | Evergreen columnist

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Projected as the number one pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, University of Washington freshman phenom guard Markelle Fultz is blossoming before our eyes.

Standing at 6-foot-4-inches with a wingspan reaching nearly 6-foot-10, Fultz is the prototypical modern NBA wing, designed in an Indiana field house by the ghost of James Naismith.

While the 18-year-old guard is a bit undersized to guard the wing, his impeccable reach and nose for the ball makes him a plus defender. Fultz has snagged almost two steals and blocked more than one shot per game thus far, showing his involvement on that side of the floor.

In addition, Fultz has tremendous court vision as he has acted as the floor general for the struggling Washington Huskies this season, dishing out six assists per game. Unsurprisingly, he must cut down on his three-and-a-half turnovers per contest, which is expected from a young guard.

The Husky freshman from Maryland has been compared to Brad Beal, the sweet shooting 23-year-old guard for the Washington Wizards who is on the brink of being an All-Star.

Optimistic projectors have compared Fultz to a right-handed James Harden, the enigmatic, bearded guard for the Houston Rockets who is contending for the MVP. I foresee Fultz being more of a rich man’s D’Angelo Russell, the 21-year-old Laker point guard who can pass but not shoot.

When the Cougars and Huskies faced off in Seattle on New Year’s, Fultz displayed his potential for greatness by showing what he could bring to the team on an off-shooting night. While the freshman guard had to attempt 26 field goals to get his 26 points, he had nearly a triple-double with 11 assists and nine rebounds.

The truly great basketball players are the ones who can make a significant impact on nights when they struggle on the floor, which is exactly what Fultz did against WSU, though it was not enough for Washington who lost 79-74.

In regards to how great Fultz will be as an NBA player, there are countless factors, such as what team drafts him, how many minutes he gets, who his coach is and what veterans are on his team.

If the young guard is drafted by a losing franchise, it may be beneficial to his cause if he is able to get a lot of playing time right away. Some rookies, such as Phoenix’s Devin Booker, another Fultz archetype, learn best in situations where they are thrown into the fire and must fight their way out.

I forecast Fultz’s ceiling as a perpetual All-Star and future Hall of Famer, a player who could average 20 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and two steals for over a decade in the league. On the opposite side of the gamut, the young player could flame out early after a few stints in the D-league and Europe.

Though there have never been rumors of personality issues, it will be critical for Fultz to hone his killer instinct, to be more “Russell Westbrookian,” if you will.

While much NBA success is environment-based, there are some things coaches just can’t teach, such as the intangible gifts that Fultz possesses that could make him a perennial All-Star.

His game is as smooth as silk as he navigates the floor, a ship at night, controlling the ball like a Yo-yo on a string. If he is able to nail down the mental side of the game, which can be expected in the coming years from an 18-year-old, Markelle Fultz will be unstoppable.

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Markelle Fultz is the real deal