The NBA sure does “teach ’em young,” and perhaps no one knows that better this week than former University of Washington guard and projected top pick Markelle Fultz. Fultz woke up Saturday to news that the Philadelphia 76ers had moved into the top spot in Thursday’s NBA Draft, trading its No. 3 pick and a future first rounder to the Boston Celtics in a move that is projected to land Fultz in Philadelphia.
“It just shows you what the NBA’s about,” Fultz, 19, said at a news conference at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan on Wednesday. “You can get traded in a blink of an eye. It just shows you how this business is. I just go with the flow. I have an opportunity to play basketball and that’s all I ask for.”
Fultz, who averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds in one season at Washington, could be joining a team that has had several top draft choices in recent years. It’ll be the second straight year that the 76ers selected first overall. They took Ben Simmons, who missed the entire season with a foot injury, last year.
Jahlil Okafor, selected third in 2015, and Joel Embiid, taken third in 2014, add to the youth movement.
“If I get a chance to go there, I think it’ll be a great fit for me,” Fultz said. “They have a young core, so everyone will get to hang out. It feels like college almost. Going there knowing the future is bright and the talent there is really good, I’m pretty excited.”
Although the building has more than begun in Philadelphia, the winning . . . .well, hasn’t. The 76ers won only 28 games last season and were the second worst team in the Eastern Conference.
Fultz intends to change all that, and fast. So, when exactly is the Philiadelpha improvement project supposed to bear fruit?
“As soon as I get there, that’s the goal,” Fultz said. “My goal is always to come in and win. As soon as I get there, I’m doing whatever I have to do to get to winning. That starts in Summer League. That starts the first time I step on wherever I go.”
That did not happen in Washington, at least for the season Fultz was there. The team went 9-22 and lost its final 13 games. Although the men’s team had a rough season, the basketball program as a whole can claim to be a hot pot for pro prospects.
Washington women’s basketball star Kelsey Plum was selected first overall by the San Antonio Stars in April’s WNBA draft. A Fultz-to-Philadelphia selection would make he and Plum the first pair of top picks selected from the same school in the WNBA and NBA Drafts in the same academic year.
“We’re like sister and brother,” Fultz said of Plum. “We spend endless hours in the gym. We talk almost every day.”