When Markelle Fultz made his debut earlier this season, he became just the third No. 1 overall pick in history to come off the bench. Sarah Todd of The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that the other two top selections who did not start right away ended up having underwhelming careers.
Anthony Bennett, who was a surprise No. 1 overall pick, began with the Cavs’ bench unit and he never made his way into the starting lineup for Cleveland. He was sent to Wolves in the Kevin Love deal and he ended up only starting three games during his lone season in Minnesota. After a stop in Toronto where he played in just 19 games (no starts), he landed in Brooklyn for just 23 games (one start). Bennett now plays in the G League.
Andrea Bargnani spent the majority of his rookie season on the bench, though he accumulated 314 starts in Toronto over the ensuing six seasons. He peaked during the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season, sporting a player efficiency rating of 17.9, though he never made an All-Star team nor became a top contributor to a winning team.
Bennett was arguably the worst No. 1 pick in history, though Fultz’s early troubles do not mean that he will compete with Bennett for that distinction. It’s more likely that the point guard ends up rivaling Bargnani’s career—someone who plays around 10 seasons in the league, but never really lives up to the hype—than ending up in the G League like Bennett.
It’s too early to definitely say whether Fultz is a bust or whether this is simply a minor roadblock on the way to a Hall of Fame career. There’s a wide range of possibilities between a Bennett-type fall and a James Harden-type rise and there are benchmarks in between those two extremes.
Fultz could make an All-Star team. He could make an All-NBA team or he could struggle and never meet any of the expectations that come with being a No. 1 overall pick. Even if he doesn’t meet those expectations, he could remain in the league and make a nice living as a secondary player. He could be Bargnani.
How do you see Fultz’s career shaking out? Will he meet or exceed any of the expectations of being the top overall selection of the 2017 draft? Will he be better or worse than Bargnani?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. We look forward to what you have to say!