76ers can draft Markelle Fultz because he ticks the boxes | Bob Cooney

Washington Arizona Basketball-15052017-0001
Washington guard Markelle Fultz (20) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona defeated Washington, 77-66.

Of the many phrases commonly used by 76ers coach Brett Brown, "ticking boxes" may be his favorite.

It is a big reason the team seems to be nearing a deal with the Boston Celtics that would land the Sixers the top pick Thursday in the draft, in which they would select University of Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.

Markelle Fultz ticks boxes.

The 6-foot-4 guard with the 6-10 wingspan is a versatile scorer.

Tick.

Fultz is a wizard with the ball in his hands with eye-popping passing ability.

Tick.

He may be at his best when he is running the floor, with the ability to pass, shoot pull-ups, and use his length to get to the rim.

Tick.

While he'll need to show more interest in playing defense, he has the ability to be a very good defender who uses his length superbly.

Tick.

And when the ball isn't in his hands, he is smart about where and how he is moving around the court.

Tick.

Fultz was scheduled to work out for the Celtics on Saturday but canceled that workout and instead performed for the Sixers, which only added fuel to the trade-rumor fire.

While the price may be steep - most likely a couple of first- rounders - this is the enviable position that former general manager Sam Hinkie put the organization in, with enough trading cards to be able to be in the mix to get the player many label the best player in a very good draft.

The deficiencies in Fultz's game start at the defensive end, where sometimes he appeared uninterested. He allowed too many easy backdoor cuts because he lost sight of his man. At times, Fultz was too easily picked and didn't show a willingness to fight through. But a lot of that seemed to come out of frustration. He was playing on a team that finished the season 9-22 and had few options other than Fultz. The lack of effort will quickly be cleaned up should he be starting his professional career in Philadelphia, as that is a huge point of emphasis from Brown and his coaching staff.

Fultz is that killer scorer the team sorely needs, a guy who can create his own shot with crazy ballhandling skills. He can hit step-back jumpers and is wonderful at creating space with a variety of ball moves. And if he drives the lane and doesn't take it to the rim himself, he is a terrific wrap-around passer, leaving defenders stuck to the floor.

The most common question is whether Fultz will be able to share backcourt duties with Ben Simmons, whom Brett Brown and Bryan Colangelo have said is going to be their point guard. The answer is a quick and resounding yes.

When the Sixers speak of the point guard position, it isn't in the way that many think - a player coming back to the ball, bringing it up the court, and setting up the offense. The Sixers want the ball and their players constantly moving forward. So Simmons may have the ball in his hands facilitating, but that will come through his own rebounding and outlet passes. They want to run, run, and run some more. And if that isn't there, ball movement is the key to their offense. The Sixers led the league last season in passes, which is exactly what Brown wants. So having someone who can pass, shoot, lead a break, and run the floor along with Simmons is ideal.

Fultz did miss six games at Washington with an unspecified knee injury. He missed two games and came back to score 19 and 26 points, but he said the knee wasn't responding well so he was shut down for the final four games of the season.

With their history of drafting injured players, the Sixers will want to be really sure about the stability of Fultz's knee before deciding to do anything. If there are problems but the team deems them fixable ones, would they dare subject their fans to witnessing that all over again?

If the knee is sound (the team had doctors look at it Saturday before his workout) and the team truly believes that Fultz is head and shoulders above the other players in this draft, and the Celtics are secure with whoever is there for them at three, and the Lakers won't ruin anything, this could turn out to be an ideal fit for the Sixers.

It ticks all the boxes.

cooneyb@phillynews,com

@BobCooney76

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