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100417-MarkelleFultz-KyleNeubeck Kyle Neubeck/for PhillyVoice

Markelle Fultz stands alone at mid-court of the Sixers' practice facility in Camden.

October 04, 2017

Markelle Fultz gets zero Rookie of the Year votes in NBA GM Survey

Markelle Fultz was beloved by the scouting community during his lone college season, rocketing up to No. 1 on just about every draft board. Or at least that’s what were were led to believe, because the rookie guard is getting no love from any of the general managers in charge of the NBA’s 30 teams.

The league’s annual GM survey came out on Wednesday morning, and most of the survey results went about as you expected: LeBron James is the MVP favorite, the Golden State Warriors are the title favorite, and water is wet. NBA GM’s swerved a bit, however, when asked about who would be awarded Rookie of the Year for 2017-18, however, and did not give Markelle Fultz a single vote in the process.

Here’s what the vote split looked like:

Player Votes 
 Lonzo Ball 19
 Ben Simmons  7 
 Dennis Smith Jr. 2
De'Aaron Fox  1
 Jayson Tatum 1

This could be interpreted as some pretty flagrant disrespect of Fultz. After all, it was only a few months ago that the Sixers were showered with adulation for pulling off the trade that brought them the No. 1 pick, and the opportunity to select Fultz.

Realistically, there are factors working against Fultz this season. Say what you will about how ridiculous LaVar Ball and his antics are, but Lonzo Ball has the glitz of LA behind him, which always factors into awards like these. It’s only the preseason, and Ball is already getting credit for plays he had absolutely nothing to do with.

Good luck taking down that hype machine.

There’s a decent likelihood Fultz also won’t be the best rookie on his own team, and in the little action we’ve seen during the preseason, Ben Simmons has absolutely taken more control of the Sixers than Fultz has. That’s not a criticism of Fultz, who is still getting adjusted to his new surroundings, but it’s hard to see a second-fiddle guy — and really third-fiddle, once Joel Embiid is back — winning top rookie honors.

Even if that’s the case, Fultz sounds unbothered by what general managers around the league think. I asked him about the vote tally at Wednesday’s shootaround, and he insisted it’s not the sort of thing at the forefront of his mind.

“It really doesn’t bother me,” said Fultz. “I know what I’m capable of, I know what my goals are. I don’t really look into it, that’s what they think and that’s their opinion. At the end of the day I’m going to work to do what my goals are and what my team goals are.

Fultz appears content to focus on the bigger picture, rather than worry too much about survey results. There are bigger fish to fry for the 19-year-old guard, and the aforementioned partnership with Simmons is at or near the top of his priority list. He’s excited for the training wheels to come off, and he thinks teams will struggle to deal with the uncertainty created by the Sixers’ young backcourt.

“It’s going to be times where [Ben’s] pushing, then I’m pushing,” said Fultz. “You never know when I’m going to be bringing the ball up , and you never know when he’s going to be bringing the ball up. It’s going to throw a lot of teams off, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Philadelphians (myself included) have been a tad obsessed with the rookie honors for the last few seasons, in part because it was one of the few things the franchise could hang their hat on. But the Sixers are moving into a new stage of the rebuilding process, and major goals like a playoff appearance or an All-Star berth are within reach. 

Having the consensus “best” rookie would be nice, but it’s not the end-all, be-all it felt like during seasons where 25 wins meant the mission was accomplished. The long-term is more important.

And on that front, 21 percent of the same set of GM’s believe Fultz will be the best player in his class five years down the line. That’s second to Phoenix’s Josh Jackson (24 percent), who also didn’t get a vote in the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year predictions. If he ends up being the best player in his class, neither Fultz or any of the people watching him ball out will care about who won Rookie of the Year, let alone what the results of a preseason survey were.


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