The Boston Celtics have been linked to top-prospect Markelle Fultz since before they even won the first overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery. Rumors of his selection by the team have intensified since then, but nothing has been set in stone. The Celtics continue to evaluate other prospects and field trade offers.
They’ve remained consistently complimentary of Fultz throughout that process though, and he’s made it clear that the feeling is mutual. There is, at the very least, significant amounts of interest, if not commitment, on both sides.
In the NBA, though, there isn’t always fire where there is smoke, and until Fultz officially signs a contract with Boston, there should be no assumptions made about his being drafted. The Celtics could select someone else, trade the pick, or even take Fultz and swap him in a trade directly.
The likelihood of those alternatives seems low given the current evidence, at least from this observer’s perspective. But you don’t have to take my word for it. We’ve compiled a timeline of the public overtures between Boston and Fultz. You can make your own assessment based on what’s here.
June 27, 2013: The Celtics fleece the Brooklyn Nets in what may have been the most lopsided trade in NBA history, receiving the right to swap draft picks in 2017 as (a minor) part of the deal.
February 18, 2017: Markelle Fultz plays his last collegiate game for the University of Washington. Despite missing his team’s final four games and leading the Huskies to a pitiful 9-22 record, Fultz will remain the presumptive number-one pick to the present day.
April 7, 2017: The Celtics secure the best odds in the NBA Draft Lottery, via a Phoenix Suns victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The win ensures that the Brooklyn Nets, with whom Boston owns the right to swap picks, will end the season with the worst overall record, a distinction rewarded with the greatest likelihood of securing the number-one overall pick in the NBA draft.
May 16, 2017: Boston wins the draft lottery and lands the top overall selection in the upcoming NBA draft. Speculation about what the team will do is at an all-time high, and Fultz is the fan favorite, particularly on the internet.
May 18, 2017: ESPN’s Chris Forsberg reports that Isaiah Thomas believes he and Markelle Fultz could play in the same backcourt successfully and confirms that the two have an established relationship.
"He's a good friend of mine,” Thomas says, “If it happens, we'll figure out how to play together. If not, we'll go from there."
May 25, 2017: Fultz’s peer and fellow top prospect, Lonzo Ball, declines an invitation to work out with the Celtics. The Boston fan base, already weary of Lonzo’s abrasive father, LaVar, grows even more enamored with Fultz as a result.
May 27, 2017: Jaylen Brown shares his thoughts on Fultz, saying, “I think he’s pretty good. I think he has a lot of potential. I’m interested to see what he can do on the defensive side of the ball because that’s how you win games in the NBA… he’s super talented offensively, but it’s going to be a balance between everything.”
May 30, 2017: ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reports that Markelle Fultz has spoken with Danny Ainge on a number of occasions and hopes to be taken with the first overall pick. “I want to be the number-one pick really badly. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, and I feel I would fit well in Boston,” Fultz says.
May 31, 2017: The Boston Globe reports that Danny Ainge is keeping his options open, saying, “We’re in the process of evaluating the whole draft, and we’re fielding phone calls.”
June 5, 2017: Philadelphia reporter, Keith Pompey, reports, via Twitter, that every top prospect but Fultz and Ball will work out for the Sixers, and further claims that Fultz will not work out for anyone but the Celtics.
On the same day, Fultz begins a two-day series of physical examinations, conversations, and work outs in Boston.
June 6, 2017: Danny Ainge and Markelle Fultz end Fultz’s visit with the Celtics by taking a trip to Boston-based eatery b. good, where Fultz is offered (via Twitter) free food for life if he can bring the Celtics their eighteenth championship.
June 7, 2017: ESPN’s Chris Forsberg reports that Markelle Fultz has, in fact, not ruled out the possibility of working out for other teams, but takes off some of the sting of the news by further reporting that Fultz doubled down on his interest in playing for the Celtics during his time with the team.
“I think it would be good if I come here,” Fultz says. “The fans here are great. I think the energy is just going to carry over to how I play on the court, and just give me a little boost of energy.”
On the same day, the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett reports that Danny Ainge is continuing to evaluate other prospects and considering trade offers. “I’ve gotten phone calls from other teams,” Ainge says, “but nothing that I’m tempted by.”
If you are sensing a bit of pattern, that’s because there is one—Fultz publicly states his interest in joining the team, Ainge says something complimentary but doesn’t commit to anything, and at each step the possibility of the Celtics keeping their pick and drafting Fultz seems more likely.
At least that’s how I see it. There’s plenty of ambiguity here, and it wouldn’t be crazy to come to another conclusion. You are welcome to make your own determination. It’s part of what makes the NBA offseason fun.