Every coach dreams of having length on his roster. In the era of positionless basketball, trotting out three or four 6-8 guys with 7-foot wingspans unlocks a mythical defensive treasure chest.
The other positive with long players: They’re just plain fun to watch. Impossible chase down blocks become reality. Crosscourt passes that look promising one second vanish out of thin air the next. Dunks that should never be attempted are, and with great success.
Here is our all-limbs team:
G Markelle Fultz, Washington
Washington has struggled this season, but Fultz is an obvious bright spot. The freshman point guard might be the most talented player in the country. There’s not much to nitpick with his game.
The offensive skillset is obvious. Fultz is averaging 22.3 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting; he’s also draining 45.5 percent of his 3’s. He’s a great athlete, and his long arms allow him to finish above or around the trees in the lane. Fultz can extend the ball further on inside finishes than just about any other guard, and that messes with a shot-blocker’s internal calculus.
The floater at the :18 second mark shows that, and on the next play, he runs the length of the floor and swats a Yale shot with ease. There are plenty of outstanding point guards in college basketball; none can do that.
Fultz is averaging 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. He can guard three positions and carry an offense. This guy is the real deal.
G/F Mikal Bridges, Villanova
Bridges is, by far, the best defender on the No. 1 team in the country, and outside of low-post dinosaurs, he can stick anyone. Bridges is long, strong and agile; he’s capable of stifling upper-echelon scorers by himself or starring at the top of a 1-2-2 press.
The redshirt sophomore boasts the lowest defensive rating of any Wildcat regular; foes score 91.1 points per 100 possessions with Villanova’s stopper on the floor (that was before Wednesday’s loss to Butler). He’s averaging 1.6 steals per game and will make your jaw drop at least once per contest. If the Villanova football team needs another wide receiver, look no further:
This seemed like a safe enough pass for Sheldon McClellan to make in last year’s NCAA tournament. Not against Bridges.
Bridges is only scratching the surface of his potential.
F OG Anunoby, Indiana
The captain of the all-limbs team. Highlights do him justice better than words:
Anunoby has the basketball equivalent of a pick-six, the steal-slam, down pat. The Indiana sophomore is nursing an injured ankle, so he hasn’t had the same impact lately as he did at the beginning of the year. But when he returns to form, look out.
Anunoby still averages more than a block and a steal per game, and those totals only figure to rise. IU’s jack-of-all-trades is a super version of Bridges: even longer, with a bit more polish and physicality to his game. You don’t see attributes like Anunoby’s very often.
F Chris Boucher, Oregon
Boucher is your casual 200-pound post player who has a ridiculous wingspan, shoots 3’s and blocks shots like a madman.
When Oregon’s offense stalls, it has a simple strategy: get the ball on the rim and unleash No. 25 on the glass. He’ll do the rest.
It’s fun when the rest of the team realizes it’s playing alongside a physical freak. Sometimes, in the Ducks’ case, they throw lobs they shouldn’t. But if you heave the ball into Boucher’s zip code, he’ll flush it.
Boucher is a basketball weirdo in the best kind of way. You never know what he’ll do on a given night.
C Tacko Fall, UCF
After an up-and-down freshman campaign, Fall is thriving as a sophomore, averaging 14.3 points and 11.2 rebounds per game while shooting 80 percent. On Tuesday night against East Carolina, he missed all six shots he took. Before that win, he had missed only 17 all season.
It’s nice that Fall humors everyone by jumping when he dunks or blocks a shot, but it hardly seems necessary. Fall was learning the ins and outs of college basketball as a freshman. This season, he’s leveraging his gargantuan size and length in optimal ways.