When they selected him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers initially thought that Markelle Fultz would be completing their young championship squad with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Unfortunately, Fultz’s stint in Philadephia turned out to be a huge disappointment, which made the Sixers decide to send him to the Orlando Magic before the 2019 NBA trade deadline.
Unlike with the Sixers, Fultz has the full trust and support of the Magic. Despite dealing with health issues and his dismal on-court performance in the past two years, it seems like the Magic envision Fultz as part of their long-term future. According to ESPN, Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said that though Fultz is yet to play a single game as a member of their team, picking up his $12.3 million option for the 2020-21 NBA season is a “no-brainer.”
As of now, Markelle Fultz is showing massive progress with his rehabilitation. As ESPN noted, Fultz is expected to be a full participant in practice when the Magic open training camp next week. Though he could already knock down three-point shots, there are still plenty of things that Fultz needs to improve with his shooting. However, Weltman said that what’s important is Fultz is already back to the court, adding that they have no intention of putting expectations that will give more pressure to the former No. 1 overall pick.
“We’re going to remain patient,” Weltman said. “We’re not going to put expectations or timelines on his development. He hasn’t played basketball in a year. He’s played 33 games total in his career. So it’s going to unfold the way it unfolds.”
In case you were wondering what Markelle's been up to… pic.twitter.com/3RE39oLN51
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) September 25, 2019
It’s definitely a nice thing to do for the Magic, especially knowing that Fultz has experienced lots of physical and emotional trauma from the time he set foot in the NBA. In the past two years, some people are labeling Fultz as an NBA draft bust for his disappointing performance on both ends of the floor. Now that he’s close to returning to the court, Fultz is planning to do everything he can do silence his critics and prove that he deserves to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
“I was the No. 1 pick for a reason,” Fultz said. “I knew that I work hard and what I can do on the basketball court. That’s all that matters.”
The improvement in Markelle Fultz’s game will be vital for the Magic’s long-term plan. If he manages to live up to expectations, there is a strong chance for Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford to make him an official part of their starting lineup. If he doesn’t, the Magic could explore the possibility of searching for a new starting-caliber point guard before the 2020 February NBA trade deadline.