Many people were surprised when the Orlando Magic engaged in a trade deal with the Philadelphia 76ers before last season’s February NBA trade deadline, sending a trade package including Jonathon Simmons and draft picks to the City of Brotherly Love in exchange for former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz. Fultz has been a huge disappointment in his first two seasons in the NBA, where he only played 33 games and averaged 7.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists while shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from beyond the arc.
However, though he has yet to live up to expectations from a No. 1 overall pick, the Magic are already envisioning Fultz as part of their long-term future, which was proven by their decision to pick up his $12.3 million option for the 2020-21 NBA season. According to ESPN, there has also been massive improvement with Fultz’s rehabilitation, and he is expected to be a full participant at practice when the Magic officially open their training camp.
Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman has already said that the team has no intention of putting expectations or timelines to Fultz’s development, but it seems like the 21-year-old point guard is very much willing to take the challenge of proving his doubters wrong in the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season. Despite going through lots of ups and downs in his first two years in the NBA, Fultz remains confident with his skills and said that he was the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft “for a reason.”
In his recent article, Preston Ellis of Bleacher Report gave an analysis of the NBA’s biggest preseason rumors. For Markelle Fultz, Ellis is expecting him to replace D.J. Augustin as the Magic’s starting point guard in the 2019-20 NBA season. Ellis predicted Fultz to play “50-plus games in a bumpy but promising season.”
Retired NBA player Caron Butler shared the same sentiment as Ellis in an appearance on Orlando Magic Podcast, which is currently available on Twitter, earlier in the 2019 NBA offseason. Butler went as far as saying that Fultz will likely win the Most Improved Player award in the 2019-20 NBA season.
“This [starting point guard spot] is for Markelle Fultz to lose. DJ [Augustin] is OK with being the backup or the starter. He’s in position to do both. His true value is in his willingness to do both. … I spent some time with him [Fultz] this summer. He’s healthy. He’s ready to go. He’s going to take the league by surprise. That’s my MIP.”
D.J. Augustin likely won’t mind handing over the starting spot to Markelle Fultz, especially if he manages to show huge improvement with his performance in the 2019-20 NBA season. Giving Fultz more playing time and a significant role will speed up his development into a legitimate superstar in the league. Once Fultz starts playing like a No. 1 overall pick, he will undeniably be a huge help in achieving the Magic’s goal of fully dominating the Eastern Conference and ending their decades-long title drought.