After being traded to the Orlando Magic, Markelle Futz looks to have a break out year.
When a professional sports team possess the number one overall pick, management is usually looking to take a player who can help the team win and to be a cornerstone to turn the franchise around. Lebron James for an example was taken first by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 and was an instant spark to the city of Cleveland as he helped turn the team from a NBA bottom feeder to playoff contenders. The Philadelphia 76ers hoped to have similar results back in 2017 when they traded up from the third pick to the first pick and selected Markelle Fultz, a 6’4 athletic point guard who played at Washington. But after being held back by injuries, the team traded him to the Orlando Magic, a team who hasn’t had a dominant guard ever since Tracy McGrady. After posting a hype video on the team page, the Magic believe that Fultz has improved his shooting and can stay healthy. But is the video enough for us to believe in the hype?
After being the first player taken in the 2017 NBA draft, Fultz played on the 76ers’ summer league team to help him prepare for the regular season. He was off to a great start in the first game, but went down with a pretty gruesome ankle injury and was out for the remainder of the summer league. Fultz was expected to be ready to roll on the season opener until Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown noticed his shot changed in September from when he was at Washington. Brown believed he was just trying a different shot until Markelle revealed in October that he had shoulder soreness. This led to Brown giving the number one pick limited minutes in the first four games of the season. Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers, shared that his client had fluid put into his shoulder and couldn’t lift his shoulder. He revealed that he changed his shooting form because of his shoulder as he was ruled out for the next couple of games in October. After being out for a number of games and returning in January, the 76ers’ point guard was playing some meaningful games, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, and went on to play some minutes in the playoffs.
After quite an eventful rookie year, Fultz was ready for a bounce back year in year two. He was off to a decent start until December rolled around. Early in the month, the guard was diagnosed with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome (TOC), a condition in which the collarbone compresses the nerves running from the neck to the arm. The team said that Fultz would be out indefinitely. After losing the point guard job to the team’s number one pick from the 2016 draft, six-foot-ten forward Ben Simmons, the organization decided to send the Washington product to Orlando for Jonathan Simmons and two draft picks (first and second rounders). Just like that, the Markelle Fultz era in Philly was over as it never really got started.
With the Magic picking up Fultz’s fourth year team option on his contract and clearing him for training camp with no restrictions, that brings up the question: should we buy into the hype? In the hype video, we saw him make some shots with a somewhat improved jumper. Perhaps getting traded might’ve been a blessing in disguise for him as he may not have fit in the Philadelphia system, or with Ben Simmons playing point and how that might work out. In his first interview of the season with team reporter Mackenzie Thirkill, Markelle said, “I just want to work hard for the fans and let my game do the talking.” His new teammates have been vocal about his work ethic as he said he’s in the weight room and working on finishing shots at the rim, shooting, and his conditioning to stay in top shape for this upcoming season. He also stated that he wants to help the team in any way possible.
I honestly believe and hope that he can break out on to the NBA scene and be the missing piece for an already talented Magic team. With a dominant and all-star caliber front court with center Nikola Vucevic and power forward Aaron Gordon, an underrated sharpshooter in shooting guard Evan Fournier, and two guys who can provide magic of their own off the bench in young and lanky center Mo Bamba and shooter Terrence Ross, all the team needs is a point guard to facilitate and control the floor. Fultz is the key piece that they’ve needed. In Washington, Fultz was a good shooter who shot better from mid range, a great slasher who could cut to the basket and finish at the rim, and a willing passer who wouldn’t hog the ball. With his shot looking better, his great athleticism, and the talent surrounding him, I’m buying the hype. I’m predicting that the Maryland native will bring some magic back to a team looking to make the playoffs once again.