Nothing has gone to plan for Markelle Fultz since being drafted 1st overall in 2017 by the Philadelphia 76ers. In the two seasons with the 76ers, Markelle Fultz managed to participate in just 33 games, due to a mysterious injury that totally changed the young guard's shooting mechanics.
Ben Simmons' emergence as one of the league's best playmakers, and the fact that he was operating as a de-facto point guard further muddied the waters of how Markelle Fultz would fit with the team long-term.
So when the Orlando Magic traded for Markelle Fultz, you couldn't help but feel that a fresh start for the 6'3'' point guard was a blessing. For the Magic, acquiring a player selected 1st overall just two years prior seemed like smart business. Markelle Fultz was in the final year of his deal (he did have a team option for the following year), and Orlando only gave up Jonathon Simmons and some draft capital.
In a defined role on a team with a bevy of young, high-upside talent, Markelle Fultz began to show signs of his true potential. In 72 games, the Maryland native averaged 12.1 points, 5.1 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 27.2 minuted per game.
Markelle Fultz's shot mechanics were still a topic of discussion throughout that season, but his ability to attack the lane and shoot off the dribble were encouraging signs. Orlando agreed, as they inked Markelle Fultz to a three-year $50 million contract extension at the end of the 2019-20 NBA season.
The injury bug hit Markelle Fultz again as he suffered a torn ACL while playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers. ACL injuries usually take between 9-12 months for a player to heal, rehab, and return to the floor for their team, but with his injury history since entering the NBA, it makes sense if Orlando decides to take things slowly.
How did the Orlando Magic do without Markelle Fultz
After Fultz' injury, the Orlando Magic primarily used their 15th pick in the 2020 draft, Cole Anthony, as their lead guard. Anthony averaged 12.9 points, 4.1 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in 47 games. Those statistics are very comparable to what Markelle Fultz accomplished in the previous season.
Orlando continued to make moves as they hit the reset button on their roster. In a deal to send Aaron Gordon to the Denver Nuggets, the Orlando Magic received RJ Hampton and Gary Harris in return. Both Hampton and Harris are shooting guards, but the former can also operate as a point guard when required.
It would seem that in Markelle Futlz's absence, the Orlando Magic increased their depth at both guard positions, which makes you wonder if their $50 million guard will be able to re-establish himself as the teams lead point guard once he's back to full fitness.
Should the Orlando Magic consider trading Markelle Fultz?
The Orlando Magic have certainly got high hopes for the pairing of Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz - they're a duo oozing potential and natural ability. However, they're also a duo emitting consistent injury concerns.
With almost $130 million invested in Isaac and Markelle Fultz over the next few seasons, it's fair to question if the Orlando Magic are comfortable with continuing to build their team around a pair of players whose early careers have been riddled with injuries.
With Anthony showing he can fill the void left by Markelle Fultz and his high-energy style of play, the Magic may feel more comfortable handing Anthony the keys long term. Nevertheless, Markelle Fultz is an elite prospect in terms of ceiling and basketball pedigree.
As things stand, Markelle Fultz has only had one full NBA season of playing time under his belt, making it fair to say that his first year with the Orlando Magic was essentially his rookie season.
Luckily, Fultz's two injuries are not connected to one another, and neither are they a degenerative issue. Rather, both are isolated incidents with the latter being an unlucky turn of events.
With two years remaining on Markelle Fultz's contract and his lack of impact on the league since being drafted, the Orlando Magic will likely need to attach a draft pick to move on from Fultz's contract. What happens if Fultz goes to a new team, gets healthy, and cements himself as a starting caliber guard in the NBA? Stranger things have happened.
So, while the Orlando Magic are now especially deep at both guard positions, giving up on a player with the basketball pedigree of Markelle Fultz could prove to be a poor decision. The upside of the Isaac/Fultz duo is worth exploring for at least another season before making a decision on doubling down or going back to the drawing board.
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But if Markelle Fultz's season is derailed by another injury, or a spate of niggling injuries that ensure he never gets into a rhythm, you may find Fultz being moved around the trade deadline - but as things currently stand, that seems highly unlikely.
If you read any interviews with scouts, coaches, or front office members, the common narrative is that a player is given three years in the league before they're truly judged by an organization. Fultz may be entering his fifth year as a pro, but he's only entering his second full season of consistent playing time (should he be back for the start of the year), so maybe, just maybe, we'll wait and see how the upcoming season plays out - that seems to be what the Orlando Magic want to do anyway.