Could This Be Markelle Fultz’s Breakout Year?

Markelle Fultz has had a rough beginning to his NBA career. Once touted as a future star, he has struggled to remain on the court for any significant amount of time.

When he has been able to play, he has not lived up to the promising potential he was touted for coming into the league as a Philadelphia 76er. Despite this, there may be cause for optimism going into Markelle Fultz’s third season, and it may come in the form of a confidence boost. 

Markelle Fultz’s beginning

Fultz only needed one year in college to show that he could be the number 1 pick in the NBA draft. During his sole season at the University of  Washington, he showed an ability to score both inside the arc and from the outside, and while his team struggled all season, he let his name be known on a national stage.

Although there was a rawness to his ability, NBA scouts saw the makings of a very good player, and when the 76ers traded up to get him number 1, all eyes were on him. 

Fultz was supposed to be a third exciting piece for a young 76ers team with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. However, an early shoulder injury proved to be his undoing, at least immediately. While shoulder injuries can run the gamut of slight to severe, the 76ers were surprisingly quiet about his shoulder injury. In fact, many believed that the alleged injury was just an excuse for broken shooting mechanics. 

Lack of production

Despite these setbacks, the 76ers weren’t worried. They were no strangers to players with early injury problems. Both Simmons and Embiid missed entire seasons before they stepped foot on an NBA floor. However, something seemed different with Fultz.

His once good-looking shot now looked broken, and he struggled to fix it when he did get back on the court. As a result, he has failed to live up to the promise, and he was eventually traded to the Orlando for Jonathon Simmons, a top-20 protected 2020 draft pack, and a 2019 second-round pick.

Through two seasons, Fultz has looked like a bust. He has only played in 33 games total and only shot 26.7% from downtown as well as 41% from the field. However, Orlando could be giving him what he needs heading into his third year.

Is there for Markelle Fultz this season?

Fultz is yet to play a game in Orlando, but the Magic may have given him a much-needed ego boost this offseason when they picked up his 2020-21 option.

This isn’t a small deal. As a former first-rounder, Fultz is due $12.3M during that season, and if his play keeps up, it could be a hard deal to move. The Magic brought him in as an experiment, and they have been keeping tabs on his health since acquiring him. 

By picking up this deal, the Magic are saying that they have faith that Fultz can break out of his early-career struggles and still become a good NBA player in the future. For a franchise that has been drenched in mediocrity for the past few years, taking a risk like this could either pay dividends or be another step in the wrong direction. 

What happens now?

The Magic have been cautious with Markelle Fultz since acquiring him. They not only held him out of every game following his trade-deadline move over, but they held him out of Summer League so that he could focus on getting better and working on his return to the court. The Magic are coming off of a surprising playoff run, but they could use a burst to prove that it was not a fluke. 

If Fultz comes back to be a good NBA player, it would be great for both he and the Magic. Whether his broken shot was a mental glitch or an actual problem with his arm or shoulder, Fultz has worked hard to get back on the court but has failed to yield desirable results.

Perhaps this show of faith from his new team could be what sets him in the right direction, and he can work with Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and Jonathan Isaac to build a new young core.