Markelle Fultz’s NBA career got off to a start no author could script. The Philadelphia 76ers drafted the scoring guard out of Washington with the first pick in the 2017 draft. The Sixers not only traded up to get Fultz, but they took him over Jayson Tatum, who has turned into a superstar for the Boston Celtics.
The Sixers were hopeful that Markelle Fultz would be the third option on offense behind Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and lift the franchise to new heights. Instead, the Maryland native almost turned into the biggest bust in NBA history.
Markelle Fultz deals with scapular muscle imbalance as a rookie
During his rookie season with the Sixers, Markelle Fultz dealt with scapular muscle imbalance in his right shoulder. The 6-foot-3 guard wasn’t able to shoot the basketball and developed the “yips.”
Fultz only played in 14 games in 2017-18 due to his shoulder injury, and he was shut down twice by the team. He finished the campaign with averages of 7.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists while shooting 40.5% from the field and 47.6% from the free-throw line. Fultz only attempted one 3-pointer and missed it.
In the 2018 playoffs, where the Sixers lost to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in five games, Markelle Fultz averaged 1.7 points in three games against the Miami Heat in the first round. He didn’t play at all versus Boston.
Markelle Fultz experiences Neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in Year 2
Markelle Fultz was looking to put his tough rookie season behind him and show the entire world in Year 2 that he was worthy of the No. 1 overall pick in 2017. He played the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season and even started 15 times.
However, Fultz experienced Neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome during his second season and was still having trouble shooting the ball. He averaged 8.2 points per game and shot 41.9% from the floor, 28.6% from beyond the 3-point line, and 56.8% from the charity stripe. There was a hitch in Fultz’s jump shot, and many evaluators were convinced that the youngster still had the “yips.”
November 19, 2018, was the final game Fultz played for the Sixers. The team shut him down to rehab his shoulder injury, and he was eventually traded to the Orlando Magic on February 7, 2019.
Fultz didn’t make his Magic debut during the 2018-19 season. He was diligently working on his shoulder injury so that he could shoot the ball normally again. According to Josh Robbins of The Athletic, Fultz worked under the careful supervision of at least two members of the Magic’s player-development staff.
Despite the entire NBA world giving up on him, Markelle Fultz kept his head down and controlled what he could control. The Magic exercised their fourth-year team option on Fultz for the 2020-21 season, and the explosive guard paid Orlando back in a huge way.
Magic reward guard with a huge payday
Markelle Fultz played in 72 games for the Magic in 2019-20, a sight the entire NBA world was thrilled to see. The 22-year-old put up 12.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.1 assists and shot 46.5% from the field, 26.7% from beyond the arc, and 73.0% from the free-throw line.
Finally healthy for the first time in the NBA, Fultz showed off his scoring skills by notching at least 20 points six times for the Magic. The former Sixers guard also recorded four double-doubles and one triple-double. Even members of the Philadelphia organization were happy to see Fultz have success since the start of his career was dreadful.
Hard work pays off in life, and Fultz’s NBA journey is a prime example of that. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Magic have rewarded Fultz with a three-year, $50 million extension. We can now take Markelle Fultz’s name off the Anthony Bennett list, as the Magic guard is no longer a bust in the NBA.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.