Former No. 1 NBA Draft pick Markelle Fultz is making the most of his role with the Orlando Magic.
Markelle Fultz was taken as the top overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. But thanks to multiple injuries, Fultz suited up just 33 times during his year-and-a-half stint in the city of Brotherly Love. Subsequently, he was shipped to the Orlando Magic prior to last season’s trade deadline.
Despite the rough start to his NBA career, Orlando Magic president Jeff Weltman had nothing but good things to say about the team’s midseason acquisition.
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“I think Markelle’s ceiling – well, put it this way, he was the No. 1 pick in the draft,’’ Weltman told NBA.com. “His ceiling is exceptionally high. I think he’s a 20-year-old player with tremendous potential and I feel confident in saying the league looks at him that way, not just us.’’
With the uncertainty surrounding the extent of his injuries, some questioned if Fultz would ever play in the NBA again.
Fast forward to the present and it appears Fultz is thriving with his new team.
For example, after starting only 15 times during his first two seasons, Fultz has already started in eight of Orlando’s 13 games this season.
In his first two seasons in the league, he shot 40.5 and 41.9 percent from the field. This season, Fultz is shooting a career-best 48.6 percent from the field. While his 21.4 percent conversion rate from 3 isn’t anything to be overly excited about, his effective field-goal percentage of 51.4 is a noticeable jump from the 43.2 percent mark he posted in 2018-19.
Even though we’re not even a quarter of the way through the season, Fultz has already had a number of solid performances. He reached double figures in each of the first three games of the season, scoring 12, 12 and 13 points, respectively. And he recently had the best outing of his career thus far against the Washington Wizards on Nov. 17.
In that contest, Fultz scored 19 points on an uber-efficient 8-for-10 shooting from the field and he converted two of his three attempts from 3-point range, enabling the Magic to come away with a 125-121 victory.
Fultz is averaging 10.5 points in 23.5 minutes per contest and he has had seven games in which he’s been a double-digit scorer. To put that stat into perspective, he had only six such outings all of last season.
Over the course of his young career, Fultz isn’t what you would call a huge perimeter threat (43.5 percent conversion rate). However, Fultz is showing noteworthy improvement in a few other areas. In terms of finishing around the rim, the third-year guard is shooting an astounding 75 percent.
Between the three to 10 foot range, Fultz is shooting 47.8 percent. In the 10-16 feet, he’s converting 40 percent of his attempts. And from 16 feet out to 3-point territory, Fultz is shooting 44.4 percent. All of the percentages in these areas are higher than the conversion rates he posted last season.
To hammer the point home even further, it is also worth mentioning how well Fultz is doing from the free-throw line. In Years 1 and 2, he shot 47.6 and 56.8 point percent from the charity stripe. This season, he has knocked down 82.1 percent of his attempts. Not too bad for a guy who was all but written off following a pair of injury-plagued seasons.
Fultz’s re-emergence with the Magic is good for a couple of reasons. From a league standpoint, it’s a huge positive to see a young player bounce back from multiple injuries along with being labeled as a potential bust in some circles.
Furthermore, as far as Fultz is concerned, a change of scenery proved to be exactly what he needed. Not only is he silencing his critics, but he could very well be on his way to becoming another viable option for a Magic squad seeking a return trip to the playoffs.