Can Fultz Find his Magic in Orlando?

Jay Serrano

Despite what most fans on social media will lead you to believe, the Orlando Magic perhaps had the biggest win over the February 7th, 2019 NBA trade deadline. The surprise trade sent Jonathan Simmons, Oklahoma City’s 2019 first-round pick, and a 2020 second-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for Markelle Fultz. The questions surrounding this trade is whether or not it was a worthy gamble for the Magic.

Fultz was drafted number one overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers were originally expected to pick third overall, so they traded the third pick plus a future first-round pick for the rights to draft Fultz. At the time, he was the consensus number one overall pick after only one season at The University of Washington.

During his freshman campaign, Fultz averaged 23.2 ppg, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds, and shot 47% from the field.  There was not much debate about whether or not he was worthy of the number one overall selection.

Shoulder injuries would plague his rookie season, leading to him only being available to play in 14 games in the regular season. It got to a point that Markelle felt he had to change his shooting form, which only led to disaster. Many questioned whether there were mental problems at play along with the physical ones. He would go on to show some of his potential on the final night of the regular season by posting a 13 point, 10 rebound, and 10 assist triple-double; becoming the youngest player in NBA history to do so. He did not get much playing time in 76ers playoff run, which had many scratching their heads. Add on the fact they played the Celtics and former third overall pick and fellow rookie Jayson Tatum looked like a future superstar, it left many fans wondering what they truly had in Fultz.

The start of the 2018-2019 season was filled with optimism for the former number one overall pick despite his drama-filled rookie season. Things went south quickly however when Fultz got injured again. He was only averaging 8.2 ppg, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists before he was ruled out and officially diagnosed with Neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition that affects the nerves between the neck and the shoulders. It was clear Markelle was no longer a part of their plans as they were prepared to take advantage of a wide-open Eastern Conference.

Now I understand what some of you are thinking: if the Sixers gave up on him after one season what are the chances he works out in Orlando? The opinions on this trade from fans seem split down the middle. While on the other hand, most experts and pros including former Magic player and Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady seem to believe the change of scenery will benefit for Fultz and could end up being a big help for the Magic.

Well for starters, that pressure of being the number-one overall pick, and constantly being compared to Jayson Tatum will no longer be there. He can start with a clean slate here in Orlando and remind everyone just why he was the consensus number one overall pick, at his own pace. Trading Jonathan Simmons, who in this down year was only averaging 6.9 points, 2.4 rebs, and 2.1 assists after posting double those numbers last season, along with Oklahoma City’s late first-rounder and their own second-round pick is a worthwhile gamble. If he can even reach half of his star potential it will still be an upgrade over Simmons whose contract was set to expire at the end of the year. There are questions to whether he will play this season or not. But the Magic are not rushing him back. With the Magic only one game behind Charlotte for playoff contention, they would be better off not messing with team chemistry and perhaps let him rest and rehab this last quarter of the season. With that rest and the work in the offseason he will be fresh next season, both mentally and physically the Magic are truly in a win-win situation, they still have two years under his rookie deal to make a decision whether to invest in him long term or not. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a player only a year and a half removed being drafted number one for what is considered pennies on the dollar. Should the risk pay off, it will go down as one the smartest trades in NBA history, and a huge win for the Magic organization that is in need of one.