Orlando Magic will be a better Playoff team with Markelle Fultz, Mohamed Bamba

Markelle Fultz has already familiarized himself with his Orlando Magic teammates. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Markelle Fultz has already familiarized himself with his Orlando Magic teammates. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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The Orlando Magic made a five-game cameo in the playoffs. They will be a better playoff team with the addition of a healthy Markelle Fultz and Mohamed Bamba. 

It was a start.

The Orlando Magic made a splash in the beginning of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. Few experts predicted the Orlando Magic would be in that moment, let alone take a game from the Toronto Raptors. And they did this all without a fully healthy roster.

That alone says a lot.

There is common belief and then there is the will of man. The Magic had that will.

Heading into next season, they will have extra depth if faced with future playoff adversity when Markelle Fultz and Mohamed Bamba return from injury. Two key elements of the team’s long-term vision should get their chance.

And they need it. These two should be looking to prove people wrong, they both have not lived up to early expectations as they dealt with the rigors of the NBA game and injuries early in their career.

Markelle Fultz was traded to Orlando at the NBA trade deadline for Jonathon Simmons, a 2020 protected first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder, and a 2019 second-round selection.

Fultz endured heavy criticism for his lack of shooting after being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. He was forced into highly intense, pressure-packed action in his first year as the Philadelphia 76ers were a second round Playoff team in 2018 before being ready. Injuries slowed him down his rookie year too and things were not much better to start his sophomore season.

And it showed during the year.

In the 2019 season, Fultz only averaged 8.2 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game and 3.1 assists per game. Those came in limited minutes — 22.5 minutes per game — and his role diminished as his injury got worse. He shot a horrid 43.2 percent effective field goal percentage.

Orlando has high hopes for him. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said at exit interviews Thursday he has been impressed with Markelle Fultz’s work ethic and the way he embraced the team and its playoff run. But there is no timetable for his return and Weltman would not comment on how close Fultz was in his recovery, saying only that he was progressing.

The Magic have created an environment where Fultz can recover at his own pace. He now has a team that needs him to be himself in order to be great. When he is ready, the Magic will ease him back into games. But he will be given the keys to the franchise once he is healthy.

Now he has a chance to be great, with the expectations not being nearly as high in Orlando as they were in Philadelphia. With his talent, he has a chance to be the best player on the court. The Magic do not want to get too far ahead of themselves though.

The same could be said for Mohamed Bamba after a tough rookie year that ended early with a fracture to his left tibia in late January.

Expectations are still high for Mohamed Bamba. He is expected to be everything the Magic have been searching for defensively since the departure of Dwight Howard. Not only is he capable of defending the rim, but he also has the ability to throw down monster dunks on fast breaks and isolated sets.

He showed some of that in his rookie year, averaging 6.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in 16.3 minutes per game. There were flashes of his brilliance. But he physically got manhandled in the paint and struggled with his inconsistent jumper. The Magic were patient with him through his injury.

They have taken to working with his preparation and conditioning since has been out. Weltman said he was encouraged with Bamba’s progress and embracing of the preparation the team has given him while he was injured. Coach Steve Clifford praised Mohamed Bamba’s willingness to dive into film study of his future opponents and the team as the coaching staff worked to keep him engaged during his injury.

Eventually, he will return. And the sky still seems to be the limit for this young player.

He has a chance to be one of the best centers in Magic history like Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Nikola Vucevic. He can make an immediate impact on the roster on defense, kind of like a DeAndre Jordan type of player in the paint. Few people remember Jordan’s second year when he averaged 4.8 points per game and only five rebounds. He grew into the player you see that at his peak competed for Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Bamba will be motivated to double his numbers too once healthy.

One thing for sure is that you will see more improvement in rim protection around the basket with the addition of Mohamed Bamba, thus helping Jonathan and Aaron Gordon run the floor and press up on opponents with more confidence of backside help.

Bamba still has a lot to learn on defense in this league, but he was already a gifted shot blocker. Those instincts came naturally too him and he uses every bit of his 7-foot-10 wingspan.

You never know how much more improved those two will be defensively with the addition of a rim protector like Bamba roaming the paint. We will see just how much more improved of a defensive team the Magic can be going into next year.

Although the Magic lack the superstar players, they were able to earn the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference without the help of Fultz and Bamba. And that part is good. Orlando has some reinforcements ready to step in and keep this team growing and developing.

The Magic put the world on notice in Game 1 against the Raptors. Now the Magic just need to continue to build on their success from last year.

The future is bright in Central Florida, and the majority of fans are not only excited about next years potential of growth with Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac but fans look to see contributions on both sides of the court from Mohamed Bamba and Markelle Fultz as well.

Next. Jeff Weltman keeping Orlando Magic on patient course. dark

They form a core that should compete in the Eastern Conference for years to come.