Markelle Fultz is a jump shot away for Orlando Magic

Markelle Fultz has stunned many with his play this season for the Orlando Magic. But his jumper is still the missing piece. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Markelle Fultz has stunned many with his play this season for the Orlando Magic. But his jumper is still the missing piece. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Markelle Fultz took the Orlando Magic by storm. But his jump shot is still standing in the way of him becoming the clearcut future for the team.

Coming into the season, Markelle Fultz had no expectations as the Orlando Magic were going to take it slow. There was not even an indication he would be ready for training camp until a few weeks before things began.

The question that surrounded Markelle Fultz was what would his long-term contributions. But the moment Fultz was cleared for training camp, it was clear he was ready to help the team this season.

The idea was for Markelle Fultz to backup point guard D.J. Augustin since this season was essentially his rookie year. But Fultz exceeded all expectations and was inserted into the starting lineup on Nov. 2, just five games into the season.

From even the first preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs to his hair-raising coast-to-coast dunk in the opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers to his steal and finish against the Washington Wizards to his clutch triple-double against the Los Angeles Lakers, Fultz has turned head and made everyone take notice.

This season Fultz has averaged 12.1 points, 5.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. He has shot a solid 47.3 percent from the field.

Fultz can get to the basket at will and finish around the rim. Although he has struggled with shooting from beyond the arc (25.4 percent), he has been a solid free-throw shooter at 72.3 percent. Fultz is shooting 50.0 percent on shots between 15 and 19 feet.

He has found a nice groove in the mid-range too. But there is still a lot of room for improvement.

So while Fultz is good at finding teammates and getting to the basket, he needs to improve his shooting, and that will unlock the rest of his game.

And there are hints he can get there. With the improvement at the free-throw line with limited time to work on his shot, there is room for Fultz to become a reliable shooter.

Fultz averaged 12.9 points and 6.6 assists per game in the 10 games after the All-Star Break. In that time, he shot 51.4 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc. He added 21 for 31 (67.7 percent) on shots from 10-19 feet according to’s stats database.

He still took nearly the majority of his shots at the rim — 46 of his 111 shots after the All-Star Break were within five feet. He made 60.9 percent of his shots in that range.

Fultz has already shown the ability to get to the basket and finish at the rim and around the defense. He has started to show a growing game of scoring from the mid-range. As he picked up his pace after the All-Star Break, Fultz took over from everywhere inside the 3-point line, even with defenses daring him to shoot.

But undoubtedly his shooting is the key to the next level of his game. That poor 3-point shooting dictates how defenses play him. They stay way under screens and dare him to take the space. When he does not have the ball, defenses can essentially ignore him.

As several scouts told Josh Robbins of The Athletic, his ability to shoot from the outside will ultimately determine whether he is a quality starter or a high-level backup in this league.

Much of Fultz’s offseason work has to be spent rebuilding strength and confidence in his jumper. After two seasons dealing with injury and now what looks like a truncated summer to improve his skills, improvement will continue to be gradual.

And looming behind all of it is the expiration of his rookie contract at the end of the 2021 season. For now, the Magic seem committed to giving Fultz all the tools they can to see him succeed.

Once his shooting improves, getting to the rim will be easier because the defense will not be able to go under screens. This will make Fultz a complete player and become one of the most dangerous point guards in the league.

This version of Fultz would be one of the cornerstone pieces for the Magic. He was at least already starting to find ways to loosen the defense.

Fultz has made an impact on this Magic team without shooting the ball well from beyond the arc. He has been able to take over and close out games without the 3-pointer but in order to take the next step he has to be able to take the next step in his game.

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Once that happens, that will be the version of Markelle Fultz the shakes the entire league.