Orlando Magic’s 2021 offseason: 3 bold predictions

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Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Cade Cunningham’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor has made him the best prospect in the NBA Draft. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

Orlando Magic draft a guard in the lottery

Orlando Magic prepare to trade Markelle Fultz

Before some of the avid Orlando Magic fans also happen to be avid Markelle Fultz supporters come after me with pitchforks and torches, understand the 2021 draft is headlined by multiple exciting guard prospects in Cade Cunningham and Jaylen Suggs.

As teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets have shown us, explosive guard play is a catalyst towards efficient offensive production and team identity. While a prospect like Evan Mobley is equally impressive, the idea of having an iconic and explosive guard becoming the face of the franchise is a prospect that should not be scoffed at.

And while there is plenty to say about the Magic’s loaded backcourt rotation of R.J. Hampton, Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz, it is clear all three players have significant weaknesses in their respective games that prevent them from being legitimate floor generals.

In particular, Hampton and Fultz’s games have significant overlaps and this could lead to a redundancy once all three players are healthy. Both players are explosive with the ball in their hands yet still struggle with their outside shooting.

Given that R.J. Hampton was obtained in the Aaron Gordon trade and that he is a younger player without the injury history that Markelle Fultz has, Fultz may be placed on the trade block if the Magic decide to draft one of these guards in the draft.

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Fultz will have to get healthy first. And it is not entirely clear when he will be ready to return to the lineup — he was injured in January. The Magic may not see him on the court until Christmas or even later. And even then, they are likely to bring him along slowly without the significant pressure to win this coming season.

But Fultz’s time will run out quickly. While Fultz signed a three-year extension, the third year of that contract is non-guaranteed. That makes him essentially an expiring contract for the 2022 season. If Orlando is loaded up at guard, Fultz could easily get squeezed out of the mix as the team ponders how to build for its future.

A Fultz trade may not be imminent in the 2021 season. But if Orlando drafts a guard, the team would be setting the table to move on potentially.

To clarify, trading Fultz is not an indication of a lack of talent or skill — Fultz is still incredibly young and his draft pedigree and enticing play (when healthy) would make him a key contributor on most Magic squads.

But should the Magic find themselves in a position to take consensus top prospect  Cade Cunningham to control the offense, trading Fultz would allow Weltman the opportunity to clear his backcourt rotation while obtaining additional assets in return.