Orlando Magic staying patient as Markelle Fultz is bursting at the seams

Markelle Fultz has been solid for the Orlando Magic as he returns from a torn ACL. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz has been solid for the Orlando Magic as he returns from a torn ACL. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley is probably tired of the question every time he gets it. He has his goals and list of things he wants to do with Markelle Fultz and sometimes he too loses track of time.

The moments when Fultz overflows his allotted 18 minutes get everyone excited. Especially when Fultz is playing so well. It is clear how much Fultz is bursting at the seams.

Mosley explained that Fultz reached a season-high 21 minutes (the first time he eclipsed 20 minutes this season) because Mosley wanted to see Fultz run an out-of-bounds play. He then could not get to a timeout or another stoppage to get Fultz out.

Nothing more, nothing less.

It was a chance to put Fultz in a new situation he had not been in before this year. And time just tolled up.

No one would blame anyone for being eager to see more of Fultz. Especially when he has the game he had Wednesday night in a 127-110 loss to the Washington Wizards.

Everyone is eager to see more Markelle Fultz. But the Orlando Magic are staying with their plan for Fultz even as it seems he is playing far better than anyone expected.

Fultz scored 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting and dished out seven assists. He was a dominant force for the Magic’s offense — the team had a 113.6 offensive rating with Fultz on the floor compared to the team’s 106.8 offensive rating for the game.

Everyone just wanted more. Seeing him blow past the 20-minute mark whets the appetite for what he can do — not to mention in a game the Magic were largely out of in the second half, the team still broke even when he was on the floor.

This has felt like the norm. At least in the minutes that he has played. Everyone just wants to see more of Fultz, especially in minutes and with players that matter.

The fact that Fultz’s season-high 19 points came the game after he scored 11 points in the loss to Cleveland Cavaliers and his previous season-high of 16 points in the loss to the Sacramento Kings, it is becoming clear he is reaching some level of consistency. And it seems like he is just starting to cook the moment he comes out.

For the season, Fultz is averaging 10.3 points and 4.5 assists per game in 18.5 minutes per game this season. He is shooting 46.2-percent from the floor in his 13 appearances.

Those seem like modest stats, but they are on pace for some All-Star-level numbers. Fultz is scoring 20.1 points per 36 minutes and 8.8 assists per 36 minutes.

Fultz ranks well in almost every catch-all advanced stat too. According to Basketball-Index, he has a +3.0 box plus-minus, contributing an equal +1.5 on both offense and defense (essentially saying the team is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better because of Fultz’s contributions on both ends).

He at least breaks even in their other catch-all stats, an impressive feat considering both the lineups he has largely played with and the limited minutes he has played for a team with a losing record (even since he returned).

Obviously, those numbers will not directly translate. You do not just double someone’s minutes and double his production. But at this point, playing Fultz a full complement of minutes is theoretical.

Magic fans have seen enough of him in little bites and tastes to wonder what that full picture looks like.

All anyone has — and it appears all anyone will get — are little glimpses of things.

According to data from Basketball Index, the majority of Fultz’s defensive matchups are against players with in the two lowest usage tiers. He is not going up against the best players in the league — he defends players in what the site calls “Usage Tier 2” 12.2-percent of the time.

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Indeed, Fultz’s most common teammates are Chuma Okeke (152 minutes), Moe Wagner (132 minutes) and Terrence Ross (113 minutes). The Magic have a negative net rating in lineups featuring Fultz and each of those players. That would make sense considering how much Orlando’s depth has been gutted toward the end of the season.

Fultz simply has not paired with many of the starters to this point. He has played only 74 minutes across nine games with Wendell Carter, 64 minutes with Franz Wagner and 34 minutes total with Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs.

It is again a sign of how eager everyone is to see Fultz turned loose. This season is only a tease for what Fultz can do.

As good as he has been, the evidence is still anecdotal. Overall, the Magic have a -8.7 net rating with Fultz on the floor and just a 101.3 offensive rating.

It is more of a reason everyone is eager to figure out what is real in Fultz’s return.

It has become abundantly clear how important Fultz is going to be for this team moving forward and into next season. Just from the feel of the game, it seems like Fultz creates a generally positive impact. He just does so many little things that are hard to describe statistically that impact the game.

No one would blame fans for wanting to see more of it and figure out just how real things are.

That will have to wait until the offseason and into next year, when Fultz will assumedly have all restrictions taken off him. As Fultz has said several times about his return this year, he is just thankful and blessed to be playing again.

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The anticipation for more though is still present. And it is bursting at the seams, just like Fultz’s game, against the restrictions the team has put in place.