Markelle Fultz had his first healthy offseason ever in his career until he suffered a setback in recent weeks.
The Orlando Magic announced Fultz had fractured his big left toe just before training camp began and that he would miss all of camp and all of the preseason. He would be re-evaluated ahead of the season. As always, they gave no timetable for his return.
Fultz in his media day interview brushed off the injury as nothing serious and repeatedly said it was a “precautionary” situation. His presence for this team, as it was with his run to end the 2022 season, is vital for the team’s potential success.
The reality is that nobody really knows how good Fultz can still be after injuries characterized the early part of his career.
This will be a big year for Fultz. He finally seems to be healthy and put the ACL injury behind him and is a potential candidate for a breakout season. For a Magic team in need of someone who can attack and distribute, he could be vital to a breakout season for the team itself.
The Magic will need their floor general and leader on and off the court to return as soon as possible. Although it was just a preseason game, the Magic in their first preseason committed 25 turnovers, a guy like Fultz will do wonders.
The Magic last season looked like a completely different team last season after Fultz returned from his ACL injury. Although he was playing limited minutes, his impact was noticeable from the first possession. He is a very smart player who simply gets his teammates the ball in positions they excel at.
Coach Jamahl Mosley referred to the team as “leveling up” on Media Day. The first thing in order to accomplish that goal is to get healthy and stay healthy. The second thing would be to limit their mistakes that are easily avoidable. Such as turnovers and fouling the opposing team, both of which result in free easy points.
Fultz’s strong suit is his playmaking which would help Mosley and his coaching staff a ton. His stability as a playmaker and point guard are enough to get the players in the right spot and organized.
Contractually, Fultz is in the second year of a 3-year, $50-million rookie extension he signed with the Magic prior to the start of the 2021 season. He certainly has the organization’s faith. He will be eligible for an extension this summer. If he has a great year, there is no reason he or the Magic would not entertain that idea.
But Fultz still has a lot more to prove on the floor. That is just where Fultz has struggled to find consistent time due to the injuries that have piled up.
Fultz is still extremely young. Yes, he is going into his 6th year in the league, however, he is only 24 years old and does not turn 25 until May 2023. In his limited time last season, he averaged 10.8 points, 5.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 20 minutes per game.
According to Cleaning the Glass, Fultz shot 72 percent at the rim, which was good to place him in the 98th percentile.
That shows how elite Fultz is with his strengths. He does not settle for what the defense gives him or wants him to take. He likes to get to his spots — his “kill spots” as he calls them — that he knows he is best at.
Fultz had a 45.2-percent assist rate, which was good for the 100th percentile. That is extremely impressive. Even in limited minutes and largely playing with reserve players, Fultz found ways to feed teammates and get them open. He provided a clear spark to the offense.
One would expect that to be lower simply due to the rust of not playing NBA basketball for an entire year.
With the Magic selecting Paolo Banchero, the Magic will need him to score and get the ball where he excels at. Especially for a rookie where the game is too quick for them at times that they struggle to get to their spots, Fultz will do wonders for him.
Banchero has talked about how much Fultz has helped him since getting drafted first overall by the Magic.
Fultz simply told him to focus on himself and not listen to any of the outside noise. That is great advice from someone like Fultz who has been through some of the worst moments in Philadelphia 76ers fans turning their back on him.
The former top overall pick can provide that kind of leadership throughout the roster. He seemingly had instant command of Mosley’s offense and found his fit quickly. Magic fans were certainly giddy watching him.
Now everyone is eager to see what happens next. That is perhaps the biggest disappointment to Fultz’s injury.
All in all, this can be a huge year for Fultz and the Magic. Maybe they can get close to that “4th seed” ceiling Fultz tweeted out. Maybe they can, who knows?
Those questions will get answered as the team progresses through the season. But for that to even be in the realm of possibilities, the Magic must get healthy first. Getting back Gary Harris and Jonathan Isaac will do wonders for this team.
Getting back Fultz will do a whole lot more. The Magic are still short on creators and no one on this roster is as creative as Fultz can be.
Fultz has shown he can bounce back from adversity like no other. This is just another time when fans wait for Fultz to come back stronger than ever, and Magic certainly have no doubt that he will do that.