Markelle Fultz’s return is the moment of truth for the Orlando Magic

Markelle Fultz is nearing his season debut. The Orlando Magic are eager to see what he looks like and how he helps this young roster. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz is nearing his season debut. The Orlando Magic are eager to see what he looks like and how he helps this young roster. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

At times this season, the Orlando Magic have been a frustrating mess.

A team that has tremendous talent but lacks the experience and the composure to finish games. A team that at times can get in its own way and cannot even execute properly.

Orlando has taken steps forward just to be competitive, but it was clear they were missing that extra oomph. And nowhere was that absence felt than at point guard where both Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero took over a good chunk of the playmaking responsibilities. Especially after both Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs dealt with injuries.

Neither of them is a true point guard. Both look to score first and lack some of the veteran know-how that the position requires at the highest levels.

If the Magic were indeed looking to level up, it seemed like it would have to start with this organizer, giving them at least someone to get them comfortably through the end of games.

It is insane to put all of this pressure on Markelle Fultz. He is not going to cure all of the Magic’s ills. But he sure would help a ton. Or at least, everyone believes he will.

The Orlando Magic appear set to welcome Markelle Fultz back to the court Sunday or soon after. To many, he has been the missing element to a young team knocking on the door.

The moment of truth for the Magic is coming.

The team is getting healthy and key players are starting to return. The excuses and the what-ifs will be pushed to the side. The team will finally get to see what this team actually will look like and what it can actually do.

Fultz is the exact point guard many believe the Magic are missing — a game manager and controller who can mix up pace and score and set up others off the dribble. And he is nearing his return sooner than everyone initially thought.

Orlando upgraded Fultz to QUESTIONABLE for Sunday’s game, signaling he will make his season debut at the Amway Center on Sunday night. If it does not happen then, it will surely happen soon.

That will fill one of the biggest holes the Magic seemingly have. And finally, give the team a clearer look at how the team looks with a true organizer and lead guard. No matter how long it takes to ramp up Fultz to full speed, the Magic will get a clearer look at this team.

Orlando fans certainly believe Fultz can make a major impact.

His return last year seemed to make an extremely positive impact. In 18 games to end the season, he averaged 10.8 points per game and 5.5 assists per game in 20.0 minutes per game.

Fultz largely played with bench lineups, but there was increased energy and pace with Fultz on the floor. In his time playing with starters it was clear what he could bring.

The way players talked about Fultz too after what was until just before training camp his first healthy full offseason is that Fultz took some significant steps forward.

Whether that carries over or whether that is something real will be determined when he gets onto the floor and builds some rhythm and momentum again. That will take some time.

But figuring out if Fultz works with this team is part of what the team needs to see and learn this season.

For fans, Fultz seemed to represent everything the team was missing. He seemed to represent the game manager and point guard the team was missing. The kind of player the team needed to reverse its 3-9 record in close games so far this season.

That is something that could flip the Magic’s fortunes and help them find the results for whatever progress the Magic believe they were making.

Nobody knows though exactly how Fultz will mix into things.

Fultz will give the Magic another driver and creator — he averaged 10.5 drives per game last year,  scoring 5.2 points per game on 49.4-percent shooting with 1.2 assists per game according to Second Spectrum.

The leading driver this season has been Wagner at 13.6 drives per game, 10.4 points per game, 56.6-percent shooting and 1.0 assists per game. Banchero is at 12.9 drives per game, 9.3 points per game, 54.4-percent shooting and 0.8 assists per game.

This offense certainly puts more emphasis on driving than it did last year. That should fit Fultz’s eye and allow him to ramp up his creation at the basket.

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The one thing Fultz will do that Wagner and Banchero do not is pass out of those drives. That should help one of the most stagnant and pass-averse offenses get moving a bit. Especially when the team is seemingly stuck.

That is the potential everyone sees in Fultz. But nobody knows how he will react to this team.

They are doing different things offensively than even last year. Some will help Fultz, some may not. And the team has never seen him play with so many other capable ball handlers and drivers.

Fultz also may not solve too many of the Magic’s turnover or defensive problems. At least not immediately.

Still, adding him back to the rotation will help the Magic spread out these attackers and try some different lineups. Adding good players will undoubtedly make the team better. Especially if Fultz is as good as he looked at the end of last season and as good as his teammates seemingly hyped him up to be.

But this is the moment the Magic have been waiting for through this early part of the season.

Orlando has been missing a key piece of its puzzle. The Magic wanted to see what this team would look like with all these pieces on the floor. They needed to see what it looked like with its point guard out there to manage and organize the team.

If Fultz fixes some of the team’s late-game and turnover issues (he still has 2.2 turnovers per game himself last year in limited minutes) then the team will see the kind of progress it was hoping to see and the team can put this rough start to the year behind it.

If the team still sees the same struggles — youthful exuberance or not — then that would hint at some bigger issues the Magic need to resolve that they cannot find on their current roster. And whether that will lead to the growth the team needs to see will be something to evaluate.

Orlando has openly waited for this though. The team has been hungry for the moment it would be healthy again and have its full roster to evaluate.

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Now comes that moment of truth. The Magic have to perform and grow more tangibly as they get healthier. And adding Fultz is a big step in finally seeing what this team can be.