3 Orlando Magic players who are expendable, 3 the team can't afford to trade
Expendable: Markelle Fultz
The Orlando Magic are in a constant waiting mode for Markelle Fultz, unfortunately.
When the team acquired him in 2019, it was still in a position to let him get healthy and see whether the former top overall pick could reclaim his talent and contribute to the team. Fultz eventually did return healthy and made an impact for the Magic. There is still clearly a strong player in him.
The question the Magic continually face though is whether he is the right player for this team.
Injuries have continued to be the story with Fultz.
He tore his ACL early in the 2021 season, essentially derailing the entire year and jumpstarting the rebuild that has led the magic to this place. After returning from that, he looked like he was regaining his bounce only for left knee tendinitis keeping him out for all but five games this season.
And unfortunately, those injuries have prevented the Magic from finding that answer.
Now with the team on the cusp of contending seriously for a playoff spot, the team is going to have to assess its roster and determine what it might actually need to advance deeper into the playoffs or ensure that spot entirely.
It does not feel like a Fultz deal is imminnet. Unless the Magic are going for a veteran point guard -- like Malcolm Brogdon, who will almost certainly be one of the hotter names on the trade market -- to fill that need immediately, the team needs Fultz. The Magic are short on the kind of big, defensive-minded lead guards that can operate offensively and defend at a high level.
During Markelle Fultz's absence, the team has used Anthony Black in his spot. But Black has largely been a no-usage offensive player, averaging 5.0 points per game and 3.8 field goal attempts per game. Orlando has essentially run Paolo Banchero as its main initiator and ball-handler.
For as poorly as Fultz appeared to be playing in his five-game stint, he still averaged 11.4 points and 4.0 assists per game. Nobody expected those numbers after his strong finish to last season. But it is serviceable with everything else this team has to offer.
The bottom line is this though: Fultz is a free agent this summer. There is a decision point coming with him whether the team moves him at the trade deadline. Having a non-shooting lead guard on a team full of players who are capable of making plays on their own and need to have the freedom to do so is a major question for this team moving forward.
That answer may not quite be coming to a head yet. But Orlando has to be considering its point guard options.