Markelle Fultz needs more time, patience to get up to speed

Markelle Fultz has now been with the Orlando Magic for a handful of games since his long knee injury. He will need some time to work back into this offense and get back to the chemistry he used to create for Orlando.
Atlanta Hawks v Orlando Magic
Atlanta Hawks v Orlando Magic / James Gilbert/GettyImages

On Jan. 7, the Orlando Magic got Markelle Fultz back healthy for his first game since Halloween when they played the Atlanta Hawks in Mexico City. It was much needed as Orlando had been looking to gain stability at the point guard spot.

Fultz was on a minute restriction and was quiet scoring no points. Fultz took a while to get back into his scoring mode as he put up a combined seven points in the next two games against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat.

It was not until the Magic's latest win against the New York Knicks were Fultz started really scoring while taking lots of shot attempts. In a six-point outing, he put up eight attempts while dishing out seven assists and had five rebounds. In the past two losses against the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers, he put up 10 and seven points.

Fultz is starting to look more comfortable. And it could not come at a better time.

Fultz's play will be key to what Orlando does for the future of the point guard position. He is the only true point guard on the roster and that is easy to see when he plays.

But with an expiring contract, the Magic have a decision to make. They can keep him as a facilitator and game manager to lead the team or they could look to move him and upgrade the position at the deadline.

The Magic have nine games before the NBA Trade Deadline to make this critical decision.

But right now, he just needs time. Fultz is still getting himself back up to speed and making his impact on the team.

This scoring may not be the standard the Magic want him at yet but his shooting percentage (40 percent) is starting to come back up over the last few games. This is good to see as Fultz was averaging double figures even in the few games he played prior to his injury.

But his scoring may not be exactly what Orlando needs from Fultz.

Paolo Banchero's rise to become a primary option in Orlando and Franz Wagner becoming the second scoring option has been clear. The two players combined to account for 54 percent of the Magic's made field goals and 41 percent of their made three-pointers.

Jalen Suggs is also shooting the best he has in his entire career. Fultz just needs to be a player to provide light scoring (he is starting to do this again) but otherwise, he just needs to become a facilitator with the ball.

That is still a work in progress. The Magic have just a 100.8 offensive rating with Fultz on the floor since his return as he gets his legs back under him. Those lineups have been different than usual and Fultz has been hesitant to shoot. But his ability to control the pace is still clear.

Since he got back in January, Fultz has gotten five or more assists in one game against New York. This was a mark he hit twice in the four October games Orlando played in.

It is important too that Orlando still trusts Fultz to close games, for better or worse. He came up with three critical assists down the stretch to help the Magic beat the Knicks. And he gave about as good a defensive effort as he could against Dejounte Murray on his game-wininng basket in the Magic's loss to the Hawks on Wednesday.

Still, he had four turnovers in that loss to the Hawks. There is still a lot for him to get down.

The assists Fultz needs may come with time. And the Magic have been willing to give it to him.

But time is running out.

It gives the Magic front office an interesting predicament since the trade deadline is quickly approaching.

Feb. 8 will be here before the Magic know it. And Fultz does not have time to stake his claim back to being the starting point guard. The Magic may already be thinking about moving on and finding a new player to fill that spot. They make that move at the deadline.

The question just becomes: Does Fultz have it in him to be that kind of facilitator for Orlando who is a team growing fast? Dos he have enough time to prove that and make it to the end of the season?

Fultz has been a decent facilitator in his time in Orlando. If you take this season out, he has averaged at least 5.0 assists per game in every year in Central Florida. So, it has been proven in years past that Fultz can be the guy to get the Magic scorers opportunities to make plays for points.

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He just may need time to grow and flourish into that kind of player throughout the remainder of this season. Even if it comes at the cost of Orlando finishing lower in the standings than expected and potentially losing Fultz to free agency this summer if the Magic ultimately decide to go in another direction.