2019-20 Magic Pre-Hiatus Review: Markelle Fultz

by John Denton

ORLANDO - Whereas the NBA is still on track to resume its interrupted season on July 30 at Disney World, in many ways that restart will feel like a completely new season to the players and coaches involved.

After all, it will be more than four months of time between the last NBA games being played on March 11 and the ones scheduled to start near the end of next month. Never before has the NBA seen a disruption in its season quite like the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic this season.

The Orlando Magic, for example, were 30-35 when the season was halted, but that record hardly tells the story of where the team sat when the suspension hit. As of early March, the Magic were among the hottest teams in the league after winning three games in a row, six of nine and eight of 12. Accordingly, their offensive production was off the charts and near the tops in the league during that hot streak.

Now, the Magic’s mission is to try and pick up where they left off when they rallied to beat the Grizzlies in Memphis on March 10. If that stirring victory feels like it was months ago, it’s because it truly was.

Over the coming weeks, OrlandoMagic.com will break down the overall play and top performances of the Magic’s key players over the first 65 games of the season. Also, we’ll analyze where those players need to improve when the NBA season resumes at Disney World on July 30. The NBA is sending 22 teams – nine from the East and 13 from the West – to play eight ``seeding’’ games before starting the traditional, four-round playoff format.

Without further ado, today we look at the play and production of promising point guard Markelle Fultz, who has evolved into one of the NBA’s best feel-good stories with how he has bounced back from a career-threatening nerve injury to his right shoulder to become a standout for the Magic.

Player: Markelle Fultz
Position: Point guard
Height, weight, time with Magic: 6-3, 209, 2 seasons

2019-20 Statistics: 64 games; 12.1 points; 5.2 assists; 3.3 rebounds; 1.3 steals; 47.3 FG percentage; 25.4 3FG percentage; 72.3 FT percentage.

2019-20 Best game: Jan. 15 (119-118 win at Los Angeles Lakers) – 21 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, one steal, nine-of-19 shooting and three-of-three free throw shooting.

2019-20 Injury woes: Missed one game (Dec. 11) due to a stomach virus.

2019-20 Season highs: 25 points (Jan. 6, vs. Brooklyn); 11 rebounds (Jan. 15, at Los Angeles Lakers); 14 assists (Feb. 3, at Charlotte); six steals (Jan. 3, vs. Miami); two blocks (Nov. 8, vs. Memphis).

2019-20 Season to date: Realizing Fultz’s vast potential, the Magic wasted no time in getting the talented point guard into the starting lineup, doing so by the sixth game of the season. Fultz’s play has certainly justified that promotion and he’s been just the kind of dynamic force and difference-maker that the Magic hoped for. Those results have come after the Magic were patient in standing by Fultz this time last year as he methodically worked his way back from a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome condition in his right shoulder and arm.

Three of Fultz’s best games – Nov. 17 against Washington; Jan. 6 versus Brooklyn; and Jan. 15 against the Lakers in Los Angeles – all came in Magic victories. He throttled the Wizards for 19 points and sealed the victory with a steal and dunk as he was fouled in the final seconds. Against the Nets at the Amway Center, Fultz put an exclamation point on his career-best 25-point night with a game-sealing 3-pointer from the corner. And against the Lakers, Fultz did a little bit of everything in compiling the second triple-double of his career – 21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists – as the Magic surprised the Lakers in L.A.

Just before the suspension of the season, Fultz had started playing some of the best basketball of his young career. In five games in early March, Fultz averaged 15.4 points, 6.4 assists and 1.0 steals while making 55.7 percent of his shots and 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Not surprisingly, the Magic won the final three of those games before the season was stopped.

2019-20 Finish: Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, the 2019-20 season has already been an unqualified success for Fultz, who recently turned 22 years old. He is seemingly beyond the nerve issued that threatened his career and he now figures to be a cornerstone piece of the Magic for years to come.

As he continues to develop his confidence and rhythm, Fultz should be able to be even more dynamic in wrecking defenses with his ability to get into the paint. His size, strength and handles with the ball usually allow him to get wherever he wants on the court so that he can make plays for both himself and others.

Of course, Fultz’s perimeter shooting is still very much a work in progress. To this point, he’s made just 30 of 118 3-point shots (25.4 percent), but the Magic are encouraged with his willingness to take those shots and his vast improvement from the free throw line (72.3 percent). The team is confident that as his shoulder strength increases, his shooting accuracy from distance will improve as much as his stroke has from the free throw line. Undoubtedly, teams will dare him to make shots from the perimeter come playoff time – and Fultz figures to take those shots with confidence and make just enough of them to keep defenses honest.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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