Markelle Fultz Says He Watched a Ton of Highlights of These Three Players Growing Up to Improve His Game, and Still Does

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - Two are former Washington Huskies like himself: Brandon Roy and Isaiah Thomas. The other is from the state of Washington and the oldest player at Disney’s campus for the NBA restart: Jamal Crawford.

“Those are the guys that I try and take bits and pieces of their games and put them into mine and I still watch a lot of film (of them) to this day,” said Markelle Fultz, the Orlando Magic’s blossoming 22-year-old point guard.

Fultz has had a breakout season with the Magic, who acquired the 6-foot-3, 209-pounder at last season’s trade deadline from the Philadelphia 76ers. And in a variety of ways, he has shown flashes of exactly what Roy, Thomas and Crawford excelled at during the prime of their careers.

Let’s start with Thomas, who had the best years of his NBA career with the Boston Celtics. Where Fultz has certainly modeled his game after the two-time All-Star is in the way he drives to the basket. Like IT was, Fultz is extremely crafty and patient. The other thing Fultz is able to do, which Thomas did often when he was one of the game’s most prolific scorers, is protect himself and the ball from shot blockers when he gets deep into the paint.

Downhill speed and ingenuity were key strengths of Thomas’ when he was healthy, and Fultz has those gifts in his repertoire as well.

Where Fultz improved the most in his third year in the league was in the mid-range. The former DeMatha Catholic star shot 50 percent from 15 to 19 feet away from the basket on 78 attempts before the hiatus. From that range last year with Philadelphia, he shot just 20 percent on 25 attempts.

One of the NBA’s best mid-range shooters in the late 2000s/early 2010s was Roy, who spent most of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers and was a perennial All-Star before knee injuries took their toll. In the 2009-10 season, the Seattle native made 45.1 percent of his attempts between 16 feet and the 3-point line. To compare, Kobe Bryant that season shot 42.9 percent from that range, Kevin Durant 38 percent and Dwyane Wade 35.6 percent.

Fultz’s movements when searching for his sweet spots in the mid-range are very similar to Roy’s. Roy, although taller than Fultz, had a knack for taking smaller defenders into the post and fading back for mid-range jumpers. Fultz has started to incorporate that into his game.

One of the NBA’s best ball handlers of all time is Crawford, known globally for his shake and bake move. Fultz has sick handles as well. Crawford, a three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year, arguably had the best behind-the-back dribble in league history, which he often used to fake out defenders while going close to full speed. Fultz did something similar during a game against the Pelicans this season.

While he thinks his Orlando teammate is extremely unique, Michael Carter-Williams says Chauncey Billups is someone that reminds him a bit of Fultz. Like Fultz, Billups was a big, strong guard who could post up and make smart, careful decisions as a primary playmaker. Carter-Williams, who himself has had a terrific bounce-back season, has been impressed with Fultz’s progress this year.

“I think he made great improvements. He took great strides during the season. I think he found his rhythm in his mid-range jump shot, which helped him out a lot. He was getting in the lane, sealing guys, making plays for other people. I think it was just improvement overall,” MCW said.

With him still being so young, expect Fultz to continue to add more pieces to his game as he gets more and more comfortable playing in Steve Clifford’s system. By all accounts, Fultz has an incredibly good work ethic, which will open the door for him to take his natural talents to another level.

As he gets ready to rejoin his team in games during the NBA season restart at Disney, Fultz is spending a ton of time watching film to gain more knowledge and see what ways he can grow with his teammates.

“Really everything. We take some days to watch defense. We take some days to watch offense,” he said. “I think I’ve just been doing a good job just trying to see where I can get better and how I can help my teammates and myself. Just getting better every day. That’s on both ends of the floor. Team defense, pick-and-roll defense. I’ve just been really trying to lock in on everything to have a complete game (and) to be ready.”

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