The former No. 1 overall pick of the 2017 draft, Markelle Fultz is just 23 years old.
Here’s a look at 10 things to know about Orlando’s young guard, his life and his NBA career.
From DC to Washington: Fultz was born May 29, 1998 in Upper Marlboro, Md. He attended DeMatha Catholic High School, alma mater of Victor Oladipo, Jerami and Jerian Grant, and Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley. Fultz didn’t make the varsity team as a sophomore, but emerged as a star in his junior season, reportedly outplaying Jayson Tatum in a festival game in December of 2014. He committed to the University of Washington before his senior year.
An early MVP: After high school, Fultz was the MVP of the 2016 U18 FIBA Americas tournament in Chile, having averaged 13.8 points (with 23 in the gold medal game) and 5.2 assists as the United States’ squad (that included Jarrett Allen, Kevin Huerter, Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young) went 5-0.
Consensus No. 1 pick: In Fultz’s one year at Washington, the Huskies went 9-22. But the freshman emerged as the consensus No. 1 pick in the Draft, averaging 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks. He was a do-it-all prospect, with the ability to make plays, get to the rim, and shoot from the perimeter (41% from 3-point range on 126 attempts), as well as the length to be an impact defender.
Center of Draft-day deal: Three days before the 2017 Draft, the Boston Celtics traded out of the top spot, sending No. 1 to Philadelphia for the No. 3 pick and a future first rounder (which became Romeo Langford in the 2019 Draft). The Sixers selected Fultz and with No. 3, the Celtics took Tatum, who finished third in Kia Rookie of the Year voting and averaged a series-high 23.6 points per game as the Celtics beat the Sixers in the 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals.
First signs of trouble: Between the Draft and training camp, something went wrong with Fultz’s shooting form. After struggling with his free throws in the preseason, he said that he was dealing with shoulder pain and his agent said that the player couldn’t raise his arms to shoot. There was confusion as to whether Fultz had a cortisone shot or fluid had been drained from his shoulder. After four regular season games (in which he shot 1-for-7 from outside the paint), the Sixers said that Fultz would be out indefinitely.
A false start: Indefinitely turned out to be five months, though Fultz would often take part in post-practice or pre-game shooting in front of the media, allowing the public to check in on his progress (or lack thereof). Fultz played the last 10 games of the 2017-18 regular season and was in the Sixers’ rotation for their first three playoff games. But he didn’t play after that and was DNP’d for the entire series in which Tatum was the star.
A starting job: At the start of the 2018-19 season, Sixers coach Brett Brown broke up what had been the league’s best high-usage lineup the season before — Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid had outscored their opponents by more than 20 points per 100 possessions in ’17-18 — in order to start Fultz. The experiment lasted until the Sixers traded Covington and Saric for Jimmy Butler. After 14 starts, Fultz was moved to the bench.
Another setback: His time as a reserve lasted only four games. Just before Thanksgiving, Fultz’s own camp shut him down so that he could see a shoulder specialist. In early December, he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and prescribed physical therapy.
Sixers sell low: At the 2019 trade deadline, with the Sixers going all-in on contending for a championship, they traded Fultz to Orlando for Jonathon Simmons, a 2019 second-round pick (which became Carsen Edwards), and Oklahoma City’s 2020 first-round pick (protected 1-20). Fultz didn’t play for the Magic (in the regular season or playoffs) last season. Simmons, meanwhile, didn’t last in the Sixers’ rotation and was traded in the offseason to the Washington Wizards, who waived him.
Another setback in Florida: After so many fits and starts to his NBA career, Fultz seemed to be on track when the 2020-21 season opened. Then came a torn ACL seven games into the season that ended his campaign. Fultz was off to the best start of his career, averaging 14.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists while helping Orlando to a 5-2 record, and his status for the 2021-22 season remains unknown.