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Fultz's Long-awaited Return

By: Tim Jones

 


Markelle. Fultz.


I just want to start this off by saying that it’s so good to be able to watch Markelle play basketball again after all of the injuries he’s faced early on in his career. The Magic missed him dearly over the last year.


In 2021, Fultz looked primed for a potential breakout season. The Magic were 6-1 in the games he played in and he was looking more confident than ever on the court.

Fultz was averaging 14.3 points and 6.1 assists in the first seven games, before going down in the eighth game of the season. After being sidelined for nearly 14 months with a torn ACL, he looks as if he’s picking up where he left off before the injury.


In his first two games in 400+ days (both against the Pacers), he tallied a combined 21 points and eight assists on 10-13 shooting from the field in just 31 minutes. He put up 10 points, six assists, and two rebounds in his first game and shot 5-7 from the field in 16 minutes. In his second game, he finished with 11 points, two assists, three rebounds on 5-6 shooting in 15 minutes.


Though the numbers may not be eye-popping, and Fultz is still on a minutes restriction, the 23-year-old has shown more than enough in his time on the court to be excited about him going forward.


Midrange Scoring


Since his return, Fultz has been automatic from the midrange. This has been one of the staples of his scoring arsenal the last couple years, but it looks like he may have even taken this part of his game to another level. That hang dribble into a pullup, which he can clearly get to whenever he wants, is still one of my favorite shots in basketball to watch.


A lot of fans were anxious to see how his shot from three would look after having another year to work on it. Some will look at the fact that he is 0-3 from the three-point line so far and be worried. I think that as long as he is able to be a consistent deadeye midrange shooter, along with his finishing ability, that is enough to be confident in his scoring going forward.




 

Slashing/Finishing


Fultz has been known for his herky-jerky movements on the court since his days at DeMatha. He’s used his unorthodox style of movement to beat defenders off the dribble and frequently displays a variety of hesitations and spin moves to get into the paint with ease and finish at the rim. He still looks to be an elite level athlete after the injury and has already converted on a couple of impressive acrobatic finishes in the lane.


Since he’s been back, Fultz has also shown the ability and willingness to post up smaller guards to create mismatches. On different occasions, he’s been able to either score, get fouled, or create looks for open teammates.




 

Playmaking Ability


Perhaps the biggest skill the Magic missed while Fultz was out was his ability to make plays for others. There was really no question that Fultz was the Magic’s best playmaker, and this has been evident so far in his return, even in limited minutes.


His ability to provide constant rim pressure by getting into the paint is something that should not be taken for granted. He draws a ton of attention from the defense because of his finishing ability around the rim and if the score isn’t there, he finds cutters or the big rolling to the rim for an easy bucket.




 

What I’d Like To See Going Forward


Through four games, Fultz is averaging 9.5 points, 3.8 assists, and 2.5 rebounds, while shooting 54.8% from the field in under 17 minutes per game. Per 36, that comes out to 20.4 points, 8.1 assists, and 5.4 rebounds. It will be interesting to see how close he can get to these numbers once he is no longer under a minutes restriction.


Personally, I’d like to see him be a lot more aggressive offensively. I want to see him with the green-light. After a couple years of deferring to the likes of Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and even Aaron Gordon, Fultz is now on a Magic team that to this point, has no defined primary scoring option.


I want to see if Fultz can blossom into that guy for the Magic. I believe he still has so much untapped potential that has been delayed due to injury, even if he never turns out to be the shooter that he was in college.


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