Heading into 2019-20, with a fresh start, Markelle Fultz is trending up for the Orlando Magic
Coming into the 2017 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers landed the No. 1 overall pick in a trade-up with the Boston Celtics, who had acquired the first pick in the draft via the Brooklyn Nets in the well known fleecing of the club years previous – trading up from the third spot to get their man, the tough Philly club locked in with 6-foot-4 combo guard Markelle Fultz, frequently touted as the lead rookie in his class.
Coming out of college he was expected to be a capable scorer both driving to the basket and pulling up from mid-range and out further behind the – along with a healthy defensive profile and passing instinct that was raw but very polishable – Fultz was looking like exactly the piece Philidelphia needed to round out their roster.
Unfortunately, the curse that had plagued the club years prior revisited the locker room, leaving the young gunner out of play for his rookie campaign, and a large majority of the next rehabbing. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, then Markelle Fultz all suffered from long-term injuries and poorly-managed care.
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While the former stars bounced back to form quickly and quickly proved their value in the pros their new point guard was unable to get onto the floor consistently in his second year, mainly due to a broken jump shot and sudden, astounding lose of confidence. What held him back from rounding back into the player he is expected and capable of being? Enter thoracic outlet syndrome, the disorder that pinches and compressed nerves between the shoulder and first rib causing debilitating pain and numbness in the arms, hands, and fingers.
Fultz was AMAZING for Washington, putting up 23 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game on 41 percent from beyond the arc. Much of this was expected to carry over into professional play but due to thoracic outlet syndrome, Fultz’s movement would be restricted and painful – and clearly had a mental effect on his game as well, showing in what little playing time he was able to spend on the floor in his initial two campaigns, only 33 per the first pair of seasons.
While the sample size was small the effect of his injury mentally and physically showed in his performance prior to this offseason, with his previously strong 3-point percentage plummeting to below 30 percent.
Thankfully, there is clearly no need to worry; while the preseason is not the STRONGEST indicator of the impact a player will have in the upcoming year the eye test has been strong for Fultz in this offseason and all indicators so far have appeared positive.
Fultz’s jumper is looking much smoother, and he is much bolder in the shots he is attempting – it is understandable that with such a gap in playing time some rust may need to shake off. His stat lines this preseason may not be eye-popping, but keep an eye out for Markelle Fultz to return to the player he proved himself to be at Washington, and seek to improve as the cobwebs shake off and he is able to grow and get better with increased playing time.