What Are Reasonable Expectations For Markelle Fultz During The 2019-20 Campaign?

There’s something so exciting about potential, isn’t there? Known commodities are good, but getting to speculate about what someone can become is, in most cases, so much more fun. That’s doubly true when what you are is so far from what you can become, and that’s exponentially more true when the conversation revolves around Markelle Fultz.

It can be hard to remember that there was a time when Fultz was as dynamic of a guard prospect to come into the NBA in years. During his one year at the University of Washington, Fultz blended spectacular athleticism with explosive scoring and an ability to create in such a way that made him stand out despite a 9-22 record in Seattle. It was a gigantic deal when the Philadelphia 76ers cashed in on some parts of their vast war chest of assets to move up to No. 1 in the 2017 NBA Draft to pick him, believing he’d be the missing piece alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to bring the Sixers to another level.

And then, the games started. Fultz, who hit a touch under 65 percent of his free throws in college, worked on altering his shooting form during the offseason leading up to his rookie campaign. For reasons that only Fultz really knows, this led to the inability to shoot at all, which, coupled with a recurring shoulder injury, led to him not being able to play basketball altogether. A career so full of promise — ESPN’s Jay Bilas called him “essentially a James Harden clone on the offensive end” on draft night — resulted in 33 games in a year and a half with the Sixers before getting flipped to the Orlando Magic for a pair of picks and journeyman forward Jonathon Simmons, who is no longer in Philly after appearing in seven playoff games for the team and recording its worst Box Plus/Minus.

Fultz didn’t play in Orlando at all during the 2018-19 campaign. The team decided to let him work on whatever he needed to work on, and while the Magic made a run to the postseason that ended with them losing to the Toronto Raptors in five games in the first round, Fultz had his eyes on this upcoming season.

When Oct. 23 rolls around, it stands to reason that Fultz will take the floor in an Orlando Magic uniform. Because we’re still in the offseason, that means the offseason hype machine is in full effect. The stuff that comes out of every franchise during the preseason exists in Orlando, but with Fultz, things are taken to a different level.

The hype around Fultz started much earlier than this week, though, as Denton reported the team believes he is in line to serve as the team’s backup point guard and let Michael Carter-Williams serve as someone who can check twos and threes.

All of this is to say that Orlando seems like it has rather high hopes for Fultz, who might hold the distinction of being the oldest 21-year-old in basketball history. The good news is that, even if Fultz has gone through the wringer during his first two years as a pro, those high hopes come in a situation where things are falling into place quite nicely for him.