NBA Injury Report: Orlando Magic Guard Markelle Fultz To Rejoin Team After Successful ACL Recovery
Former top draft pick recovers from major injury
The Orlando Magic may be struggling to rack up the wins in their current campaign, but they received a piece of good news as one of their top backcourt players is rejoining them after successfully recovering from a major injury. As per a column written by Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports, Magic point guard Markelle Fultz has survived a very long rehabilitation process from an ACL injury, and is now set to rejoin his team and help his teammates on the court. Fultz sustained the unfortunate injury last season when he suffered a Torn ACL during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fultz only logged four minutes in that game, and finished with three points and one steal, while hitting only one of his three field goal attempts that night.
It was such an unfortunate setback for Fultz, especially since he was making huge strides until that point. Numerous injuries hindered him from making waves during his first couple of years in the NBA. Fultz, who is turning 24 years of age this month of May, was the first overall pick during the 2017 NBA Draft. He was the most hyped prospect in a draft class that also includes Lonzo Ball of the Chicago Bulls, Jayson Tatum and Derrick White of the Boston Celtics, De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings, Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic, Lauri Markkanen and Jarrett Allen of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Frank Ntilikina and Sterling Brown of the Dallas Mavericks, Dennis Smith Jr. and Josh Hart of the Portland Trail Blazers, Zach Collins of the San Antonio Spurs, Malik Monk of the Los Angeles Lakers, Luke Kennard and Isaiah Hartenstein of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat, John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks, OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher of the Toronto Raptors, Kyle Kuzma and Thomas Bryant of the Washington Wizards, Frank Jackson of the Detroit Pistons, Davon Reed, PJ Dozier, and Monte Morris of the Denver Nuggets, and Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Among the other notable names in that draft class are Matt Thomas, Mychal Mulder, Jonathan Motley, Luke Kornet, Gabriel Deck, Antonio Blakeney, Josh Jackson, Justin Jackson, D.J. Wilson, T.J. Leaf, Harry Giles, Terrance Ferguson, Tony Bradley, Wes Iwundu, Frank Mason III, Semi Ojeleye, Dwayne Bacon, Damyean Dotson, Sindarius Thornwell, Edmond Sumner, and Kadeem Allen. Fultz, who played high school ball for DeMatha Catholic at Hyattsville, Maryland and college ball for the Washington Huskies, was a highly-touted prospect coming to the NBA. He possessed a unique blend of length and mobility at the point guard position, and he packed an intriguing potential on both ends of the floor. However, a bothersome shoulder injury stopped him in his tracks, thus hindering him from making much progress during his first couple of years in the league.
On top of his unfortunate injury, John Gonzalez wrote a column for The Ringer saying that the Philadelphia 76ers, the team that picked him first in the draft, were not able to handle the Fultz injury situation in the right way.
Whatever the truth is, the team’s strategy on handling the Fultz fallout obviously isn’t working the way it hoped. But the PR component is far less important in the grand scheme of things than what actually becomes of Fultz. There are league executives watching the drama with interest and more than a few snickers. If Fultz can’t fix his form, it will be an indelible mark against Colangelo’s stewardship of the organization. He still hasn’t heard the last about his decision to draft Andrea Bargnani first overall when he ran the Raptors. So far, this is worse. Bargnani was always going to be a project. Fultz was supposed to be such a “can’t miss” that they traded up with a rival to get him. Colangelo said he’s not worried about Fultz figuring it out. He insisted on Friday that Fultz’s main strength remains intact. That is, “shot creation for himself. Shot creation for others.” The latter is fine. The former practically made me spit up. Shot creation for himself leads to, you know, shots, which is why the Sixers are in this mess.
Consider Brown’s response in mid-January when he was asked whether Fultz needed to be 100 percent to play in a game again: “I think what he needs to be is able to shoot a basketball.” You have to love the man’s honesty, but it underscores just how stuck they all are here. Until Fultz’s shooting range isn’t restricted to what the general manager called “within the paint, basically,” everyone—Fultz, Colangelo, Brown, the Sixers, the media, the fans—is imprisoned in the same awful, endless loop. It’s why, for the umpteenth time, a reporter puzzled over how Fultz can be cleared medically but not appear in games. That prompted Colangelo to launch into a long explanation about recovering from a scapular injury and what Fultz still needs to work on and how health and basketball ability are somehow unrelated even though the Sixers keep telling us they’re also linked.
During his first two years with the Sixers, Fultz was not able to average double digits in the scoring column but everything changed for the better when he moved to the Magic during the 2019-20 NBA season. In his second season with the Magic, it seemed like he could be able to consistently be a factor on both ends of the floor. In the eight games that he played for the Magic last season, Fultz put up an all-around stat line of 12.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.3 blocks per contest, while also producing a set of shooting percentages that include a 39% overall clip from the field, a 25% clip from the three-point line, and an 89% clip from the free throw line. These are not good shooting percentages, but there is no doubt that he was on his way to becoming the all-around presence that he was expected to be.
Having said all these, Fultz’ return should certainly be a morale booster for the Magic. While it is true that their hopes for making the playoffs may have already gone down the drain, they absolutely need to ride some kind of momentum that they can bring to the following season. Along with Fultz’ potential to be a good player on both ends of the floor, the Magic also has other young talented players that they can build around on. Cole Anthony, a second-year point guard out of the University of North Carolina, is leading the team in scoring with 17.6 points per game, and he is stuffing the rest of his stat sheet with 5.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 0.9 steals. He is also producing a set of shooting percentages that include a 39% overall clip from the field, a 33% clip from beyond the arc, and an 85% clip from the free throw line.
Along with Anthony’s brilliance this season, rookie forward Franz Wagner has also been a pleasant surprise. Wagner is averaging 15.5 points, 4.6 boards, 3.0 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game, while producing a set of shooting percentages that include a 46% overall clip from the field, a 35% clip from the three-point line, and an 84% clip from the free throw line. Moreover, the Magic also has other young talented players, a long list that includes sweet-shooting big man Wendell Carter Jr., shooting guard Gary Harris, all-around point guard Jalen Suggs, versatile big man Mo Bamba, combo forward Chuma Okeke, and athletic combo wing R.J. Hampton.
Still, the arrival of Fultz is a big addition to the Magic. As per a column written by Dan Devine for The Ringer, the team’s gamble to acquire Fultz is a wise decision to make.
There are, of course, caveats. While the footwork on Fultz’s attacks has looked sharp more often than not, the release can still leave something to be desired. So, too, can the results: For all the good vibes, Fultz is still 7-for-18 from the floor through two games, with no makes outside the paint. He’s attempted only three 3-point shots, missing them all—including an air ball at the end of the third quarter against San Antonio on Saturday—and has yet to take a free throw in 38 minutes of floor time. He’s also mitigated his 11 assists with eight turnovers, looking a bit more careless with the ball than Clifford would likely prefer from his reserve point guard. A version of Markelle Fultz who averages about seven points and four or five assists in 20 minutes per game while missing 60 percent of his shots, including roughly all of them from beyond 10 feet, isn’t really New And Improved, even if he’s showing flashes on defense and driving to the basket. That’s pretty much exactly what we saw in Philadelphia, just with the volume turned down.
But turning down the volume matters, and showing the capacity to contribute to a stable pre-existing core does, too. Orlando’s got a no. 1 option in All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, a human-torch sixth man in Ross, a frontcourt teeming with talent and possibility, and a defense that can keep it in games. What the Magic need most of all is a creative spark—an off-the-bounce force that can break down defenses, force rotations, and generate easy buckets. Fultz doesn’t have to be a no. 1 pick–caliber superstar to do that; he just has to keep attacking in transition and against shaky closeouts, keep moving the ball, and keep wreaking havoc on defense. Do all that, and he could be the sort of wild card that propels the Magic from respectability toward the upper echelon in the East—even if the jumper’s still lost in translation.
As for the Magic team as a whole, they are currently sporting a disappointing record of 14 wins against 47 defeats, which puts them in the last position in the Eastern Conference standings. They have lost four of their last five games, having defeated by the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, and Atlanta Hawks.
In their next set of assignments, the Magic will be tasked to go up against the Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Golden State Warriors.