The Orlando Magic have made a very odd move.
Just a month prior to the start of the NBA season, the Magic have elected to exercise former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz’s contract for the 2020-21 season, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
The move is an odd one and a completely unexpected transaction considering Fultz is unproven and has been unable to stay on the court due to mental and injury struggles. While it’s one thing for the Magic to opt in, it’s another thing when the number is a big one. The former No. 1 overall pick is due to earn $12.3 million in 2020-21, as Zach Lowe points out.
Fultz is already the fifth-highest paid player on the team — without ever appearing in a single game for the Magic.
As Lowe mentions in his tweet, D.J. Augustin will be entering the last year of his contract this season. Considering Augustin is on the verge of turning 32 years old, it’s clear that the Magic are opting in to Fultz’s contract with the hope that he’ll be the starting point guard by the time the 2020-21 season starts.
Markelle Fultz Has Largely Struggled Due to Confidence
The 21-year-old Fultz is the most polarizing figure in the NBA. Why? Because he entered the 2017 NBA Draft as the most talented prospect on the board — the reason why the Philadelphia 76ers drafted him with the top overall pick. However, his confidence was greatly affected due to a change in shot mechanics and he never really recovered.
Through two seasons in the NBA, Fultz has played in just 33 games. The situation in Philadelphia got so bad that the Sixers just considered him damaged goods and traded him in a deal with the Magic in the midst of the 2018-19 season.
Magic Commit to Fultz — Without Him Appearing in a Game
However, Fultz never appeared in a game for the Magic in 2018-19 due to a “shoulder” injury, according to head coach Steve Clifford.
“He’s still rehabbing his shoulder. And he’s not even able to really do much on the floor yet. It’s a pretty significant shoulder injury. It would be very difficult for him to get back this year.
[On what the shoulder injury exactly is]
“It’s basically in the back area of the shoulder and it’s all tissue built up. It’s all physical therapy.”
In 33 career games, Fultz has averaged 7.7 points per game on 41.4 percent from the field, 26.7 percent from beyond the arc and a disastrous 53.4 percent from the charity stripe. The free throw percentage would obviously be the worst among all qualifying guards if he played in enough games.
Fultz appeared in just 19 games last season — making 15 starts for the Sixers — as he averaged 8.2 points per game before a shoulder injury in November wiped away his season.
With the Magic committing to Fultz, hopefully this gives the young guard new found confidence — especially considering expectations in Orlando aren’t nearly as high as they were in Philadelphia.
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