It was long overdue, but Philadelphia finally decided to move on from the former #1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz. On Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline, the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers agreed on a trade to send Johnathon Simmons, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2020 1st round draft pick, and 2019 second round pick to Philadelphia for Fultz. Fultz no longer figured to be part of the future for the 76ers, and his long recovery from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome left little opportunity to see much needed playing time and patience Fultz so desperately needed. However, Orlando offers Fultz the chance to revitalize his career in an environment that is built on patience, with the hope of him reaching the potential that caused Philly to trade for the number one pick in the 2017 draft. While it is unlikely that Fultz will or even should play the rest of the year, the current crop of talent in Orlando presents a unique opportunity for him to showcase his true talents.
Orlando are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 23-32 record. They are by no means a threat to contend in the playoffs, but are also not exactly devoid of talent. Players such as Aaron Gordon, Mo Bamba, and Johnathon Issac show that the Magic do indeed have some talent. Fultz would fit in nicely with this current core of players next season with Gordon’s ability to space the floor and Issac’s athleticism. Not to mention that Bamba has the potential to be a perennial All-Star if he can further develop his low post game. Fultz’s vision and passing ability could work wonders, and if he is ability to revive his jump shot, then the Magic could easily become a formidable team in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. In the meantime, D.J. Augustin is a perfect veteran mentor to help alleviate the pressure from Fultz during the 2019/20 season.
One could even argue that the Orlando Magic’s young core could mirror that of the 76ers to a lesser degree. Mo Bamba should pair nicely with Fultz’s ability to see opportunity similar to what Philly hoped would occur with Fultz and Embiid. The same could be said for Ben Simmons in regard to his pure athleticism compared Aaron Gordon, although Gordon has the ability to hit the three with some regularity. Yes, Gordon and Bamba or no where near the level of Simmons and Embiid, but both players represent a similar opportunity to utilize the skills that Fultz possesses. Even if Fultz is unable to justify his #1 overall selection, he has every chance to become a regular starter or sixth man.
The Orlando Magic have lacked a franchise point guard since Jameer Nelson’s prime with the team during the early decade. This year’s draft class also does not seem to possess a franchise leading point guard. As a result, Orlando decided to make a calculated move that, as the Magic GM John Hammond and President Jeff Weltman said, is low risk and high reward. If Fultz is unable to recover from his injury over the next couple of seasons, the Magic gave up very little. Simmons’ contract of six million was an easy sell and the first round draft pick is not Orlando’s.
Fultz will not face the intense scrutiny that is so often attributed to Philadelphia fans, though their support for Fultz throughout his injury was extremely supportive. At the end of the day, sometimes things simply do not work out as hoped. This was one of those times, and the more relaxed atmosphere of Orlando in a smaller market should provide Fultz with some much needed reprieve. He now has the opportunity to hold his head high and get to work with Magic Head Coach, Steve Clifford. If he can develop his confidence in his true abilities and intense work ethic, he should be able to prove to the NBA that he is a truly unique and gifted talent that we all know he can be.