Markelle Fultz was the subject of one of the oddest starts to an NBA career the league has ever seen when he was originally selected with the No. 1 pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Fultz’s rookie season was overshadowed by a mysterious shoulder injury that cost him most of the year, which sparked plenty of debate as to what caused the injury and if he would ever fully recover from it. He was then eventually traded to the Orlando Magic at the 2018-19 NBA trade deadline, but did not play as he was held out to rehab his shoulder.
However, Fultz has looked much like the prospect he was touted as in college with the Magic, showing his shifty ball-handling and craftiness around the rim. The Los Angeles Lakers had trouble staying in front of him and it ultimately cost them the game.
When speaking with reporters, LeBron James discussed what he saw in Fultz during their matchup.
“Confident. Confidence and opportunity. And they’re confident in him, he’s confident in himself and he’s given the opportunity to go out and play the game how he grew up playing it and I just think everything else take care of itself,” James said.
“I’ve been supportive of him ever since he was in high school, came through as a rookie in Philly, been supportive through his situation and still is to this day, so I’m happy as hell for him.”
Fultz’s resurgence has been one of the NBA’s most under the radar stories during the 2019-20 season as he is finally starting to find his footing after his dramatic first couple of seasons. Orlando has been missing a starting-caliber point guard for several seasons but may have finally found their answer in the 21-year-old.
While seeing Fultz excel is fun for the NBA and their fans, his performance also raised issues on the Lakers end as they had no answer for him down the stretch. Alex Caruso missed the rest of the game after taking an elbow to the face in the first quarter, which meant head coach Frank Vogel was forced to use smaller guards to defend Fultz.
This may just be a blip, but it is a sign that the purple and gold could use one more big wing defender to help check perimeter players in late-game situations. Hopefully, they bounce back when they kick off a road trip against the Houston Rockets.