Markelle Fultz shows a lot of promise in Magic debut, looks comfortable, explosive as a scorer and creator
Fultz even mixed in a mid-range jumper, though his 3-point attempts still looked pretty iffy
Markelle Fultz made his Orlando Magic debut Tuesday night, marking the first time he's appeared in an NBA regular season game in just under a calendar year. It went well. Fultz finished with 12 points, six assists and a pair of steals in Orlando's 94-85 (box score) win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, and more important than the line was the fact that he simply looked comfortable on the court again.
He maneuvered his way to the basket out of pick and rolls and hit short jumpers. He accelerated in transition for a powerful dunk. He drew defenders and found teammates for layups and dunks, and he showed a particularly great feel for when to give the ball up out of the pick and roll, at times early and at times waiting until the last minute as he probed the lane toward the rim. It was all at his own pace, never sped up. He was able to create space with his strength and balance and sort of herky-jerky ball-handling rhythm.
It's all on display here:
Lost in the all the noise about Fultz's disappearing jumper, and the confidence that went with it, was that he showed flashes of all these types of plays while he was in Philly. He had stretches where he was useful out of the pick and roll and as a tough defender. Getting into the lane and finishing some in-between shots was not beyond his capabilities. The pressure was just so great in Philly for Fultz to be the player they thought they were getting when they traded up to take him No. 1 overall in 2017.
He's still a far cry from that player, namely because the jumper just still isn't there. But it's extending little by little. You saw about a 15-footer go down in the above highlights, and even on a miss, you can see a good rhythm and confidence on a look like this one:
That is just sweet. A spin move away from the screen straight into a 15-foot pull-up with no hesitation. You can build on that, even if the 3-point shot still looks way out of Fultz's range:
Fultz was 0-for-3 from 3-point range on Wednesday, and clearly he still has a lot of work to do if he's ever going to become a threat from deep. But just what he showed on Tuesday makes him a highly useful player, and assuming he can build on that, even if within his diminished comfort zone, he can still be a really good player in the league. One thing is for sure: Everyone is rooting for him.
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