Former 76ers’ First Overall Pick Gaining Confidence in New Home
A lot of pressure comes along with being drafted first overall.
For Markelle Fultz, the pressure he faced was overshadowed by the play of the guy drafted directly after him in Lonzo Ball. The hype machine that was created by Lonzo’s father, Lavar allowed Fultz to hide in the background, but with his sketchy injury history and lack of production, the first pick of the 2017 NBA Draft did not fall through the cracks.
In his sophomore season, the Sixers called it quits with Fultz, giving up on the freakishly athletic point guard who dominated in his time at the University of Washington. Be it his shoulder problems, his broken shot, or even the case of the yips, the Sixers felt they were better off without Fultz.
This year, the Orlando Magic have provided Fultz with a clean slate in a far smaller market and to this point, it has paid great dividends.
Coming off the bench, Fultz has looked like a completely different player in Orlando. The athleticism and skill is very much still there, but above all, with each game, Fultz appears to grow more and more confident. For a young player who seemingly hit rock bottom his move to Orlando may turn to be the best thing to ever happen to the 21-year old guard.
“It’s like that, yeah, 100 percent,” Fultz said. “But I put in a lot of work for this moment and I’m just glad to be on the court. But I’ve always had confidence, growing up where I grew up you always had to have confidence. You just got to have an edge to you and every time I step on that court I believe in myself and I believe in my teammates and I just go out there and play.”
Fultz has scored 12 points in each of his first two games and while the Magic hope the shooting, especially from the perimeter becomes more consistent, it’s great to see that the 6’4” Fultz is at the very least shooting with confidence.
“I shot all my shots with confidence,” Fultz said after compiling 12 points (4-for-11) in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks. “And it’s only a matter of time before they start falling. A few fell tonight and I’m just going to keep shooting.”
The Orlando Magic are hopeful that they can find something with Fultz and Head Coach Steve Clifford is already very comfortable in inserting Fultz into pressure situations with the game on the line.
“It shows the trust and it shows the work I put in,” commented Fultz on Clifford’s decision to close a tight game against the Hawks out with Fultz on the floor. “And for me, it’s learning experiences. Every time I can step on the floor and learn and just be the best player I can be. And down the stretch, that’s one of the best times to be on the court, when all the pressure’s on you. I definitely learned a lot out there tonight being out there in that time. But again, it just shows the trust and shows that I have to keep working.”
Along with DJ Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams, the Magic have three very different options at the point guard slot, but the organization understands full well, that the highest ceiling belongs to Fultz. If they are able to unlock his potential, which will definitely be a process, the Magic may find something special.