Life was very different in 2017. I was still in high school and little was certain about my future, except that I wanted Markelle Fultz to be in it and to be on the Boston Celtics.
Leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery, I spent hours filtering through as many amateur player rankings as I could, as many NBA Draft Big Boards as I could. It made me smile seeing that sly leprechaun stamped next to Fultz’ name at No. 1 on the list.
Coming out of Washington, Fultz had it all, albeit on a bad team. He could score like no other, hit the roll man with ease and move off the ball. He seemed like the perfect player to put next to Isaiah Thomas in the Celtics’ backcourt.
Then the ping pong balls fell just right, and they locked in the top pick in the draft. Only to trade it away to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 3 pick and a future Sacramento Kings pick. Now that No. 1 pick has turned into arguably the Celtics’ most important asset, third-year stud Jayson Tatum, and Fultz has been an objective dud.
In his time in the NBA, Fultz has played just 33 games over two seasons. He has amassed a career 7.7 points-per-game, 3.4 rebounds-per-game and 3.4 assists-per-game. For a No. 1 pick, these numbers are wildly disappointing.
Combined with the poor numbers and a gaggle of other factors, the 76ers were willing to ship him to the Orlando Magic for a bench player, guard Jonathan Simmons, a top-20 protected first round pick in 2020 and a second rounder in 2020.
The numbers don’t tell the full story, though. Fultz has been consistently injured over his NBA career. He has dealt with shoulder issues since training camp before his first NBA season at the minimum, as well as many other ailments.
Due to his injuries and the mental pressure of being the No. 1 overall selection thrust into a team of young stars like the 76ers, Fultz tried to re-make his shot and it was clear from the get-go that his new shot re-made him. It turned into a league-wide story, with videos of his free throws being scrutinized on Twitter – justly I add because honestly his form was completely wack.
Fultz went from the talk of the town to the laughingstock of the league in just a couple years, and this is a league that somehow still employs Anthony Bennett. His juggling act of a free throw routine was even made fun of by the Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver Amari Cooper in the end zone last November.
Prior to his trade to the Magic, he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, an injury that has ended the careers of athletes for generations. Matt Harvey is the most recent case of thoracic outlet syndrome in professional athletics and, once diagnosed in 2016, he had surgery to remove one of his right ribs. Harvey is still struggling to make MLB rosters, despite his once electric stuff and demeanor.
The cards are stacked against Fultz, he has already washed out with one team, a team willing to burn extra assets to get him before the draft.
Now with Orlando, he has an opportunity to prove to the NBA world that he was worth the No. 1 overall pick that Philadelphia used on him. I really hope he does. Orlando is the perfect environment for someone that seems to struggle with the spotlight a bit, mostly because no one really cares about their franchise outside of the boundaries of Disney World.
It would be incredibly unfortunate for a talent as bright as Fultz to fall through the cracks of the NBA landscape. I, for one, hope he puts all of the injuries and outside distractions behind him and balls out in the orange state.
Not just for the entertainment value of his brand of basketball, but for the 20-year-old kid from Maryland who was able to put the world on notice despite running beside a clogged lane at Washington. Markelle Fultz deserved another shot at his life’s work, now let’s see if he’s any good.
Mike Mavredakis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @mmavredakis.