Markelle Fultz on Success with Magic: 'I Was Drafted No. 1 for a Reason'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2020

Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz brings the ball up court against the Charlotte Hornets in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. Orlando won 112-100. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Nell Redmond/Associated Press

It would have been easy to give up on Markelle Fultz

After all, he played only 33 games in his first two NBA seasons after the Philadelphia 76ers selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft. The shooting stroke that made him such a desirable prospect also went missing in action, as Fultz shot only 5-of-15 from deep with the Sixers.

However, he has gotten his career back on track with the Orlando Magic this season after they acquired him via trade in February 2019.

"I was drafted No. 1 for a reason," Fultz said, per Mike Mazzeo of Yahoo Sports. "And my biggest thing is just staying humble and working hard and letting my game do the talking. I was fortunate enough to be the No. 1 pick and get into this league, so my goal is to be here for as long as I can."

Fultz dealt with thoracic outlet syndrome during his time in Philly and became something of an afterthought on a promising young roster that featured Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He was constantly compared unfavorably to Boston Celtics star wing Jayson Tatum, as Philadelphia traded the No. 3 pick that became Tatum in a package to Boston for the No. 1 pick that became Fultz.

When Tatum was dunking on LeBron James in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics appeared to be the clear winner in the deal. However, Fultz has been a key part for a Magic team that is in the playoff picture as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

He is averaging 11.7 points, 4.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while shooting a career-best 46.3 percent from the field. He notched a triple-double in a mid-January win over the Los Angeles Lakers and has scored in double figures in five of his six February games. 

The Magic need him to continue playing at a high level, as they're only three games ahead of the Washington Wizards for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

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