Markelle Fultz is magically improving In Orlando
Markelle Fultz is at 11.9/3.4/5.0 this season with 1.3 steals per game, all with just 28.1 minutes on the court. He mostly shared the PG role with DJ Augustin, who was injured on 14th of January and missed the last month of action. During that period, Fultz saw even bigger increase in his role and had 6.4 assists on average.
Shot, Then and Now
On Fultz’ Shot Chart can be seen that his shot is still problematic, but it is certainly improving. You all remember his shot with a “hitch” which is why he received various criticisms before the draft and during the first/second season. This is what I’m talking about:
Even a person who has never played basketball can see that something is wrong here. Behind this is the story that the Sixers misdiagnosed his injury and gave him the wrong therapy, and as a result, the correction of his shot took too long. The story is quite complicated and can be comfortably told in a separate post.
Fast Forward to this season, and his shot looks like this (the recording was made during preseason):
This is already much better. All in one fluid motion without hitches and ugly pauses. And even if you only look at the data you will see that his shot is improving. Free throw percentages through the seasons:
Season 1: 47.6 FT% Season 2: 56.8 FT% Season 3: 75.0 FT%
75% is already a solid percentage for a point guard, far from an above average percentage, but the FT% in first through seasons were terrible even for centers. The mid-range jumper now looks respectable for Fultz, but the three pointer still remains a problem because sometimes he has that hitch I talked about before. But all this is a very good sign and indicates that Fultz is doing a lot to improve the shot.
Positives sides of Fultz
What Fultz is really good at now is driving and finishing at the rim, and some shots from the paint (or generally a distance less than free throw range). He “wiggles” around the mid-range in order to find the optimal shot or pass (many assists come from such “cuts” by teammates), and with this action he reminds me of Chris Paul and even Kawhi (they are not the same position, but Kawhi is one of the best at mid-range).
I made a chart showing all the guards and their efficiency in the “Restricted Area”. In my opinion this is very encouraging for Fultz because he is more efficient than Westbrook, Lillard and Lavine (etc.) who are already renowned scorers.
Markelle is only the fourth option this season in Magic, behind Vucevic, Fournier and Gordon, and maybe even Isaac while he’s healthy. I think this situation will change, especially if Fultz continues to work on his shot, as other segments are already covered pretty well. If all that happens, and I honestly think he will, Fultz could be a top contender for the MIP award next season, and then maybe some other awards…
Magic finally look to me as a team that has figured out things, as a team that has a future and invests in it. Fultz, Isaac, Bamba, Gordon, Iwundu are all good building blocks for the future with veteran reinforcements like Vucevic and Fournier holding the wheel in their hands for some time. They are also flirting with the playoffs this season, it would be really interesting to see Fultz play in his first playoff appearances.
And let’s not forget, Fultz is 21 years old. For him, this was a Rookie season on a team that believes in and supports him. The best of it is yet to come..