Markelle Fultz hasn’t played a game yet for the Orlando Magic, but the team is giving him a vote of confidence. The Magic picked up Fultz’s 2020-21 option Monday, guaranteeing the former No. 1 overall pick will make a little over $12 million next season.
The team made that call despite not knowing when Fultz will return to the court. Fultz, 21, has been out since November due to thoracic outlet syndrome. The injury impacts the nerves, and can cause pain and numbness in the shoulder and neck. In August, Magic team president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said the team has no timetable for Fultz’s return.
That’s been the case with Fultz most of his career. Since the Philadelphia 76ers selected Fultz with the first pick of the 2017 NBA draft, Fultz has played in just 33 regular season games due to shooting woes and injuries. He’s averaged just 7.7 points and 3.4 assists per game. The 76ers gave up on Fultz last season, dealing him to the Magic in February.
The Magic’s timing is curious considering the team had until Oct. 31 to pick up Fultz’s option. The team is either satisfied with Fultz’s offseason work, believes $12 million is a small price to pay to see whether Fultz gets it together or is simply sending Fultz’s a message of encouragement.
While Fultz’s career hasn’t gotten off to a tremendous start, things could improve if he can bounce back from his injury. Considering his age, there’s still plenty of time for Fultz to go on to have a productive NBA career.
That might not happen in 2020-21, but the Magic are willing to wager $12 million that Fultz shows some improvement next season.
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