For NBA teams, point guard play is becoming more and more important.
The leader for many teams, and player who initiates the offense, brings significant importance no a nightly basis. Nearly half the league is able to roll out a player who many consider a star, or a high-tier player at that position, and see that player control the game, and force defenses into tough matchups left and right.
Throughout their prolonged rebuild, and continued retooling, the Orlando Magic have yet to find that star, or potential star, at the lead guard position.
Now, as the team begins to gear up for the 2019/20 season, the questions loom even larger than before. While D.J. Augustin is a known commodity, there’s no telling what the team can expect from third-year man Markelle Fultz, whom they acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline last season. Add in Michael Carter-Williams, who was nearly out of the league for good before his strong late season showing with the Magic last year, and the questions continue to grow larger.
While Augustin has played well the last two seasons, he’s going to turn 32 in the early portion of the year, and could begin to see a decline like many point guards do around that age. He’s still going to be an important three-point shooting threat for the team, especially as a spot up shooter, but a decline in his quickness would hurt the Magic, and take away some of his productivity.
Fultz, who’s been rehabbing from thoracic outlet syndrome, is a complete unknown. While he’s flashed signs as to why he was selected first overall by the Sixers in the 2017 draft, his shooting yips, and inability to stay on the floor is concerning. There’s no telling if, and when, Fultz could be ready to play for a Magic team, that’s desperately counting on him to be able to contribute this season.
If Fultz isn’t able to give them anything, then the Magic will be in real trouble.
When they hit free agency this summer, they decided their best bet was to run it back, and add in yet another long, and lanky wing defender in Al-Farouq Aminu, who joins the likes of Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac in the Magic front court. In doing so, the Magic were not only banking on Gordon and Isaac to continue to take steps forward in their development, but also that the team which won 42 games last season, would be able to build on that and turn it into something more in 2019/20.
That plan all but has to include Fultz, who just yesterday had a video go viral of him shooting for the first time in a long time. While the motion Fultz showed off in the brief clip was fluid, it was in a one-on-one setting, which is completely different than an actual NBA game.
I think Fultz still has a lot of potential that the Magic could develop, especially if he’s able to get healthy, and stay healthy. Add in figuring out the mental aspect, which undoubtedly has to be playing a part in the third-year mans struggles, and the sky could be the limit if he’s able to get back to being the player who showed continued flashes of brilliance at the University of Washington.
If Fultz isn’t able to contribute, the Magic will be asking a lot of Augustin once again. He carried a heavy load last season, and would likely have to do the same this year. While Carter-Williams had good moments at the end of last season, he’s a non-shooter, who almost ends up as a net-negative for your team while he’s on the floor.
As the beginning of camp draws closer, the rumblings around Fultz, and his progress in rehab will inevitably grow. He’s going to have to stay focused on the goal that’s at hand, and being able to be fully healthy for the start of the season.
If he’s able to do that, Fultz could be the biggest offseason addition the Magic made, without them having to back up the brinks truck to do so, which they’re banking on.