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Markelle Fultz had “a hell of a rookie year”

Jeff Weltman said Markelle Fultz has proven that he’s a starting point guard in this league

Orlando Magic v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Five Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

It was one day after Markelle Fultz had just completed a season in which he played in 77 games, including the playoffs.

That more than doubled the 37 games in which he took part over the first two seasons of his career.

In his first full season with the Orlando Magic, Fultz logged 2,143 minutes. This after taking the court for a combined 703 minutes in his first two seasons.

So, it’s understandable why, the day after the 2019-2020 Magic season ended, Jeff Weltman said that Fultz had “a hell of a rookie season.”

Because this indeed was just the beginning for Fultz. And while there are clears flaws that need correcting and plenty of room for improvement, it was an encouraging start for a 22-year-old whose career was in doubt not long ago.

“My hopes for Markelle is that we’re moving past the point of talking about what he dealt with before he got here,” Weltman told reporters on Monday. “And now we’re starting to evaluate him as a player. And that’s a credit to him, that he’s put himself in a position to now be evaluated on his ability. And so I would say that, for my own kind of considerations, that he had a hell of a rookie year.

“I think that he proved that he’s a starting point guard and he also proved that he’s got immense talent. He’s got mental and physical characteristics that cant be taught. And now he’s just got to mature as a player. He’s got a lot of maturing to do. He’s just 22 and has played very little NBA basketball. But I think it was a huge step forward for him and, knowing him, I look for him to continue to build on that.”

Back in our preseason roundtable, we were asked how many games we expected Markelle Fultz to start. No one on the panel predicted more than 12 games (I said three...nailed it). Fultz defied expectations by winning the job and starting a total of 60 regular season games.

In that time, he had per-36 averages of 15.7 points, 6.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 46.5 percent from the field, 26.7 percent from three (the elephant has entered the room), and 73.0 percent from the free throw line. This after he shot 53.4 percent from the stripe over the small sample size of his first two years and entered his first full season in Orlando with a national audience curious to see his form...

Having completed his first full, injury-free NBA season, how will Fultz use that experience to better his game during his “summer/offseason” routine?

“I think that this is going to be a huge summer for Markelle and I think is going to be a great summer for Markelle,” Weltman said. “Markelle knows now. He knows what he needs. He played significant minutes in the playoff series against the number one team in the league. So he knows now what those words mean and what he needs to do. He’s a dedicated, committed guy. So I think it’ll be a big summer for him…That he can move past some of the things he’s had as obstacles previously....He’ll be able to do things that maybe he wasn’t sure he could do before on a consistent basis.”

“It’s about conditioning, game management and continuing to work on his skills that most guys do. Now he can be one of the guys and just do that, move past the stuff that had been in his way in previous summers.”