The Orlando Magic picked up the team option on Markelle Fultz’s contract. They are signalling they are all in on Fultz being a contributor to this team.
Really no one outside of their staffers has seen Markelle Fultz on a basketball court since the team acquired him in February. The lack of information — at least publicly — has led to doubt and curiosity. Nobody is quite sure what the Magic have.
The one thing they do know is that they will have him for the next two seasons. And judging by how the rest of their roster is composed, they are going to rely on him.
Orlando is all in on Fultz.
The Magic announced Monday they have picked up the team options for the 2021 season on Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz and Mohamed Bamba. Both Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz are eligible to become restricted free agents in the summer of 2021.
“Mo (Bamba), Markelle (Fultz) and Jonathan (Isaac) have each demonstrated a strong work ethic, while exhibiting a commitment to team values,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said in a statement. “We look forward to exciting futures with them as part of the Magic family.”
All three figure to play critical roles for the Magic moving forward. As first-round draft picks, it is was largely expected that Orlando would see things out to the end of their rookie deals (Mohamed Bamba will have another team option for the 2022 season that Orlando will have until October 2020 to pick up).
This is the core the team wants to move forward with.
But that is also a core that works in tandem with the group the Magic have already locked up. Picking up these options are not merely reaffirmations of the team’s group of young players (again completely expected), but a reaffirmation of this group as a whole.
Especially when it comes to Fultz.
Fultz’s saga is a well-worn one at this point. The former top overall pick played in only 33 games across two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers as he dealt with knee issues and then a shoulder issue eventually diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome.
The Magic acquired him with the approach they would give him the time to recover fully from his injury and learn how to manage it. The team has been consistent in not putting any timetable for his return publicly or pressure him to return. There has been zero pressure for him to play immediately.
The thought has always been he would return when he clears certain benchmarks — chief among them most likely being playing without pain or the reoccurrence of pain. The hope was he would be able to return to the team and return for good without having to stop for injury or because he was experiencing any pain.
Without a timetable for return or much update on his status — other than he is working hard and making progress — has left a lot of his status up to speculation. It has tested at least some fans’ patience.
Being a former top overall pick though, picking up the final year of his rookie-scale contract comes with a pretty solid price tag. Fultz is owed $12.3 million for the 2021 season. That is not insignificant, of course.
And now with the Magic locking up their three rookie-scale players for the 2021 season, the team’s guaranteed salary for the 2021 season is up to $101.6 million. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA has informed teams that the salary cap for the 2021 season is likely to be $125 million.
The Magic’s books get crowded rather quickly. The Magic are certainly invested in this team as currently constructed.
And now invested in Fultz. And there is no getting around it. He figures prominently into the team’s future. Especially with how thin point guard is beginning to look.
Orlando feels pretty deep at almost every position on the floor. They have multiple players who can play rotation-level minutes everywhere.
Point guard is their weakest position at the moment with just D.J. Augustin, Michael Carter-Williams and Josh Magette (on a two-way contract) with experience at the position. The team is relying on Fultz to give the team some added depth.
On top of that, Fultz is the kind of player the Magic need. Even with his struggles to shoot jumpers, he is a skilled driver and creator off the dribble. He can get to the basket and finish well while also dishing the ball as a playmaker. Fultz is a potentially strong scoring point guard.
That is something the Magic need. And they are pinning their hopes on essentially a rookie to fill that role, eating up not insignificant part of their salary cap in the coming years.
It would be easy to say that picking up Fultz’s option along with not signing anyone new to fill the point guard position would signal the Magic are hopeful Fultz will be ready to play when training camp opens Oct. 1.
That may not entirely be the case. Picking up Fultz’s option is certainly a signal Orlando thinks Fultz will be ready to play at some point in the next two years. But it does not necessarily mean they think he will contribute in a major way this year.
Nobody really knows what to expect from Fultz.
Of course, not picking up the option would essentially put the timeline on Fultz the Magic have so carefully avoided. The one thing the Magic have seemingly been determined to do is to build up Fultz’s confidence in every way possible, including giving him the space to find it himself through his own rehab.
Financially, they lose very little in keeping this investment. The Magic were not slated to have significant cap room that summer anyway and the free-agent class is not impressive until that summer of 2021.
But the Magic are all in on him. They are continuing to bet that Fultz will be a player who can take them to their next step and contribute to this team.
Published at Tue, 17 Sep 2019 05:33:59 +0000