Franchise Player or Bust? Ex-Husky Markelle Fultz Might Be Neither

Dan Raley

Markelle Fultz turns 22 this month, the typical age for a college senior, barely old enough to be a finished pro basketball product.

The former University of Washington point guard is just 97 games into his NBA career.

With a pandemic pause freezing the sports world, it seems an appropriate time to assess Markelle's basketball progress so far.

Naysayers will look to the playmaker's physical gifts, compare them to his limited body of work to date and suggest that Fultz hasn't come close to meeting expectations.

A bust, right?

After all, he played the 2016-17 season for the Huskies and couldn't save them from a staggering 9-22 record and a last-place finish. He averaged 23.2 points per game, but could neither finish the season after getting injured nor provide a winner.

Drafted No. 1 overall by Philadelphia, Fultz, beset by shoulder issues not unlike a baseball pitcher, mostly sat on the sidelines and bided his time. 

He remained healthy just long enough to play 19 and 14 games in two seasons for the 76ers before they gave up and traded him to Orlando, too impatient to wait any longer.

In the current season put on hold, Fultz has directed the Magic to a decidedly mundane 30-35 record. 

However, Sports Illustrated's NBA reporter Rohan Nadkami, in the accompanying video, isn't ready to give up on the kid from Maryland.

Nadkami sees a young player who's maintained his health for the first time in four seasons and made strides on the court, upping his assist production to 5.2 per game and becoming a so-called "foundational player."

Noting that shooting was an earlier drawback, Fultz was hitting 47 percent of his field-goal attempts and averaging 12.1 points when league play came to an abrupt stop.

Nadkami still envisions a player that a team can build around, someone who should be valued rather than dismissed, a guard who shouldn't be cast aside just yet.

Maybe too much was expected of him. Superstar? Likely not. Someone to rely on? It's never too late.

After all, Fultz is only 21. 

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