When the Magic acquired Markelle Fultz from the Sixers at the trade deadline last month, reports indicated that the team would be patient with the former No. 1 pick, who was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and ruled out indefinitely in December.
Head coach Steve Clifford confirmed as much during an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Monday, indicating that the team doesn’t expect Fultz to play this season (audio link).
“I don’t think so,” Clifford said, when asked if we’d see Fultz again in 2018/19. “He’s still actually rehabbing his shoulder, and he’s not even able to really do much on the floor yet. It’s a pretty significant shoulder injury, and I would say he’s starting to do a little bit, but it would be very difficult for him to get back this year.”
After being limited to just 14 games in his rookie season in Philadelphia, Fultz appeared in 19 contests for the Sixers in 2018/19, averaging 8.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 3.1 APG. He continued to struggle with his shot, posting a line of .419/.286/.568 and displaying unusual form on free throws, leading to the new diagnosis of his shoulder issue.
Despite Fultz’s struggles in his first two seasons, the Magic remain high on 2017’s top pick, who is still just 20 years old. Orlando surrendered Jonathon Simmons and a pair of future draft picks for Fultz in February, even though the team recognized he was unlikely to contribute this season.
D.J. Augustin has been a fairly steady presence at the point for Orlando this season, posting 11.5 PPG and 4.9 APG on .473/.436/.858 shooting. However, the backup production from Isaiah Briscoe and Jerian Grant has been inconsistent. Nonetheless, with Fultz not expected to be ready to return until next season, the Magic will have to continue to rely on Briscoe and/or Grant or turn to the free agent market for help as they attempt to secure a playoff spot.