Markelle Fultz

Central Notes: Maker, Evans, Pistons, Osman

Thon Maker has given the Pistons an energetic boost since he was acquired from the Bucks in a three-team swap at the trade deadline, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes.

The 7-footer fell out of Milwaukee’s rotation, but has proven to be a solid backup for Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. The Pistons outscored Phoenix by 20 points when Maker was on the court Thursday, as he scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots in 28 minutes.

“He’s been great,” Griffin said of his Pistons teammate. “Just his energy, man. He’s just always everywhere. And if he’s not blocking shots, he’s swinging for the fences. It’s making people think and it’s making people be aware of where he is.”

Maker will make a guaranteed $3.57MM next season and will be eligible for a rookie scale extension with the Pistons prior to opening night.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pacers swingman Tyreke Evans admits it’s been a roller-coaster season for him, Scott Agness of The Athletic reports. Evans has battled injuries, a bout with food poisoning and the tragic death of a nephew during the course of the season. Evans’ playing time has dropped dramatically from last season, when he averaged 19.4 PPG for Memphis in 52 games. He’ll return to the free agent market after signing a one-year, $12.4MM contract from Indiana. “Yeah, it’s tough,” he told Agness. “Everybody knows what type of player I am. (Since) I got drafted, I’m better with the ball in my hands. I’m a team player and just want to win this late in my career.”
  • D’Angelo Russell‘s breakthrough season with the Nets after the Lakers gave up on him illustrates why the Pistons explored trades for young point guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Markelle Fultz prior to the trade deadline, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. The Pistons will likely continue to pursue a young point guard during the offseason, since starter Reggie Jackson has one more season left on his contract and reserves Ish Smith and Jose Calderon will be unrestricted free agents, Ellis adds.
  • Forward Cedi Osman is considered part of the Cavaliers’ future core, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports in his latest mailbag. The team could sign Osman to an extension this summer but there hasn’t been any talk of doing that yet, Fedor continues. However, he’s a front-office favorite and has made positive strides in recent months. He’s shown signs of being more than just a bench rotation player and his 3-point shooting has improved, Fedor adds.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Parker, Porter, Birch

Despite not seeing any action yet, former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz believes the Magic have a perfect system that will fit his game when he returns, John Denton of NBA.com writes. The Magic acquired Fultz in a deal before February’s trade deadline, pushing their vision to include him in pick-and-roll sets with Aaron Gordon and others once he recovers from injury.

“Pick-and-rolls are one of my favorite parts of the game, and as everyone knows, that’s the way that I played in college,’’ Fultz said. “I think (the Magic’s system) is almost perfect for me. I think I’m a versatile player, but with the screen-and-roll (system) and the players that we have here, I think it’s going to be very fun.”

Fultz has spent much of the season rehabbing in Los Angeles, but his rehab schedule shifted to Orlando this week so he could get adjusted with his new team, according to Denton. For Fultz, being around the team while sidelined is imperative as he continues to progress in his journey back to the court.

“I think it’s going to help me a lot, just being around the guys and seeing the (offensive) plays,’’ Fultz said. “When you’re sitting down watching, you see a lot of stuff that you miss while you are playing. So, I’m just soaking it all up right now. I’m getting to see the team practice, and then during games I can see where I could see myself playing and how I could help the team.’’

Fultz, 20, has played just 35 games since being drafted by the Sixers in 2017. The Magic hope he can become the team’s point guard of the future, though this largely depends on how his rehab progresses throughout the year.

There’s more today out of the Southeast Division:

  • Jabari Parker has found his groove since being acquired by the Wizards in a trade last month, Zach Rosen of NBA.com writes. Parker started the 2018/19 season in Chicago with an uneven role, but he’s consistently produced off Washington’s bench since the trade. “It’s crazy – just to see the turnaround,” teammate Bobby Portis said. “Seeing him come from Chicago not in a happy situation. Then being here and having coaches who really believe in his game, I think that’s really rejuvenating for him.”
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines the returns of the BullsWizards trade that featured Parker, Portis and Otto Porter from February. Since completing the deal, Washington holds a record of 8-10 and Chicago holds a record of 9-10. Porter moved from the Southeast Division over to the Central Division with the trade to Chicago, giving the Bulls production at the starting small forward spot in the weeks that followed.
  • Chris Hays of The Orlando Sentinel details the long, tough path Khem Birch took before making the NBA, with the 26-year-old now seeing consistent playing time as a big man off the Magic’s bench. “Two years ago I was on the Syrian border on New Year’s Eve thinking if I’m ever going to come back home and play basketball in America,” Birch said. “I actually look back to when I was over there in Europe, and it made me a stronger person and it made me mature more.” Birch, who went undrafted in 2014, has earned double-digit minutes in every contest with Orlando since the start of February.

Markelle Fultz In Good Spot To Redeem Career

Markelle Fultz is still not practicing with the Magic. There remains no timetable for his return, and with the playoffs still within reach for Orlando, it would be surprising if he plays for his new team at all this season.

However, Fultz has reached a new stage in his recovery process, moving his rehab from California – where he has spent the past few months – to Orlando, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports.

“I think it’s what’s best for me and the team,” Fultz said. “[It’s beneficial] just being around these guys, so they see my face and I see their face. I’m going to learn as much as I can. As we make this push for the playoffs, I want to be here with my guys and just support them.”

Fultz is in a good situation to turn his young career around, as the Magic are taking a patient approach in assisting him as he looks to return to his old form. “Nobody here is rushing me. Everybody here is just open to me getting right and healthy first,” Fultz said.

Sounds like a movie we’ve seen before? Yes, the company line in Philadelphia was patience, and while the fanbase shed its typical hard-nosed Philly reputation, cheering for Fultz and embracing any progress—even baby steps—as the teenage point guard attempted to get back to his old self, the franchise grew tired of waiting. The Sixers were ready to compete in the present.

Fultz only tallied 33 games played in Philadelphia. The 2017 No. 1 overall pick was sent to the Magic from the Sixers at the trade deadline in exchange for Jonathon Simmons, a protected 2020 first-round pick (via OKC) and a 2019 second-round pick (via Cleveland).

There are reasons to believe things will be different in Orlando. The Magic are not currently built to compete for the Eastern Conference crown and the media coverage isn’t as intense in Florida as it is in the City of Brotherly Love. Fultz’s return to the court is expected to be less pressurized than it was in Post-Process Philly.

There is also less competition for a prominent role in the backcourt, as Orlando has no point guard of the future on its roster. Veteran point guard D.J. Augustin has been one of the Magic’s most crucial players, but he’ll turn 32 at the beginning of next season and will become a free agent at the end of it.

The Magic have taken shots at a few other guard prospects who have flamed out elsewhere with no real success. Jerian Grant held a role until being supplanted by Isaiah Briscoe. When Briscoe injured his knee, the team took a flyer on former No. 11 overall pick Michael Carter-Williams, though MCW is only on a 10-day contract and could wake up next Monday without a job.

There’s some thought within NBA circles that teams are giving up on top draft picks too soon. Clippers coach Doc Rivers recently argued that teams are too finicky with regard to their top draft selections.

You look at each draft and there’s guys that come out at 19 and they don’t take off right away. They get moved around, and the next thing you know, they’re players,” River said in reference to D’Angelo Russell and his son, Austin Rivers.

Part of the angst organizations face with past top draft selections is financially driven. Top draft picks can extremely cost efficient if they bloom, but if they wilt, their salaries can be burdensome. As part of his rookie deal, Fultz takes home slightly under $8.4MM this season and will collect roughly $9.7MM next year. The franchise will have to make a decision on his $12.3MM salary for 2020/21 by this fall.

For now, Fultz is confident that his rehab is going in the right direction. “It’s going great. I’m feeling really good. I’m happy. I’m blessed. And as I’m going forward, I’m just sticking with the plan and just going through rehab,” the point guard told Robbins.

Many people living in Northeast American cities take trips to Florida to slow down and decompress from their typical work life and while Fultz is hard at work in rehab, he’ll get to experience a similar effect. A new environment provides him with a relaxed approach compared to the hustle-and-bustle mentality of the bigger city life and that might be just what the 20-year-old needs to get back on track.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Briscoe, Magic, Wizards, Hawks

An MRI on Isaiah Briscoe‘s injured right knee revealed a small meniscus tear, the Magic announced today (via Twitter). According to the club, Briscoe has been ruled out for tonight’s game against Dallas and treatment options are being evaluated.

It’s a tough break for the Magic, as Briscoe had recently taken the reins from Jerian Grant as the club’s backup point guard behind D.J. Augustin. Depending on how the Magic and Briscoe decide to treat his meniscus tear, he could miss significant time, which would put pressure on Grant to re-assume a key role during Orlando’s playoff push.

If the Magic decide to look outside of the organization for veteran help at the point guard position, there are plenty of options available, including Tim Frazier and Jarrett Jack. For now though, Grant appears set to become Augustin’s primary backup once more.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • In an extensive Q&A with Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel, Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman discusses Markelle Fultz‘s rehab process, what it would mean to the franchise to make the playoffs, and 2019’s free agent period, particularly as it relates to Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross. Weltman was extremely noncommittal when asked about a recovery timetable for Fultz, whom head coach Steve Clifford is not expecting back this season.
  • Fred Katz of The Athletic explores what could be a logjam at center for the Wizards in 2019/20. While the club would like to retain restricted free agents Bobby Portis and Thomas Bryant, Ian Mahinmi remains under contract and Dwight Howard appears increasingly likely to exercise his player option.
  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides injury updates on a trio of Hawks bigs, most notably tweeting that Omari Spellman looks like a long shot to return before the ennd of the 2018/19 season. Vivlamore also tweets that Alex Poythress is in a walking boot and will be out for “a while” after spraining his ankle, and adds (via Twitter) that Miles Plumlee has begun to take contact in his one-on-one work.

Clifford: Magic Don’t Expect Fultz To Play This Season

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.

Sixers Notes: Harris, Fultz, Brown, Z. Smith

Tobias Harris has been traded five times since entering the NBA in 2011, but he probably could have ensured stability with the Clippers if he had accepted an $80MM extension offer last summer. However, Harris tells Jonathan Gold of The Washington Post that he was willing to take the gamble in hopes of landing a max deal as a free agent this summer.

“Eighty million is a lot of money,” Harris said. “People said, ‘How you turn that down?’ . . . Look, I know my trajectory. I know when to bet on myself. We looked at the salary cap, looked at free agents, and with all the work I put in, we thought I’d be one of the top guys.”

The acquisition of Harris means “The Process” is now complete in Philadelphia, Gold adds. The team has entered win-now territory and is no longer focused on developing young talent, something it emphasized by trading former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz to Orlando. Harris marked the second aggressive move of the season for the Sixers, who swung a deal in November to acquire Jimmy Butler and are now poised for a playoff run with one of the most talented starting fives in the league.

“I feel like this is the third team I’ve coached this season,” coach Brett Brown said, reflecting on the two major trades.

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Brown doesn’t believe Fultz was being disrespectful with comments he made at his introductory press conference with the Magic, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer“It just excites me to know that I have a coach that’s going to push you to be better and not just going to tell you what you want to hear,” Fultz told reporters, while adding that he looks forward to a “fresh start.” Brown said he has talked to Fultz since then and was assured it wasn’t intended as a swipe at the Sixers’ coaching staff. “He’s a good kid,” Brown said. “He’s a good young man, and, truly, we wish him well.”
  • First-round pick Zhaire Smith probably won’t play for the Sixers this season, but may see some G League action, Pompey tweets. Smith participated in practice today and is considered about 60% recovered from a Jones fracture in his left foot (Twitter link).
  • Although the Sixers’ approach to rebuilding has drawn criticism from many circles, including the commissioner’s office, the franchise has been able to assemble a contender fairly quickly, notes Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Southeast Notes: Dragic, Ariza, Fultz, Beal

The Heat have dealt with rotation issues all season and they’ll have another dilemma when they return from the All-Star break. Point guard Goran Dragic is expected to return after recovering from arthroscopic surgery to his right knee. That will impact Justise Winslow, whose role as a playmaker and ballhandler has expanded in Dragic’s absence. Winslow enjoys playing with Dragic but doesn’t want to lose his starting spot.

“I’m going to think about that and let my curiosity go crazy during the All-Star break,” Winslow told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “That’s something that is out of my control. I can say what I would want, but it’s up to the coaches and I am ready to execute whatever role they give me.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Trevor Ariza was glad he was traded to the Wizards because of his familiarity with the organization and some of their players, Kimberly Cataudella of NBC Sports Washington relays. Ariza even implied he had some input on the trade made with the Suns, with whom he signed a one-year contract last summer. “If I [were] to leave [Phoenix], for me, it would be home or a place that I’m familiar with, and the opportunity came to come to Washington, and I chose Washington over everything,” he said. Ariza is averaging 15.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 4.3 APG in 28 starts since the trade.
  • Not only do the Magic have big plans for Markelle Fultz, they’re already envisioning what he could do for them if they reach the postseason in upcoming years, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel reports. The No. pick in the 2017 draft was dealt by Philadelphia to Orlando earlier this month. “Watching film of him in Philly and then also of him in college … I’m not sure there’s an aspect of the game he can’t excel at,” coach Steve Clifford said. “Particularly in playoff series, you’ve got to have guys that can play both ways.”
  • Wizards guard Bradley Beal may have irritated some Celtics and Sixers fans with a comment he made during an All-Star event, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. Asked which team he believed would win the Eastern Conference championship, Beal replied: “I think it’s going to be Toronto or Milwaukee.”

Southeast Notes: Walker, Dragic, Fultz, Bryant

It’s not a guarantee that he’ll stay with the Hornets, but Kemba Walker is serving as Charlotte’s unofficial host for All-Star Weekend, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “Welcome everyone to my city!” Walker tweeted today as a greeting to the thousands of visitors headed to Charlotte for three days of festivities.

“This city has embraced me so much over the years,” Walker said. “Allowed me to be who I am. Allowed me to play through my mistakes early in my career, to become the player I am today. The fans have just been top notch, and I respect that because we haven’t been a top organization, haven’t gone to the playoffs every year. … Through that, they still embrace us, still embrace me. You have to respect that.”

Walker, who holds nearly every franchise scoring record, will be one of the hottest names on this year’s free agent market. A three-time All-Star, he is in the middle of his most productive season, averaging career highs with 25.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists per night. Despite Walker’s affection for Charlotte, Bonnell states that it’s hard to predict what will happen this summer.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Heat guard Goran Dragic is “making a lot of progress” after having knee surgery in December, but coach Erik Spoelstra tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald there’s still no timetable for his return. Miami has been expecting him to be ready soon after the All-Star break. In the same story, Spoelstra says Ryan Anderson, who has only played two minutes since being acquired from the Suns, is ready for a larger role if needed.
  • Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, both top six selections in the 2017 draft, have a chance to prove themselves with the Magic after battling injuries early in their careers, notes Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando’s front office believes Fultz, who was acquired from the Sixers last week, can become a standout point guard because of his strength, explosiveness, court vision and playmaking.
  • Wizards center Thomas Bryant reached starter criteria this week by starting his 41st game of the season, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The qualifying offer for the upcoming free agent has been increased to $3MM and Washington’s cap hold has been raised as well. Dwight Howard was supposed to be the starting center after signing with the Wizards last summer, but Bryant seized the opportunity when Howard was injured.

Eastern Notes: Porter, Fultz, Pacers

The Bulls acquired Otto Porter Jr. from the Wizards in exchange for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker and coach Jim Boylen is happy with the transaction.

“He’s just a basketball player. That’s what we needed, that’s what we got,” Boylen said (via Mark Strotman of NBC Sports). “What that means is you can throw him out there and he can get somebody else going, he can get himself going, he can make shots off the move.

“I think he showed the whole thing tonight. He showed a lot of versatility. I’m really thankful he’s a Bull.”

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic coach Steve Clifford is using some his downtime to watch game tape of Markelle Fultz and analyze the point guard’s play, John Denton of NBA.com relays. Denton notes that Fultz will likely work with assistants Bruce Kreutzer and Steve Hetzel, two coaches whom Kemba Walker has previously credited with helping to improve his shot.
  • While Clifford can understand how a change of scenery may help Fultz, the coach believes Fultz’s jump shot will ultimately determine his success with the Magic, as Denton passes along in the same piece. “How you fit with your teammates is a big deal, and the best players can play with anybody in any system,’’ Clifford said. “To me, if you want to say a different city, new start, different teammates, things like that [might help Fultz]. But, to be frank, the issue has been [Fultz’s] shoulder and his shooting and if you’re not a range shooter, you’re not going to be a good pick-and-roll player. With that part, we’ll see.’’
  • Pacers forward Thaddeus Young was thrilled when he learned that the team was pursuing Bojan Bogdanovic in free agency in 2017, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star writes. “I said Bogey is a walking bucket. He can score in different ways that people don’t even know,” said Young, who previously played alongside Bogdanovic in Brooklyn. “I learned a lot about Bogey. I’ll play any day with Bogey on any team.”

Magic GM Talks Markelle Fultz Acquisition

The Magic made a move at the trade deadline on Thursday that could have a major impact on their future. Orlando acquired 2017 first overall pick Markelle Fultz from the Sixers in exchange for Jonathon Simmons, a protected 2020 first-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick.

A phantom shoulder injury, eventually diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome, plagued Fultz’s tenure in Philadelphia and limited him to just 33 games in parts of two seasons. In just 19 games (15 starts) this season, Fultz averaged 8.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.1 APG. However, he will have the opportunity for a fresh start with a new organization, which excites Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, per Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.

Weltman addressed the acquisition of Fultz at a press conference during halftime of Orlando’s win over the Timberwolves.

On what a healthy Fultz can bring to Orlando…

“His size, his skill level, his vision, his competitiveness. This guy has the whole package. To have the physical profile of a Markelle Fultz, that big, strapping guard who can blow by you and attack the rim and can just pressure on you in all ways is something we’re all just looking for. Those are the guys who can dominate games these days.”

When the team expects to have Fultz on the court…

“As to the timetable, you guys have heard me say this to the point where you probably don’t want to hear me say it again, but I will anyway. We’re going to do it right. We are not going to do it fast. We look forward to getting him in here, getting our arms around him, [and] understanding everything that he’s dealing with. Getting him through that, it’s our job organizationally, from the performance directors to the coaches to all of us to put him in a position to succeed. And however long that takes, that’s how long it’ll take.”

Where Fultz will fit in with the current core of the Magic…

“As far as him fitting in here, we always say we try to bring in not just the player but the person. All the background work that we did on Markelle prior to the draft [and] in the days leading up to today [Thursday] have just informed us that he’s an exceptional young guy. He’s team-oriented, he’s coachable, he’s a hard worker, he’s a competitor. He’s kind of got all the ingredients that you’re looking for.”