Markelle Fultz

Southeast Notes: Len, Fultz, Isaac, Wizards

Although Alex Len has only made nine starts this season, he has been the Hawks‘ most effective center and is the one most often included in their end-of-game lineups. So when he heard the rumors last week linking Atlanta to Andre Drummond, he couldn’t help but wonder about his place on the roster, as Chris Kirschner of The Athletic details.

“I would never want to get traded because I love this team, and I want to be here,” Len said of his situation with the Hawks. “The NBA is a business though, and you just have to control what you can control. When I (heard the Drummond talks), I just said that all I can control is what I do on the court. All I can do is continue to work and focus on that.

Len will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, so whether or not the Hawks make a move for a center, there’s no guarantee he’ll be back on the roster in 2020/21. Still, he thinks he can have a role in Atlanta even if the team acquires Drummond or another big man.

“I do think I bring value off the bench, even if (the Hawks) bring in another great big. I can still come off the bench and do what I do,” Len said, according to Kirschner. “For the future, I think I’m a pretty good fit with the young guys. At the same time, it’s up to the team to decide what they want to do. But I love this coaching staff. I love these players. I see myself being here for a while, even if my role is to come off the bench. Whatever it is, I want to be here.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • After two turbulent years to begin his NBA career, former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz has found a happy home in Orlando, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Fultz is coming off perhaps his best game as a pro, a 25-point showing in a Monday win over Brooklyn. “The biggest thing is that I took the time to get healthy,” Fultz said of the strides he has made with the Magic. “I’m feeling very good. My body’s feeling good, and that’s the biggest thing. I just think that I took the time to make sure my shoulder was right, and everything with my body is right, and now I’m back to being me.”
  • The Magic will treat Jonathan Isaac‘s knee injury without surgery, a team official tells Robbins (Twitter link). The standout forward is expected to be sidelined until at least March, and perhaps for the rest of the season.
  • The Wizards‘ 2019/20 season will almost certainly end with a spot in the lottery, but it won’t be a lost year in D.C., according to David Aldridge of The Athletic, who says the organization is identifying some promising building blocks for the future.

Magic Notes: Isaac, Fultz, Bamba, Fournier

The Magic didn’t offer a specific return timetable for Jonathan Isaac when they issued an update on his left knee injury last week. However, the up-and-coming forward isn’t expected to be re-evaluated for eight-to-10 weeks, and Josh Robbins of The Athletic suggests Isaac will likely miss the rest of the 2019/20 season.

As Robbins writes in a separate story for The Athletic, Isaac’s absence will be a tough blow for a Magic team that had already played below its expectations in the first half. While Orlando currently holds the No. 8 seed, the team had hoped to move up in the standings after winning 22 of its final 31 games last season. Instead, the Magic are just 16-20 so far, and without perhaps their best defensive player, there’s no guarantee they’ll hang onto that postseason spot.

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • Despite his injury, Isaac is one of two Magic players viewed by Robbins as untouchable in trade talks, as The Athletic’s Orlando reporter details in his deadline primer. The second player? Markelle Fultz, whom team officials believe will continue to improve as a shooter and defender. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the club trades either player, Robbins writes.
  • While Mo Bamba isn’t in the same untouchable tier as Isaac and Fultz, that doesn’t mean the Magic have any interest in moving him, according to Robbins, who suggests the team is unlikely to give up young players or first-round picks for a short-term fix, given the ceiling on this year’s roster.
  • The Magic face a similar dilemma with Evan Fournier that they did a year ago with Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, Robbins observes. Vucevic and Ross were veterans headed for unrestricted free agency, but Orlando chose not to trade either player and eventually re-signed both. It’s not clear whether the team will head down a similar path with Fournier — Robbins speculates that the Magic will be open to inquiries but would insist on receiving high value in any deal.
  • Fultz has supplanted D.J. Augustin as the Magic’s starting point guard, but head coach Steve Clifford hasn’t hesitated to play the two guards together, and the results have been positive, writes Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com. Orlando has a 104.7 offensive rating and 106.1 defensive rating on the season, but those marks have improved to 111.4 and 101.9, respectively, when Augustin and Fultz share the court.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Wizards, Butler, Waiters

Markelle Fultz has been aggressive and productive for the Magic in recent games, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Fultz, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension next offseason, has scored in double figures the last four games while recording at least 14 drives in three of his past four games, Parry notes. The increased offensive production from the top pick in the 2017 draft comes at a time when top frontcourt players Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon are nursing ankle sprains. “With a couple of our main guys out, I wanted to get guys going and I knew I had to be aggressive to help us make up those points that we were missing,” Fultz said. “It’s just about me getting into the paint and letting my guys know if they are cutting I’ll find them and also scoring when I have to.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Beyond Bradley Beal, there are no players who are guaranteed crunch time minutes with the Wizards, Kevin Brown of NBC Sports Washington notes. During a close win against Charlotte last week, coach Scott Brooks used three reserves down the stretch. “I think we’re a team that doesn’t worry about rotations,” forward Davis Bertans said. “Whoever has their game going, those guys are going to be in the game and…that’s beneficial for the team and I think that’s everyone agrees with that.”
  • Jimmy Butler was greeted with mostly boos and jeers when the Heat played Philadelphia last week and he was fine with that, Michael Lee of The Athletic relays. Butler chose Miami at the start of free agency and the teams eventually agreed to a multi-team sign-and-trade. “I’m the enemy. I mean, you don’t got to like me ‘cause I’m on the other team. I’m OK with that. I really am,” he said. “They don’t know what’s going on. I love fans. I love my fans. But you don’t know what happened.”
  • Dion Waiters‘ appeal of his 10-game suspension could drag on for quite awhile, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Waiters was suspended by the Heat for conduct detrimental to the team. Often a compromise is worked out behind the scenes in such cases and the arbitrator’s ruling might happen during the offseason, when all parties are available to participate in the process, Winderman adds.

Magic Rumors: Gordon, DeRozan, Russell, Isaac

The Magic have been at the center of a pair of intriguing early-season reports this week, with a Wednesday report suggesting Orlando has expressed interest in DeMar DeRozan, while a Friday story indicated that teams are monitoring Aaron Gordon with potential interest in a trade.

That report on Gordon, from Shams Charania of The Athletic, made it clear that the Magic have expressed no interest in moving the young forward. However, Sean Deveney of Forbes.com hears that there are some concerns that Gordon might not fit be an ideal long-term fit alongside Jonathan Isaac.

Could the Magic and Spurs explore a trade centered around DeRozan and Gordon then? Probably not, according to Deveney, who writes that the Magic would be reluctant to give up a significant package for the Spurs’ guard, who could reach the free agent market next summer if he turns down his 2020/21 player option. Even if Orlando did become open to moving Gordon, it wouldn’t be for a rental.

Here’s more on the Magic, via Deveney:

  • While the Magic have starting looking into possible trades to address their offense, no deals are around the corner, a source with knowledge of the club’s thinking tells Deveney. “You’ve got a lot of players dealing with some shooting slumps and that is going to turn around, those players are going to get back to their usual percentages,” that source said. “So everyone does due diligence on the market but it doesn’t seem like anything is about to come down. If you make a move now with the offense at a low point, it’s like you’re selling low. See who comes back, who bounces back. Then go from there. It’s far away and a lot can change.”
  • Deveney identifies D’Angelo Russell as one player who could pique the Magic’s interest once he becomes trade-eligible, since Orlando considered him in free agency this past summer.
  • For now, Orlando is banking on offensive improvements from within. As Deveney outlines, the team is willing to be patient with young players like Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, since there are indications that Fultz’s shot could come around and that Isaac is “just scratching the surface of his offensive potential.”

Eastern Notes: Drummond, Wagner, Fultz

Andre Drummond is averaging 21.3 points and 19.4 rebounds this season and Pistons head coach Dwane Casey believes the center can do more, as I relayed on Twitter.

“Andre is still a growing player. A lot of his game is evolving. He’s going to be able to other things. Every year, he’s going to bring something new to the table,” Casey said. “…he’s not even in the middle of his prime yet.”

Drummond will be one of the top players in a weak 2020 free agent class. He clearly has the talent to be an impact player, as he showcased while grabbing 24 rebounds against the Wizards. However, questions still remain about how much Drummond can contribute to a winning team.

His outstanding statistical game in Washington resulted in a 16-point loss. It’s the same story that has been recycled throughout his career. Entering year eight, he has been to the playoffs just two times (Detroit has been swept on both occasions) and it’s fair to wonder whether a team will view him as a max player or anywhere near it if he can’t elevate the Pistons in the win column.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Moritz Wagner, who came to the Wizards in the Anthony Davis three-team trade this summer, had an impressive defensive game against Drummond on Monday. According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link), during the 14 possessions Wagner guarded Drummond, Detroit’s big man went 1-for-8 and was blocked three times.
  • Magic coach Steve Clifford called Markelle Fultz‘s feel for the game unique, complimenting the point guard on his abilities, as Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel relays (Twitter link). “In many ways, I just think he’s a good all-around player because he has a feel for the game. He’s a terrific passer and his ability to get into the paint and have a feel for where everybody is very unique,” Clifford said.
  • Bruce Brown‘s ability to handle point guard duties is solving a problem for the Pistons, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes. The team has been without Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose because of injuries.

Magic Notes: Fultz, Bamba, Birch, Jefferson

It only took six games for Markelle Fultz to crack the starting lineup in Orlando, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Magic head coach Steve Clifford called Fultz Saturday morning to tell him that he would be replacing D.J. Augustin as a starter for yesterday’s game against the Nuggets.

The reasons for the move go beyond a show of confidence in the top player taken in the 2017 draft. Clifford and his staff believe Fultz’s ability to get into the lane will create better scoring opportunities for the rest of the starting lineup, while Augustin provides another shooter for the second unit with Terrence Ross struggling to score.

“I don’t look too far back, but I’m taking baby steps,” Fultz said after the game. “That’s the biggest thing. I want to take it a step at a time, and I’m just checking stuff off my list. I’ve got to start small. My goal is high, but I’ve got to start with the basics.”

It’s a significant milestone after Fultz saw his season end last November because of thoracic outlet syndrome. Traded to the Magic in February after playing just 33 games in a year and a half in Philadelphia, Fultz has a chance to become a regular contributor for the first time in his NBA career.

There’s more news from Orlando:

  • Mo Bamba won’t be used in back-to-back games this season, Robbins tweets. The first instance came this weekend as he was held out of Friday’s game against the Bucks before playing last night. The Magic are being careful with their second-year center after a tibial stress fracture caused him to miss 30 games last year. Orlando has just 11 back-to-backs, tied for the lowest number in the league.
  • Reserve center Khem Birch, who has gotten into just two games so far, offered to go to the G League as a way to get playing time, according to John Denton of NBA.com (Twitter link). “How many guys would do that,” Clifford said. “He’s the best, the best.”
  • Amile Jefferson will make $9,156 per day while he’s on the Magic roster and will count as a $1.52MM cap hit, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Facing a Monday deadline to reach the 14-man roster minimum, Orlando converted Jefferson’s two-way deal to a standard contract on Friday.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Thomas, Waiters, Borrego

Magic guard Markelle Fultz is regaining confidence in his game as the start of the 2019/20 season nears, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes.

Fultz, who’s entering his third NBA campaign, has only appeared in 33 regular season games since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2017 due to a well-documented shoulder injury. He was acquired by Orlando in exchange for Jonathon Simmons, a first-round pick and a second-round pick this past February.

“Every day I go back out there I get more and more comfortable. I get used to being back out there,” Fultz said. “It’s been so long for me that I’m just happy to be out there and I’m just trying to learn and play as hard as I can.”

Fultz failed to live up to the high expectations with Philadelphia, but at just 21 years old and finally healthy, he could help propel Orlando in the race for the Eastern Conference playoffs this season.

In six preseason games with Orlando, Fultz averaged 6.7 points, four assists and 1.8 steals per contest off the bench. Despite his exact role being immediately unclear, both Fultz and the Magic recognize that he’s headed in the right direction.

“I mean, we’ll see,” coach Steve Clifford said of Fultz’ role in the rotation. “Markelle needs to do, in my opinion, what Markelle has done since he got here: have good days. Have a good day tomorrow. That’s what the best players do. That’s what the best teams do: is have good days, [and] put good stretches of days together. Be better Friday than he is Tuesday. I think that in my experiences that’s what the best players do, [and] that’s what the best teams do.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas participated in a full practice Saturday and hopes to play in Wednesday’s season opener against Dallas, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link). However, head coach Scott Brooks isn’t ready to commit on a potential Thomas return just yet. “I’d love to have him for the first game,” Brooks said on whether Thomas would play. “We’ll see. Probably not, but we’ll see.”
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel provides additional details on Dion Waiters suspension, including his decision to make some rather questionable posts on social media in wake of the announcement. The suspension stems from a heated conversation between Waiters and head coach Erik Spoelstra after Waiters played only 10 minutes in the Heat‘s final preseason game on Friday.
  • Hornets coach James Borrego is taking a different approach entering his second season with the team, asserting his authority more while ensuring that he remains a good listener and keeps a positive attitude, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. “I feel like J.B. probably too much, to an extent, last (season) tried to keep everybody happy,” Marvin Williams said of Borrego. “I think this (season), he’s much more comfortable with people. He understands who we are as people and players. He’s just in a better place because of that.”

Pistons Rumors: Galloway, Griffin, Ntilikina

The Pistons are “very open” to the idea of trading Langston Galloway, two league sources tell Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Ellis had recently identified Galloway as one of the most likely players to be dealt if Detroit attempts to keep both Christian Wood and Joe Johnson on its 15-man regular season roster.

According to Ellis, the Pistons have engaged potential trade partners on Galloway for months, but have been unable to find a suitable deal. Although he’s on an expiring contract, the veteran guard’s $7.33MM salary is somewhat exorbitant, making him tricky to move.

As we wait to see if the Pistons can find a taker on Galloway, here are a couple more rumors out of Detroit from Ellis:

  • If things go south for the Pistons in 2019/20 and Blake Griffin remains healthy, the star forward could represent an opportunity for a “franchise reset” via the trade market, says Ellis. According to Ellis, there’s a belief around the NBA that going in that direction is a real possibility for Detroit if the team falls out of the playoff hunt. A league source tells the Free Press that the Pistons could reasonably expect a first-round pick and another asset back for a healthy Griffin. However, I expect that would be a last resort for the club.
  • Having previously reported that the Pistons may have some interest in Frank Ntilikina, Ellis cites sources who say that Detroit has made inquiries on the Knicks’ guard. It appears as though those inquiries have failed to gain traction though, Ellis adds.
  • Within that same article, Ellis notes that the Pistons also explored the possibility of trading for young point guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Markelle Fultz before last season’s trade deadline. Smith and Fultz were ultimately sent to the Knicks and Magic, respectively, leaving Detroit on the lookout for young prospects at the point guard spot. The team may give Bruce Brown some minutes at the position to gauge his potential there.

Southeast Notes: McDaniels, Waiters, Wagner, Fultz

Rookie forward Jalen McDaniels‘ contract with the Hornets is a non-guaranteed one-year contract with an Exhibit 10 provision, John Hollinger of The Athletic reports. McDaniels, a second-round selection, didn’t come to an agreement with Charlotte until Thursday.

While McDaniels could make the opening-night roster, it’s quite possible he’ll be waived and end up in the G League via the Exhibit 10, according to Hollinger. If so, the Hornets will lose their NBA rights to him and another team could sign him at any time, though no one besides Charlotte can sign McDaniels to a two-way contract this season.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • It’s still undecided whether Dion Waiters will start or come off the bench for the Heat this season, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. Waiters is still working his way back into top shape, Jackson adds. Waiters, whose contract runs through the 2020/21 season, was limited to 44 games last season after recovering from ankle surgery and faces a logjam at the wing positions.
  • Second-year big man Moritz Wagner sees Washington as an ideal place to establish himself, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. Acquired from the Lakers this summer, Wagner is in the mix for playing time in the Wizards‘ frontcourt after playing sparingly in Los Angeles as a rookie. “They are trying to develop something new and establish a winning culture,” he said. “Everyone here is part of that, it’s brand new. As a young player, that’s what you want.”
  • Magic guard Markelle Fultz appears to be playing with confidence and letting his combination of size, athleticism, and instincts help establish himself in the league, according to Dan Devine of The Ringer, who provides a detailed examination of Fultz’s preseason performances.

Magic Notes: Fultz, Bamba, Augustin, Gordon

In his first game with the Magic, Markelle Fultz showed off some of the skills that made him the top pick in the 2017 draft, writes Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Playing for the first time since last November, Fultz had six points, four assists, two rebounds and an electrifying dunk in a win over the Spurs.

“It was really just a blessing,” Fultz said. “I give a lot of praise to the man up top, God. It’s all I can say. It was my first time out there in a long time and I’m just happy I was able to step out on the floor and compete.”

Orlando acquired Fultz from the Sixers in February after a frustrating season and a half in Philadelphia that was marked by physical issues and a jump shot that went haywire. His latest ailment, diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome, had kept him sidelined since last November 19. He received full medical clearance before camp opened and was determined to play in the preseason opener.

“It means the world to me just to see him out there,” teammate Mohamed Bamba said. “I asked him, ‘How you feeling?’ and he’s like, ‘I feel great. The game’s coming slower and it’s coming easier to me by the minute.’ It felt good to see him out there having fun.”

There’s more this morning from Orlando:

  • Bamba was also happy to be back on the court Saturday after missing the final 30 games of last season and the team’s playoff run with a foot injury, Parry notes in a separate story. After an 18-point, six-rebound and three-block performance, Bamba is optimistic about his sophomore campaign. “I had a lot of time to think about the upcoming season,” he said. “It’s just a preseason game and it doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but it felt good to get out there and just run with the guys.”
  • Coach Steve Clifford plans to use Fultz and D.J. Augustin together in the backcourt, Parry relays in another piece. Even though they’re both listed as point guards, Clifford believes Fultz’s ability to defend bigger players will make the combination work. “They’re both super-skilled,” he said. “They both play with a point guard mentality and then you’ve got two really good pick-and-roll players.”
  • Clifford also plans to play Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac together at center and power forward, tweets Dave DuFour of The Athletic.