Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz will face another tough test in his young NBA career after he tore his ACL on Wednesday. The injury-riddled 22-year-old guard will miss the remainder of the 2020-21 season.
It truly is a shame that Fultz will once again have to work his way back to health after overcoming serious injuries since joining the league.
What makes this latest ordeal, even harder to swallow for Fultz and his fans was the fact that the former no.1 overall pick was finally breaking out of his shell and coming out on his own for the Magic this season.
The 6-foot-4 playmaker was a big reason for Orlando’s best start in franchise history (4-0). The Magic were also able to become the last NBA team to suffer a defeat, thanks in large part to Markelle Fultz’s emergence.
After barely making an impact in his early years with the Philadelphia 76ers, the University of Washington product finally realized that high ceiling when he moved to Florida in 2019. In eight games for Orlando this season, Fultz notched career-bests of 12.9 points and 5.4 dimes as the starting point guard for coach Steve Clifford.
While the Magic still have capable guys in Michael Carter-Williams and promising rookie Cole Anthony to fill the void, for now, they must find another capable floor general to keep their momentum going.
Fultz’s injury doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world for the Magic, who can take a page off the Golden State Warriors’ book with their handling of Klay Thompson’s injury.
The Magic can apply for a Disabled Player Exception (DPE) worth $6.1M for Fultz, which they can use to get an injury replacement player via signing or trade.
The team already has some significant DPE of $3.7M they used on Jonathan Isaac when he got injured inside the bubble.
Sure, there will be cheaper and more attainable options in free agency like unsigned veterans Isaiah Thomas or Jamal Crawford.
But considering they will have almost $10 million in DPE clause to be used anytime before April, it looks like the Magic will have the means to trade for an established veteran guard who can make a difference right away.
Here are the three best trade options for the Magic in the wake of Markelle Fultz’s season-ending injury.
Every team looking to add a tested point guard will have to inquire for Pistons’ sparkplug Derrick Rose. The youngest MVP in NBA history is one of the most in-demand trade targets this season. The remaining $7.6 million on his expiring contract offers financial flexibility for teams.
The Magic won’t regret using their DPE clause on him as he gives them a starter-caliber point guard who can make plays for Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon.
Rose’s rejuvenated play over the last few seasons is indeed proof that he can still be a difference-maker in the league, despite no longer being the star he used to be.
In hindsight, Rose already possesses all the skills that Fultz was bringing in for Orlando in his breakout year. Injuries aside, D-Rose is still one heck of a slasher and one of the fastest players who can steer the Magic’s new high-octane offense.
Like Rose, Sweet Lou is also reportedly on the trading block and could be moved before the deadline. The Clippers are entertaining the best offers they can get for the three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner, and the Magic do have an enticing offer with that DPE clause. Williams is owed $8 million in 2020-21 and should be attainable for Orlando.
Orlando also has some nice young pieces on that roster that the Magic could make available in the event that the Clips want to get more for the reserve guard.
Williams, a 16-year vet, could be plugged into any NBA roster and provide instant offense right off the bat. Markelle Fultz’s injury opens up minutes for rookie Cole Anthony to take over that starting spot. He’ll certainly learn a lot under the guidance of Williams, who has already accomplished a lot in his career.
Plus, a guy like Williams ensures the Magic another scoring threat to take the pressure off Vucevic, Gordon, and Evan Fournier.
Dennis Smith Jr.
In the event that the two aforementioned veterans have already been scooped up by other teams, the Magic could opt to take a younger but unproven talent in DSJ. The high-leaping guard has only played one game for the New York Knicks this season and has fallen out of rotation behind Elfrid Payton, Immanuel Quickley, and Frank Ntilikina.
Smith, however, is still owed $13 million over the next two seasons, making him out of the Magic’s price range. However, they can probably still get a deal done with an enticing package to match salaries or get a third team in the mix.
DSJ has underwhelmed in his NBA career since leaving the Dallas Mavericks, but like Markelle Fultz, maybe he can resurrect his career in Orlando if given the opportunity.