The Orlando Magic were off to a great start to the season last week. The team was 6-2 and entered a home game with the Cleveland Cavaliers. More importantly, recently extended point guard Markelle Fultz was playing the best stretch of his career.
Everything changed that night for the Magic. Although Fultz was justifying the three year $50 million extension, he went down with a knee injury. Fultz was coming into his own before collapsing in pain.
The Magic entered the season giving two talented players new contract extensions. Both Fultz and Jonathan Isaac didn’t have to wait to hit free agency. The team signaled both as future building blocks announcing the extensions on December 21st. Although Isaac is missing this season, the excitement surrounding the contracts was real.
The Markelle Fultz injury changes the season outlook
Things may have changed with the Fultz injury. The team now has to pivot with its two young stars gone for the season. The likelihood of Orlando moving on from past building blocks seems inevitable.
With money going to Isaac and Fultz, the Orlando Magic is less likely to commit to Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier long-term. Fournier is a free agent after this season. Gordon will be a free agent after next year. If the team cannot keep itself above water, then getting a return for one or both is certainly on the table.
For the Magic, the biggest loss with the Fultz and Isaac injuries is not the salaries paid out to them this year. The real loss is the lack of developmental time for both. Neither one will be out on the court getting added experience. Neither one can improve his instincts on offense or defense. Both players miss out on time to build chemistry with teammates.
The other issue going forward is the injury history for both players. In his fourth season, Isaac has only played more than 34 games once. Not to be outdone, last season was the first and only time Fultz has played more than 19 games. Committing big dollars to both was risky. The Magic took a chance and will now have to wait for another one to two seasons to know if it will pay off. Nothing feels magical for Orlando right now.