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Hot Take: Markelle Futlz is going to be legitimately good

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Health, experience, and a fresh start will let Fultz’s talent finally show through

Orlando Magic Introduce Markelle Fultz - Portraits Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to Hot Take Week on Detroit Bad Boys. Longtime readers of Detroit Bad Boys might remember the old slogan on the masthead – “A Detroit Pistons blog with completely fair and unbiased opinions of 29 of the Association’s 30 teams.” We’re going to live that truth with writers delivering blistering truth bombs that may or may not resemble reality all week. There are only two rules:

  1. No writing about the Detroit Pistons
  2. No doing any research in support of your argument – it all had to come from the gut.

Heading into the 2017 NBA Draft, Markell Fultz was the best point guard prospect since Kyrie Irving. He had the best combination of scoring, efficiency, size, length, passing.

His team’s struggle to win at Washington was a concern, but that can’t be completely blamed against him. After all, it’s not like Washington is a major basketball program. And the competition he faced was still good enough to take his production seriously.

These days, the Philadelphia 76ers trading up for Fultz gets eviscerated. Perhaps deservedly so — they gave up a huge haul for Fultz and the results certainly speak for themselves. But that’s mostly due to hindsight. On paper, Fultz looked about as close to a sure thing as you can get and it was reasonable for Philly to see him as the missing link.

After two years of injury, confidence issues, and ineffective play, Fultz is being written off as a bust and got dumped off to Orlando for what will probably just turn out to be a package of second round picks.

It’s understandable why Philly was willing to sell so low on Fultz. They don’t need the distraction, they don’t need the lottery ticket, and they definitely don’t need his hefty contract.

But they’re going to regret it. Fultz is going to rock in Orlando.

Point guard is a position that almost always requires time. It’s the guys who are on the All-NBA track who immediately step on the court and are plus point guards, especially as teenagers.

We saw the same thing with D’Angelo Russell, when he wasn’t immediately awesome the Lakers were willing to sell him off as part of a salary dump. Now he’s an All-Star.

Fultz certainly isn’t on that path where he’s going to be contending for an All-NBA team any time in the foreseeable future. But development like Russell isn’t out of the picture.

And Orlando may be just the right place for that to happen.

D.J. Augustin had a terrific season last year - which for a guy like Augustin to thrive says as much about the players around him as it does about Augustin. It’s an indication of a nice situation for a point guard to be in.

The team has a nice balance. Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic are nice targets as finishers while Aaron Gordon can do some Blake Griffin Lite style secondary ball handling. Plus the team has plenty of shooters, which opens things up for Futlz to play a downhill style.

Plus, Augustin’s presence takes some of the pressure off Fultz. Fultz’s health is still a murky subject, but since Orlando already picked up the final year of his rookie contract they have every incentive in putting Fultz in the position to be successful.

Still a little banged up? Get healthy. Not quite there yet performance-wise? No problem, he can just back up Augustin. Once he gets rolling? It’ll be no problem for Augustin to step aside.

It’s the perfect situation. And I have a bit of a theory. When you put guys with a lot of talent in a perfect situation, they’re probably going to be successful. And Fultz genuinely has a lot of talent. Just not the type of talent that was going to work in Philly.

Fultz is an inside-out player. He’s at his best attacking the rim and then, sure, if he needs to, toss up a jumper. Philly already had too many of those types of players. Orlando has so few that even a guy like D.J. Augustin is able to shine - there’s that much room in the paint. And with Fultz’s size, strength, length, and ability close to the rim, it’s bound for success.

So a prediction, right? I’m thinking he’s poised for 14 points per game, above average TS (56% or above), and 6 assists. That’s the kind of season that can create a next step for flirting with an All Star game next year.

Well. Or.

There’s something legitimately broken with Fultz. His body is too damaged. His confidence is too far gone.

It’s possible. But with a player as young and talented as Fultz, I like my bet on him finding success.