ORLANDO, FLA -- It came with such conviction and promise.
Magic Director of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman did not mince his words at a February press conference.
"The NBA trade deadline seldom presents obvious choices. For us this was an obvious choice."
The obvoius choice for the Magic was guard Markelle Fultz. On paper, trading for a #1 pick with the potential to change the future of your franchise seems like a no-brainer.
Not many around the league shared those sentiments. While the Magic saw a future, other teams saw what unfolded over two seasons in Philadelphia.
Early in his career, Fultz developed thoracic outlet syndrome, a group of disorders affecting blood vessels and nerve function between the collarbone and first rib.
The outcome turned a 48% shooter at the University of Washington into a guard who felt severe pain with each shot. Dubbed a "can't miss" prospect with a great stroke, Fultz shot 26% from the three-point line in 33 career games with the Sixers.
After extensive rehab and mutliple comeback attempts, Philly moved on and traded Fultz to Orlando in February.
“I think it can do two things," Fultz said at Magic Medai Day last month. "I think it can either break you or make you stronger. For me it made me stronger because I didn’t let it get to me or break me down."
Fultz did not play for Orlando last year. Instead he focused on rehab and building back his shot. Labeled a "bust" by some, Fultz's first six months with the team were quiet to the outside.
Meanwhile his recovery hit a breakthrough.
“There were days in the summer where I lifted my arm up over my head without feeling any numbness or tingling. It slowly went away and now I’m just trying to maintain and get stronger.”
That comeback begins with a fresh start. Fultz appeared in all six of Orlando's preseason games coming off the bench.
He led the Magic in assists (4.0 per) and averaged 6.7 ppg on 32% shooting.
The numbers aren't gawdy but his teammates are in awe of his talent and potential.
"He's the future," said starting point guard DJ Augustin. "He's only 21-years old. He's so talented. He's the future of the franchise."
Those sentiments only fuel Fultz's focus.
"It helps me stay down and keep working. I’ve built the trust of my teammates. Now I’ve got to go out prove myself and play for them.”
The Magic are expected to compete for a playoff spot for a second consecutive season. Expectations have grown with Fultz's potential playing a factor.
For two years Markelle Fultz has heard the talk, good and bad. True or false. He plans on letting his game set the record straight.
“They’re going to see why he was the #1 pick and that he’s a good dude. He’s an unbelievable player but more than that he’s a great person.”
The Magic open the season Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers at home.