The NBA is most exciting when young stars are budding across the league. The talent pool is ridiculous in the Association. Some players are just waiting to sprout into the player they have the potential to be. It is best to take this subject by division since I want to pick a breakout player for every team. The Southeast division teams are the Hornets, Wizards, Hawks, Magic, and Heat. Every team in this division should be better than the year prior. They all, through development or players added in free agency, have bolstered their respective rosters. Fans of these cities should be happy with the direction of their franchises. With some internal growth, playoff hopes should arise or even contention for a title.
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Markelle Fultz has been one of the most disappointing first overall picks in recent memory. However, unlike everyone in the media, I am unwilling to give up on him. His play last season was quite encouraging and has earned him a three-year contract extension. He averaged a career-high in points and assists as the starting point guard for the Magic. The Magic offense has a decent balance of inside and outside scoring. Markelle fits in well because while they have the scorers in all these spots, without someone to direct the offense and give the scorers the ball, the offense will become stagnant. Fultz distributed well last year, and while the three-point shot is still nowhere to be found, his touch around the rim has gotten better.
The loss of D.J. Augustine in Orlando should also free up some more minutes for Markelle this upcoming season. With this uptick in minutes, he will have to take on a larger portion of the ball-handling responsibility. He is the primary ball-handler in every situation where he is on the court, and to maximize his potential, he needs to excel in that role. Fultz may have the starting role and nearly 30 minutes a game for now, but with rookie Cole Anthony and established playmaker Michael Carter-Williams behind him, he needs to play well and earn those minutes every night. The key to Fultz having a breakout year lies in his ability to attack the basket off the dribble. If he can create offense driving to the hoop, that will free up his teammates on the perimeter, make him a legit pick-and-roll handler, and spark his offense. During training camp, he worked on this for the majority of the time. We will wait and see if the extra work proves fruitful.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan