Behind a pair of 21-year-old point guards, the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks started their seasons on the right foot earlier this week. They both will try for consecutive victories when they meet on Saturday night in Atlanta.
The Magic beat the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers 94-85 on Wednesday.
That game marked the Magic debut of guard Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2017, who was traded to Orlando in February after two injury-filled seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Fultz was the first player off the bench for the Magic and finished with 12 points and six assists.
Fultz worked well with center Nikola Vucevic, who led the Magic with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
“He has a terrific talent for finding people in the paint, which not everybody can,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said of Fultz.
The Hawks won their opener 117-110 at the Detroit Pistons on Thursday.
Trae Young, the No. 5 overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks in 2018, had 38 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. He shot 6-for-10 from 3-point range and 11-for-21 overall.
“Once a couple go in, I feel like I have a rhythm,” Young told reporters afterward. “I try to work on my game and get the best shot possible each time down, and if I continue to do that, I’ll be able to shoot efficiently and shoot better.”
The Hawks also received solid contributions from De’Andre Hunter in his NBA debut. The No. 4 overall pick in the most recent NBA draft started at small forward and scored 14 points while making 5-of-8 shots, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said Hunter doesn’t play like a rookie.
“He’s a very composed individual,” he said.
Young and Fultz will likely guard each other at points during the game, making it difficult for Fultz to duplicate his performance from his season opener.
Fultz averaged 23.2 points and 5.7 rebounds at Washington in his only season at the collegiate level. But after he was the top pick in the draft, he was limited to 14 games as a rookie with the 76ers and 19 last season before he was traded to Orlando and then sat out the rest of the season.
“People forget he can play,” said Magic reserve shooting guard Terrance Ross. “He can see everything; that’s the amazing part. Any time you get a guy that can get into the heart of the defense and then still make the right play or take it out or finish or do whatever, that’s really valuable in our league.”
Fultz might not become the type of scorer he was at Washington, but he still has the court vision that can make it easier for others to score.
“Just find whoever’s open,” Fultz said. “That’s my biggest thing with my teammates. If they’re open, they’re going to get the ball and it’s going to be on time and it’s going to be on target.”
–Field Level Media