Magic Assign Daniel Orton to D-League

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 12: Daniel Orton #33 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the quarterfinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena on March 12, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
The Magic assigned rookie Daniel Orton to its D-League affiliate in New Mexico.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Orlando Magic announced Wednesday they have assigned rookie center Daniel Orton to the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the D-League.

Orton has yet to play a game in his rookie campaign as he works to get into playing shape and to continue rehabbing a knee injury that hampered him in his freshman year at Kentucky. The 29th pick in the NBA Draft was seen as a long-term project with lottery talent after averaging 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in his only season at Kentucky. He did not impress much at Summer League, but Orlando rightfully is remaining patient with its young player and working to get him ready to play in the NBA.

Sending him to the D-League is a very positive step in that process.

Orton has not gotten a lot of playing time since tearing his ACL as a high school senior. He was recruited to Kentucky largely on his impressive skills as a junior. But at Kentucky he was behind DeMarcus Cousins. Orlando quickly found out that the knee had not completely healed and were working on ways to strengthen it with Orton throughout the early part of the season. There were also reports the Magic were not happy with Orton’s weight and were working with him to get into playing shape.

Orton started working in five-on-five drills a few weeks ago and appears ready to play some level of basketball. The D-League is the perfect place for that.

I think everyone recognized that Orton would be spending time in New Mexico at some point this season. Orlando said unequivocally that Orton would be a long-term project and part of developing him is simply getting him on the court and playing.

Otis Smith has not really used the D-League much in his tenure — Marcin Gortat and James Augustine are the only guys to spend time at the lower level while under contract — believing it is more beneficial for younger players to get experience practicing against teammates and working with the Magic’s staff.

But with Orlando preparing to embark on a West Coast road trip and playing seven of its next eight games on the road, this appears to be the perfect time to get Orton the playing experience he will receive at the D-League level.

I am sure Orton is anxious to play in some actual games and to continue to work on his individual skills.

More than likely, Orton will play with New Mexico until the Magic return from their West Coast road trip and will be back practicing with the team around Christmas. That just appears to be Smith’s strategy in developing rookies.

It will be very interesting to see how Orton fares at the D-League as Orlando tries to make an early determination of what it has with this player.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily