If you have read my writing and coverage of the Draft, you can see that I have a healthy skepticism of the Magic’s Draft and the players they got.
Independently, they all should become decent NBA players. Aaron Gordon is a bundle of athleticism and drive to get better. But he is young and far from developed. Elfrid Payton is a solid player who knows pretty much who he is with the same drive and motivation, particularly on the defensive end. They will be fine players.
The question is where the Magic are in their development and progression toward returning to championship contention and the process of getting there.
This is why I had the Magic as one of my losers in the NBA Draft — one of the few across the Internet who did. Where I believe the Magic are at in their process, they needed to do just a bit more. Here is what I wrote for Crossover Chronicles after the Draft:
Orlando Magic: Maybe I am just being hard on my Magic. I do not mean to denigrate the kind of player Aaron Gordon or Elfrid Payton can be. The potential of what the Magic could have gotten though leaves me wanting more. I felt the Magic had to try to make a turn toward playing “meaningful games” next year as the organization described it. Undoubtedly, this Draft pick would play a big part of that.
Aaron Gordon is a hard-worker. A guy that definitely fits the ethos Rob Hennigan is trying to build in the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, he is still short on the offensive end with a non-existent jumper and tweener size at the small forward position. Especially considering Orlando traded Afflalo away, the team needs some offense.
Orlando is going really really young and that may not be the way to go considering the team is three years removed from that Dwight Howard trade.
Then you throw on top the fact Orlando gave up a first and a second round pick along with the promising Dario Saric for Elfrid Payton. Payton is clearly the guy Orlando wanted. But he too struggles offensively. He is not a well known jump shooter and his ability to get to the basket and the paint also came with a ton of turnovers.
It could be another long year in Orlando.
And that is the point. Year Three into this rebuild, it appeared it was time for the Magic to make some progress toward winning and developing the young players.
Rob Hennigan appears to have stuck to that part of the plan by trading away veteran stalwarts like Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson who were in the way of young players from fully developing. This team completely belongs to the young guns of Maurice Harkless, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. There are no veterans to appease.
Yet, the draft picks the Magic made — particularly at four — are still extremely raw. They are a few years away from becoming serious contributors — although I do believe both will be solid, serviceable NBA players at minimum.
There was a reason fans appeared less than excited when the Magic passed over the electric Dante Exum or the more fundamentally developed Julius Randle for Aaron Gordon.
Maybe that was more shock than disappointment. And Rob Hennigan certainly knows a lot more about these prospects than we do.
Only time will tell whether Orlando made the right pick long term for the organization in building a champion. For where the Magic were in the Draft, there may not have been a better selection. It just still feels like Orlando is not quite on schedule to get back into the Playoffs and eventually back to the top of the NBA mountain.