This week, Draft preparation begins its unofficial kickoff with the NBA Draft Combine taking place in Chicago. There many of the draft-eligible players will go through drills, workouts and measurements. The kind of stuff that really does not matter too much when it comes to basketball skills but just looks nice on TV and are good numbers to have.
After all, Kevin Durant famously could not bench 150 pounds at his combine workout and he turned out just fine.
No, what is important from this week is that this is the first opportunity for the teams to meet with the players face-to-face and begin to get to know them. For the Magic, this is a very important process and where the team begins to understand whether the draftee will fit the culture they are trying to build.
This is probably the most important part of the week and the draft process because at this point, there is plenty of game tape on these players to get a sense of who they are as basketball players.
As Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports, the Magic will be sending quite the contingent to the combine with Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn leading a group of about five that will be in Chicago for the get-together.
What they will not get is the opportunity to interview or take a closer look at the top three prospects as Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker will skip the combine. They surely will be coming to Orlando in the next month and a half ahead of the Draft however so the Magic have not missed out on too much.
The interview process at the Combine is highly structured too. Each team gets 18 30-minute interviews with the prospects they want to talk to. Considering it seems certain those three will come to Orlando at some point and Orlando will have the chance to pick one of them, it might be better to save the meet and greets for individual interviews.
The Magic likely will spend the time allotted to them to learn more about Dante Exum and focus on narrowing down who they want to take with their second first round pick — which likely will come in at No. 12.
Exum is actually considered by most to be among those top-3 prospects. However, he elected to stay in Australia and train all year rather than play that required one year of college basketball so he remains something of a mystery and just a bundle of talent at the moment. Many teams will be watching him closely this week and trying to learn as much as they can about him.
Otherwise, the Magic have several options to weigh with their second pick.
The going thought among early mock drafts is that the Magic would target Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis, Michigan guard Nick Stauskas or Michigan State guard Gary Harris. There are several other options that the Magic could explore other than that gaping point guard need everyone senses too — players like Arizona forward Aaron Gordon, Creighton forward Doug McDermott and N.C. State forward T.J. Warren.
Orlando will have a lot of homework to do in this Draft. Seemingly much more than the team had last year when it had one pick guaranteed to be in the top four.
The Combine may not tell the Magic a whole lot about these prospects as players, but it will go a long way toward narrowing that list and preparing for Draft night and understanding who these prospects are as people before making that selection in June. The road to the Draft has officially begun.