Orlando Magic must take different approach to NBA Draft

May 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan represents his team during the NBA draft lottery at New York Hilton Midtown. The Philadelphia 76ers received the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan represents his team during the NBA draft lottery at New York Hilton Midtown. The Philadelphia 76ers received the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic have different goals this offseason. That means they need to take a different approach with the No. 11 pick in this year’s Draft.

For the past three years, the Orlando Magic have held draft picks in the top five. The task at hand was a simpler one. They needed to take players with star potential and build a cache of starter-quality players to form the base of their rebuild.

They selected second overall in 2013 (Victor Oladipo), fourth overall in 2014 (Aaron Gordon), and fifth overall in 2015 (Mario Hezonja).

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This year though the task changes. Orlando will be selecting 11th overall, much deeper in the draft where a chance at a star disappears.

The Magic are in a transitioning phase, where they are just about done accumulating young talent, and should be trying to continue to develop their existing talent, while attempting to give them some playoff experience. That makes an enormous difference for what the Magic should be trying to do for this year’s draft.

Whether or not the Magic were selecting higher than the 11th pick, the Magic needed to approach this draft a little bit differently and with a different focus.

By now, everyone knows Rob Hennigan’s draft strategy, mostly drafting players who are willing to work extremely hard, with an emphasis on the defensive end. This was shown in 2013, when the Magic selected Victor Oladipo, and in 2014, when the Magic drafted Aaron Gordon with the fourth overall pick, then acquired Elfrid Payton with the 10th overall pick. All of those have been starters this past season, and should continue to be, barring any major free agent acquisition.

It seems like this roster has its core set and does not need someone expected to start immediately. What this roster needs is some depth.

This draft is weak on potential star power, but contains some potentially good role players. Outside of Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, there is little that separates the rest of the lottery talent.

Players such as Buddy Hield, Denzel Valentine and Jakob Poeltl will be helpful to whichever teams they go to, no doubt about that. But they also have their limitations and concerns along with the rest of the lottery class.

There is very little separation and very little known when it comes to the players considered for the mid- and late-lottery.

With Orlando selecting 11th, and enough talent for each position, it would be wise for them to select a player who can help make an immediate impact.

With the recent hiring of coach Frank Vogel, who has been quoted saying “We’re going to win, and we’re going to win big,” the Magic appear ready to move on from stockpiling assets and letting their young players run amok.

With this new direction, there is now less pressure on Orlando to make sure they absolutely nail the pick. What they need is a player who can contribute immediately to the core they have built.

This goes double considering the big plans that appear in motion for this summer.

The Magic have always had an abundance of cap space in the past couple of seasons, but now seems to be the time to use it.

With potentially $60 million of cap room, the Magic are poised to make a run at some major free agents, with the possibility to sign two max-level free agent. The draft should not be the end all be all for getting some help, as it has been for the past three or so years.

Orlando needs a player who can help the team immediately, but does not need him to be a starter. With the Magic having the ability to sign more than one key free agent and the ability to keep Evan Fournier, the draft takes on a lesser priority for making a major splash.

They do not have to take a risk on a guy like Aaron Gordon, who was raw and unformed coming out of college. Or they do not have to feel like they need to play some unproven player if he happens to be the best available.

There simply is not much space for a rookie to get consistent playing time, if anyone is considering him a starter.

Assuming the Magic do acquire two key free agents, and re-sign Evan Fournier, that leaves less room for rookies to be able to make an impact right away. Players such as Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton were thrown into the fire, receiving significant playing time right off the bat. Aaron Gordon was eased into his role (thanks largely to an injury early in his rookie season), and only recently became a starter this season. Meanwhile Mario Hezonja is still trying to find his niche as the Magic brought him along slower than his fellow draftees.

It has become increasingly difficult to find unproven young players playing time — look at Andrew Nicholson, who showed some superb offensive skills, yet rarely plays. There is just no time now to wait on a player’s development and get major minutes with the team’s goals in mind. Not to mention its depth.

Assuming the Magic draft a guard, he will most certainly be playing behind Payton, Oladipo, Hezonja and possibly Fournier. Assuming they draft a big man, he will be backing up Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Dewayne Dedmon (if the Magic re-sign him). These are seven players who will be receiving a good amount of playing time in the rotation without any further additions.

And that does not get into who the Magic might bring in for free agency.

The Orlando Magic have something they have not had in years: options.

They can choose to package their 11th pick with a couple of their current players for an impact veteran, looking for a change. That is something the team might fully explore, unlike the last few years when the team was working to stockpile talent.

With a lot of their younger players receiving more significant playing time, it is unknown how a new rookie will fit into the roster, regardless if they are a long-term project or can serve as immediate help.

The key focus for the Magic seems to be free agency. Any holes they are looking to fill can easily be done by throwing a bunch of money at one of the free agents.

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For the first time in years, the Magic are not required to draft the next big thing. They can easily draft a role player, filling any other wants and desires through free agency, and be very successful next season.