Orlando Magic still can find hope drafting at sixth

Feb 25, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack guard Dennis Smith Jr. (4) handles the ball in font of Virginia Cavaliers guard Ty Jerome (11) during the first half at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack guard Dennis Smith Jr. (4) handles the ball in font of Virginia Cavaliers guard Ty Jerome (11) during the first half at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports /

There is a wave of disappointment the Orlando Magic failed to “win” the NBA Draft Lottery. At the sixth pick, the Magic still have an opportunity for hope.

The Orlando Magic needed a win.

They have needed a win for a while now. After five years of a rebuild that has seemingly gone nowhere, the team had reached a dead end in a disappointing 29-win season. The team fired its general manager and the way to improve the team and get back on track is not entirely clear.

The Lottery, as it does for the 14 teams that do not make the Playoffs, provided hope. It was the chance and opportunity to completely change the franchise’s fortunes. Even if it is just optics. The promise of the top overall pick is incredibly intoxicating.

It is easy to get too far ahead of things and begin dreaming about that top pick. For a fan base and a franchise that desperately needed that injection of relevancy and talent, it certainly became great.

Orlando had an 8.8 percent chance of landing the top pick. The team had the fifth-best odds at winning and statistically had the best chance of ending up sixth.

The Magic were not that lucky team to climb into the top three from the outside — that belonged to the Sacramento Kings who swapped their pick with the Philadelphia 76ers. Orlando fell to the sixth pick. The cold reality of the odds worked against the Magic. They landed where they expected to in the end.

And that did not change their outlook.

While fans deal with the fantasy of what could be, front offices deal with the cold reality of what is. The Magic knew this was more than a likelihood. It was what was going to happen. And the Magic were spending their time preparing for this possibility as much as they dreamed of landing the top pick.

The sixth pick was where they had to expect they would land.

And while fans dealt with the disappointment of the fates turning their back on the Magic again, the Magic were doubling down on their preparations. They were focusing what they could on delivering in the faith fans have put in this interim group to plan the Magic’s future.

After the Lottery took place, interim general manager Matt Lloyd told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel the results of the Lottery were only a piece to the puzzle. Now it is up to him and his staff to make the best decision available.

"“It’s been widely reported, and it’s pretty accurate, that the draft pool is deep,” Lloyd told the Orlando Sentinel. “So now it’s on us to be able to parse through all those names and all the data that we’ve collected and add to that data and come out with the right outcome.”"

This is both true, the Magic can only go through the options available to them and make the best decision. It is also somewhat there to placate a frustrated fan base. This is a statement to assure them there is still hope even without the promise of the top pick in the Draft.

It just may be harder to see and harder to deliver with absolute certainty. It is a bit harder to sell until that player steps on the court.

Players are at the top of the Draft for a reason. They tend to carry less risk with them. They are as sure a thing as there can be in the randomness of the NBA Draft.

But this draft class is particularly deep. The Magic view plenty of opportunity to draft a quality player at this stage in the draft. Indeed, there are players that would be available at six that have drawn plenty of comparisons to stars.

Dennis Smith Jr., whom the Magic hosted for a workout Monday, is a dynamic scoring guard who has the explosiveness to score at the rim and get to the basket with improving point guard skills.

Malik Monk is perhaps the best shooter in this draft. He dropped bonkers scoring games with the Kentucky Wildcats, seemingly able to ignite and get hot quickly to post a lot of points in a hurry.

Jonathan Isaac is the unknown bundle of potential. A mix of athleticism and length combined with a strong shooting ability. Isaac has drawn comparisons to a poor man’s Kevin Durant for his combination of size and scoring ability.

All these players — any player taken this late — will come with their risks. But they also come with opportunity. The belief that they may develop into franchise-saving stars may not be as certain. But that hope remains.

"“From a philosophical perspective, we’re going to try and get a player who we feel can be a star,” Lloyd told John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. “There’s going to be players in that range that feel can outkick their coverage from where they are picked. We’re going to get them all in, get them all lined up and then we’re going to get the best one.”"

To a man, the Magic delegation to the Lottery’s spin was this is a deep draft and they feel comfortable and confident their research will unearth the best player for them.

That does not change the team’s needs and the hope the fans are searching for.

Undoubtedly, the Magic need to find that star. They need to find that one player the whole franchise’s future can turn on. No one on the roster — even dating back to Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris — has been able to step up to that mantle.

The next guy in line to try is Aaron Gordon. With positional stability, coaching stability and a fully healthy summer, Gordon must prove what he can be in his fourth year in the league next season.

It is easy to see why fans pinned so much hope in the Lottery. And then easier to see why there is disappointment things did not work out despite the odds against them.

The Magic’s hopes have been dim of late. This Draft still provides a small light.

The light might be smaller at six than it would have been at one. But the light shines nonetheless. There is an opportunity and everyone within the organization notes it. The Magic can add a quality player — a potential star — and give fans a reason to get excited.

It may not come in the preseason marketing campaign — as much of it did last year. Dennis Smith or Malik Monk will not move the needle on their own. What the Magic are looking for now is someone who can prove himself and turn fans into believers on the court.

This is an important pick. The team needs to find a positive direction next year. It may not mean the Playoffs, but the team must put itself on the right path again. Fans must believe in a brighter future.

The player the Magic pick at six will be a big part of their future. A central figure, even.

The Magic falling to six does not dull the importance of this pick. It does mean the team’s margin for error to get the kind of player they need is smaller. The risk may become greater.

Next: Watch the Orlando Magic Daily Draft Lottery spectacular

But there is still plenty of opportunities for the Magic to get everything they hoped for from this Draft.