Individual workouts are the last piece of the puzzle for Orlando Magic

Mar 5, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) drives to the basket against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Verizon Center. The Washington Wizards won 115-114. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) drives to the basket against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Verizon Center. The Washington Wizards won 115-114. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are quietly conducting workouts as they make their final preparations for the NBA Draft. The workouts are the last piece to the puzzle.

Dennis Smith’s shirt was drenched in sweat as he lined up at the free throw line to shoot a few token free throws for the media assembled in the practice court at the Amway Center. The first part of his hard work in front of the Orlando Magic’s staff was finished.

He would meet with the assembled media, get treatment, shower and then head upstairs to meet with the Magic for a more formal job interview.

Interim general manager Matt Lloyd was then in charge of this process. He may have to come back in to speak directly with the new president of basketball operations, Jeff Weltman. The interaction and comfort with the top brass are critical for a player and a pick that holds so much importance.

But all the information gathered during Smith’s individual workout with Magic coaches and staff and the interview conducted will go into the file.

For many of the players, that workout  will be the last thing added to their file as the Magic — and probably other teams — prepare for the NBA Draft.

"“The majority of the work to this point of our personality assessment is done because of our background work and the people that we contact and we trust,” Lloyd told Orlando Magic Daily. “This is more of a job interview setting. We sort of have a script to follow. We are willing to adlib the script and see how he reacts. It’s basically like any of us — all of us have been in job interviews — that’s how we approach the whole visit.”"

The workout is a very structured and controlled environment. Agents and players often negotiate the conditions of their workout. And increasingly agencies are hosting pro day-style workouts to showcase their prospects instead of and/or in addition to these individualized workouts. They tell a limited story. A team can only learn so much when a player works on his own.

But in the weeks and days leading up to the NBA Draft, there is an obsession over workouts and who goes where and when players come in. Since there are no more games and very little news, media tend to give a performance boost to these workouts. Someone doing well in workouts will suddenly be rising. They place a lot of value in these controlled settings.

The reality is these are a small piece to the puzzle. An important piece, but not the piece that bends things one way or the other. Not the workout part at least. The interview can have major implications for the team in its decision process.

The interview can have major implications for the team in its decision process. But it just adds to the file and profile for each draft prospect.

"“It’s all a big piece of the puzzle,” Lloyd told Orlando Magic Daily after Smith’s workout in May. “We have to put all that data together and analyze it as we would with any decision we make with a player. On the workout process, there is a lot of emphasis placed on it from the outside looking at the basketball part of it. We put a lot of emphasis on the relationship and the personality part.“We’re not going to get into a situation where we weigh too much what happened in this hour and a half group workout with a bunch of players who have never played together. We put more of an emphasis on getting to know the person.”"

The Magic get a quick sense of a player’s abilities in these individual workouts. Coach Frank Vogel said the team got a feel for Smith’s explosiveness and shotmaking in the one-on-zero session he had. They confirmed their measurements and just got a better feel watching him in person.

Reportedly Smith also shot the ball well. What impact that has on the Magic’s report on him, no one knows.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The group workouts for players taken later on in the draft process are more likely significant. Three-on-three and direct competition between the participants reveal a little bit more to help differentiate prospects.

But even that is a small part of the puzzle. What a player does on tape in his college games, the impression he leaves in interviews and the interaction with the staff and coaches matters so much more. The workout just completes the picture.

"“I don’t know if it’s specifics, but there’s just more of how we assess his fit with our group and get a sense of his personality,” Lloyd said of the interview and workout process. “The important thing to remember that anyone that we draft is going to be thrown together with the group of guys that we have for a long period of time. Every day there’s practice, then there’s a flight, then there’s a game. Our ability to assess his personality and how he would fit into this group is important to us. And who we introduce into the community. That remains really important to us as well.”"

At least under Lloyd, the Magic valued this interpersonal time much more than the workouts. It provided them with new information they could not gain from talking about a player with a coach or watching tape. They got to interact more directly and personally with the prospect.

It gives them a clue to the player’s psyche and clues to their potential fit with the Magic’s current roster.

And that part is more valuable than anything else they can gain from these workouts. At this point, the team already knows what a player can do on the floor. There is ample video evidence of this through their games in college.

Workouts merely fill out those last gaps in the resume and the scouting report. It completes the puzzle.

The workouts and interviews are an introduction of the team to the player in a more formal way. It is also a final evaluation of the player for the team.

"“It’s just the opportunity to get in front of them and talk to them and understand what they are about and where they see themselves going in the future,” Lloyd said. “That’s the most important part. It also gives us an opportunity to introduce him to the Magic. Give him a sense of the city. He gets a sense of the organization. We just want to put our best foot forward and see how it all shakes out.”"

Next: 2017 Orlando Magic Draft Preview: Who is Jordan Bell?

Teams spend these last weeks before the Draft crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. The workout is the last piece of that puzzle as NBA teams hunker down in preparation for the Draft.