The NBA Draft is approaching. The final preparations are in place. The direction may not be clear, but the Orlando Magic seem ready for whatever comes.
The lockdown is coming. The time when things stop being theoretical and become real is quickly approaching for the Orlando Magic and the teams around the league.
The workouts are ending as players and teams converge on New York City for the day everyone has waited for since their seasons ended. The conversations will pick up in the coming days, as president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said. And teams will soon know what conversations are real and what conversations are not.
Save for a few hours to celebrate Father’s Day, Magic staffers have been putting in long hours at the Amway Center to prepare for a draft many believe will be a critical one for the organization. For now, it is all about seeing the months of hard work come down to that critical decision and the direction things go.
It remains a Draft after all, and the team has to be prepared for all possibilities. All in a draft everyone has eagerly awaited.
"“I think this is a draft that a lot of the guys whose business it is to know these kids at the earliest stages have been flagging this class for a while,” Weltman said Monday. “We felt that way throughout the season. As we had these guys in for workouts and get to know them, we feel more strongly than ever this is a deep draft and we will get a quality player.”"
This is indeed a strong draft class. It has been one teams have pined over — and maybe tanked for — all season. Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic are the clear headliners. But even with the sixth pick, the magic expect to get a quality player — whether that is Jaren Jackson Jr., Michael Porter Jr., Trae Young, Mohamed Bamba or Wendell Carter Jr.
All those names have plenty of reasons to believe in their talent and abilities to be a foundational piece.
For a Magic team that has been out of the Playoffs for the last six years and has not won more than 35 games, it presents an opportunity to get a major piece. That is largely the expectation from outside the organization.
Inside? That pressure is no different than any other year, Weltman said. He said it is important to make a “quality decision” and add the right people. But a star player is important too.
The Magic had a limited number of prospects in town throughout the draft process. The most notable names include Trae Young, Wendell Carter Jr., Kevin Knox and Collin Sexton. There are plenty of notable names missing. That seems to be the nature of the beast.
But Weltman said they had positive contact with their representatives and got the information they needed. After all, the Magic picked Jonathan Isaac with nothing more than an interview — no workout.
Still, the Magic have a big decision to weigh in all of their picks. They need to get quality players as they build a team that can compete in the modern NBA.
"“I think the way the league is changing changes the way that you look at everything,” Weltman said. “The league is constantly in flux. This league is really shifting with the idea of small ball, the idea of valuing of the 3-point shot. But it’s still basketball.“You still need a variety of elements to be successful. Yeah, it’s hueing that way and you get creative with switchable defenders, 3-point shooters, guys that can shoot off the dribble and get to the free throw line. But it’s still basketball. You still need positional size, toughness and basketball IQ. These are all places every team wants to get better.”"
It still leaves the question of whether the Magic go with a positional fit or the best player on the board. Or whether the team goes with a player readymade to compete and play now or go for another development project. Jonathan Isaac, Jeff Weltman admitted, was probably not physically ready for the NBA. Although they still love his potential and upside as a switching wing player.
Weltman said the team is not afraid to wait out on a player who may need a little more time to develop if it is the right person. The Magic want to draft a player they believe in.
Ultimately, this will be a player that will make an impact for the team in a real way. The pick is simply too valuable not to place that kind of importance in it.
This draft is too stacked talent wise. And Orlando needs so much that it cannot focus on any one thing. It needs the player who will help them the most.
"“Where we’re picking in this draft is indicative that we have a lot of needs,” Weltman said. “We have to assess which players address the most needs or the most crucial needs. At the end of the day, you try to suss out what deals are available up or down and then you just rank the players. When it comes down to it, you can guess all you want and gather all the intel you want in front of you, at the end of the day the draft picks will get called off and we’ll find out who is gone as you guys do.”"
There are still a few days before that big day. There are still a few days to refine that list and make those final decisions, weighing those final deals that might come their way.
A lot still remains out of their control. And the team is hoping to make the best educated guess it can as to who will be that key figure for the franchise’s future.
The only thing that seems certain as the Magic hunker down for the final run-up to the draft is that there is something to be excited about Thursday.