The G-League impact on the Orlando Magic’s draft process

Melvin Frazier is still seeking his first real opportunity to hit a NBA court two years into his time with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Melvin Frazier is still seeking his first real opportunity to hit a NBA court two years into his time with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic’s G-League experiment in Lakeland was a success in the first year. And it appears the team is planning to use it heavily again.

The Orlando Magic are in a position to take a few risks and take a few projects. The team is still not wholly formed and is thinking about how to develop and build their franchise more than competing immediately. With their draft picks in the second round they grabbed two athletic wings to fill the roster.

It seemed like duplicating talent so close to each other in the second round was something of a risk. How would the team play both players — especially with a roster that is already full of wings like Jonathon Simmons, Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier. Not to mention last year’s second-round pick, Wesley Iwundu, and a G-League call-up in Rodney Purvis.

Time for Melvin Frazier and Justin Jackson to play will be difficult to find.

Of course, that is probably not the ultimate goal. Melvin Frazier and Justin Jackson may not spend much of their development time with the Magic their rookie years. The team knows it has a tool to help guide them along, allowing them to make these kinds of long-term investments.

Orlando made their picks with the G-League and the possibility of using this tool in mind.

"“I think that the importance of the G-League is growing,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said before the draft. “Obviously with us personally having it in Lakeland is more attached to our group. Stan Heath has been in our gym every day talking to Cliff and being around our players. Obviously, Anthony Parker is in our war room and Adetunji Adedipe who are our GM and assistant gm for Lakeland. It is actually part of the conversation. If we select this kid, what is his path in Lakeland and how he feeds into our team? it has become part of the conversation.”"

It looks like the Magic had the G-League in mind in taking Frazier and Jackson this past June. And it looks like Orlando is using Summer league once again to try to stock up the roster in Lakeland.

The first year with the Lakeland Magic nearby proved to be a successful one for Orlando. They used it well to get Khem Birch some seasoning before making him a permanent part of their roster. Jonathan Isaac spent some time in the G-League rehabbing from his injury. Wesley Iwundu got some time in Lakeland when he was not getting playing time. And Orlando called up Rodney Purvis and Jamel Artis to bolster the team’s roster.

This year’s Summer League roster is also littered with Lakeland alums. Troy Caupain, Byron Mullens and Rodney Purvis all played key roles for Lakeland’s playoff run last year. And surely, the Magic are using this Summer League to look at ways to improve and stock Lakeland with talent — Braian Angola Rodas seems like a guy the team is keeping an eye on here.

And the Magic are likely to use that latter Summer League games to evaluate more player on their roster for potential signees in Lakeland. Yes, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba are likely nearing the end of their Summer League runs.

This is where the team’s research comes into play.

"“We spend a lot of time on those picks,” Weltman said before the draft of his second-round selections. “We pore over them. We’ve brought in dozens and dozens of kids and spent a lot of time interviewing them and meeting them and trying to understand our roster balance and who else we could be thinking about and how else it all fits together. We value those picks and we hold ourselves to a standard that we expect those guys to become players for us.”"

For the Magic’s second-round picks, the G-League may become a necessity for their future development.

Frazier has played well in the team’s first two Summer League games. He has shown what his length and athleticism can do, especially on defense. He blocked a 3-point shot among his two blocks in Sunday’s game.

But he also noticeably has looked a bit overwhelmed on offense. He flubbed a breakaway layup in Friday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets. And still has a lot to develop for his 3-point shot. He is averaging 6.0 points per game and shooting 46 percent from the floor through two games.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

His potential is tantalizing, but he clearly has some work to do to be NBA ready. The Magic have already signed him to a multi-year deal.

Just as they did with Isaiah Briscoe, another potential player who will bounce between the Magic franchises. Isaiah Briscoe has looked impressive in two Summer League games, averaging 13.0 points per game on 50 percent shooting. He has looked slithery, able to weave his way into the lane and get to the basket. His shooting still needs some work, but Briscoe has impressed.

The same could be said for Troy Caupain. The Lakeland Magic’s lead guard last year has looked impressive. A roster crunch may force him back onto a two-way deal, having him spend more time in Lakeland next year. He has averaged 15.0 points per game and 4.0 assists per game on 64 percent shooting in Summer League after two games.

All these players could certainly use more time to develop in the G-League. Especially with playing time appearing limited in the NBA for now.

And that does not even get into Jackson. The Magic’s other second-round pick is sitting out Summer League as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury suffered during the college season.

Jackson is a talented player with a good shooting stroke and good size. But he struggled with his injury last season. He will probably end up signing with the Lakeland Magic for the year so the Orlando Magic can retain his NBA rights.

Everything then is pointing to several of the Magic’s key young players from this Summer League roster — and some key draft assets — getting some quality time in Lakeland to develop and grow.

Orlando seems to have selected players with this specific tool in mind, knowing the logjams on the main roster as they stand now. Orlando still has not offered either of its two-way contracts (Caupain is rumored to be getting one) and so the team knows it can afford to develop players within their system.

Next: Orlando Magic lay down defense in Summer League

The G-League was very much in their thoughts as the Magic made these draft picks. And part of the long-term investment Orlando was willing to make in their second-round picks. Even if they do not make great roster sense today.