2019 Orlando Magic Player Outlook: Melvin Frazier Jr.

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 added Melvin Frazier Jr. in the draft as another long-limbed, defensive player. Where he fits in this year remains a big question.

Orlando Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman seemed giddy when he approached the stage following the Magic’s draft in June. Sure, he got one of the players he prized in this loaded draft in taking Mohamed Bamba.

But his quick quip as he went to the dais, “Long night, long players,” revealed something else about the night. When he was asked about his first second-round pick in Melvin Frazier, he said Frazier was a player they had rated much higher on their board. This was someone who fit exactly the kind of team the Magic wanted to build.

Granted, he was a second-round pick. He was a player with some serious flaws that he would continue to have to smoothe over. The ultimate goal with Frazier is to get a player that can fill a role with the team.

But Frazier already has a leg up on a lot of the competition. He appears to have some NBA-ready skills and the physical profile and maturity to make good on them. Not to mention a history that has shown he can greatly improve in the areas of his weakness.

With the Tulane Green Wave, Frazier came in as a defensive-minded player. He said following the Draft that he loved to play defense. That is how he scratched and clawed his way onto a roster and into playing time. That is how he made his mark.

As young players do in college, his offensive game slowly grew as his role grew. It culminated with him averaging 15.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game his junior year last year. He got a boost in confidence in his offensive game and overall abilities from a new coach — and former NBA coach — Mike Dunleavy.

His 3-point shooting, which started at 28.6 percent as a freshman ballooned to 38.5 percent last year. That suggested he could make a big improvement on his jumper. It will still need work, especially as the 3-point line gets further away from the basket.

Frazier is not going to be known for his offense. His attacks and forays to the rim with the ball were largely straight line drives. He is not breaking anyone down off the dribble. But he can attack the basket and get above the rim.

His offense will come and develop over time, but Frazier was drafted more for his defensive ability and his raw physical profile.

Long night, long players.

Frazier measured at the NBA Draft Combine with the second-longest wingspan among guards at 7-foot-1.25. His 9.5-inch hand length was the biggest among guards.

Long arms and long hands do not make a successful career. But it gives him the tools to be successful. Especially if he is as committed defensively as he says.

Frazier displayed a lot of that defensive acumen during Summer League. He was a terror defensively, along with the rest of the Magic quite honestly, throughout that week. His length gave a lot of teams problems, forcing them to send outlet passes further away from the basket. His energy on that end was infectious — as it was coming from Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba on the interior.

The potential for the Magic to employ some pressure defenses knowing they have help behind them and the length and speed to recover are promising for defensive-minded coach Steve Clifford.

Frazier is not a complete player. While he looks like he can come in and hold his own defensively immediately, his offensive game still needs a lot of work.

The big question is whether his 38-percent shooting from beyond the arc is an aberration or something he can really build upon. Summer League showed he still has a lot of work to do on that front.

Frazier scored just 5.5 points per game, making only 8 of his 28 shots (29 percent). Frazier did not make a huge impact statistically. That is probably fine for now. He showed enough promise defensively to confirm his draft pick but also that his offensive game needed plenty of work.

The play that best symbolizes Frazier’s Summer League run was in the first game when Frazier stole the ball at mid-court and fumbled the ball on the wide-open layup. That was probably more a combination of nervousness (and Frazier made up for it in a future game with a windmill jam off a steal). But Frazier still has a lot of work to do on the offensive end.

How much work Frazier puts into his offense likely determines what kind of role he can play. There is a crowded backcourt in front of him that may keep him from playing or scratching out consistent playing time.

It is hard to see Melvin Frazier breaking through the rotation with Jonathan Isaac, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross and Jonathon Simmons. Melvin Frazier will compete for minutes with Wesley Iwundu when someone gets hurt. But part of the idea for the Magic might be to have Frazier spend time in the G-League working on his shot and his playmaking while getting playing time at the professional level.

The gigantic criticism of drafting Frazier had nothing to do with his skill or his ability. By all accounts, he seemed like a great pick one who was a potential first-round pick.

The biggest criticism instead was figuring out where the Magic would fit him into their rotation. He and last year’s second-round pick, Wesley Iwundu, are very similar players. In almost every way.

While Frazier has an advantage with his length, both players etched out collegiate reputations as strong defenders who drastically needed to improve their shooting. Likely for both players, if they had that shooting element they would be clear-cut first-round picks.

Figuring out exactly what Frazier’s role for the Magic will be is a puzzle that is difficult to figure out. He and Iwundu will fight for the same minutes, assuming everyone is healthy.

That is probably why there is a good chance the Magic develop him slowly. Frazier, like Iwundu at times last year, will probably see plenty of time in Lakeland with the Lakeland Magic. There just are not enough minutes to guarantee him playing time and a secure role.

Frazier is an intriguing prospect for sure. The physical length and athleticism he presents are imposing. And with the Magic’s obsession with length, it certainly makes sense for them to pick him.

But now the real fight begins. Now Frazier has to win his way into the rotation and even further.

That part will not be as easy. Frazier will have to improve his jumper to make his presence felt in the NBA. But he has the tools to be a strong defender. And the willingness to do it.

That is half the battle with young players.

Next. 2019 Orlando Magic Player Outlook: Aaron Gordon. dark

Orlando just needs to find a spot for him. And Frazier has to force his way into the rotation.