Orlando Magic 2019 NBA Draft Preview: Nassir Little is enticing, but not what the Orlando Magic currently need

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Nassir Little has the athleticism and measurements that excite executives, but his game is not a strong fit for the Orlando Magic.

We have seen players like Nassir Little in NBA Drafts that scouts drool over.

Athletic marvels who can jump out of the gym, theoretically defend every position with their size and speed combinations and fill a 3-and-D role with upside to develop into more. A lot of these players came into the NBA with one glaring weakness, their jump shot, that people think NBA coaching can fix.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Stanley Johnson and Josh Jackson come to mind as the gold standard of this mold. The situation they were drafted into has played a role, but none of these players were the high-impact players their respective franchises expected when selecting them. Some have been thrown into small-ball 4 roles with little improvements to their jump shots, although Jackson only has two seasons of NBA experience under his belt.

Little is in this group in terms of a prospect.

He is 6-foot-6, 224 pounds with a 7-foot-1.25 wingspan and athleticism that is unteachable. For much of the season, he was listed as a clear-cut Lottery pick, if not a clear-cut top-5 or top-8 player. The Orlando Christian Prep alum seemed destined as someone teams would clamor over.

It is easy to see why front offices drool over these guys. If these prospects ramp their shooting up to 38 percent from deep, they are extremely valuable role players. But if they fail to develop, it is another potential pick who has gone awry and leaves them with a black hole on offense.

Little was a high-end recruit (sixth in the ESPN 100 for his class) and committed to the North Carolina Tar Heels over the Duke Blue Devils and Arizona Wildcats.

But in his lone year at North Carolina, he struggled mightily, unable to find his rhythm in the star-studded North Carolina team. He averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Little shot 26.9 percent on 1.4 3-point attempts per game last season as well and did not contribute much else on the stat sheet.

Despite being a five-star recruit, Little did not start a single game for North Carolina and only played 18.2 minutes per game.

To be fair, North Carolina was a stacked team and Roy Williams is hesitant about playing freshmen, unless they truly stand out — Coby White started 35 games this season as a freshman. Little had opportunities to play his way into the rotation at a larger scale, but he did not make his mark and earn his spot.

Williams was still complimentary of Little — especially those physical attributes and skills — but told Inside Carolina, Little still needed to mature physically as North Carolina struggled to adjust to the college game. North Carolina struggled to decide whether he was a small or power forward for much of the year.

He was not much of a ball-handling threat or passer in college. And he did not take smart shots when attempting to create for himself. Barring advancing his dribbling and decisionmaking tenfold, Little looks to be settling in as a multi-positional defender with hope he can knock enough threes down to space the floor offensively, and not much more at this point of his developmental stage.

While it may not be fair to place him in that grouping yet, it is fair to wonder if the Orlando Magic are willing to gamble on him with his skill set not a necessity for their current roster.

Little’s measurements fit the Magic profile. But with Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon in the mix, as well as Wesley Iwundu, passing on Nassir Little if he is there would be a smart move, even with his clear talent and potential.

The Magic need shot creators and playmakers, a bill Little does not fit at this stage of his young basketball career.

The guards — such as the Indiana Hoosiers’ Romeo Langford and USC Trojans’ Kevin Porter — who may be available are nowhere near perfect prospects themselves. But at least it would be a risk on a lead guard for the future, and not a 3-and-D frontcourt player when they boast a full frontcourt already.

It would be a cool story to see a local Orlando kid like Little suit up for the Magic.

He has all the physical tools to carve out a long career in the NBA. His 77.0 percent free throw percentage is a positive indicator he has a nice shooting stroke. It is not out of the realm he develops into a nice shooter.

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He just does not have the skill set the Magic need in this draft, one that they need to nail from the No. 16 position.