Orlando Magic select Chuma Okeke with the 16th pick in the NBA Draft

(Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

With the No. 16 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic selected Chuma Okeke, a forward out of the University of Auburn.

The Orlando Magic faced a best-case scenario with the way the NBA Draft unfolded in front of them.

Prospects that were towards the top of most big boards were available at the time the Magic were on the clock. But Orlando opted for Chuma Okeke, a 6-foot-7 forward with a 7-foot wingspan from the Auburn Tigers.

Chuma Okeke’s main attraction is his perfect skill set for the modern NBA. He shot 38.7 percent from three this season and grabbed 6.8 rebounds per game last season. He only averaged 1.9 assists per game, but he is a great passer out of the post, where he has a solid enough post game to take advantage is defenses switch a smaller player onto him.

Defensively, he is very active, averaging 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. That projects him to defend multiple positions, a trait the Magic have valued. He is athletic enough to hold his own when switched onto guards. And that length and shot blocking production is a great indicator he can recover and alter shots when he’s beaten off the dribble.

He projects as a 3-and-D forward to pair with any big coach Steve Clifford chooses to deploy him with, but his ability to pass and attack the rim raises his ceiling as a complete player.

Chuma Okeke with Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba is an athletic, long, skilled and defensively active frontcourt that gives Steve Clifford elite defending no matter what two or three are on the court.

The main reason for him falling, although some consider it a slight reach, to No. 16 is the torn ACL he suffered in March during the NCAA Tournament.

Weltman said the Magic are hopeful Okeke can return to the floor at some point next season. But as a rookie, learning on the fly and potentially in the middle of a playoff race could be tough. Orlando has become used to waiting on rookies the last few years with Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba missing large portions of their rookie seasons with injuries.

Drafting Okeke, a 3-and-D forward, signals the Magic were selecting the best player available instead of drafting for fit. While other players may have the talents to fill the Magic needs for a point guard and some shooting, Okeke was very high on some boards. If he does not tear his ACL, he seemed like a smart bet to go in the lottery.

Torn ACLs still have a bad stigma around them, and sitting out a year through injury is never a good thing. But ACL rehabilitation has come a long way in recent years. The surgery is already done, and now he will have a year to return to full strength to be ready for NBA Summer League 2020 or to come back sooner — maybe even playing in the G-League next year.

The pick most importantly signals the Magic are in it for the long game. Okeke will not help them in 2019. But when he returns healthy with invaluable experience of learning from assistant coaches every day while doing nothing but rehabbing, working on fundamentals will make Okeke a better player moving forward.

Chuma Okeke was not a name that people expected Adam Silver to announce when the Orlando Magic were on the clock at pick No. 16. But Weltman held his cards close to his chest and drafted a player who is great for the modern NBA.

The pick does not fit a need, but Okeke is a massive talent who could pay off down the line, especially if he shoots and defends like he showed in college playing in a high-tempo Auburn system.

Second-round prospects looking for their chance. dark. Next

With the Magic’s second-round pick they selected Iowa State Cyclones forward Talen Horton-Tucker. They traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers for a future second-round pick and cash considerations.