The Orlando Magic’s pick of Chuma Okeke was met to mixed reviews within the fan base. Experts loved the pick though. And the waiting is the real criticism.
The way Orlando Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman tells it, lots of teams were loading up to select Chuma Okeke. The Magic had to make the pick then if he was there guy and could not afford to trade down.
That would not stop rampant rumors that Orlando should have traded down. The team waited to leak its pick to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN until just before Adam Silver announced it on the stage. That actually slowed down the draft in some way — yes, teams keep track of who is picking who through reporters leaking information by all accounts.
The Magic felt very comfortable with their pick and believe Okeke will be a player for them in the future.
The pick felt out of left field considering media projections of the draft. Okeke was not on our radar here at Orlando Magic Daily in our massive draft preview.
I ultimately had Okeke sneaking into the late first round as I considered him a solid player but was scared off by his torn ACL and the prospect of him missing the entire season.
Fans had an immediate negative reaction to the pick for many of these reasons.
There was expressed disappointment that Orlando drafted a player who will not contribute much of anything in his rookie year. While rookies are not expected to play major roles, there is some expectation they contribute something to the team in the short-term.
Especially considering the Magic have limited funds to spend in free agency, it felt like they needed to get someone of consequence as a maximum use of this asset.
Then there was the thought that Orlando overvalued Okeke. Plenty thought the Magic could have traded back to get him.
But Orlando might not have found a deal that worked out for them and, according to them, they would not have gotten Okeke in the end.
The Magic clearly put a focus on Okeke. That was their guy and the guy at the top of their board. They were going to draft him one way or another.
While fans were panning the pick or expressing frustration over the pick, a lot of draft experts were really high on it.
On the ESPN broadcast, Mike Schmitz called Chuma Okeke the steal of the draft:
He is not alone. There are a lot of other people who think the Magic got good value with the pick in making this long-term play.
Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer praised the Magic for finding a versatile shooter in giving the team a ‘B’ for its draft. Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated gave the Magic an ‘A-‘ for taking Okeke, praising his upside and versatility. And Jonathan Givony of ESPN wrote that Okeke was a prototype for the modern NBA.
It feels like the draft community really liked Okeke but did not know how to value him because of the torn ACL he suffered during the NCAA Tournament. It is hard to say how the evaluations would have changed if that did not happen.
The more you watch Okeke, the more he checks off every box for the Magic.
He has good size and length to play defense — and competes on the defensive end. Okeke can hit the 3-pointer effectively too and work on the ball in pick and rolls. The Magic are not going to ask him to be the star of their team when he returns.
Okeke certainly has talent. There is no denying that.
Without his injury, picking him at 16 would pass without much thought or discussion. But the injury did change a lot of the discussion.
If there is a criticism for the Magic it is that. Orlando probably could have used a player who would contribute something immediately because of the team’s limited free agent space.
But otherwise, the Okeke pick has gotten rave reviews for the Magic’s boldness to invest in a potentially strong player moving forward.
Orlando just has to be patient.