The Orlando Magic are sitting with the 15th pick, but the potential to move up will force them to be prepared at every level.
The NBA Draft is the unofficial beginning of the offseason.
Everyone has had their deep breath after the Finals ended. Or maybe it is a quick collection of thoughts because there is only usually a week between the end of the Finals and the NBA Draft. And that starts the mad rush of moves and shape-shifting around the league.
The Draft is the official beginning of change. Teams being positioning themselves for their offseason. And with a tight free agent market coming up, Draft night this year could be as wild as any other. Teams could very well be looking to move up and down with ease — especially with a draft where the talent, ahem, might start to flatten out early.
There is still a lot of time left before the Draft — scheduled for Oct. 16, but president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman seemed to suggest that date is not set in stone. There will be a lot of time to explore all the possibilities.
But clearly with all the uncertainty surrounding this draft and the Orlando Magic’s need to make moves to set the roster up better for the future — whether it is 2021 or beyond — they need to be prepared at every level.
The Magic are certainly among the many teams that could be poised to move up and could use a high draft pick to replenish their talent and shake the roster up.
Weltman said in a teleconference earlier this week that the Magic’s draft team has already put the prospects into tiers. They already have a good sense of what their draft board will look like.
Teams will not be able to conduct in-person workouts. And so whatever virtual workouts or interviews that take place will help finalize that ordering. But with more time to prepare for the draft, the Magic and every team in the league probably has a better sense of these draft picks and what they value and what they want to accomplish.
Even still, it is hard to get a sense of how this draft will shake out.
The Locked On Podcast network had its team hosts run a mock draft of the Lottery. And their results and what they value for their teams is certainly different than most mock drafts at this point:
That just shows how unpredictable and wild this draft will be. Orlando will need to have an eye on every level of this draft.
Looking to the top
The top of this draft is not particularly enticing. There is no surefire star.
But there are some solid players who would fit what the Orlando Magic want to do. Although to what extent and what expectation the team would have for them is still up in the air.
Georgia forward Anthony Edwards would probably fit the biggest need for the Magic at the moment — a bucket getter.
Edwards averaged 19.1 points per game this year for Georgia and showed some dazzling athleticism and scoring ability. But he was really inefficient doing so — 29.4 percent from the college 3-point line.
Someone who is this dominant a scorer in a conference like the SEC should be getting significant buzz. Instead, he is dealing with significant questions about whether he can fit in with a team or be a ball-dominant scorer and win at the NBA level.
This is a surprisingly heavy draft in point guards too. At the top, that puts the Magic in a tricky spot. While Orlando likes playing two point guards at the same time, the team is still looking to build confidence in Markelle Fultz.
While the Magic could look for a backup point guard at the 15th pick — such as Tyrese Maxey, Theo Maledon or Kira Lewis Jr. — there are plenty of quality swing guards at the top the team could look to reach for.
LaMelo Ball is very much a member of his family with his flair and playmaking style. But he could more easily play off the ball than his NBA brother Lonzo Ball. He still has to improve as a shooter. But he is probably the most talented player in this draft.
Players like France’s Killian Hayes or Iowa State’s Tyrese Halliburton are players that fit the Magic’s typical physical profile. They would be players who could easily take over point guard duties and provide some off-ball scoring too.
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While the Magic would not be trading up to get a surefire star in this draft, they would still be picking up a player who could help improve the team in a significant way. That is if they are used and developed correctly.
The big focus for most fans if the Orlando Magic stay at No. 15 is to find a shooter somewhere. That has led fans to focus on Florida State guard Devin Vassel, Vanderbilt forward Aaron Nesmith and Villanova forward Sadiq Bey.
Vassel seems to have jumped up draft boards thanks to Florida State’s strong reputation around the league and Vassel’s seemingly readymade skill as a 3-point shooter and strong perimeter defender.
Nesmith is also starting to jump up boards. Nesmith was a gifted and efficient scorer at Vanderbilt — 23.0 points per game and a 65.9-percent effective field goal percentage — before a broken leg ended his season.
There may need to be some patience as he fully recovers, but the shooting skills off screens in Jerry Stakchouse’s offense certainly suggests he can translate.
Bey was a strong defender at Villanova and has good size to defend almost any position at the college level. That versatility along with his 45.1-percent 3-point field goal percentage and 16.1 points per game will give him a long look in the NBA.
He will have to prove he can deal with NBA quickness, but if he is committed to defense, he will find a spot in the league.
Many of those players were once considered available at 15, where the Magic are slated to pick.
Slipping through the cracks
But they may not have to trade up to take on a talented player. Former top prospects R.J. Hampton and Cole Anthony are expected to slip down outside the Lottery after they struggled in their one year out of high school.
Anthony, who would be my pick as the next host up (eds. note: I also host Locked On Magic) in the Locked On mock draft, struggled with injuries throughout his lone year at North Carolina. He still averaged 18.5 points per game but on a 45.1-percent effective field goal percentage.
He still needs to improve as a shooter generally, but he has a good first step to get to the basket and into the paint.
His 4.0 assists per game certainly suggest he can be a quality secondary playmaker. The question is just how much his injury — he had a partially torn meniscus last season — affected that jump shot.
He was the No. 3 player in the country coming out of high school in 2019.
Hampton was just a hair ahead of him. But he chose to play in Australia and struggled to adjust to the pro game. He too has a ton of athleticism and an ability to get to the basket. But his shooting is still in development.
Answers in the Draft
As you can see, there is no perfect answer for the Orlando Magic anywhere in the draft. No one prospect that seems to fit them to a tee.
But there is still a ton of value to pursue everywhere in the draft. What will be important for Orlando is to be clear about what it wants to achieve.
If the team sees a player near the top of the draft that it truly believes in, then the team has the assets and the ability to chase after that and reshape the team in that way. If not, the Magic can certainly let things play at and should still find themselves with a potentially valuable and talented player nonetheless.
Someone will slip through the cracks. The Magic have to be willing to take a big swing to believe in that person if their data and scouting suggests they will fit with them moving forward.
Every draft is an opportunity. The Magic have done well in the draft, but they have not killed it. With few options to improve the roster presently, they will have to make the most of this opportunity in what should be a wild and uncertain draft night.