The Orlando Magic have to start adding skills to supplement the length they have preferred. Kira Lewis Jr.’s speed would fit the bill.
The Orlando Magic have a type for the NBA Draft.
Their draft picks have all been long-limbed forwards and centers that create defensive matchup nightmares. Orlando wants to be a versatile blob, clogging passing lanes and making it difficult to penetrate and get into the paint. Essentially, the best way to counter the 3-point revolution is to prevent the drive-and-kicks.
Having players who can switch and prevent matchup advantages or driving lanes and who can quickly recover to the 3-point line and contest are vital to the kind of amorphous, physical defense the Magic are trying to build.
Having that added length would also lead to turnovers and runouts and fast-break opportunities. It would feed the offense.
That focus and attention has not made its way to the backcourt though.
The Magic want to play with more pace — it was the rallying cry for the team throughout the season even as they struggled to get themselves going. Despite having some wings who want to get out in the open floor, Orlando was still largely stuck in the mud.
They have the length in the front court to clog the paint. The missing element? The speed in the backcourt to turn those deflections and blocks into quick fast-break opportunities. Or the speed to turn a half-court set into a transition-like opportunity.
This is why a prospect such as Alabama point guard Kira Lewis Jr. is so intriguing. One of the fastest guards in the Draft, he made his mark in the SEC on his speed and that is what he is selling to the NBA. The ability to ramp up to full speed so quickly is his defining skill.
And it is the skill that remains most lacking on a young, athletic Magic team.
The only real addition Weltman has made to the backcourt so far is Markelle Fultz. Orlando acquired Fultz — a stocky, 6-foot-3 guard who can get out in transition but also use his strength to bulldoze his way through the lane in the half court.
But otherwise, the Magic’s backcourt has remained untouched. Weltman has not brought this philosophy to the backcourt yet.
Orlando still needs to add skill to the team. The Magic need shooting. And finding wiry athletes who can also shoot is the holy grail.
But they also need to find players who fit this overarching style the Magic want to play. This offseason should be spent trying to transform the team into the team Jeff Weltman wants it to be.
Finding a way to increase pace might very well start with adding faster players.
For a Magic team that is devoid of speed, Lewis has to be front and center. And he is someone the Magic have at least looked at more closely.
One thing is certain, Lewis knows how to score and can create some havoc defensively. It is hard not to be drawn to him with the way he can speed up the pace of the game.
Lewis averaged 18.5 points per game, 5.2 assists per game and 4.8 rebounds per game last year for Alabama. He shot 45.9-percent from the floor and 36.6-percent from beyond the arc for a 52.1-percent effective field goal percentage.
The 6-foot-3 guard has a 6-foot-6 wingspan, checking off that plus-wingspan box. But he is not the biggest player or the longest. That might be some demerits in Weltman’s eye.
But Lewis looks big and wiry compared to his counterparts. His size is noticeable as he blurs past players. His speed will be his defining characteristic when he reaches the NBA.
Lewis though has a lot of the skills the Magic are missing too. He is a proficient shooter off the dribble. He knows how to use his speed to bait players to lay off him and can pull-up off the dribble and hit from the outside.
Naturally, his speed gets him in the paint a lot and he has shown the capability to make tight passes in transition and on the break to bigs diving to the rim.
It all needs improvement though. Lewis is not a complete prospect and he is not elite at any of the things he is supposedly good at.
He is not De’Aaron Fox fast or anything like that. He does not have elite speed although he is certainly on the upper range of the speed scale.
As is always the case with guards who rely on their speed, they often go too fast and do not have control. They do not always know when or how to change pace. That is something Lewis is still going to have to work on and it comes with experience — speedsters like John Wall and De’Aaron Fox have had to work on learning how to control pace.
This is where Fultz is certainly at an advantage. While Fultz does not have the straight-line speed that even Lewis has, he has a great understanding of how to use his pace.
These speedsters often are not great jump shooters. But that is an area where Lewis has an advantage. He is a decent enough shooter.
He can pull-up and create his own space. But there has to be some concern about his release. It is fairly compact and he needs to get into a hop motion to get his shot off even in catch-and-shoot situations.
Alabama Crimson Tide Basketball
Lewis does not have a super quick release or mechanics that could be reliable at the NBA level. So he relies on his pace to create the space to get his shot off. Lewis is not a likely candidate to hit tough turnarounds or fade aways and his ability to escape on the perimeter without that head start could also hold him back.
His smaller frame is also of concern. He has to put on some muscle to fill out and take the pounding of driving into the lane. Again, typical of young players and speedsters. But his height and length are not overly impressive to begin with.
That hampered him some in college too. While he could get to the basket, he did not always finish through contact. And it is that question of finishing through contact that will determine what he can be in the NBA.
Everything else can be developed and there are signs that he can build on that. He has the shooting ability and he has the speed to be an attacker and finisher at the basket. But he will have to put on the strength and be able to take the physical pounding.
That is why he likely goes in the middle of the first round.
But undeniably he fits a glaring need for the Magic. They need to boost their point guard depth with both D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams entering free agency.
But more importantly, the Magic need to address needs and start building the team they ultimately want to be.
If pace is truly something they want to build around. They not only need the shooting to space the floor for it. But they will need the speed to match.
Lewis has a lot of things to work on and improve upon. His shooting and ability to work in tighter quarters are certainly among them.
But his speed is something that should translate and remain. It should be something that gives him a chance in the NBA and allows him to find some fit in the NBA.
The Magic need to start adding skills like this. And that is why Lewis will be on their radar.