Orlando Magic are willing to wait in the NBA Draft

The Orlando Magic drafted Mohamed Bamba as a long-term project. They are willing to wait on their picks. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic drafted Mohamed Bamba as a long-term project. They are willing to wait on their picks. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic have picked plenty of players who needed some time to develop and grow. Jeff Weltman said the team is still willing to wait on their guy.

The Orlando Magic — really every team in the NBA — has been sitting with this draft a long time.

The NBA Draft was originally scheduled to take place June 25 at Barclays Center. What would have preceded that was the annual gathering of league executives for the NBA Draft Combine and the crisscrossing of the nation of the NBA’s future stars as they went on the biggest job interviews of their lives.

All that went on hold because of the coronavirus. Most of the draft preparation went virtual and the league delayed the draft seemingly indefinitely.

Most teams were already pretty late in their Draft preparations when this happened back in March. The conference tournaments were starting to take over. As Matt Lloyd said on an episode of Orlando Magic Pod Squad, the conference tournaments are typically used to start scouting for the next year’s draft class.

Lloyd said the Magic, at least, typically only go to NCAA Tournament games for prospects they want to get one more in-person look at. Otherwise, they are like us, watching the games in large conference rooms with multiple TVs set up.

All that was taken away. The NBA Draft instead will take place today — Nov. 18. That is nearly five months after its original date.

In that time, teams have replaced all those usual draft rituals with new ones. The Magic, at least, spent that time calling up hundreds of prospects to build up their dossiers and profiles of potential future NBA players.

The usual draft questions will arise. The usual zaniness deadlines create will still occur — it already has throughout the NBA. The same debates will occur.

The Magic though plan to remain like a rock.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said his team is not changing its approach to the draft or the things it will value. The Magic are not looking for a quick fix. They are looking for a player who fits the things they want in a player.

And in this case, they have shown they are willing to wait on a player that fits their eye.

They have almost certainly studied everyone in this draft. And now it is decision time.

"“I feel like the Draft has already happened we’ve been studying it for so long,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said in a teleconference with media Monday. “We try to be thorough every year. Obviously, this year has provided the opportunity to dig deeper into video work.”"

The Magic are seemingly at something of a crossroads. Two straight years in the playoffs is a measure of success for a team that struggled to crack 30 wins for much of this decade. But the team wants more. And it seems like they are clearly trying to get more.

The Draft may not be a time to find a player that changes everything about this team. It is hard to find a superstar player at the 15th pick, although it is not impossible.

Generally, the Draft is not usually a time to target a specific need, as much as fans want a player who makes a clear and immediate impact. Although certainly skill and need are part of the thinking in evaluating a player’s overall makeup.

Instead, the draft is a chance to get a player who will contribute to the team’s long-term future. They need to be able to play and contribute something quickly, but they are not finished products.

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And the Magic have chosen players who are projects at this point too. Orlando has been willing to wait.

"“You have to take what the draft gives you,” Weltman said Monday. “Part of the trick of the draft is to figure out what the draft is giving you. Unless you are a team in the Finals and you feel you can’t acquire a player that you need and this player fits and it can move you toward getting over the hump.”"

Jonathan Isaac was considered a project when the Magic took him in 2017. Mohamed Bamba remains a project entering his third year in the league with only incremental progress. And Chuma Okeke had to sit out a year with a torn ACL before signing his rookie contract this week.

The Magic have not necessarily using the draft to boost their immediate needs or team. That approach remains the same. The team’s goal is to take the best player on their board — the guy they believe in — even if that means waiting to see that impact on the floor.

That is including even in this strange season coming up.

Weltman said the Magic and their staff have talked about the quick turnaround for this season. Coach Steve Clifford said in a media availability a few weeks ago that this season will be officially tough on rookies.

Whoever the Magic draft will not get the benefit of going through Summer League or even preseason mini-camps. They will essentially arrive and settle in their home markets and begin training camp in early December before embarking on a rushed schedule.

This might make it more tempting to pick players who are already established and ready to play. Especially with a team that is gunning for the playoffs.

But ultimately, Weltman said the team will stick to the kinds of players and people they want to include. The Magic are not about to take a player based solely on need. they have to check all the boxes the Magic like.

Weltman described guys the Magic pick as “high character guys who are tough and smart.” The team does not have the luxury of targeting a specific need and only drafting based on that. The team needs to get better in general, something Weltman acknowledged fully too.

The Magic are willing to wait on a player they believe in.

"“The way we look at the draft is we need to get talented guys with skill and toughness and IQ who will help us get better,” Weltman said Monday. “If we have to wait on that so be it. You have to listen to what the draft is giving you a little bit.”"

That may seem a bit passive for Magic fans that want the team to go after the player they want or to pursue trades aggressively. This is likely some posturing from Weltman, managing some expectations or keeping his poker face at a time everyone is sending out some disinformation.

The history with the Magic though is clear. They are willing to wait.

They are focused on the players they believe in. Any fit issues, they can figure out when they get to camp. Clifford has shown his willingness to play his five best players and throw out some seemingly bizarre lineups.

Next. Orlando Magic Draft Preview: Saddiq Bey is the safe choice. dark

The draft is the ultimate guessing game. The team is hoping its information and the things they believe in. No matter how long the wait.