The day is here. The Orlando Magic enter the draft with some major questions about their future. Today we begin answering them.
The Orlando Magic and the NBA have waited for this day for a long time.
The NBA Draft is five months delayed and now just a few weeks ahead of the start of a new season. The NBA’s typical offseason transaction period is going to be even more rushed. The league has already seen some seismic shifts.
As is usual before draft time, there are wild rumors going on. Deadlines create pressure to deliver and everyone is doing their best to put their teams in a better position moving forward. Things are not going to stop.
The Magic, despite their seeming reticence toward massive change, are certainly among the teams working the phones and trying to make the most of this moment. They have already been connected to rumors about their desire to move up in the Draft, reportedly making several key veteran players available.
They reportedly already turned down a deal from the Portland Trail Blazers that would have flipped Aaron Gordon for veteran (and expiring contract) Trevor Ariza for the 16th pick and a Lottery protected 2021 pick from the Blazers. That was not enough for the Magic to move off a 25-year-old starting forward who has suddenly become vital without Jonathan Isaac in the lineup.
This should prove Orlando is willing to be patient and wait for a deal that fits their long-term needs and desires. As Jeff Weltman said Monday, the team is not looking to make a deal just to make a deal.
However, he also said the team wants to maximize what the draft gives them. How they do that is still a mystery.
While fans probably want a splashy move that grabs some headlines or sets the team up to advance younger players on the roster into bigger roles, Weltman is a patient guy. He is going to stick to his principles both in drafting players and the kind of players he is looking to acquire or the kind of deals he is looking to make.
At the end of the day, the Magic’s goals are two-fold.
They want to build their team for their future first and foremost. Every move they make has to be with an eye on this. But they also want to remain competitive for a playoff spot in 2021. And, of course, with the league opening a playoff play-in series, the Magic only have to finish in 10th place in the Eastern Conference to get a taste of the postseason.
They can truly have the best of both worlds, it seems.
It all starts with the Draft. And this year’s draft is as difficult to predict as any other. The top of the draft is not exactly appetizing and there are several good players in the middle. And it feels like there is the potential for a lot of movement in the middle.
With just a few hours to go before the Draft actually takes place, here is our final Mock Draft of how things will go down.
It still feels like the Minnesota Timberwolves are trying desperately to move off this pick. They could probably use a veteran more than this pick. And the options for a team further along in the process like the Timberwolves are not exactly appetizing. LaMelo Ball might be the best player in this draft, but I think the Wolves stick traditional and go with the sure perimeter scorer in Anthony Edwards. Unless they trade the pick, which who knows?
The Golden State Warriors too seem to be willing to move off this pick and get a veteran. But they have their own tax issues to worry about — although that $17 million trade exception is sitting there to use. As the draft process has developed, it feels more and more like the Warriors are willing to stick with this pick. James Wiseman would arrive to fill a need for the Warriors and into a simplified role that he can focus on and achieve. The Warriors could use some top-end young talent to supplement the veteran outfit they run.
The Charlotte Hornets have done a good job collecting versatile forwards and players who have decent athleticism. Going for either a center or a player with skill would be the way to go. The Hornets should be trying to trade up to get James Wiseman. Maybe even reaching for Onyeka Okungwu is the right move here. But for now, I go with Deni Avdija. He can help set up and take some ball-handling duties from the Hornets’ dynamic backcourt and fill in gaps this Hornets team simply has not filled yet.