Orlando Magic must find diamond in the rough in final stretch of games

Devin Cannady is making his mark in his first run in the NBA with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Devin Cannady is making his mark in his first run in the NBA with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

It is easy to dismiss the final 13 games of the Orlando Magic’s season. It is easy to push aside these final games, focus on ping pong balls and the promise the NBA Draft Lottery bring. It is easy to forget about the value that can come in these games.

The Magic want to remain competitive and give themselves a chance to win so they can test their young players and put prospects who might not otherwise get their opportunity a chance to put them through their paces.

This is not a time to just drift to the end of the season. This is a valuable time to make a mark and make an impression. Jobs are always on the line and everyone is always watching. Teams are not going to find value or pay attention to blowout losses.

Players like Devin Cannady, Chasson Randle, Robert Franks and Donta Hall need this opportunity. And when their number is called they need to deliver.

The Magic are in a position where they should be hunting for a diamond in the rough to fill out their roster next year and beyond.

The Orlando Magic are giving four G-League players their chance to make a mark in the league. The team should be hunting for a diamond in the rough and see these players stick too.

The Magic too need to see what they have in them. Their G-League team the Lakeland Magic won the G-League title and has posted the best record in the last three years. With such a young roster now after the team’s trades, the Magic have been trying to mine their G-League team some for talent. They are certainly a team that will give plenty of opportunities to these players.

Someone like Cannady is someone who can step into the void and take that opportunity after a strong run in the G-League’s bubble for Lakeland.

"“I’m a competitor,” Cannady said after Monday’s practice. “Not just on the court, but in the film room and wanting to grow. After this, I want to dive into film on myself and the team and even Atlanta moving forward so I’m more prepared. I can go into my sixth NBA game as prepared as I can be and communicate with my teammates so we are all on the same page. Everyone has their own motivations individually to showcase themselves and help this team grow and win now and in the future. That’s my mindset as well.”"

Cannady is still finding his place in the NBA.

He averaged 11.7 points per game in the G-League bubble, shooting a 53.5-percent effective field goal percentage and 40.0-percent from three overall. He won the G-League Finals MVP with a 21-point performance in the Lakeland Magic’s win over the Rhode Island Blue Coats.

The Magic almost had to give him a look at a 10-day contract or two-way deal as a reward for that. But he undoubtedly filled a need for the team.

Cannady’s minutes have been limited since joining the Magic — the team initially had him on a 10-day contract but let that expire before bringing him back on a two-way deal. In 73 minutes, Cannady has scored 34 points with a 50.0-percent effective field goal percentage.

One of the few positives that came from Thursday’s 135-100 blowout loss to the New Orleans Pelicans was that Cannady got 24:29 on the floor, scoring 17 points. A lot of those points were cosmetic baskets in the second half with the game far out of reach. But for a player trying to break in, seeing the ball go through the basket at that rate surely cannot be a bad thing.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Cannady has continued to show he can shoot the ball. The question will be whether he can see the floor in meaningful minutes and contribute not just as a shooter but to the team’s success.

With Orlando’s injuries, that opportunity is there for a player like Cannady. Just as it is there for players like Franks and Hall, two more players brought over from the G-League who are getting the chance to play.

"“A huge opportunity to be honest,” Hall said after practice Monday. “I have been on three or four teams now in my two years in. It’s a big opportunity to get another 10-day and show what I’ve got. Just bringing that energy. It’s a huge opportunity.”"

Hall has bounced around a bit. He played for both the Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets last season before latching on with Raptors 905 in the G-League. Hall is not someone to accumulate a ton of stats. The 6-foot-9 power forward is all arms and he knows his role is to provide energy.

In his first game with the Orlando Magic against the Chicago Bulls, he stood out simply because he was able to chase down blocks and play with energy. That is the biggest thing Hall provides and even he admits this is his biggest role.

Hall has 17 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks in 56 minutes for the Magic so far. His energy is indeed what has stood out.

But he is not alone.

Franks, who averaged 12.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game for Lakeland in the bubble, has shown some of his shooting and even his finishing ability in his limited minutes for the Magic. He has 22 points and nine rebounds in 66 minutes.

The Magic signed both Franks and Hall to their second 10-day contracts this week. If they make it through those contracts, they will have to be signed for the rest of the year. Their audition continues and they at least have intrigued if not earned a spot outright.

Randle has been with the Magic the longest. He has had some struggles to run the point for the Magic. But his shooting has been a welcomed sign for the team — 37.0-percent from beyond the arc for the season. Coach Steve Clifford singled out Chasson Randle for praise after the team’s loss Thursday.

Whether any of these players can stick in the NBA or not will be a matter of both of their efforts and the opportunities they are provided. The Magic are a team that is certainly giving them that opportunity — and knowing how these seasons go, that opportunity may increase as the end of the season approaches.

For now, these players have shown flashes they could do something in the NBA. There is enough to intrigue. But still plenty of work to do.

These guys are trying to prove to everyone else they belong.

"“I feel calm in the situation,” Cannady said after practice Monday. “I always had it in my mind and my heart that I would be at the NBA level. My journey has been unique. With that being said, this is where I belong and I want to continue to be present, be a good energy in the gym and the organization and help this organization grow through this rebuild.”"

Orlando would like to see something productive come from these final 13 games. They have a lot of young players who need time that will play a big role next season.

Next. Orlando Magic Rookie Review: Cole Anthony. dark

But they should also want to see if they can find someone among these G-League players who can stick around and add depth and energy to a young roster in need of depth and skill.