Orlando Magic NBA Draft: Watching Jonathan Kuminga and standouts at the Combine

Jonathan Kuminga was displaying an improved shot in front of Orlando Magic brass at the NBA Draft Combine. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Jonathan Kuminga was displaying an improved shot in front of Orlando Magic brass at the NBA Draft Combine. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic were in Chicago this weekend.

It was not merely just to get an interview with Anfernee Hardaway, who emerged this weekend as a leading candidate for the team’s open head coaching job. And it was not merely to watch the NBA Draft Lottery and all the disappointments that came with it.

The front office staff was in Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine and to gather information and measurables on the prospects who chose to participate in the combine. With the pandemic too, the league and the various agencies also had several pro days for prospects, including those not participating in the formal combine.

These events can be a bit of a show and the Combine ends up being more for players in the late first and second round. Many of the major players stay in controlled environments at this point — and that control has only grown with agency pro days.

The Orlando Magic were front and center at the NBA Draft Combine as they got their first good look at Jonathan Kuminga and a whole lot of other prospects.

This is where the team will set up interviews. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said after Tuesday’s Lottery that the team had not started bringing players in for workouts yet. But there will be a lot of time to get that done and get solo time with the prospects they want.

With the fifth and eighth picks in the Draft, the Magic have a lot of power in this draft. And the rumors are already starting to fly around him — the Cleveland Cavaliers are both interested in working out Jonathan Kuminga and interested in trading out of their pick and the Detroit Pistons are signaling that Cade Cunningham is not a 100-percent lock to go No. 1.

That is all the noise that comes with the Draft.

It was a busy weekend for the Magic as they examine a lot of things on the table. But They have to start somewhere and we have to start somewhere.

Our draft profiles and a new mock draft are on the way. But the Combine deserves its own notes as the entire league is together to get their first personal interactions with the prospects.

Jonathan Kuminga on display

Almost every mock draft at this point has the Orlando Magic taking Jonathan Kuminga.

The 6-foot-8 forward is an incredibly promising prospect who might have been the top pick in next year’s draft if he did not reclassify to the high school class of 2020.

Kuminga played last year for the G-League and showed the physicality and driving ability that has everyone excited but also the shooting concerns that had him slip in this strong draft class.

The concern among Magic fans for sure is his sub-30-percent 3-point shooting and the questions about his ability to shoot consistently. So if there was something the Magic and NBA scouts needed to see was whether his shooting improved.

It is hard to say anything about Kuminga shooting in an empty gym, so just let the video do the talking:

Yes, you will spot Jeff Weltman, John Hammond and Matt Lloyd in the front row of this video if you look carefully. There is certainly a lot of interest in Kuminga from the Magic’s camp.

According to some in attendance, Kuminga’s shooting looked significantly improved. Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report said Kuminga shot north of 60-percent on 3-pointers during his pro day. Take everything in an empty gym with some grains of salt at the moment.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

But you have to be able to make shots in an empty gym before you can make one with defenses draped all over you. And if Kuminga has spent his time since the end of the G-League Bubble, where he sat out the last few games with a knee injury that slowed him down in that short sprint of a season, improving his shot, then that is a good sign for his development.

A lot of the workouts — and the reason teams like to conduct their own workouts — is to see how players respond to coaching and how quickly they can grasp concepts that are thrown at them. Teams are happy to have these pro days, but they absolutely still want to get guys like Kuminga in their gym.

Kuminga though seemed to have a good weekend and answer some of the questions about him as a prospect. That certainly means teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers will do their homework on him. But the Magic should still feel pretty good about “falling” to fifth with someone like Kuminga there.

Top Risers

But the thing about the NBA Draft is everyone gets bored of the same guys. There is always something that throws a wrench in the narratives that everyone has created. Everyone wants a new story.

So there were two big stories that seemed to generate buzz at the NBA Draft Combine and change some of the pre-existing narratives that were present before the draft.

Florida State forward Scottie Barnes was always the one player who could seemingly break the impenetrable group that comprised the top-5.

He is a switchable point forward who manned the point for Florida State and actually showed he can defend any perimeter position. That kind of versatility is hard to ignore.

Barnes has to improve his shot to unlock his full potential. And that is something he can put on display at the Combine:

That certainly will give teams something to think about. Barnes is reportedly well thought of in NBA circles. And the shot he displays in that video is definitely more compact and efficient. The question is how does that work in action and whether it will be effective in a game.

Barnes’ skills are going to get consideration. The Magic reportedly were among the teams to interview him during the interview section of the Draft Combine — Josh Robbins of The Athletic also reported the team interviewed Duke’s Jalen Johnson and Tennessee’s Keon Johnson.

The other guy who seemed to turn some heads was UConn guard James Bouknight.

Bouknight has been a favorite for Magic fans for a while because he is simply good at getting the ball to go in the hoop. He is a scorer. And while there were some efficiency issues in college — 44.7-percent shooting and 29.3-percent from beyond the arc in an injury-filled season last year — the guy is a dynamic athlete and a great scorer.

Seeing someone who can shoot like this is a really encouraging sign for sure. The biggest question for Bouknight has been his ability to move off the ball. If he can become a reliable spot-up shooter, than his natural scoring ability could come through.

If there is a player who has star potential that no one is talking about yet — sort of like Donovan Mitchell coming out of Louisville — it is someone like James Bouknight. The range for what he could be is super wide. So there is a little bit of a risk there.

The Magic have two picks and while there is at least one college basketball reporter who believes the Magic should take Bouknight at five. That feels a bit over the top. But he is in the running for eight.

And if the Magic are convinced Bouknight is their guy, there is no reason to mess around and wait for eight. I do not think we are at that point yet.

Measurements and Drills

The thing everyone looks at first in the NBA Draft Combine are the official measurements and drills that measure athleticism. This is where players later on in the draft can begin to separate themselves.

There were two measurements that caught our eye this week.

The first belongs to Moses Moody, the favorite for the Magic at No. 8 in the Draft. Yes, he checks off the boxes the Magic usually like in prospects.

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Moody measured out at 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. He had the largest ratio of wingspan to height in the Draft Combine. For the record, Barnes measured at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan.

You can see why the Magic might be interested in those players — even beyond the team’s fascination with length, even if it is a joke.

Moody is front of mind though because he has shown shooting ability in college.

The other measurement that seemed to turn heads belonged to Tennessee’s Keon Johnson.

Johnson set the Draft Combine record with a 48-inch max vertical leap — for reference, the second-highest vertical leap in the combine belonged to center Jericho Sims at 44.5 inches. His 41.5-inch standing vertical leap was also by far the best in the Combine.

In addition to the leaping ability, Johnson had the third-fastest three-quarter court sprint at 3.00 seconds.

Johnson has gotten some buzz as a potential eighth pick for the Magic. He averaged 11.3 points per game but shot just 27.1-percent from beyond the arc. Johnson was known more for his athleticism and ability to get downhill and finish at the basket.

If he can improve his 3-point shooting, he is a very interesting prospect. And the physical attributes and athleticism are hard to ignore, especially in a combine setting.

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It is all more food for thought as the draft preparation enters this final phase of interviews and workouts.