Orlando Magic should be careful when exploring trade-up opportunities

The Orlando Magic are hunkered down in their draft room with two weeks to go. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic are hunkered down in their draft room with two weeks to go. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2020 season was a weird one for a lot of NBA franchises. The Orlando Magic are no exception.

The season turned into a disaster, filled with injuries and the eventual trade of three franchise pillars for much o the last decade. It is a restart for the organization with a new coach in Jamahl Mosley and new hope in the form of a young roster and draft capital to spend.

Instead of looking back, Magic fans have many reasons to look forward to the upcoming season.

Both Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac should be healthy at some point during the 2022 season. Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke are coming off compelling rookie campaigns. Wendell Carter and R.J. Hampton both impressed after their arrival in Orlando.

On top of all this young talent, the Magic hold both the fifth and eighth pick in this year’s NBA Draft, which analysts are saying is deep and talented.

Orlando finished the season with the third-worst record in the league and the top odds to win the Lottery. But their bad Lottery luck continued, dropping them to the fifth pick with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors jumping ahead in line.

Although there is still plenty of reason for optimism, fans were hopeful the team would have a higher draft pick than No. 5.

With plenty of draft capital to spend, the Orlando Magic should explore the potential to trade up. But they should also be wary and comfortable to stay put to grab two top-10 picks.

Due to injuries derailing the season, the Magic organization knew they were going to have a high lottery pick and have been scouting prospects all year. Like the fans, they may have hoped for a higher draft pick and fixated on Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs or Evan Mobley, all of whom are now projected to be out of the team’s reach in the top four.

The players available at five are no slouches. But in a draft that felt very top-heavy — and that several teams planned for years to align their tanking efforts to take advantage of — the Magic certainly feel a bit jilted.

If this is true, the Magic may be tempted to move up a few spots by packaging both of their first-round picks.

Even though trading up is exciting, the Magic should be careful. Due to the depth in this draft, two bites at the apple might be better than swinging for the fences. And because of this depth, I would not be shocked to see any prospect, besides Cade Cunningham, to slide down to No. 5.

In this great poker game, the Magic should be wary that knocking one piece out of the puzzle might land the team with the player they hoped to get sooner anyway.

Even if Suggs, Green or Mobley do not slide, the Magic are still in a great spot.

In this scenario, the Magic would be guaranteed to have the opportunity to draft two of the following players: Jonathan Kuminga, Scottie Barnes, James Bouknight and Davion Mitchell (not to mention a handful of other prospects).

If it costs both Nos. 5 and 8 to move up and get someone slated to go earlier, it would be a steep price to pay.

Barnes has been shooting up draft boards, and for good reason. Although he is a bit of a project, he has the potential to be the best player in this draft. He has been rumored to go as high as 3 to Cleveland.

Barnes has already made a visit to Orlando. The Magic have done their homework on him.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

But if Toronto wants to draft him (or Kuminga), would they keep quiet in the hopes the Magic would give up an asset in order to move up?

The Magic certainly need a star. And if trading up in the Draft is the only way to get one, the team should be willing to spend to get there. Orlando has a lot of solid players, but not great superstar to tie the thing together.

This take has some validity, but if we zoom in on the 2021 Draft, it may not be the year to swing for the fences.

Hypothetically, if the Orlando Magic give the Houston Rockets both Nos. 5 and 8 in order to move up to No. 2. The Magic then select Jalen Green and the Rockets select Scottie Barnes at No. 5 and James Bouknight at No. 8.

Green is probably the most talented prospect of the three, but not by much. Is it worth giving up the opportunity to draft both Barnes and Bouknight? Considering the individual potential of both of these prospects, I do not think so.

Orlando should not be dead set in either direction — trading up or staying put. There are benefits to both. And obviously, if the Magic believe their star can be had sooner, they should spend to get him.

Hesitancy can certainly lead a team to miss out on good opportunities.

In the 2018 draft, the Magic were reportedly interested in trading up for Luka Doncic. The Mavericks may have trumped the Magic’s offer, as they were the ones who ended up trading for him. Not only did the Magic miss out on Luka Doncic, but they ended up drafting Mohamed Bamba one spot after Trae Young was taken.

Magic fans are obviously frustrated by missing out on both of these prospects, and with the luxury of hindsight, it is a no-brainer the team should have traded up that year.

Then again, the Dallas Mavericks held the ultimate trump card in holding the pick right before the Orlando Magic selected. The Atlanta Hawks may not have even considered dealing with the Orlando Magic, knowing the Dallas Mavericks would have taken Trae Young if the trade did not go through.

The Hawks’ goal in the trade was always to acquire Young.

But maybe that season, the Magic should not have traded up,but rather traded down with the LA Clippers, who had picks Nos. 12 and 13, and taken Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Michael Porter Jr.

There are many ways to build a team, and I’m willing to bet this draft will have similar opportunities.

It is easy to get starry-eyed about high-level draft picks. It is still the safer bet to find the most talent. But remember, 2015 13th overall pick Devin Booker and 2013 15th overall pick Giannis Antetokounmpo are currently battling for the NBA title.

Jamahl Mosley ready to build Orlando Magic bit by bit. dark. Next

Orlando needs to keep all of its options open as the draft shakes out. And it is important to find the right person than worry about the right pick they are taken.