Orlando Magic should be happy with fifth pick because of Scottie Barnes’ rise

After hearing all season about how this draft class was worth tanking for, and a top-five draft, the Orlando Magic ended up landing the fifth pick. Even though the Magic had been jumped by two teams on lottery night, the team had a chance to land elite talent.

But, around when the draft lottery happened, the media seemed to cool off on one of the prospects. Seemingly all of a sudden, a top-five draft became a top-four draft. Jonathan Kuminga had been extradited from the list of surefire superstars.

The media narrative forming once again that the Magic fell just out of range of transcendent talent hurt. But, as draft night has gotten closer, Scottie Barnes is getting significant buzz not just at No. 5 from the Magic, but possibly before the team goes on the clock.

Ahead of an unpredictable draft, many believe the Magic are indeed in a strong position to land oone of the best players in the draft once again.

The seemingly sudden rise of Scottie Barnes on draft boards have transformed the conversation about this draft and the prospects the Orlando Magic have to come away with a great player.

NBA analysts Chad Ford, John Hollinger and David Thorpe all have Scottie Barnes in their top 3. And according to reports, the Toronto Raptors are seriously considering Barnes at four. So maybe it is a top-five draft after all?

This top five talk was always oversimplified.

Rather than a clear drop-off after five, there are differing opinions on where the talent flattens out. But, because of Barnes’ stock rising so quickly, it could change a few things.

First off, Barnes’ rise makes it much more realistic the Magic just take him at five. Indeed that seems to be the going thought around the league that Orlando has its eyes on the lengthy and versatile forward.

And no one seems to be too upset with this potential choice.

He is continuing to impress in the draft process and if available, will be the best prospect. At this stage of their rebuild, the Magic should not hesitate to take the best player available, even if he is an awkward fit.

Not only should the Magic take him, but they should be excited to do so. The attention he is getting is well deserved and it should change the excitement level of this draft for Magic fans.

Barnes had a solid freshman year at Florida State, working as the team’s defensive ace and energy man. He averaged 10.3 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game and 1.5 blocks per game in 24.8 minutes per game largely off the bench.

Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton would often use him to mix things up defensively with his ability to guard all four perimeter positions. Barnes would get the call on any team’s best perimeter player for long stretches, even point guards.

On top of that, Barnes has ball-handling and play-making ability that is near elite for a 6-foot-9 forward. That makes him an especially unique player.

His biggest downside at the moment is his shooting — he shot 50.3-percent from the floor and 27.5-percent from beyond the arc. Barnes hit only 62.1-percent of his free throws, raising some concerns about whether he can develop into a capable outside shoooter.

No team is drafting Barnes for his offense today. He has a lot of work to do on that front.

But ignoring emotions for a second, Scottie Barnes now has the potential to replace perhaps Jalen Suggs in the top four, making Suggs available. Magic fans might prefer Suggs over Barnes, not because of talent, but because of fit.

Suggs is seen as having many of the leadership intangibles that Barnes has after leading Gonzaga to an undefeated regular season and the NCAA Tournament title game. He averaged 14.4 point, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 50.3-percent from the flooor and 33.7-percent from deep.

Suggs is a creator and a hard-nosed drive, who is able to finish around the rim or kick out to the perimeter.

Due to the Magic’s lack of shooting, drafting Suggs would help balance the roster. It has been frustrating to watch the team’s lack of shooting for the better part of a decade.

As the Magic and Raptors have warmed up to the idea of Barnes, the teams ahead in the draft may have as well. Teams higher up in the draft could be more enticed to trade with the Magic, theorizing that they could pick up an asset and still end up with either Barnes or Suggs at five.

It is hard to speculate what will happen yet, but one thing is for sure, a couple of opportunities have opened up for the Magic, and draft night should be even more fun.