Fear cannot drive Orlando Magic’s big draft decision

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 15: Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks the ball against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 88-73. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 15: Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks the ball against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 88-73. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic landing the first pick in the NBA Draft has the potential to alter a franchise that has largely failed ever since Dwight Howard left for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012.

It is probably the biggest decision the organization has had to make since drafting Howard all the way back in 2004. With no clearly identifiable star player to build around, the Magic have to nail this selection if they are finally to get back on the right path.

But president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, his front office and coach Jamahl Mosley have an extremely difficult decision to make.

Landing the first pick could propel the Magic into championship contention in the years to come. But the pressure of having an entire draft class to choose from will no doubt be weighing on the shoulders of those with the responsibility to make the decision.

The actions of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, who have the second and third picks respectively, will be dictated by what the Orlando Magic do at the number one spot.

Obviously, the Magic would rather have that number one pick. But the pressure that comes with it is far more significant.

Sometimes, fear can overtake optimism and rationality in these types of situations. It is here where the Magic need to trust their draft process more and keep the outside noise out.

The Orlando Magic have an enormous decision to make with the first pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. But whether it’s Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr. or Paolo Banchero, those making the choice cannot let fear overtake sense.

Weltman and co. will no doubt be lying awake at night wondering just what direction to go in.

Thoughts of Jabari Smith’s floor spacing ability opening up driving lanes for the likes of Markelle Fultz, or Chet Holmgren’s incredible shot-blocking and versatility adding to the Magic’s already strong defensive potential will be being replayed over and over.

But when weighing who will become the best player in this NBA Draft class, it is hard not to let doubt and worry over passing on two of the three elite prospects in question set in.

This is not a clear-cut decision for anyone at the top of the draft. The Magic cannot let the lingering doubts cloud their decision. They have to focus on the best prospect.

Holmgren could become a dominant big man for years to come. His size, wingspan and versatility combined with offensive skills such as his shooting mean he could slot right in on the Magic next to Wendell Carter and essentially fill Mo Bamba’s position – whose future is still unclear.

But his slight frame and question marks around his ability to create his own shot in the half-court means someone like Paolo Banchero — who despite being 6’10 has the handle of a guard and can create looks for himself off the dribble — might be preferable.

Factoring Smith into the debate, with his superb shooting ability from three and the mid-range, despite doubts over his capacity to get to the rim and finish, makes the task even harder.

You can quite easily talk yourself into any player, just as you can talk yourself out of any of them too — something Magic fans will have done plenty of times since the lottery results were announced.

We have seen just how much impact a long big man can have on a team with the addition of Evan Mobley to the Cleveland Cavaliers last year. Holmgren could have a similar impact. Yet the shooting and offensive creation from Smith and Banchero respectively are hard to ignore.

Out of all three, Smith is probably the one you would be most worried to pass on. The way he can shoot at his size is ridiculous and is something the Magic have long lacked.

Yet Holmgren provides the most intrigue, especially on this Magic team given the two-big format has already been in place with Bamba and Carter this year. While Banchero arguably has the highest ceiling given his all-around potential to be a dominant offensive player.

Inevitably whoever the Magic pick will bring some second-guessing. And the season may well show that Orlando missed out on the Rookie of the Year. That is how these things go sometimes.

But the Magic must focus on the positives, not worry about the embarrassment of passing on two of three high-quality players when it comes to making a final decision. This is about the marathon, not the sprint. The Magic should have the utmost confidence in their draft process and who they decide on.

Ultimately it should come down to who they believe genuinely has the biggest chance to become the best player on the board and how likely that outcome is.

The front office must keep in mind two things:

The first is who they believe genuinely has the highest ceiling and the second is who has the biggest chance of getting to their best level. Then these must be weighed against each other for each player.

Thoughts about the fear of passing on Holmgren because of his ceiling despite his slight frame, for example, could drive those in charge into picking him when really they felt Banchero had the best chance of being the best player he can be.

Again, just an example.

Confidence is the key here.

The Magic are fortunate, in a sense, that they can draft whoever they feel is going to be the best player because accomodating another star is not an issue. Position and need do not matter. This is about finding someone to build around.

Who that is will be decided over the coming weeks. Smith looks like the safest bet because he has a clearly translatable skill in his shooting. But Holmgren and Banchero’s upside is difficult to ignore.

This thinking can easily spiral. So the Magic should be focused on what is most important to them, in the end.

Ultimately, the Magic cannot be criticized for picking any of them. All have the potential to be great and it will come down to how well the team develops them once they arrive in Orlando.

Next. Orlando Magic have started their draft workouts. dark

But the front office must put confidence and optimism at the forefront of their decision-making. This is about who is most likely to be the best in five to seven years, not who they might most regret passing on in the immediate future.