Orlando Magic are not picking a player, they are picking their team

Jabari Smith remains the favorite to go with the first pick in the draft. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Jabari Smith remains the favorite to go with the first pick in the draft. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports /

In these final few days before the NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic are spending their time reviewing the last prospects they have to bring in.

They may mostly be second-round options, but the team is expected to have Chet Holmgren in town sometime this week after Jabari Smith, Jr. visited last week. Orlando’s focus is on finishing its profiles and information gathering so the team can make its final decision on June 23.

That process is ongoing.

So is the handwringing online from anxious Magic fans who have likely done their “own research” and made up their own minds about the whom to pick. The waiting is indeed the hardest part.

Like with everything with online discourse, a lack of information needs to get filled. And that sometimes gets filled with nasty bickering and arguing. Everyone is going to back their guy.

That is perfectly fine. These robust debates will also be happening within the Magic’s front office as they try t figure out who to put their trust in and invest in with this first pick.

It is important then to take a different perspective on this pick.

Because the first pick has so much power and the Magic are in a position where they need everything, they are not merely picking a player. They are picking the team they want to be.

The first pick in the draft comes with a lot of power. For the Orlando Magic, they are not focusing so much on the player they will pick but on the team they will be.

This pick comes with a lot of power to shape the franchise’s destiny.

Whether it is picking a key player to add to this young core or, as some have suggested (and maybe unfairly shouted down at times), trading the pick for a more established star, this is the most consequential draft decision the Magic have likely made since picking between Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor with the No. 1 pick in 2004.

This pick is about shaping the team the Magic want to be and how they will build moving forward. The player Orlando selects next Thursday will be a central piece to what the team does moving forward.

Whoever the Magic pick will become a tentpole for their team. He will define the team’s style and identity for at least the next five years — probably even longer. And so the question the Magic are asking themselves is the style they want to play and how they want to build their next team.

The consensus seems to be that Orlando is making its pick now between Jabari Smith, Jr. and Chet Holmgren.

Duke forward Paolo Banchero seems to have fallen out of the running — Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report reports Banchero is not under consideration for the first pick, but the Magic rarely leak anything. It does not appear Banchero will even make his way to Orlando for a workout at this point.

This makes some sense because Banchero does not seem to fit the kind of team the Magic are aiming to build.

Banchero is a gifted scorer and showed that more than any of these top three prospects at Duke. But his falling by the wayside in draft discussions largely because of the style of play he will likely demand.

Banchero is a better passer than he gets credit for, but his play style is like the traditional big scoring forwards. He isolates a lot and because of his lack of shooting will have less ability off the ball.

This might have been a healthy approach to building a team and centering a team in the mid-2000s, but the league has evolved and demands more versatility.

That would not make Banchero a bad pick, per se. He is a lot more than what he showed at Duke and will certainly improve as a 3-point shooter. So all of that analysis may turn out bunk. But Banchero is the least “modern” of the top three players.

So the question then is what kind of team do the Magic want to build? And which player fits that vision best?

Orlando has made it clear in its draft history that it values positional versatility, length and defense. Both Smith and Holmgren fit that type to a tee. There is no denying that both are Magic-type players.

We know what kind of people the Magic favor too — selfless, team-first players

The question though is what kind of team does Weltman want to build? How will they attack offensively? How will they be defensively?

There have been some hints of this.

The Magic were working hard to modernize their offense, using more improvisation and reads within Jamahl Mosley’s offense more than set patterns. The team was 11th in the league in 3-point attempts per game this year and took more corner 3-pointers than they have since Dwight Howard left.

Their defense climbed to 19th in the league for the whole season and was in the top-10 after the All-Star Break. The Magic were solid defensively in compressing space in the paint and preventing teams from breaking down their defense.

This is all evidence of where the Magic ultimately want to go. But obviously, the first pick in the draft will have a great weight in what kind of team they ultimately become. In essence, the Magic are picking how the rest of their roster will fill out.

Both Holmgren and Smith will provide their own pluses and minuses. They have the versatility to play in a number of ways — including fitting into what the Magic already have. But, of course, the team wants them to be more.

Holmgren is a bit limiting as a center or big — as any center would be. But his versatility and rim protection are enough to change defenses potentially. The Magic were certainly boosted by pairing two rim protectors in Wendell Carter and Mo Bamba last year — the duo had a 109.4 defensive rating on the floor together after the All-Star Break.

Holmgren’s offense is certainly still a bit of a mystery. There is some evidence that Holmgren was put in a bit of a box offensively at Gonzaga and he could be much better. His ability to change games as a 7-foot scorer is promising.

Smith too has a lot of promise. He may fit more seamlessly into an egalitarian system.

At the very start of his career, he should be able to slot in as a spot-up shooter. He certainly fits the Magic’s defensive vision.

Smith still has to show he can attack off the dribble and score consistently as a primary scorer. But Smith is also very efficient with his dribbles as he is. He is not one to try to force drives. The Magic drafted someone similar to this in Franz Wagner. Wagner does well to probe and peel off quickly to resume the offense and find a new way to attack.

Mosley’s generic statement about his offensive vision is to play with pace, space and the pass. It is hard to imagine anyone fitting that vision better than Smith. He is someone who will play quickly, but move the ball if the attack is not there and someone who will hit from the outside.

That versatility is very valuable and seemingly a great place to start building around.

There obvioulsy are ways that both Holmgren and Smith can fit into what the team is doing and be centerpieces of what this team wants to be.

Both will be solid NBA players.

The question the Magic are really asking themselves is the kind of team they want to build and how these players will exemplify that idea.

Next. Draft Preview: Bryce McGowens needs to do more than score. dark

The possibilities are exciting as we anxiously await the day to make the decision.