Orlando Magic 2022 NBA Draft Preview: Blake Wesley has plenty more to prove

Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Blake Wesley is a dynamic guard who still has a lot more to show and develop. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Blake Wesley is a dynamic guard who still has a lot more to show and develop. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /

Blake Wesley is easily going to be a first-round pick and could potentially be a lottery selection. Contingent upon how the draft plays out, obviously.

The South Bend, Ind., native had a very successful freshman season at Notre Dame. He helped lead the Fighting Irish to their first NCAA Tournament in five years. Not to mention, their best record and first tournament win over that same timespan, too.

He played a vital role as the team’s leading scorer at 14.4 points per game while also leading the Irish in steals at 1.3 per game. He shot 40.4-percent from the floor and 30.3-percent from deep on 5.1 3-point attempts per game, accounting for nearly half of his 12.6 field goal attempts per game.

Not bad for a mostly senior-laden squad in terms of their other starters and sixth man.

He took home some hardware, too as a member of the All-ACC Second Team and All-ACC Rookie team player. Those are two illustrious accomplishments for someone who was not even a McDonald’s All-American.

Blake Wesley took home some accolades in his lone year at Notre Dame. But the young guard has plenty more he needs to show and prove as he makes his way to the NBA.

After one season, he was ready to take his talents to the NBA. It is an inherently risky move because he likely could have boosted his draft stock with a bigger role and more seasoning in college, but he thinks he is ready to play in the NBA.

That was a decision that carried some risk. He clearly has more he could have shown in college.

Blake Wesley stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs 185 pounds entering this June’s draft. That puts him in the quintessential position to be labeled a combo guard.

He does have the requisite athleticism to be a contributor at the next level. He is also a solid ball-handler with elite finishing ability and speed. This is paramount to throw down fast-break jams or create his shot to blaze past defenders.

It also helps that he has a nice in-between game that can be attributed to his touch in the lane or with the mid-range.

Still, he is not a finished product. He is raw in myriad areas.

One of the most obvious areas is his playmaking and facilitating needs to be better. He also needs to improve his overall shooting. This can be easily manifested by his inefficient shooting percentages from the floor, behind the arc and charity stripe.

That 65.7-percent free-throw percentage is likely to be of most concern. Most NBA scouts consider free-throw percentage a better indicator of a player’s shooting growth and ability than 3-point percentage.

As with any guard entering the league, the ability to shoot is critical to their success.

Now, keep in mind Wesley likely would not start in Orlando with a crowded backcourt right away. Presuming impeccable health for Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs.

Still, despite being a raw prospect and far from polished, with the requisite development, he can at worst be a good rotation piece for this team.

Keep in mind that in two years, Orlando must make a big decision when Anthony likely hits restricted free agency if they do not extend him next offseason. Suggs comes a year after that. And Fultz becomes a free agent the same year as Anthony. Somebody is likely the odd man out — and that does not even include R.J. Hampton.

Having somebody like Wesley on a rookie deal makes it more palatable.

Going into the draft, Wesley has been compared to some notable NBA players.

Reggie Jackson, who has started for multiple teams in his career and was arguably the best player over the course of the whole season this year with the LA Clippers. Another is very familiar to Magic fans in Hampton.

Both are good players to be compared to and there is nothing wrong if he emulates their career arcs, particularly Jackson. Hampton is still more of an unknown commodity for the Magic right now. But he is undoubtedly very talented and just trying to put the pieces together.

Wesley currently projects as a late first-round pick. So there is clearly not the same pressure as Orlando looks to add depth to its group of wings, something the team certainly needs to do.

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Wesley is an option for Orlando to consider for sure if he slips to the second round and could make sense for Orlando to trade up for at the end of the first round.