Orlando Magic’s second round picks will become about balance

The Orlando Magic have some concern for the pathway to develop for players like R.J. Hampton as they examine this year's draft. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic have some concern for the pathway to develop for players like R.J. Hampton as they examine this year's draft. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /

When Jeff Weltman took the podium Monday for his pre-draft media availability, the key question everyone wanted to know is who the Orlando Magic will take with the first pick in the draft.

Obviously, he was not going to reveal that pick on a Monday morning four days before the draft — as he put it, why turn your paper in on Monday when it is due on Friday, a lot can still change. But everyone wanted to get a sense or confirm that Weltman was considering what many on the outside think he is considering — that this is a three-player race for the top pick.

So how many players is Weltman ultimately considering with the top pick?

Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Weltman said 60 (there are just 58 picks in this year’s draft, by the way). That answer is probably more considering the scores of players involved in every draft class.

There is that kernel in truth there. No, the Magic are not working from a pool of 60 players for the top pick. But as the executive for this team, he does have to have that macroscopic view of this draft.

His work is not done after he makes the call to the league with the first pick. There are still deals potentially to make and two more picks — Nos. 32 and 35 in the draft — to evaluate. The work on draft night will not be done until well into the second round.

The Orlando Magic have a big question with the first pick. But as they assess their second-round options, their priorities may change as they seek to give their team the best chance to grow.

The attention on the first pick is of the utmost importance. It is the most consequential and likely the most impactful addition the Magic will make to their team and young core. But what they do later in the draft with their second-round picks will have far-reaching impacts too.

As the Magic look to build their roster, their second-round picks will play a role. They are powerful tools for the team to add more talent in one way or another. But one thing that is weighing on Weltman as he examines what to do with them is balance.

This is a young roster with a lot of needs to provide playing time for player development. Weltman is conscious of that. And this is perhaps the biggest consideration as the team plans for the second round. Finding the right balance and pathway for young players to continue to grow.

The second-round picks are all about balance.

"“You bring up a lot of points that are relevant to the answer which is how many rookies do we want this year,” Weltman said at his media availability on Monday. “We have a young team already. How do we keep the pathway clear for our young players to develop? With that will come a whole bunch of explorations of what to do with those two picks. You could just go on forever with how that plays out. … There is a lot that goes into those conversations. We’re getting an understanding of how those picks line up with the rankings on our board.”"

Weltman has a rough history with his late-first and second-round picks.

The picks he has made with the second round all followed a type — the longest wingspans for their position — in Wesley Iwundu, Melvin Frazier and Justin Jackson. Many fans will point to the trades out of the second round of Ivan Rabb and Talen Horton-Tucker where the Magic received very little in return.

Those deals were made with much of the same thought process Weltman expressed Monday. Orlando did not have the same opportunities to provide them and give them the chance to get on the court and develop.

Yes, there were missed opportunities. Selecting Anzejs Pasecniks over Kyle Kuzma and trading Pasecniks for virtually nothing was a misstep — the draft did not “flatten out,” it would appear. And trading Horton-Tucker for nothing proved to be a miscalculation too.

Every team can point to similar examples of near misses. But for a team that needed cheap talent, those hurt the development of a potential playoff team. These were missed opportunities where the Magic got little, if anything, in return.

Still, the philosophy holds weight. Especially with how young this current roster is. The Magic are trying to grow and develop their roster and there is certainly a fear they will not be able to get to everyone. What the Magic cannot do is put more roadblocks in their way.

Especially as the team is trying to take a step forward and “level up,” as Jamahl Mosley charged his team after the season ended.

"“We don’t want to compromise our timeline or compromise something that’s sustainable,” Weltman said during Monday’s media availability. “But we also need to elevate standards and expectations. I think it’s important when you do what we’re trying to do right now is that players feel there is a pathway for them. We do pay attention to that. How many young guys can we get through the woods? They are all not going to make it through, but they have to have a chance. We do pay attention to that.”"

The Magic are keenly focused on developing their current roster. They are focused on finding ways to start climbing the ranks in the NBA.

If one thing became clear from Weltman in a “close to the vest” media availability on Monday, it should be that Orlando is raising the expectations internally.

They do not want to be in the basement, as Weltman put it, much longer. They want to start taking steps toward competitiveness with the roster they have built and the first overall pick that is incoming.

To do that will require ensuring that players have their chance to improve and have their chance to play. To reach that level will require a balance of putting players in the best position to succeed and giving them the runway to do so.

The second-round might be a more valuable space, Weltman posited Monday, considering the financial commitments a first-round pick requires. There are also some reports and thoughts that teams even as high as the Magic are picking may make their second-round picks with agreements to turn them into two-way players or as draft-and-stash players.

The Magic may be willing to defer that pick a year, in that case, to keep that pathway open to improve.

Next. A brief history of trading the No. 1 overall pick. dark

Orlando’s second-round picks will be part of seeking that balance, whether the team uses those picks or trades them in one direction or the other.