2023 Orlando Magic Draft Preview: Jordan Hawkins has a nice ring to it

Apr 1, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Jordan Hawkins (24) shoots the ball over Miami (Fl) Hurricanes guard Harlond Beverly (5) during the second half in the semifinals of the Final Four of the 2023 NCAA at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Jordan Hawkins (24) shoots the ball over Miami (Fl) Hurricanes guard Harlond Beverly (5) during the second half in the semifinals of the Final Four of the 2023 NCAA at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Winning is supposed to matter.

Recruiters love players on winning teams because they already have a sense — at least at the high school level — of what it takes to win. They love to see players who show up on the biggest stages and when the pressure is on.

The quality of play in college and high school is spotty. There are a lot of opportunities to pad your stats. Playing well in meaningful games does mean more. The pressure is real and it does make diamonds, provided it is seen in the proper context.

So it is inevitable every year there is some player who is part of the national championship run that stands out. A player who uses that as a way to propel themselves into the draft conversation. Sometimes this success is a mirage and certainly the rest of the context of his season and his skills should matter.

But there is something about those rings. Championships put a nice shine on a player.

Jordan Hawkins was a big riser in the NCAA Tournament as he helped UConn to a national championship. Hawkins though is bigger than his shine as one of the best shooters in this draft class.

UConn’s Jordan Hawkins is the player basking in that championship glow, after the Huskies’ stunning run to the title in the wide-open college basketball season.

He scored 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting (3 for 5 from deep) in the national championship game against San Diego State. Hawkins was in double figures in every NCAA Tournament game — topping off at 24 points on 6-for-13 shooting and 3-for-4 shooting from deep against Arkansas and their pair of defensive-minded NBA-level guards in Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr.

Hawkins did not profile as a star. But he still had big games in big moments and garnered attention.

There was probably no bigger riser in the NCAA Tournament, certainly a product of playing while others were bowing out and often bowing out early, than Hawkins. He jumped from the 20s in most mock drafts to on the outskirts of the Lottery. And someone the Magic should squarely have in their sights.

It is not just that Hawkins performed in these championship games and got everyone’s attention. He is one of the best shooters in this draft class. And that is obviously one of the Magic’s biggest needs.

Hawkins averaged 16.2 points per game with shooting splits of 40.9/38.8/88.7. He was a volume 3-point shooter taking 7.6 3-point attempts per game and 63.1 percent of his total field goal attempts from deep during his sophomore season last year.

The Magic need volume 3-point shooting. They need a guy who is not going to be afraid to let it fly and work off the ball beyond the arc. And his strong free throw shooting — he also shot 82.1 percent his freshman year in 2022 — suggests his shooting will translate.

Hawkins seems like he will fit the bill. But the way Hawkins gets his shots remains the most impressive and most promising thing about him.

Yes, there are the side-step, step-back and simple dribble-move threes. He can hit those shots. But a lot of Hawkins’ offense was run like he would as an NBA guard. There are a lot of relocations to get into the passer’s field of vision for kick outs or pin downs and curl screens to the top of the key.

Hawkins is excellent at shooting off movement and that is an incredibly valuable skill for the NBA, especially if teams try to top block and force players on the interior. Hawkins thrives on being able to dip around screens and run off picks to catch the ball and fire quickly.

That skill is also pretty useful in transition where he was good at stopping at the 3-point line in transition and hitting trailing threes.

Do not let that make you think he cannot be a standstill shooter. He made 49.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes last year. Hawkins is a player everyone at the college level had to find or he would simply hit a three.

That 3-point volume does belie a game that has some athleticism.

Hawkins is not going to be overly shifty with his dribble, that may be one reason he landed where he did on early big boards. He can go straight line drive though and finish at the basket when the lane opens up for him. But he is still really inconsistent when defenders are hounding him on drives.

When Hawkins enters the league, he may exclusively be a shooter until he develops more.

Further, Hawkins is not yet known as a strong defender either. But the physical traits are there for him. But it will take some work.

He measured at 6-foot-4.25 at the NBA Draft Combine with a 6-foot-6.75 wingspan. That is not usually the profile of the kind of players the Magic want. However, he did weigh in at 186 pounds, showing he does have a little more weight to throw around and be physical as a defender. And it is not like he has a negative wingspan.

Nobody is drafting Hawkins for what he is defensively. And he plays hard on that end even if he is not a perfect disruptor at this point. There is a lot for him to learn. He is 21 years old which makes him older for a draft class but still plenty young to grow if he is willing to work.

But undoubtedly Hawkins will have to improve his defense to make a lasting impact. And keeping his focus on what he can do defensively and keeping his focus on off-ball movement and rotations will be key for him.

Especially in an NBA where lots of teams switch. Teams are going to want to switch with Hawkins’ size and that may not be something they can do immediately.

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Hawkins will use what he has and use it fairly effectively — he had 18 total blocks as a guard. It is yet to be seen how that translates to the NBA and whether that will limit him.

But you do not win an NCAA Tournament title without being able to defend either — watch for Adama Sonoga as a potential second-round pick option for the Magic or a late first-round pick.

Hawkins certainly benefited from the spotlight of an NCAA Tournament run. But he was thriving even beyond that. As scouts focused less on the stars and thought about who in this draft will be successful role players, it is easy to see why Hawkins stands out.

Hawkins may not be the most dynamic offensive option. No team is going to turn to him to run their offense. But he could easily be someone they set up for five or six 3-pointers a game and see him average at least two makes with the potential for more.

The NBA will test his other abilities. Teams will target him defensively until he proves himself consistently. They will top-block him and force him to put the ball on the floor and make decisions. This may be where he will struggle and find the limits of his game.

But if there are other players who can handle those responsibilities, Hawkins easily can play a supporting role. Defenses will have to respect his shot very early. And every team needs a player who can do that.

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Hawkins has a clear role the moment he steps onto the floor. He has a skill the Magic need. It is not just the shine of a national championship, although that certainly highlighted what he does well and how he could help a team like the Magic.

That is why Hawkins is seemingly now in demand. And he should be.