The Orlando Magic are in a position of power when it comes to this year’s NBA Draft.
Having two Lottery picks will usually do that for a team. It puts the team in a spot where it could potentially move around and give teams two bites at the Lottery apple in exchange for moving up.
Indeed, a lot of the national media and even conversation among Magic fans has dreamt about packaging the two picks to move up to try to get one of the big three in Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller (come on guys, the San Antonio Spurs are not trading the right to draft Victor Wembanyama).
The two picks also seem like they could be a tool to add a veteran to the roster in a trade if there are players teams want to trade into the draft for.
The point of having two draft picks is to have the power to do anything. The team could always, you know, just use the draft picks and add two young players to this young collective.
There is another option worth exploring and thinking about too. And that is the potential to trade down.
The Orlando Magic have a lot of power throughout the upcoming NBA Draft. That will give them the ability to move around and perhaps make a big statement. That could even mean moving down to net more assets while still getting their guy.
This has more to do with what the Magic need from this draft more than any individual player. It has a lot to do with teams who could need something more and are willing to trade up to get it.
As enticing as it would be to trade up in this draft, the Magic might find it more advantageous to trade back. That would enable them to net an asset — perhaps future draft capital, a later pick or even a veteran role player — and still get a contributing player from this draft.
Considering the options available that high in the draft, the Magic might be better off playing out the game theory and moving down while ensuring they still get their player.
The Magic are in a strong position in terms of draft night, but they are also in a weird position too. That only opens up the doors for them to move around on draft night if they so choose.
Unlike other teams that would typically pick at No. 6, the Magic are not a team in need of a star player. They seem locked in with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner as centerpiece players. Further, the team seems very comfortable with Markelle Fultz and Wendell Carter in the lineup.
Orlando has to be clear-eyed about its goals this offseason and that includes the draft.
Banchero has been ringing the bell saying the Magic should view the Playoffs as their goal for next season — going as far to say it is, “Playoffs or bust,” as he accepted the Rookie of the Year award. To do that is going to take a lot of work, even Banchero would admit that. But it is going to take adding players too.
It is going to take adding the right players.
Talent is talent. And no team should turn down the chance at a star.
But the thing about drafting for stars is that they are often home run swings. And the bigger the swing, the greater the chance at striking out.
Figuring out where to fit a high-usage scorer into this team is especially difficult though. And, as Jeff Weltman likes to say, every young player needs a pathway to play.
So how would a player like Cam Whitmore fit in? Yes, he is a great athlete with good size and scoring ability. But with his spotty shooting record and poor passing, the question is what does he become if he does not hit as a star?
That may not be a risk the Magic are willing to take. But it could be a risk that a team like the Washington Wizards (No. 8), Utah Jazz (No. 9) or Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 10) want to take.
This should not detract from a player like Cam Whitmore — or Ausar Thompson or Anthony Black or Cason Wallace, who also could be players teams might aim to trade up for. There are reasons Whitmore is being considered this high — he is a great athlete and a solid scorer who is able to get downhill to the basket and his shooting may be better than his numbers suggest.
Right now, the favored mock draft target for the Magic is UCF forward Taylor Hendricks.
Hendricks is considered a solid prospect but someone who does not have a star ceiling. He does seem like the perfect role player — able to defend multiple positions, protect the rim with his shot-blocking, sit in the dunker spot and get putbacks, get out in transition for finishes and hit threes from the outside.
The fit for the Magic makes sense for a player like Hendricks. Just as it would for a sharpshooter like Gradey Dick.
Like Hendricks, Dick is considered a somewhat limited option. He is a great shooter and will step on the floor pretty quickly and make an impact from outside. On top of this, he is a smart positional defender with good size. But no one will consider him a star.
Some might consider it a reach to take him at six because of these limitations.
This is the argument for trading down.
The Magic could try to net some additional assets while still grabbing a high-level role player who will help the team. Or maybe there is a player below 11 that interests the team — perhaps the super raw South Carolina forward G.G. Jackson, or Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin or G-League Ignite forward Leonard Miller.
The important part of the Magic’s draft preparations is that they get the player they ultimately want. Through all the game theories and smokescreens, the most important thing is to draft a player the team wants.
In this sense, there is no such thing as reaching for a player. If Orlando identifies shooting as its most important goal, the team is not crazy to take Dick at No. 6 even if that means passing on higher-upside players.
But the Magic’s draft needs and what they hope to accomplish on draft night are very different from a lot of teams in their position. They could be in a position to help a team jump up to draft one of those players that they do not really need for this stage of their rebuild while still taking a player they like and want in the end.
Truly every option is open for Orlando as the team approaches this year’s draft. It is a good position to be in.