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What Should the Magic Do on Draft Night?

What will the Orlando Magic do on draft night? Magic GM Rob Hennigan has many options with two top-12 picks.

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With two draft picks inside the top 12 in June’s draft, the Orlando Magic will certainly have many options to work with come draft night. The Magic’s first pick is the No. 4 selection and many mock drafts and analysts have them taking Australian point guard Dante Exum. While the Magic are in the market for a point guard, they’ll be drafting with the best-talent-available approach over team need. It is likely, however, that the odds go in their favor and the best available player at the fourth pick winds up being Exum. There has been talk that had the Magic actually gotten the odds-on third pick that they would have drafted Exum anyway.

Exum in the backcourt with Victor Oladipo next season is an experiment that many fans would like to see and would make for an interesting duo. Exum gives the Magic size at the point guard position they haven’t seen since Penny Hardaway was on the team and would present a matchup problem on most nights for defenders. Exum would give the Magic an incredible wing defender that stands at 6’6 with a wingspan of over 6’9 and incredible speed at the position. His long arms and quickness would likely vault him to the top of the league in steals per game. While Exum is viewed as too skinny given his height, a summer working out in an NBA gym with trainers would likely fix that in a hurry. Exum won’t be 19 years old until July, so he has plenty of time to pack on the needed muscle.

In Oladipo’s first year in the league, the Magic converted him over to a point guard from his natural position at shooting guard. The Magic greatly benefited from Oladipo’s speed and ability to drive to the rim to generate points by either kicking it out or by finishing or drawing a foul. It was obvious that Oladipo still needs some work in this area, but drafting a guy like Exum would allow Oladipo to return to his natural position and let Exum handle the point guard duties. Exum has proven that he has the ability to drive to the rim and finish and has also been applauded by scouts as having a great eye for passing. His performance in the 2013 FIBA Under-19 World Championship virtually locked him into being a top-10 draft pick.

It is thought that some combination of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker will make up the top three picks, which would enable the Magic to grab Exum. But what happens if Exum is off of the board when they go on the clock? The Philadelphia 76ers have been rumored to want Exum to pair up with Michael Carter-Williams, especially since Exum and 76ers head coach Brett Brown go way back. If Exum is off of the board, the Magic would be left to take Wiggins, Embiid or Parker. If Exum is off of the board, the Magic really can’t go wrong with Wiggins, Embiid or Parker, and if that’s the case they can address the point guard position at the 12th pick. Or, they could get creative and either trade down to draft Marcus Smart or reach for the Oklahoma State point guard at No. 4. It was rumored that Orlando would’ve picked Smart second overall had he been in last year’s draft.

The Magic are in a great position to move that fourth pick if their guy isn’t available to them. Having that second first-round pick at No. 12 enables them to work the phones for some sort of offer. It will really depend on how much they love that one player that will determine if they want to move up or not. It would seem like a more viable option would be to trade down. Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has preached since the day he took over the team two summers ago that they would build through the draft and obtain assets along the way. It wouldn’t be totally out of left field if Hennigan traded the fourth pick to a team that has maybe two first-round picks to give away like the Phoenix Suns or the Chicago Bulls. The Suns have the 14th, 18th and 27th picks in the draft while the Bulls have the 16th and 19th picks.

The Suns were a team projected by many to win about 20-25 games and be in the running for a top-five pick. They shattered their own goals and nearly missed out on a playoff berth so they’re not too far off with their group of players. The Suns could be a team that view Wiggins, Embiid, Parker or Exum as the player that puts them over the hump and suddenly their 14th and 18th pick becomes expendable for the Magic’s fourth pick. Would the Magic rather have their 12th pick along with the Suns’ 14th and 18th pick? Players available in the 12-18 range could be Tyler Ennis, Nik Stauskas and Adreian Payne – all players that could step in and help the Magic.

The Bulls on the other hand may not be as willing to part ways with their two picks, instead opting to use them to offer to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. The Bulls have been rumored to want Love, but would likely need to package a deal around Carlos Boozer and at least one of their first-round draft picks to present a strong enough offer to the Timberwolves. On the off chance that the Bulls decide against going after Love, they could find themselves in position where they absolutely love one of those top four players and give the Magic the 16th and 19th picks for their fourth pick that would give the Magic the 12th, 16th and 19th picks. In this scenario, they would still have a chance to grab guys like Ennis, Stauskas and Payne among others.

The word around the Magic is that no one player is safe from trade, but it would likely take an offer Hennigan and the Magic can’t refuse to part ways with one of their core guys like Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless or Tobias Harris. It’s likely that Hennigan has some sort of game plan heading into the draft, but what will ultimately happen could be completely different given the chance of a trade or one of the three teams ahead of the Magic doing something unexpected and drafting someone other than Wiggins, Embiid or Parker. The best part about everything for Hennigan and the Magic is they have options no matter what they decide to do, and that is something that Hennigan has methodically worked on in his first two years as Magic GM.

 

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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