The Orlando Magic enter next week’s draft as one of a few teams that have at least two first-round picks, and the Magic have plenty of options as June 26 approaches. As it’s been stated before, the Magic are in a position where they could potentially trade up or down in the draft. Or, the team could stand pat with the No. 4 and No. 12 picks and draft players who could fill in some holes.
One of Orlando’s biggest needs seems to be at the point guard position, as the Magic have been linked to Australian point guard Dante Exum and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart. The Magic may be in the market for a point guard because Jameer Nelson’s contract is only partially guaranteed for next season and the Victor-Oladipo-at-point-guard experiment was met with mixed results. The Magic are also rumored to covet a big man with one of their two lottery picks. Reports have surfaced recently that the Magic were really impressed with Noah Vonleh’s workout and now hold him high on their board, which could mean Orlando goes with a big man at No. 4 and a point guard at No. 12.
We learned this week that projected top-three pick Joel Embiid needs surgery to repair a bone in his right foot and will likely be sidelined for four-to-six months. There was a lot of uncertainty in the air as far as who would get drafted first overall, but Embiid’s injury will really throw a wrench in the first few picks. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Embiid’s broken foot is Exum. A lot of experts had Exum falling to the Magic at the fourth pick, but now some have Exum going as high as the second pick to the Milwaukee Bucks. It was thought that some combination of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Embiid would make up the top three selections, but now the top three could be Wiggins, Exum and Parker.
Prior to the news on Embiid’s injury, the Magic may have been looking to take Exum with the fourth pick and a big man with the 12th pick. Now that it seems unlikely that Exum will be on the board at number four, Embiid’s injury could enable the Magic to seriously consider Vonleh with that pick and then look at a point guard with their second first-round pick. There may be a number of talented point guards on the board at No. 12, including Elfrid Payton and Tyler Ennis.
With Exum likely off of the board at the fourth pick, the Magic could target Smart, Embiid or Vonleh. The Magic brought Smart in for two workouts and were rumored to be very high on him prior to those workouts. The word was that if Smart had not returned to school last season, Orlando would have taken him second overall. Following Smart’s workouts in Orlando, the Magic reportedly have moved on from him after a sub-par showing.
Embiid’s foot injury will most definitely move him down the board, but the question is exactly how far down will he fall? Embiid hasn’t been playing basketball for that long and has already suffered a back injury, a knee injury and this latest setback with his foot. As Alex Kennedy pointed out in Thursday’s PM report, how will Embiid’s body react once he adds more weight and starts playing against NBA-sized players? Knowing his injury history, the Magic may not want to gamble with health concerns at this point in their rebuild. Given how deep this draft is, the Magic may choose to pass on Embiid.
That leaves Indiana power forward Vonleh. The Magic are said to be very impressed with him following his workout and the idea of pairing Vonleh up with center Nikola Vucevic has the Magic seriously considering the Hoosiers product. Teams are impressed with Vonleh because he rebounds well, his work ethic is second to none, his wingspan measures 7’4 and his hands are the second-largest in combine history. The Magic’s best bet at the fourth pick appears to be Vonleh, unless a miracle happens and one of the projected top three fall into their lap.
Adding frontcourt depth in Vonleh will allow the Magic to consider their options at No. 12. At this point, general manager Rob Hennigan will decide if he wants to take the best player available, or if he wants to address the point guard position. Hennigan has long been described as a guy who will stockpile assets, and a take-the-best-player approach would fit that criteria. At No. 12, the best player available could be Michigan’s Nik Stauskas. The Magic finished this season tied for 19th in the NBA in team three-point percentage and could look to Stauskas to help improve the team in this area. Stauskas is viewed as one of the best shooters in the class and he proved in his sophomore year that he is more than a shooter as he showed the ability to handle the ball and get to the rim.
Kentucky guard James Young is another player who could be available to the Magic at the 12th pick. Young helped his draft stock in this year’s national championship game, despite being overshadowed by Julius Randle. Young proved in the NCAA Tournament that he is a capable scorer, something that could intrigue the Magic. Young could especially be an option should the Magic decide to trade away Arron Afflalo either on draft night or during the summer. Afflalo was mentioned in many rumors at the trade deadline, and should continue to be linked to rumors in the upcoming offseason.
Perhaps the most-pressing need for the Magic is at the point guard position. At No. 12, it’ll be highly unlikely that Smart is available so it would likely come down to Payton. The Magic’s draft could be determined by which point guard they like the most after Exum. If the Magic view Payton as guy with higher potential than Smart then that would allow them to take Vonleh at the fourth pick and Payton at the 12th pick. The Magic are said to be high on Payton following his workout out with the team. Payton possesses all of the qualities needed in a point guard: quickness, size, length, good handling and passing skills. His shooting ability leaves much to be desired, but something that can be improved on over time. Adding Payton to the backcourt with Oladipo would certainly prove to be a problem on the defensive side for opposing teams. With Vonleh and Payton, the Magic might have the players who fill needs and ultimately become cornerstones for the franchise going forward.
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