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How The Orlando Magic’s NBA Draft Could Determine The Rest Of Their Summer

Help is on the way! (Kim Klement-USA Today Sports)

Something is brewing in North Florida.

You can hear whispers from around the league. Are Al Horford and Chandler Parsons going to sign with the Magic? Will Mike Conley join them too? Could they make a deal for Paul George?! 

And there are audible shouts too. Rich DeVos made a splash in hiring former Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel on May 20th. Vogel has developed a reputation as one of the game’s defensive masterminds in Indiana and will get to work with intriguing pieces like multi-positional defenders Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Mario Hezonja. Signing him should be considered a massive upgrade over previous coach Scott Skiles. 

While Skiles is an Orlando legend and helped the team improve last year, his tenure with the team was doomed from the get-go. Notorious for his mistrust of young players, he took over a team full of them. He almost immediately glued lottery picks Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja to the bench and marginalized Elfrid Peyton and Victor Oladipo. 

The Magic’s management tried to shift things around for Skiles, moving promising young player Tobias Harris for Skiles Bucks’ retreads Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova. But you just can’t fail to empower or develop four of the franchise’s five core players (he did a fine job with Nikola Vucevic) and expect to keep your job. Hiring a coach like Vogel, who has shown an ability to take raw talent and produce results with players like Lance Stephenson, Roy Hibbert, Paul George, and Myles Turner, is the ideal corrective for the franchise.

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Frank Vogel looks towards the future with a smile (Kim Klement-USA Today Sports).

When Vogel was approached about the possibility of signing free agents this summer, he didn’t shy away, saying, “We’re looking to add two-to-three key veterans.” With only $35 million committed, the Magic have the fourth lowest salary heading into the offseason (behind the Lakers, Philadelphia, and Boston), a young, exciting team, and a desirable location—the weather is nice, and Florida has no state income tax. Being that the NBA salary cap is projected to be $92 million (!!!), they could very well have room for three huge free agents, with roughly $19 million to spend on each. This is all to say that the NBA smoke circulating above Orlando may very soon turn into fire. 

The NBA draft, which takes place on June 23, is a week before the start of the Free Agency moratorium on July 1 and should serve as a bellwether for the direction of the franchise. If they believe that they can lure Horford and Parsons to Orlando, an hour and a half away from their college home of Gainesville, the draft could be the place where you see the first signs. Will they trade their pick for an established veteran? Will they take a player who would nominally be competing for one of their positions? The rest of the league will be intently watching to see how The Magic answer these questions. That being the case, lets look at The Magic’s draft options.

#11

As mentioned above, the Magic’s number 11 selection is one of the most intriguing in the draft. The teams in this range will likely be selecting from a tier of 20-30 players below the high lottery subset. This draft is mediocre, but it has depth in its mediocrity, and rumors and workouts would suggest that teams are having a fun time trying to read the tea leaves and figure out which players from this range will emerge as NBA contributors.

One player who would make a ton of sense for the Magic, given the departure of Tobias Harris, is Timothe Luwawu. Needing another wing, Luwawu fills an immediate need and should be an immediate contributor on the defensive end, as I noted in my Bucks draft preview. More of a concern is how he’ll adapt to offense in the NBA. Luwawu was given the keys to the Ferrari at Mega Leks; he spent a ton of time as a ball handler and initiator, which speaks to his rise up NBA draft boards, but it remains to be seen if he’ll do as well as an off the ball, third or fourth option. 

Making 37% of his threes in Europe, he should be at least an average NBA three-point shooter in his first year, but the team that drafts him will look to continue to develop his shooting. His favorite spot to shoot from is the left wing, so that should at least mesh well with Hezonja, who’s a better right-side spot-up shooter. Below is an example of the creativity that Luwawu brings to the game. He should be a joy to watch in the NBA, if nothing else. 


A lineup with Aaron Gordon, Hezonja, and Luwawu is hard not to salivate over defensively; they’d have the length to prevent NBA wings from taking easy shots and the quickness to stop them from getting to the cup. They all rebound well for their position too. 

Another clear need for the Magic is a rim protector. They’ve been linked to players like Skal Labissiere, Deyonta Davis, and Jakob Pöltl. Labissiere and Davis make a ton of sense as rim-protecting projects. Drafting either one would likely signal an end of the Dewayne Dedmon era and, perhaps, and incoming free agent big. 

Pöltl, on the other hand, would be an intriguing selection if available. As he’s much more developed than Davis or Labissiere, drafting Pöltl might be a sign that Orlando is going to focus on solving its backcourt quandary in the offseason. The Austrian is a legit seven-footer, but only has average length with a wingspan shorter than Davis or Labissiere. What he has that they do not, however, is a refined offensive game and NBA size. 

Pöltl can score. He eviscerated Pac-12 bigs in the post, scoring an Okaforian 65% in the paint. While he doesn’t have the array of moves that Okafor has, he has similar hands (and a similarly ugly jumper). Pöltl catches everything in the pick n’ roll and can swallow up improbable rebounds. This, paired with his surprising agility and athleticism for a guy his size, leads him to fly through and around opposing defenders and creatively finish around the bucket. Just look at the clip below. How does he catch that ball?! I can only think of a handful of NBA players who could smoothly translate that pass into a finish.


A bigger question is his potential to defend at the NBA level. Pöltl is a good fluid athlete, but he’s not a leaper and has average length for the position despite excellent height. While he displayed an ability to successfully guard pick n’ rolls and switches in college, high athletes saw a ton of success against him. Domantas Sabonis of Gonzaga famously picked him apart, and Sabonis is only an average athlete at the NBA level. High-motor, high-athleticism like Deandre Jordan and Andre Drummond could have an absolute field day against him. If you believe this to be the case, it’s hard to see him as anything more than a role-player big in the league. And the Magic already have a pretty great one-way center in Nikola Vucevic. There doesn’t seem to be a great fit. 

#41 & #47

As in previous previews, this section will be quick hits on a couple of players whom the Magic will be targeting. It’s always a possibility that they could try and consolidate these picks into one in the early 30s. They’re rumored to be in love with Florida State’s Malik Beasley, who will likely be off the board by #41. 

Beasley’s freshman year was unexpected and awesome. He wasn’t a highly touted recruit and has “just good” athleticism and size, but he has a fantastic jumper with a picture-perfect form (39% from 3) and is an excellent finisher and open court player. He’s the ideal type of all-court efficiency offensive player for the modern game. While he’s wild and inconsistent on defense, he has the base to turn into an effective player on that end. Would make sense, given Fournier’s departure. 


Wayne Selden is another combo wing with excellent athleticism. While the three and the D are not quite there yet, he has the finishing ability and frame that you want in an NBA player. The team that drafts him has to believe that he can improve–might be an ideal fit, given Vogel’s excellence in this area.

Along those lines, Cat Barber might make a ton of sense, given Vogel’s proclivity for using multiple ball-handlers. Barber might be the fastest player in the draft and has lightning quick agility. He’s not a point guard, and has limited defensive potential, but the Magic don’t particularly need him to have either of those things if he’s being paired with Oladipo or Payton. He would provide a much needed scoring punch in the backcourt.


If the Magic believe that Caris LeVert can get back to what he once was, and stay there, they should draft him. He’s a lottery player, if not for a string of awful left foot injuries, and would mesh well with Hezonja and Gordon. 

A.J. Hammons could reprise Hibbert’s role in Indiana for Vogel and the Magic. While the NBA may be turning away from traditional defenders, an elite defender and shot blocker still has value. The Magic need a big for defensive lineups.  

—-

The Magic could go a lot of directions in the 2016 NBA Draft, but it’ll undoubtedly provide some clarity as to the futures of restricted free agent Evan Fournier, team option Ersan Ilyasova, and potential trade targets Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo. The franchise is currently at a compelling crossroads; they have a new coach, a massive surplus of funds, a roster full of young and talented players. They’ll have to get the 2016 summer right in order to turn that foundation into something more. It all starts with the draft. 


The Draft Order and Team Needs

1. Philadelphia 76ers
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Boston Celtics (From Brooklyn)
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
6. New Orleans Pelicans
7. Denver Nuggets (From New York)
8. Sacramento Kings
9. Toronto Raptors (From Denver)
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Orlando Magic
12. Atlanta Hawks (From Utah)
13. Phoenix Suns (From Washington) - Second 1st Round Pick
14. Chicago Bulls
15. Denver Nuggets (From Houston) - Second 1st Round Pick
16. Boston Celtics (From Dallas) - Second 1st Round Pick
17. Memphis Grizzlies
18. Detroit Pistons
19. Denver Nuggets (From Portland) - Third 1st Round Pick
20. Indiana Pacers
21. Atlanta Hawks - Second First Round Pick
22. Charlotte Hornets
23. Boston Celtics - Third First Round Pick
24. Philadelphia 76ers (From Miami) - Second First Round Pick
25. Los Angeles Clippers
26. Philadelphia 76ers (From Oklahoma City) - Third First Round Pick
27. Toronto Raptors - Second First Round Pick
28. Phoenix Suns (From Cleveland) - Third First Round Pick
29. San Antonio Spurs
30. Golden State Warriors

37. Houston Rockets (From New York)
42. Utah Jazz
46. Dallas Mavericks
55. Brooklyn Nets (From Los Angeles)

No Picks: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards

Edited by Jazmyn Brown.

SQuiz
Who was the most recent Magic player selected outside of the lottery in the first round?
Created 6/11/16
  1. Courtney Lee
  2. Kyle O'Quinn
  3. Victor Oladipo
  4. Andrew Nicholson

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