First off, I’m not buying into the rumors that Cleveland will pick Alex Len with the #1 pick next week. There’s just no fathomable way to accept that stupidity. I deem it terrible even as a ‘smokescreen’. Despite the optimism in his growth as a prospect, I've seen this kid play for the Ukraine youth national team. I wasn't impressed. He won't kill you on either end of the court, but he's not a legitimate starter in this league. No one should spend a top 10 pick on a guy they don't think can at worst be a 6th Man contributor. The Otto Porter rumors appear vastly more likely in comparison.
However, let’s imagine for a second that the Cavaliers do pass on Nerlens Noel, the high-top fade wearing guy we all assumed would be selected first upon witnessing those goofy Gilberts celebrating their Draft Lottery pick success. Let’s say the Cavs can’t trade down and that they’re so enamored with a guy like Ben McLemore that they choose the man out of Kansas and leave the athletic Kentucky big on the board. What do Rob Hennigan and the Magic do?
Obviously you would assume this Magic staff is indeed prepared for all scenarios. After all, Noel was brought into town to work out and have brunch with ‘Henny’. But can those potentially questionable knees deter the Magic from selecting what could be a potentially perfect complement for Nik Vucevic in the frontcourt?
There’s a lot to ponder I must admit. Do the Magic already have their favorite players ranked? Where do Noel, McLemore, Victor Oladipo, and Trey Burke rank on that list? Is the Orlando front office open to dealing Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis, and/or Jameer Nelson within the next 7 months? Which of those veterans do they want gone the most and the least? How badly do the Magic want to acquire Eric Bledsoe and groom him to be the franchise’s new staring point guard? Do the Magic have a strategy in place to trade down and grab a guy like CJ McCollum?
Here's what we know when it comes to comparing the 2 top shooting guard prospects: Victor Oladipo is renowned as already having a professional's mindset and work ethic, where as Ben McLemore is being greatly questioned. That's a red flag. We're the franchise that had a super-talented Tracy McGrady, but T-MAC was constantly touted as lazy and someone who depended solely on his abilities without putting in the necessary effort to truly hit his prime. McLemore has without much doubt the highest ceiling to be a 'superstar' out of anyone in this draft class. But he doesn't defend and he's passive on offense. I've already previously determined that, between McLemore and Oladipo, I will happily take Victor.
But what about Oladipo or Noel? Despite the rumored affiliation issues that Noel has which kind of makes you shiver over the Dwight Howard nightmare reminders, that's low on the concern scale in comparison to being able to keep himself upright and mobile on the court. We're all concerned about that damn left knee. Not just because of this year's ACL tear, but about his severe injury back in high school as well. Focusing on the present though, my worries are lessened when I hear such positive things out of Dr. James Andrews about Noel's current recovery. I highly value Noel's defensive awesomeness along side an already beastly Nik Vucevic. I also think Noel's offense isn't as terrible as advertised and that Nerlens can improve his scoring capabilities in a Serge Ibaka-type manner.
So what am I suggesting? If Noel goes #1, the Magic should ecstatically take Oladipo with their 2nd pick. But if Cleveland passes on Nerlens, Orlando should draft him. The Magic can pick a shooting guard or a point guard with the 51st pick (I'll go over those options soon). Then once Chris Paul is locked up and re-signed with the Clippers, the Magic should deal Afflalo for Eric Bledose to help qualm the pouring cries that'll come from some Magic fans who are begging to obtain Trey Burke's services. And CJ McCollum I don't rate highly. I'm especially concerned with the Deron Williams comparisons since I haven't been much of a D-Will fan since he left Utah and settled for complacent play.
Orlando's possible starting lineup going into training camp next season looks solid in my eyes:
C- Nikola Vucevic
PF- Glen Davis
SF- Tobias Harris
SG- Maurice Harkless
PG- Eric Bledsoe
Jameer Nelson becomes your 6th Man while Hennigan can begin the process of dealing Jameer and/or Glen Davis to playoff teams needing an extra piece to compete for a championship just before the Trade Deadline come February 2014...right around the time Nerlens Noel should definitely be playing real-time games since it'll have been a year since his ACL tear. Cap space is more important than actual talent when it comes to dealing the popular veterans and co-captains...which sucks if you're a season ticket holder who appreciates what both bring to the squad and community. But business is business. The 'suffering' will go by swiftly. I still think the Magic will be closer to a playoff spot than a lottery bottom 5 record this upcoming season. However, even a late-Lottery pick in 2014 is better than possibly a top 5 pick next week. It hasn't been announced, but it's obvious that summer of 2014 is when Orlando will want to compete for playoff glory in what we assume will be Jacque Vaughn's 3rd season. For now though, enjoy another week with prospect speculation.