Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Orlando's Draft Options with the #4 Pick

Enough frowning. The Orlando Magic are the owners of the 4th and 12th overall draft picks following the May 20th lottery selection show. It's not #3, but fourth is a lot better than 5th or 6th. You want some real optimism? You know how the Magic are perceived to be on the OKC Thunder path of contending? Well back in the 2007 and 2008 drafts, the Thunder had the #2 and #4 picks. They took Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Magic will have similar #2 and #4 picks in the 2013 and next month's 2014 Draft. Props to CCurran1986 for the tweet.

Orlando took Victor Oladipo last year who is arguably the best player in that class so far. 'Dipo was 'their guy' that GM Rob Hennigan and his front office staff wanted all along. Orlando may very well get 'their guy' at #4 in June as well. Feel better now?

So who are the Magic targeting at #4? Well, the Cavaliers (*shakes fist*), Bucks, and Sixers will decide that. You can eliminate Andrew Wiggins from the realm of possibility. Three guys are in Orlando's wheelhouse and the Magic will get the one that slips to them: Dante Exum, Joel Embiid, or Jabari Parker. That's how I rank those prospects. Then you have potential reaches like Marcus Smart, Dario Saric, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, and Noah Vonleh that could cause draft board volatility. You now know my current #1 through #9 prospect rankings.

With Wiggins 99.9% off the board by the time Orlando picks, I am imploring the Magic front office to take Dante Exum and team him up with Oladipo to form one of the deadliest backcourts for years to come. Dante almost skipped out on the NBA path and thought about going to college. He only toured one college...Indiana. Which Hoosier gave him a tour of the campus? Victor Oladipo. They've been known as solid acquaintances - at minimum - ever since. Heck, they each have a twin sister. How surreal is that? Complete the bond, 'Henny'. This gem of a quote from DraftExpress' extended mock draft supports my case:
Though Victor Oladipo played on the ball for stretches last season, Dante Exum would give the magic two long, athletic guards and plenty of flexibility moving forward. Exum is a bit of an enigma given he hasn't been seen extensively since last summer, but Orlando assistant GM Matt Lloyd was one of the few high level executives who actually were in attendance to scout him last summer in Prague at the U19 World Championship, and the Magic have reportedly conducted more background research into the Australian guard as any team in the NBA, according to our sources.

Exum very well would be selected #1 had he played his basketball in America. The 18-year-old Australian has been tagged as an 'X-Man', an 'X-Factor', an 'International Man of Mystery', and a 'Wildcard'. Exum isn't any of those. Dante can legitimately be the best prospect in this talented draft class. It doesn't take much analysis or research to notice this possibility. The falsified Lakers rumors in regards them being Dante's only playing destination have been dispelled numerous times. Exum would be happy in Orlando knowing that he could start immediately. More importantly, the Magic would be thrilled to have Dante's character and talent in O-Town.

Dante honestly has elements in his style of play that scream for Penny Hardaway comparisons. Quick first step. Court vision. Defensive potential. The way he handles the ball. He doesn't have the vertical leaping of Anfernee, but his lateral quickness and agility - as the Draft Combine proved - are more than solid for a 6'6" man who is 196 pounds and putting on more muscle by the day. If you think that's crazy, well some international analysts such as Fran Fraschilla think Exum reminds them of a young Michael Jordan.

Just imagine seeing a potential Penny Hardaway (Exum) and Dwyane Wade (Oladipo) as your starting backcourt with your Carmelo Anthony (Tobias Harris) at one of the forward positions. Then you have your double-double machine in Nikola Vucevic at center. That's the realistic future I envision. No I don't do drugs. Tobias is 21 years old, Oladipo is 22, and Vucevic is 23. They haven't sniffed their primes yet.

Now the sad part. Exum is continuing to raise his draft stock thanks to outstanding interviews and combine performances. The Sixers may very well snatch Dante at #3. For one, their Head Coach Brett Brown is an Aussie and has stronger communication ties than just about any other NBA franchise. Philadelphia has Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams as their established point guard of the future. However, Coach Brown has been said to want to create an offensive system that involves two great ball handlers. That's where Exum could fit in. Does Philly pass on Dante for a more traditional scorer like Andrew Wiggins or more likely Jabari Parker? We'll find out.

Embiid and Wiggins DO NOT want to play in Cleveland.
So what if Dante Exum is off the board by the time #4 comes? It means Orlando sees Joel Embiid or most likely Jabari Parker slipping to them. If it's Wiggins at #4 you thank God and do back-flips into Lake Eola. There are some intriguing variables involved. Does Embiid's back check out with the doctors? I don't see any issues here. Did Parker get out-of-shape and open up the questioning of his work ethic? Jabari looks to be in shape here. Are the Magic still as high on Marcus Smart as they were last year?

Do the Magic want a traditional power forward like Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, or Noah Vonleh? I don't believe that any of those PFs are worth picking at #4. Randle reminds me way too much of bad Brandon Bass. Gordon and Vonleh are more athletes than basketball players right now. I'm more high on Gordon than Vonleh. Noah didn't impress anyone at Indiana. At least Aaron has a Blake Griffin-type mold.

Is Zach LaVine viewed as a tall point guard prospect worthy of a #12 pick? Do the Magic believe that point guard Tyler Ennis won't be available at #12 so then they're forced to take Marcus Smart knowing it's imperative Orlando selects a point guard? It's a lot of mental chess to process.

Two things are known right now. 1. Marcus Smart worked out in Orlando on Monday. 2. The #4 pick will be making about $3.3 million in the first season.

On the one hand I'm more than fine with selecting Marcus Smart if Dante Exum is off the board. On the other, you'd be picking Smart knowing that you're passing up on Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid. That's a hard pill to swallow. Smart's draft combine times and statistics were very similar to Oladipo's. Smart is much bulkier and stronger, but a bit shorter than Victor. Oladipo helped extinguish most of the worries about his shooting this past season. Smart seems to be capable of doing the same. Then there's the character question and how the Magic front office personnel view his fan incident. I don't view it as a massive issue, but it can be used against him as a tiebreaker between two prospects to pick from. Still, Smart is an athletic specimen who is ridiculously strong at his position.

An Embiid-Vucevic twin towers could potentially be phenomenal with Joel roaming in the paint on defense. I buy into the Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons. Embiid is a massive body who is two inches taller than Vucevic and already has numerous sophisticated offensive moves. A healthy Embiid warrants #1 selection hype. It's not a secret that - Mormon roots or not - the Utah Jazz are pleading that Jabari Parker somehow falls to them at #5. Parker is the most polished offensive player at this time, even though he played out of position all season at Duke. He's not quick enough to be a 3 but he'd get pushed around as a power forward. That combined with his awfully bad defense reputation worries me.

You could see a situation where if Orlando's not happy with Dante being taken off the board and Jabari being available at #4, that the Magic then trade their 4th pick in exchange for Utah's 5th and 23rd selections. Let Utah take Jabari and Orlando gets another point guard that they like in Smart with an extra pick in your back pocket. Rob Hennigan is all about that asset accumulation.

Orlando's other option that needs to be contemplated is the possibility of trading the #4 pick. Arguments can be made for moving up or for moving down, and I'm sure Hennigan's phone will be ringing rampantly over the next month. Are the Magic frothing at the mouth to jump up and grab Wiggins or Embiid? Orlando has Arron Afflalo to dangle around. Possibly Andrew Nicholson. No one will want to give up anything for Jameer Nelson.

Do the Magic want to trade down and settle for Marcus Smart? Smart is the guy Orlando probably would've selected last year had he entered the draft. Can Orlando obtain Kevin Love from Minnesota via trade? The 25-year-old is the best PF on the market in the NBA. However, the Magic should and I believe they will stay at #4. I believe in Rob's optimism when he says that an outstanding player can be acquired at #4. My pick is Dante Exum. If Exum is gone before #4, then that's when the true fun and angst begins. The fate of the #12 selection will also need to be heavily weighed and properly measured. That's for another post.

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