The Orlando Magic will assign rookie center Daniel Orton to the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBA's D-League, reports SB Nation colleague Scott Schroeder, writing for NBA FanHouse. Orlando made Orton the 29th pick in this year's NBA Draft, but he's yet to appear in a game this season. The Kentucky product struggled mightily in NBA summer-league play, averaging 3.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks, and shooting 14.8 percent from the floor, in five contests. During Media Day, Orton said. the team had him on a program to strengthen the muscles around his left knee, which he injured in high school. He also didn't sound excited about the prospect of joining the D-League:
When I asked how he'd respond if he got word the team was sending him to the D-League, he said, "I'd be upset, but I'd understand where they were coming from. It's just something that I wouldn't be happy about--like, thrilled about--but I'd be understanding."
But the D-League could really help the 20-year-old. As Schroeder notes, New Mexico has a coaching staff attuned to honing big-man skills:
His D-League coaches might also be able to teach him a few tricks as both head coach Darvin Ham and assistant Sean Rooks -- who played his final NBA season as a member of the Magic -- have NBA experience in the post.
The Magic have yet to officially announce the transaction, but when they do, it will have been three years since they last sent a player to the D-League; Orlando shipped Marcin Gortat to the Anaheim Arsenal in 2007 to briefly create a roster spot after trading Trevor Ariza to the L.A. Lakers for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans. Upon waiving Bo Outlaw, Orlando recalled Gortat after just five D-League appearances.
It's unclear how long Orlando plans to keep Orton in the D-League, but sending him down now makes sense, as it will play seven of its next eight games on the road, with fewer opportunities to practice and shoot-around. The Thunderbirds will play eight games between now and December 18th, when Orlando's long stand of road games ends.
Orton will certainly get more reps in the D-League than he will with the big-league team, a big reason why this move is essentially a no-brainer for the Magic's decision-makers.
UPDATE: Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel spoke to Otis Smith, the Magic's Presdident of Basketball Operations, about the decision to send Orton down:
Orton, 20, will report to New Mexico immediately. Smith said Orton could remain there a couple of weeks, but he wasn’t sure how long it would be.
The move was made because Smith wants Orton to receive some playing time.
Is sending Daniel Orton to the NBA D-League the right move for the Orlando Magic to make?
Yes. (385 votes)
No. (6 votes)
I'm not sure. (8 votes)
399 total votes