The Orlando Magic don't have a selection in tomorrow night's NBA Draft, having traded their first-rounder to Memphis in February's season-saving Rafer Alston acquisition, and their second-rounder to Oklahoma City (then Seattle) as part of the sign-and-trade deal which brought Rashard Lewis to Orlando in 2007; OKC has since shipped that pick to Phoenix.
But there's still a chance the Magic could acquire a pick this year, which is why it's prudent for us to examine whom they might realistically attain. What's realistic, by Magic standards? Anyone in the second round. Not only are first-round picks expensive to purchase--the maximum amount that can change hands is $3 million--but the players selected come with guaranteed deals. So even if the Magic were to buy, say, the 28th pick from Minnesota, they'd still be out $3 million for the transaction, plus another $3 million or so from the first two years' salary of that player's contract. That's quite the financial hit to take on a guy who might never play meaningful minutes.
But second-round picks figure to be more affordable, and with more sellers due to the sheer number of teams with picks to spare. Portland has 4 picks, Detroit and San Antonio have 3 apiece, while, Charlotte, Miami, Minnesota, and Phoenix have two each. So, after the jump, we'll take a look at which second-round prospects might fit-in well with the Magic, should they decide to make a move.
Before proceeding, I'd like to acknowledge Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily, who did this sort of exercise first; and to Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics, whose list of potential Magic targets also informed this post.
The two biggest areas of need for Orlando this year are power forward and point guard. The Magic will need another big man in the rotation if Marcin Gortat leaves via free agency, as I expect he will. They'll also need a young point guard whom they can groom as Jameer Nelson's backup, as Rafer Alston may be on his way out, and Anthony Johnson's contract runs out at the end of this season.
First, the power forwards. Jeff Pendergraph (6'10", 240 pounds, 22 years old), Jon Brockman (6'07", 252 pounds, 22 years old), and Taj Gibson (6'09.75", 214 pounds, 23 years old) would be my choices, in that order. Pendergraph, as DraftExpress notes, is the nation's most efficient scorer at 1.37 points per possession. Offensively, his scouting report recalls Gortat:
Pendergraph is a meat and potatoes type player, mostly living off scraps offensively. The overwhelming majority of his points come off the ball--cuts, offensive rebounds, pick and rolls, and in transition. He's smart, has terrific hands, and finishes pretty well around the basket-which makes him a reliable target inside.
On the downside, Pendergraph is only an average rebounder and shot-blocker.
Brockman isn't the offensive player Pendergraph is, and he's much shorter, but makes up for it with bulk and hard work. Again according to DraftExpress, Brockman took a backseat on offense this year as freshman Isaiah Thomas came into his own, but he still worked hard on his game. He's also one of the nation's leading rebounders. Unlike Gortat, he's not much of a finisher, but the Magic could certainly use a dedicated rebounder to fill-out their bigman rotation. Brockman could definitely be that guy.
The final power forward on my draft board is Taj Gibson. A tremendous athlete, he has the rebounding and shot-blocking aspects of the game down. The biggest problem with him is his skinny frame. Could he, at 214 pounds, defend NBA power forwards in the low-post? And, on offense, could he muscle through them to finish at the rim? Those two question-marks make him a riskier pick than either Pendergraph or Brockman.
Next, a look at the point guards. The draft is full of them. However, many of them will wind up in the lottery, leaving a lot of iffy players and combo-guards to the second round. I wouldn't select any of these guys ahead of any of the power forwards, but based on the Magic's need at that position, they're worth discussing anyway.
Sergio Llull (6'03", 176 pounds, 21 years old), A.J. Price (6'02", 190 pounds, 22 years old), and Jeremy Pargo (6'02", 219 pounds, 23 years old) round out my draft board. Llull, from Real Madrid, is an ballhandler and decision maker, particularly in pick-and-roll situations, which comprise 46% of his total offense. Fans who have followed the Magic during the Van Gundy era know how often the team uses the pick-and-roll, and having another player who can run it effectively makes the team that much more dangerous. Llull also a willing defender and communicator, although DraftExpress wonders if his frame might be too slight to fight through NBA screens. There's also no guarantee he'd join the NBA, as his guaranteed salary in Europe likely exceeds what he'd earn stateside. If the Magic are to shell out for a second-rounder, they'd want to make sure they're drafting someone who's guaranteed to make the trip. With that said, the way in which Llull's strengths mesh with the Magic's DNA makes him a worthy gamble.
Price is less exciting due to his lack of speed, but on the plus side he apparently possesses good court-vision, runs the pick-and-roll well, and can shoot from the outside. Any point guard who can run the pick-and-roll and hit the three-ball reminds me of Nelson, which is a plus.
Pargo rounds out our list. He doesn't draw many fouls, but makes up for it with his ability to finish around contact in the lane. The biggest knock against him is his tendency to make poor decisions against top competition. One of the reasons the Magic drafted Courtney Lee last year was his poise, his maturity, his ability to immediately compete and contribute at the NBA level. Pargo apparently lacks that attribute, which makes him the least attractive of any player we've discussed here. Still, his speed and playmaking skills would make him a welcome addition to the Magic's bench for the next year or two while he learns the ropes.
Ultimately, as far as second-rounders go, the players I've mentioned in this post are closer to Travis Diener and James Augustine than to Monta Ellis and Paul Millsap. But that's okay. Again, for the right price, Orlando can find itself in a good position to land a decent 12th-man type. And, should that player not pan out, the Magic are free to waive him without financial penalty, as his salary is non-guaranteed. Buying into the second round is a low-risk, medium-reward proposition for the Magic. Should they decide to make a deal, any of these players would be a good fit.