Each week, Tyler Lashbrook will let loose on whatever Orlando Magic subjects capture his interest. Welcome to Ty Tuesday. - ED
The regular season's almost over and that means we're inching closer and closer to the Draft. Well, sort of. The Draft is in late June and it's only April, but the draft will be a major talking point amongst Orlando Magic fans during that span. There's good reason for that.
Most of you already know, but in case you didn't, Orlando owns the worst 2014 first-round pick between the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks. Here at Orlando Pinstriped Post, we've dubbed that selection the WoNK pick. The "WoNK" pick name has really stuck in Magic circles and if you follow Magic fans on Twitter, you're sure to have seen it mentioned.
For good reason, too. You can find some very good NBA players--superstars, even--late in the lottery, where that pick figures to fall. I'm not sure any of the guys in the 9-14 range in this year's Draft are stars, but you never really know. Some pan out that way, most don't. So let's get to it:
Checking in on Denver
I predicted before the season over at TrueHoop's HawksHoop site that the Nuggets would have a rough year. It's tough to lose one of the best coaches, one of the best general managers, and one of your best players and expect to compete in the loaded Western Conference. There were times throughout the season that they threatened a playoff run, but reality eventually set in.
So now Denver is 33-44 and would have the 12th pick, which would go to the Magic, if the season ended today. It still has to play the Golden State Warriors twice, the L.A. Clippers, the Houston Rockets, and the Utah Jazz. That's a tough end to the season. At best, they'll finish 2-3 and more likely will finish 1-4.
Checking in on New York
The Knicks can't keep out of their own way. A week ago, they held the tiebreaker for the eighth spot in the playoffs over the Atlanta Hawks. Fast forward to now and they would finish with the 11th pick. The Indiana Pacers had a meltdown against the Hawks and now Atlanta is two games up on New York with four games left on their schedule.
What that means is that it's almost impossible for the Knicks to sneak in to that eighth spot. I'll knock on wood here, because there's still a possibility. But by "possibility," I only mean they aren't technically eliminated from the playoffs. They have to win out and hope that the Hawks implode. Not impossible, but improbable, given what we know about these Knicks.
Prospects in range
What's most likely is that the WoNK pick falls in the 10-13 range. Sure, both New York and Denver could land in the Top 10, but the numbers say that won't happen. SB Nation's NBA page is running my first official big board today, so you can see my top 15 here. Let's talk about guys in that range and see how they'd fit with Orlando's current roster construction.
Adreian Payne // Michigan State
I've got Payne technically listed as my no. 9 overall player, but I know that's higher than on most boards, so I'll use this space to elaborate. I like what Payne brings to the table with his shooting (42 percent from three-point range) and I like that he has the ability to defend both big men. He's 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot wingspan and he's mobile and active. So what we've got is a player who we know can size up with power forwards and can stretch the floor on the other end.
That's why I've got him higher than Doug McDermott. Creighton's senior forward is a hoss in college ball, but he's stuck between positions in the NBA: he can't stick with small forwards on the perimeter and he isn't big enough as a power forward for traditional lineups.
Kyle Anderson // UCLA
No player is harder to evaluate than Kyle Anderson. He's big (6-foot-9, 7-foot-2.5 wingspan), but he's slow. He's the size of a forward, but he handles the rock like a guard. He shot 48 percent from three-point distance, but he took fewer than two treys per 40 minutes. He's just so unique. He uses fakes and misdirections and weird mini-dribble moves to create separation and it fools college defenders. It's tough to figure if they will fool NBA ones.
Anderson will give a coach a ton of lineup flexibility. If you've got an anchor at center, you can get away with him at power forward. If you surround him with shooters, you can let him initiate plays and defend either forward position. The problem is that he won't ever be a plus individual defender against either forward spot. But he's just so versatile on offense and he's such a good rebounder that I had to put him in my top 10.
Tyler Ennis // Syracuse
Ennis is a big name with Magic fans and I think he could be available with the WoNK pick. He has a great feel for controlling the offense and he doesn't turn the ball over very much. He pressed a little too much in Syracuse's final loss against Dayton in the NCAA Tournament. He had 19 points but he shot 21 times and missed two final jumpers on the Orange's last two possessions. He did that because Syracuse was so bereft of offensive talent and he probably felt like he was the one to shoulder the load.
He shouldn't be asked to carry the bulk of an NBA team's scoring. Assuming that Orlando's young core moves forward next season, he shouldn't have to do a ton of scoring for the Magic. He would assume a facilitating role, in which he'd find open shooters and run Orlando's pindown-heavy offense. He can do that much. The worry is on the defensive end, where I'm still unsure if he can guard the league's quickest point guards. That might not be as much of a worry, though, if he's paired with Victor Oladipo.
Willie Cauley-Stein // Kentucky
A recent mock draft caused a lot of stir at OPP because it had the Magic selecting Cauley-Stein with the WoNK pick. I'd like to address that. Cauley-Stein will never be asked to produce from the low post in the NBA. He's a pick-and-roll big man with soft hands who can catch lobs. He's not great on the defensive glass, but he attacks the offensive boards and finishes putbacks. That's the extent of his offense.
It's his defense that heightens his pro prospects. He's solid in defending the pick-and-roll. He can hedge and recover, sit back in an Orlando-type contain scheme, or switch to the ballhandler, which Kentucky does a lot. He's a great shot blocker, averaging 4.8 per 40 minutes, and he's active. He won't be an All-Star, but he has all the physical tools to man an NBA defense.
Noah Vonleh // Indiana
I have Vonleh rated lower than most big boards do. He's a big, long dude who is fairly mobile and I like that he's comfortable shooting outside. But he's also completely lost on both ends of the floor. Oftentimes, he's just in the way on offense and he's very turnover-prone. He doesn't have great footwork and he travels a ton when he gets the ball. On defense, he's kind of just everywhere, not in a good way.
That doesn't mean he isn't a good prospect: He has the size and shooting range that heightens the intrigue surrounding him. But he's a very long term project. He reminds me a lot of Ed Davis from North Carolina. He's also only 18 years old, which is a huge nod in his favor. If the Magic selected him, they'd have to understand that he won't be ready for at least a few years.
That's it for now. If you've got any draft questions, send them to OPPMailbag@gmail.com and I'd be glad to answer them. For now, we sit and wait for the ping-pong balls.