The 2017 NBA Draft is the next big league event for all but two of the NBA’s fan bases at the moment. The Orlando Magic currently hold four selections (6th, 25th, 33rd, 35th) in the top-35 of this year’s draft, and will assuredly be ushering in prospects from around the country into Orlando for workouts throughout the next four weeks.
It could be likely that the Magic decide to package one or two of their picks in the 25-35 range to try and better their roster via the draft, trade, etc. But for the moment, the Magic will operate under the premise that they will be using all of their picks to improve the team, and Orlando needs help everywhere.
In the first part of this two part series, I will preview some backcourt options that should/will be available for Orlando when their picks are made. Everyone knows the names of the top guards available in this draft: Fultz, Ball, Fox, Smith Jr., Monk, Ntilikina. Diving deeper, here is a list of prospects that I feel can improve the roster by providing back-up PG or SG depth.
Damyean Dotson, SG - Houston (23 years old at the beginning of next season)
Current Draft Express Mock Position: Undrafted
6-5, 205 lbs.
6-9 Wingspan/8-4 Standing Reach
38-inch Max Vertical Jump
Dotson is strictly a specialist, he can flat-out shoot the basketball. And that’s exactly what he does primarily, chuck it from long-distance. Nine of Dotson’s 16 FGA’s per/40 were from downtown last season; in comparison, he attempted LESS than two FTA’s per/40.
I still love the guy for what he is, and if Dotson does happen to go un-drafted, he would be the first prospect I would call to offer a spot to on a Summer League roster. Dotson made more three-pointers per/40 last season (3.9 3PM, 44% 3P%) than any other SG in the Draft Express Top-100 database. It’s not all about just volume for Dotson either (61% TS%); he ranked 1st amongst SG’s in the DX Top-100 in PTS per possession (1.27) and PTS per play (1.14).
Interestingly enough, Dotson is also an above-average rebounder for his position. Dotson ranked 3rd last season among DX Top-100 shooting guards in rebounds per/40 (8.1 REB per/40). For me, that’s two NBA-ready skills, which is more than enough to justify a look at Dotson in the Second Round, or as an undrafted Free Agent. I realize he’ll already be 23 next season, but his advanced age compared to other prospects isn’t nearly as big of a factor in the Second Round as it would be in the First. The Magic had Dotson in for a workout this past Tuesday. Dotson possesses above-average NBA size and length at the shooting guard position.
Sindarius Thornwell, SG - South Carolina (23 years old at the beginning of next season)
Current Draft Express Mock Draft Position: 57
6-5, 215 lbs.
6-10 Wingspan/8-7 Standing Reach
30-inch Max. Vertical Jump
Thornwell’s run in the NCAA Tournament, in which he scored 24 or more points in four of South Carolina’s five games en route to a Final Four appearance, has placed him firmly in the discussion to be selected in the Second Round of this year’s NBA Draft (despite his advanced age, will be 23 next season). Thornwell is a bit of an old-school guard who plays primarily below the rim; he posted a dismal 30-inch max. vertical jump at the NBA Pre-Draft Combine. However, I think Thornwell will eventually be a guy that can get away with playing the SF position in the NBA, similar to a guy like P.J. Tucker of the Toronto Raptors. Thornwell has exceptional size, strength, and length compared to other NBA shooting-guards.
Without question, Sindarius Thornwell had a phenomenal senior season for the Gamecocks. Thornwell’s PER of 30.6 was the highest SG-rating in the Draft Express Top-100 database. His 24 PTS per/40 (1.22 points per/possession) was also the best amongst Draft Express Top-100 “2’s” (Malik Monk averaged 23.8 PTS per/40 last year). We’re also talking about a guy who did more than just score last season; his 8.3 rebounds per/40 mark was good for 2nd among DX Top-100 SG’s, and his 2.5 STL per/40 number was good for 2nd as well.
With all that being said, I still can’t help but wonder how much of Thornwell’s success this season can be attributed to the fact that he was basically a grown-man competing against boys at the college level. For instance, Thornwell excelled at getting to the free-throw line last year; his 9.7 FTA per/40 mark was by far the best out of any draft-eligible guard in the country. Do we think Thornwell will honestly be able to keep up that kind of prolific prominence in the NBA? If so, considering how deplorable the Magic are at getting to the FT-line, he’s certainly worth a pick. But that remains to be seen.
Monte Morris, PG - Iowa St. (22 years old at the beginning of next season)
Current Draft Express Mock Draft Position: 52
6-2, 175 lbs.
6-4 Wingspan/8-4 Standing Reach
33-inch Max. Vertical Jump
I’ve been a fan of Monte Morris for what seems like forever. I’ve watched him seamlessly lead one of the nation’s premiere offenses for the last four seasons; not many point-guards coming out of college have 140 career games under their belt. Obviously the NBA is a step-up in competition, but I doubt Morris will be phased by anything he encounters at the next level.
In Morris, teams get a floor-general who can shoot it and distribute the basketball. Monte Morris shot the three-ball at a clip of over 40% his first two seasons for the Cyclones. In a more featured role as an upperclassman, Morris still shot 36% and 38% from downtown respectively. Morris scored 1.16 PTS per possession last season, which was good for 2nd in the DX Top-100 database amongst other PG’s (1.02 PTS per/play, 4th in DX Top-100 PG database).
Where Morris has proven to be truly elite compared to his peers is in his ability to take care of the basketball. Not just as a senior, but throughout his four-year career, Morris has been near or at the top of the national ranks in assists, A/TO ratio, etc. Morris never turned the ball over more than 1.6 times per game in any season at Iowa St. despite playing over 33 MPG in 3 of his 4 seasons in Ames. That is remarkable! Morris posted a 5.1 A/TO ratio last season, which was easily the top mark in the Draft Express database. Morris averaged 7 assists per/40 last year, and 0.4 assists per possession.
It’s a tiny bit concerning that Morris still weighs a light 175 pounds at 22 years old (and after four years of strength and conditioning in college). Yet all of his other measurables check out unremarkably average, which is fine for a Second Round pick. Morris at #35 may seem like a reach for Orlando considering where Draft Express has him mocked, but I would have absolutely no issue with them taking him there. C.J. Watson’s contract is not guaranteed next season; I can definitively say that I’d rather having Monte Morris as the team’s third point guard right now, and I would be confident he could grow into the position of assuming the back-up role sometime shortly after that.
Frank Mason III, PG - Kansas (23 years olds at the beginning of next season)
Current Draft Express Mock Draft Position: 49
6-0, 190 lbs.
6-3 Wingspan/7-10 Standing Reach
41-inch Max. Vertical Jump
I just know Frank Mason is going to make it in the NBA, I have zero doubt. He’s cut out of the same mold as a Patty Mills or a Jameer Nelson (maybe not that much upside, but similar). I think the team and fit that Mason is drafted into will make a big difference in determining his success, and I’m not sure the Orlando Magic are necessarily the best fit/place for him to be to start his NBA career. I see him more as a guy that makes a contending team’s roster in training camp, rides the pine for a while, then perhaps falls into an emergency situation in which he helps his team win a playoff game. I think Mason would fit as a third PG on a club like Cleveland, Golden St., San Antonio (if Mills leaves in free agency), Washington, etc.
But the Magic are clearly interested in Frank Mason nonetheless; they had him in for a pre-draft workout at their practice facility just last week. Like Monte Morris, Mason may seem like a bit of a reach to be selected at the beginning of the Second Round when considering where Draft Express is currently mocking him. But it’s still early in the process, things can certainly change in the next few weeks. However, I think about another four year college-starter in last year’s draft class, Yogi Ferrell, and I wonder if at some point these guys are better off not getting drafted (and in turn, picking situations that work best for them).
Again, like Morris, Frank Mason is a battle-tested lead guard who is not going to be phased by much. He connected on 2.5 3PTM per/40 at a ridiculous clip of 47% last season, which was tied with Lonzo Ball for most out of all PG’s in the Draft Express Top-100 database. Mason’s efficiency last year en route to a consensus All-American selection was absurd; he posted a PER of 25.8 (3rd in DX Top-100 database amongst PG’s) and a TS% of 63% (2nd to Lonzo Ball). Mason was efficient and he was prolific, scoring 23 PTS per/40 (3rd among PG’s in DX Top-100) and 1.16 PTS per possession (1.08 PTS per play, Lonzo Ball - 1.09 PTS per play).
I always thought Mason was kind of smallish when I watched him play, but his metrics checked out fine at the combine. I mean, he’s short; but Mason is still plenty strong enough and long enough to play the position in the NBA. And how about that promising 41-inch max. vertical leap? Pretty impressive for an old man.
Josh Hart, SG - Villanova (22 years old at the beginning of next season)
Current Draft Express Mock Draft Position: 45
6-5, 210 lbs.
6-8 Wingspan/8-5 Standing Reach
35-inch Max. Vertical Jump
It seems like Josh Hart played at Villanova forever. We will all finally get to see how Hart’s game translates at the next level. I can’t see why it wouldn’t, he seems to me to be one of the more NBA-ready rotation level players presumed to be available in the Second Round. Hart has solid enough size and strength to play the off-guard position in the NBA right now.
Hart was an All-American, a Big East Player of the Year, and a National Champion during his tenure at Villanova. Hart was considered one of the more efficient scorers in the country in all four of his seasons in Philadelphia; he posted a career high 63% TS% this past season, good for 2nd in the Draft Express database amongst Top-100 shooting-guards (28.6 PER in his senior season, also good for 2nd among DX Top-100 SG’s).
Hart took on a larger and larger offensive role each year for Jay Wright at Villanova, and capped his career averaging 22.5 PTS per/40 (3rd in DX Top-100 database amongst SG’s). He scored 1.2 PTS per possession this past season, which resulted in about 1.1 points per play.
I think Hart, besides his ability to shoot and score the basketball, can carve out a role for himself in the NBA on the defensive end of the floor (2 STL per/40 last year). He strikes me as a guy that understands team concepts and his assumed upcoming role in the NBA (bench/depth guy). Josh Hart will become a very quality NBA player for someone who drafts him in the Second Round, he would be a fine pick in the 33-35 range for the Orlando Magic. The Magic got a first-hand look at Hart in a group workout on Tuesday.
Frank Jackson, G - Duke (19 years old at the beginning of next season)
Current Draft Express Mock Draft Position: 39
6-3, 200 lbs.
6-7 Wingspan/8-2 Standing Reach
42-inch Max. Vertical Jump
I watch a lot of Duke Basketball, partly because I’m a fan of their program, but also because they always have some of the top NBA prospects on their roster. I’m pretty familar with Frank Jackson, and I must say, I’m still in shock that he elected to remain in the draft this year. I was almost positive that he would return to school and try to improve his stock with Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, and Harry Giles (as well as Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson) moving on to greener pastures. But Duke reloads every year, and perhaps Jackson saw the writing on the wall.
It probably helps that he had a really strong NBA Pre-Draft Combine. Jackson’s athletic testing results were off the charts; his maximum vertical leap of 42 inches was one of the best in the history of the event. This guy is very young, he’s extremely raw. But there may be some things there that teams can get with. I’m just not sure he’s a greta fit for the Magic.
First of all, I don’t think Jackson is an NBA point guard whatsoever. That’s what he’s listed as, and that’s pretty much what he played at Duke. But he’s a decently sized kid, and I predict he will probably grow some more (and get even stronger). I think he will evolve into a “2”, or a combo-guard at the least. Jackson has some defensive upside for sure. Offensively, he still has a long way to go to grasp running an offense. His play-making skills are barely apparent, he’s pretty much on the court at this point to let it fly.
Jackson can shoot the basketball, there’s no question about that. Here’s a kid who shot just under 40% from “3” on 5.8 3PTA’s per/40 during his freshmen season. A 60% TS% at that early of a stage of his basketball career is pretty impressive.
The problem is, Jackson doesn’t really give you much else on the floor besides outside shooting (nearly 47% of his FGA’s came from behind the arc). His rebounding, assist, FTA, and steal per/40 numbers are rather pedestrian.
Derrick White, SG - Colorado (23 years old at the beginning of next season)
Current Draft Express Mock Draft Position: 31
6-4, 190 lbs.
6-7 Wingspan/8-5 Standing Reach
36-inch Max. Vertical Jump
Throughout the pre-draft process, as I look at guys and their films, scouting reports, measurements, etc., I tend to develop little fan crushes on different guys along the way. This week, Derrick White squarely owns my attention. How is this guy not getting more love? I could be a little biased, but I saw firsthand what White is capable of last March when Colorado came to Orlando to play my UCF Knights. White dropped 30 in that contest (8-12 from the field) along with six boards and six dimes (with 2 blocks for good measure). He was everywhere on the court to say the least.
He’s a little smallish for an NBA “2”, but not overwhelming diminutive. Some would probably describe White as more of a swing guard. We’re talking about a guy who averaged 5.2 assists per/40 last season, good for 2nd in the nation out of all draft-eligible shooting-guards. White’s play-making abilities for himself, as well as for others, should help him stand out compared to other guards projected to be drafted in his same range.
Offensively, White is NBA ready; he does it all. His 63% TS% last season was the second best mark for SG’s listed in the Draft Express Top-100 (White connected on 57% of his 2PA’s and 40% from distance). When comparing the year White had in 2016-17 to other SG’s in the Draft Express Top-100 database, he ranks 3rd in PER (27.7), 4th in PTS per/40 (22.3), and 4th in FTA per/40 (over 6 FTA).
He can shoot it, score the basketball, handle it, make a few plays for others. And at an advanced age of 23, he will (assuming he’s selected in the Second Round) have to come in and work right away at carving out an NBA role for himself because of the non-guaranteed 2nd round contracts. Derrick White to the Magic; yes please.
Jawun Evans, PG - Oklahoma St. (21 years old at the beginning of next season)
Current Draft Express Mock Draft Position: 29
6-0, 185 lbs.
6-5 Wingspan/7-11 Standing Reach
33-inch Max. Vertical Jump
Nobody exemplifies what it means to be included in this list of players more than Jawun Evans. What I mean is, this is a group of “yeah, but” prospects. Yeah, but he’s too small; yeah but, he’s too old. Let’s be real here for a moment. If Jawun Evans was two or three inches taller, he would be a lock to go early in the lottery in this upcoming draft.
Let me just leave these numbers here:
|Draft Express Top-100 Point Guard Rank||2nd to Fultz||2nd to Fox||1st||1st||2nd to Fultz||3rd|
That is flat-out getting it done. He needs to become more efficient finishing at the rim; the turnovers should probably be cut a bit (although, nothing major when considering how often he had the basketball in his hands). But still, there’s really not much that separate's Jawun’s numbers last season from Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, and Dennis Smith Jr.
But they’re all projected to hear their names called early on June 22nd. Evans, not so much. At least not yet. Evans still has an opportunity through individual workouts to impress NBA teams, I just hope he doesn’t shoot too much up teams’ boards. He’s at the top of my list of prospects I hope the Magic consider drafting at #25. It remains to be seen if Evans ends up lasting that long without being selected. I know this is contingent on what the organization decides to do at #6. Regardless, someone will be getting a steal in Jawun Evans in the late First Round.
So there you have it. That’s my list of bargain favorites that should be available when Orlando selects in the late First and Early Second Rounds next month. I realize there are some other guard prospects available that I failed to mention, I have my reasons. These are my guys, these are the prospects that I think could come in and make a difference. I will write-up a second edition of front-court “bargain prospects” in the coming weeks.
What are your thoughts Magic fans?