This summer’s NBA Draft is expected to replicate last summer’s Draft, which was full of potential impact players and future stars of the league.
Since the start of the 2018 season, a handful of those players have lived up to the hype so far, such as Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics’ 3rd overall pick), Lauri Markkanen (Minnesota Timberwolves’ 7th overall pick who was traded to Chicago Bulls), Dennis Smith Jr. (Dallas Mavericks’ 9th overall pick), and Donovan Mitchell (Denver Nuggets’ 13th overall pick who was traded to Utah Jazz) just to name a few.
That list also doesn’t include the handful of promising draft picks that were injured this season, such as Lonzo Ball (Los Angeles Lakers’ 2nd overall pick), Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia 76ers’ 1st overall pick), and Jonathan Isaac (Orlando Magic’s 6th overall pick).
If this summer’s NBA Draft does indeed replicate last summer’s Draft, the Magic, who have the sixth overall pick once again, are in a good position to add an instant-impact player to their roster.
With a lack of depth and talent at the point guard position, that seems the most likely direction the Magic will go with their pick. According to Bleacher Report and ESPN.com’s RPM, the Magic’s D.J. Augustin is ranked No. 25 among 1-guards in the league. Orlando’s backup, Shelvin Mack, is No. 32.
The two most intriguing and promising point guard prospects so far in this summer’s draft are believed to be Oklahoma’s Trae Young and Alabama’s Collin Sexton. Young averaged 27.4 points per game to go along with 8.7 assists per game in his one and only season at Oklahoma. Sexton averaged 19.2 points per game and 3.6 assists per game in his one and only season with the Crimson Tide.
Who do the Magic roll the dice on? Good question. Although there won’t be a correct answer until the two begin their NBA careers because there’s always sleepers and breakouts in the draft, like this year’s Donovan Mitchell, I can tell you what each guard could bring to Orlando.
Young’s shooting and range combination is lethal, he made that obvious in college with his
Curry-like shooting abilities. Thanks to his shooting ability, the defense stays honest, which then creates open lanes for him to drive or drive-and-kick. Throughout the college basketball season, he proved he could make big shots in big moments and take over games as well. Against No. 16 TCU during the first half of the season, Young scored 29 of his 43 points after halftime, helping No. 9 Oklahoma beat the Horned Frogs 97-102 in overtime.
The Magic were No. 11 in assists per game this season. Young’s ability to draw the defense and get shooters open will only increase that stat. The ability of Magic Center Nikola Vucevic and forward Aaron Gordon (should he remain in Orlando) to stretch the floor would pair nicely in screen-and-roll situations with Young as well, since the defense would have to play high and tight on Young, Vucevic and Gordon would either have a mismatch once the opposing team’s defense rotates, an open shot or driving lane, or an open shooter on the wing (depending on how the defense rotates).
This type of offense would closely resemble that of the Golden State Warriors. The majority of the Warriors lineups are five-out lineups, in which every player on the court for the Warriors can shoot. Add that to the fact that point guard Stephen Curry has a fast release jump shot, can shoot deep behind the three-point line, and has that drive-and-kick ability to pair with his craftiness attacking the rim, it’s nearly impossible for defense’s to rotate accordingly on ball screens without leaving a small window for the Warriors to score.
Unfortunately Young isn’t Thanos from “Avengers: Infinity War,” so he does have weaknesses.
Even though he’s gained 10 pounds since the Sooners season ended, at 6’1 (in shoes) and 177.8 pounds (Bleacher Report), he still lacks the ideal strength, size, and speed of most of today’s NBA point guards. And just like Curry, much of his defense revolves around only guarding point guards and hanging in the passing lanes. His shooting form, even though it’s quick, he shoots it from a low position so it’s easier to defend. But don’t fret Young, Curry was doubted in part because of the same weaknesses heading into the 2009 NBA Draft, and since then…well the rest has been history in the making.
Collin Sexton draws comparisons to Milwaukee Bucks’ point guard Eric Bledsoe for a reason. His ceiling could quite possibly be the Oklahoma City Thunders’ Russell Westbrook. His athleticism is outstanding for someone who is only 6’0 (without shoes) and 183 pounds (Bleacher Report). He gets up and down the court quickly thanks to his tremendous speed, and when he channels that speed toward the basket, he can be hard to stop when he’s driving through the lane. Yes, he’s got small body measurements, but unlike Young, he’s stronger than he’s built, and he uses that strength to draw contact when attacking the basket.
Sexton doesn’t have the shooting ability of Young though, having shot 33 percent from three-point range during his only season at Alabama. What he lacks in shooting ability, he makes up for with his driving and pull-up ability. He’s proven he can show up in big games at the college level and could bring that ability to the next level too, having scored 40 points against Minnesota in November, when the Crimson Tide famously played 3-on-5 during the second half of the game. Sexton also scored 30 points against potential No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton and Arizona.
If the Magic had to choose between Young and Sexton, it’s tough to say who the safer pick is.
Sexton is a stronger version of Young that can play both ends of the floor better, and although Young led the nation in scoring, Sexton scored more efficiently and from different spots on the floor, like his mid-range game. Now don’t be fooled by Sexton’s facilitating abilities either. In college, Young was the better facilitator, and Sexton showed problems with incorporating a half-court offense (as a passer) to his game.
Welcome to the NBA though, Sexton. If he lands in Orlando, he’ll be surrounded by more reliable shooters like shooting guard Evan Fournier, and stretch bigmen such as Vucevic and Gordon. Thus, if he brings that Westbrook-like penetrating ability to Orlando, facilitating out of his attack shouldn’t be as much of an issue when he’s surrounded by better shooters.
Turnovers are still an issue for Sexton, along with the poor shooting ability from deep, and much like Young, he has a low-arcing shot. These are all weaknesses the Magic would have to gamble on and help him grow out of. For a team that won’t be in a “win now” situation for at least another two to three years, taking on a possible impactful player like Young or Sexton shouldn’t be an issue.
Although there’s always other options for the Magic. They could trade down, acquire more assets such as future picks and players, and draft a point guard late such as Wichita State’s Landry Shamet, Penn State’s Tony Carr, or Duke’s Trevon Duval.
The Magic could also get lucky. As with any draft, expect the unexpected. Sometimes the players we assume will all go top-5, one or more of them slip out. If that’s the case, if a player like Texas’ Mohamed Bamba or Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. is still on the board at the sixth pick, the Magic shouldn’t hesitate to take one of the two.
The reasoning behind that could be self-explanatory with both of their skill sets and potential, but I’ll break them down anyways in another article. I’ll also comfort readers on why Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. or Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be better picks for the Magic and how they could trade down a spot or two for them as well, another time.