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2018 NBA Draft: Grading the Orlando Magic

How did the Magic fare Thursday night? Aaron hands out his grades

NBA: NBA Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NBA Draft is in the books. Thursday night was a fairly busy one for the Orlando Magic, who made three total selections (6th, 35th, and 43rd). The Magic made a trade with Denver in the second round, swapping their 41st pick for the Nuggets’ 43rd pick (and a future pick).

Here are some of my thoughts regarding how the Magic did this year in the draft, with grades I’ve awarded for each selection, as well as an overall draft grade:

Orlando Magic: Overall Grade - B+

  • Mohamed Bamba, Center (6th pick) - Grade: A-
  • Melvin Frazier, Small Forward (35th pick) - Grade: B+
  • Traded the rights to Jarred Vanderbilt (41st pick) to the Denver Nuggets for the rights to Justin Jackson (43rd pick) and a future 2nd round pick - Grade: B

Mohamed Bamba: A-

The night began with all sorts of rumors swirling coming from various sources around the league regarding Luka Doncic. It had all but been decided that Deandre Ayton (Phoenix) and Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento) were going to be selected 1st and 2nd respectively, and that brought all the focus towards the third pick (owned by the Atlanta Hawks).

The Hawks had been linked to point guard Trae Young since his workout in Atlanta, and they were looking for a trade partner to move up (so they could move down and pick Young). The Hawks weren’t able to find a deal by the league’s 2:00 P.M. draft-day deadline that essentially locked the picks in from being traded until after the draft had started.

The Magic and the Dallas Mavericks were the two organizations that were rumored to be very interested in moving up to select Doncic, a seemingly once in a lifetime prospect from Slovenia (who starred in the ACB Spanish League). Ultimately, it was the Mavericks who were successful in getting Atlanta to bite (who selected Doncic third), swapping their fifth pick and a future first round pick in ‘19 for the rights to Doncic. Dallas selected Young fifth, and then completed the trade by sending him to Atlanta.

While many Magic fans may have been disappointed that the organization missed out on both Doncic and Young (two prospects that could have helped Orlando’s offense immensely), solace was quickly found when the Magic selected Mohamed Bamba.

Bamba, a Top-5 player in the Class of ‘17 coming out of high school in Harlem, NY (ESPN five-star recruit, ranked 4th in class), was listed as a projected top-ten pick in this year’s draft by most draft experts throughout the ‘17-’18 season.

Bamba averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks (second in the nation) per game during his lone season at Texas. Bamba helped lead the Longhorns to the NCAA Tournament, and then declared for the NBA shortly thereafter.

Bamba caught the attention of the entire league at the NBA Combine this past May, measuring in with an all-time combine record 7-10 wingspan (he’s 7-1, that’s a +9 wingspan).

John Gonzalez from the Ringer wrote about Bamba working to translate his game to the modern NBA back in May:

And then there was this:

Look, (again) I realize that many fans were disappointed that Orlando didn’t address some of their needs (namely shooting/scoring/play-making) with their sixth pick.

But it was the right pick.

Bamba was truly the best player available at that point in the draft. The Magic could have opted for Collin Sexton or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but those guys would have been a huge reach at #6 (in my opinion). We don’t know behind the scenes what was or wasn’t offered, whether trying to move up or move down.

Bamba has a long way to go. He’s lower body is extremely thin. Strengthening his base is going to be a process that is going to take a few years.

Bamba is a plus-rebounder and an elite rim-protector, but I’m still legitimately concerned that he’s going to be pushed around in the paint too easily. It’s not going to be a seamless transition into the NBA for Bamba. He’s going to be a lob threat, but how long will it take until he possesses the strength the finish through contact? And will his emerging jump shot translate in games when other players are on the court?

But damn, how can you not be excited about his defensive ceiling? I know he’s not a perfectly clean fit next to Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon. Can’t pass judgement there yet, just have to see how it all plays out on the court.

I know the center position is now pretty log-jammed on Orlando’s roster with Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, and Khem Birch already with the team. But Vucevic has only one year remaining on his deal. And are we really worried about Biyombo taking time away from Bamba (or getting in the way of his development).

“When it’s all said and done, I want to walk across another stage and I want to put on a jacket that has this little seal that says ‘Hall of Fame,’” Bamba said when asked last night about his goals as a pro. “There is a lot to do before (then). It’s a lofty goal, but the mindset that I am going to have to have to do that is going to be a special one.”

”There’s a lot of goals in between that. I definitely want to be defensive player of the year. I truly believe I can be that caliber of a defender very early on in my career. I’m just excited,” Bamba added.

This pick was made to set the team up for the next five years, not for next season.

Melvin Frazier: B+
Justin Jackson: B

This is the part of the night where the draft started to get very long, pun very much intended.

The Magic, who many presumed would use at least one of their second round picks to address the point guard position, saw a run of point guards they were targeting get selected right before their pick (Okobo: 31st, Carter: 32nd, Brunson: 33rd, Graham: 34th).

This is where I think the draft got away from the Magic just a bit. Packaging the 35th and 41st picks could have put the Magic in a position to move up a few spots and grab one of these lead guards. The Magic even brought both Jevon Carter and Devonte’ Graham in to Orlando for individual workouts during the pre-draft process.

Instead, with those veteran guards off the board, Jeff Weltman and John Hammond chose to continue to follow their own “M.O.” by selecting Melvin Frazier.

Frazier is an extremely long wing who measured 6-6 at the combine with a 7-2 wingspan (+8 wingspan). Frazier was a presumed late first round/early second round pick throughout the draft process, so picking him at #35 was fair value.

Frazier’s calling card is his defensive ability. He can potentially provide the Magic with a ton of energy on the defensive end. Besides his incredible length, Frazier is also a lighting quick run and jump athlete (4th at the combine in the three-quarter sprint, fifth in max vertical leap).

Of course, to stick in the NBA, Frazier is going to have to prove he can knock down shots. He struggled shooting the basketball his first two seasons at Tulane, but made huge strides in that department this past year (38.5% 3PT%, 63% TS%).

In trading for Justin Jackson, it seemed that Weltman and Hammond were just trolling everyone at that point. And I mean zero disrespect to Jackson when I say that, but the Orlando “wingspan” jokes had already been “reaching” around the league by the time the Jackson pick came around.

So how does Jackson measure? Well, he came in at the combine at 6-7 with an otherworldly 7-3 wingspan (+8 wingspan, 8-9 reach).

I think Jackson is going to have to make his calling in the league as a stretch-four. He may seem a little short for the position, but then again the position is changing (and he has plenty of length/reach to get by as a power forward).

Jackson offers tremendous defensive upside. His length, strength, and instincts provide Jackson with the opportunity to do a lot of defensive switching on the perimeter. Jackson pulled down 11.0 boards per/40 last year, so he does possess solid enough rebounding ability.

Jackson could have been a first round pick last year if he would have stayed in the draft. Instead, the Canadian native decided to return to Maryland for his sophomore season. Jackson only played 11 games before he was shut down with a shoulder injury (torn labrum).

Jackson shot over 44% from three-point range (2.0 3PTM’s per/40) is freshmen season (56% TS%), but then saw a huge dip in his production as a sophomore (25%). Jackson’s sore shoulder can most likely be attributed to his drop in efficiency.

Like Frazier, Jackson will have to prove he can space the floor for the Magic to have a shot. I think Jackson has a shot to make the team (if healthy) because there really isn’t a true stretch-4 on the roster.

The Magic also added a future second round pick by acquiring Jackson, and only dropped two spots in the process (from 41st to 43rd). That’s not awful.

All things considered, I think the Magic had a productive night. They didn’t reach in the first round to select a guard that would have fit a position need, but probably wouldn’t have been the best player available at that point of the draft.

The Magic will have to take it very slow with Bamba, and that’s okay. The results may not be there immediately, but he has All-NBA Defensive potential.

Frazier and Jackson join a group of young wings in Jamel Artis, Rodney Purvis, and Wes Iwundu that are all trying to stick in the NBA. Iwundu, Orlando’s 33rd pick last season, is the only player of this group with a guaranteed contract next season.

If you were anticipating the Magic addressing their back-court needs, adding shooting, scoring, or play-making ability, then you probably came away frustrated with Orlando’s draft last night.

I’m choosing to be hopeful. I think the Magic made fair decisions with Bamba and Frazier, and they took a chance that Jackson returns to his ‘16-’17 form. I was a little frustrated myself that the Magic missed out at a point guard in the second round, and that is why I gave the organization a “B+” (rather than a higher grade).

This will not be a swift rebuild 2.0. Last night represented just another brick that was added to the foundation. It was a productive night.