For the first time in six arduous years, the Orlando Magic fan-base will not be toiling over who their beloved team selects with their lottery pick in next month’s NBA Draft. The Magic figured things out late in the ‘18-’19 season, and broke-through en route to the franchise's first playoff appearance in seven years. They even found a way to steal a game in Toronto, who has gone on to win the Eastern Conference.
Since franchise center Dwight Howard was traded in the summer of 2012, the Magic have been a habitual “lottery team”. The organization drafted Victor Oladipo (‘13, 2nd), Aaron Gordon (‘14, 4th), Dario Saric (‘14, 12th - traded for the rights to Elfrid Payton), Mario Hezonja (‘15, 5th), Domantas Sabonis (‘16, 11th - traded along with Oladipo and Irsan Ilyasova for the rights to Serge Ibaka), Jonathan Isaac (‘17, 6th), and Mohamed Bamba (‘18, 6th) with their seven lottery picks in the last six years. Of course, only Gordon, Isaac, and Bamba remain with the team.
Now the Magic find themselves on the outside of the lottery looking in, and that’s obviously a good thing. The organization has seemed to turn a corner; they have the right coach in place, they have a player who was recognized as an NBA All-Star for the first time since Howard, and they have some promising young players to continue to build-around for the foreseeable future.
Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross are set to become unrestricted free agents for their first time in their respective careers, so the NBA Free Agency period (beginning on June 30th) will clearly be Orlando’s primary focus this summer. But that’s not to say that this year’s draft should be completely ignored. The Magic are slated to pick 16th (and 46th, 2nd round), and a quality player should still be there available for the organization to select. Finding a hidden gem at #16 won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible.
NBA Hall-of-Fame point guard John Stockton was drafted 16th in 1984. Dana Barros (‘89), Chris Gatling (‘91), Metta World Peace (‘99), and Orlando’s own Nikola Vucevic (‘11) are all former 16th overall picks who have gone on to make an All-Star appearance in their careers. Hedo Turkoglu, Marreese Speights, Nick Young, Jusuf Nurkic, and Terry Rozier are all former 16th overall picks who have also carved out significant roles for themselves in the NBA at one point or another.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be putting together a scouting report profiling some of the players who will likely be available at #16 when the Magic make their pick. Included in these pieces will be some notes from player film review, talking points, and the player’s draft outlook. To kick-off the series, we begin by taking a dive into Kevin Porter Jr. - a very young but talented guard from the Pacific Northwest.
|Kevin Porter Jr. (19 years-old)|
Eye in the sky
— Solid-looking form on his jump-shot, fluid release, minor adjustments will be needed
— Shot comes off a bit flat, doesn’t seem to affect the result
— Really like his shake, had no trouble creating his own shot off the dribble at the college-level
— Has already developed a workable step-back jumper, uses his feet well
— Above-average finisher in college, especially when he gets downhill
— Long strides, seems to glide on the floor
— Has the athleticism and length to make more plays defensively than he did at USC
— Size and strength to contribute on the boards from the wing position
— Defensive awareness has a long way to go
— What in the world happened with him at the free throw line this season? Lack of focus, or something else?
“Probably won’t happen” comparison: James Harden-lite (low-hanging fruit, similar measurements, hate to compare any young prospect to a Hall-of-Fame player)
“Possibly could happen” comparison: Left-handed J.R. Smith (but less active off-ball), C.J. Miles (but with a better handle, more athletic), DeShawn Stevenson
Best film of the season: March 14th vs. Washington
17 points (6-8 FGA’s, 2-4 3PTA’s), 6 rebounds, 2 steals
Video credit: Tremendous Upside
1) Self-creator Orlando has been looking for?
One of the common knocks regarding Orlando’s roster as currently constructed is the obvious lack of players that can create shots for themselves off the dribble.
Now, I value players that also have offensive awareness and secondary play-making skills; those type of players can be just as valuable within a team’s offensive system. But when things break down, which they often do against the elite defensive teams in the NBA, it’s nice to have a player than can make something happen off the dribble and create offense.
Terrence Ross is a bucket-getter for the Magic on the wing, but a good amount of his shots come off of curls and down-screens. Evan Fournier was one of Orlando’s most consistent play-makers initiating offense in two-man sets with Nikola Vucevic, but he’s not necessarily known for breaking-down his man one-on-one. Aaron Gordon has the ability to create for himself, but his shot-selection can sometimes be questionable. Jonathan Isaac just isn’t there yet with his game, he’s still only 21 years-old.
Porter Jr. has some shake in his dribble; he’s got the step-back jumper off the dribble already in his repertoire. His offensive game will surely need some refinement and further development at the next-level, but Porter Jr.’s skill-set might be exactly what Orlando has been looking for.
2) Why did he not play more at USC?
This is seriously the question that I just can’t figure out. Porter Jr. had a really strange freshmen season, I can’t really put my finger on what happened with him at USC.
Sure, the Trojans were a team last season with some veteran back-court players that had already established themselves at the college level. But they also went 16-17 on the season. You’re telling me that a potential Top-20 pick couldn’t get a consistent 25-30 minutes per game on a team one game below .500 (he played 30 minutes or more in a game three times this past season)?
And it’s worth mentioning that the Seattle native took a knee to his thigh in a contest in late November, which caused him to miss ten of the team’s next eleven games. It’s also worth noting that USC head coach Andy Enfield suspended his star freshmen wing for “an undisclosed conduct issue”, which cost him two games in mid-January.
So I get it. After arriving on the college scene with a solid five-game debut, Porter Jr.’s season began to derail for a multitude of reasons. But that still doesn’t completely answer my original question: When he was healthy (and not suspended), why didn’t he see more time on the floor? Is he coachable? Did he fail to fully embrace the offensive/defensive schemes that the staff at USC put into place? If I were in an NBA front office position, and I had Porter Jr. in front of me at the Combine or in town for an individual workout, that is one of the first things I would certainly ask him.
3) Will he commit to playing defense?
What ultimately may determine if Porter Jr. reaches his full potential as an NBA player is whether he decides to fully commit on the defensive end of the floor. Measured at the NBA Combine at 6 feet 5 1⁄2 inches with a 6-9 wingspan and an 8-9 standing reach, Porter Jr. is plenty long enough to thrive defensively at the next level.
I saw him on film use his athleticism to make plays in Pac-12 league play on the defensive end, but those moments were far and few between. A team that would be in position to potentially draft Porter Jr. must figure out what’s at the root of his struggles on the defensive end. Is it a “want to” thing? That could be solved simply with growth and maturity. Is it an awareness thing? That may not be as easy for a team to fix.
The NBA is a league made-up of guys who can score the basketball. Porter Jr. will be able to do that. But I don’t think he will be ready (right away) to defend at the next level. How long will it take (or will it ever take)? The answer to that question will likely go a long way in determining his NBA future.
Depending upon which draft site you’re looking at, Porter Jr. is getting mocked anywhere from the late lottery to the late first round. He currently sits 18th on ESPN’s Top 100 Big Board, 22nd on Kevin O’Connor’s Big Board (The Ringer), 8th on Jeremy Woo’s Big Board (Sports Illustrated), and 22nd on Tankathon’s Big Board. Same Vecenie of the Athletic has Porter Jr. coming off the board at #18 to Indiana (Vecenie Mock Draft, 4.0 - 5/14).
With so many questions surrounding his peculiar lone season at the collegiate-level, Porter Jr. will have to show teams what he can offer during the pre-draft workout process. He seems like the prototypical boom-or-bust prospect, but drafting outside of the lottery, the Magic organization may feel like they are in a good position to take a “home-run” cut with the young guard.
There will be other prospects available at #16 for the Magic to choose from that are more ready to contribute right away than Porter Jr. will be. He would be a project; I wouldn’t count on him to break the rotation next season. But the Magic have their G-League affiliate in Lakeland now. With the proper patience, development, and care, the South Seattle local could blossom with the Magic into the next NBA All-Star selected with the sixteenth overall pick.
This is the first in a series of NBA Draft previews coming over the next few weeks on Orlando Pinstriped Post. You can follow Aaron Goldstone on Twitter @AaronGoldstone.