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2019 NBA Draft: Brief interview w/ Ricky Scricca from The Stepien

Ricky took the time to answer some draft-related questions for us leading into Thursday’s NBA Draft

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Welcome to draft week Magic fans! The league’s annual NBA Draft will be held in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Center this upcoming Thursday, June 20th.

As of now, Orlando is slated to select 16th (first round) and 46th overall (second round), the first time the organization will be selecting outside of the lottery since they took Andrew Nicholson with the 19th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

The Magic have some interesting options that could possibly enter into play come Thursday night, and I reached out to Ricky Scricca from the Stepien to help guide us through some draft-related questions.

Also, if you missed any of our draft profiles over the last few weeks, make sure to check them out. Scouting reports for Kevin Porter Jr., Nickiel Alexander-Walker, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Brandon Clarke, and Tyler Herro are all currently on our site, give them a look.

1) You are a guy that watches a ton of film on International players. Can you give us a brief rundown of your top-3 international prospects in this draft?

Ricky (@scricca1): Goga Bitadze is far and away the top international prospect in this class to me. He posted historical production during his Adriatic League season (same league that produced current NBA stalwarts Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic, Dario Saric, Bogdan Bogdanovic, among others) before joining Buducnost on transfer loan and playing Euroleague. Though it wasn’t a full season, he was the best shot-blocker in the world’s second-best league. If I had to offer a comparison, I would say current day Derrick Favors is pretty close - a smart, versatile starting center that can do a bit of everything, except I think Bitadze has a little more upside tied to his shooting and coordination. He sees the floor well as a passer, but he is overly conservative as a play-maker, which can lead to “record-scratch” turnovers. He could be very dynamic offensively were he not so risk-averse.

Beyond him it’s a bit less clear - I have Alen Smailagic (if he counts), Sekou Doumbouya, Luka Samanic, Deividas Sirvydis, and Yovel Zoosman all very, very close. As it stands, I have Doumbouya and Zoosman heading up that tier. Doumbouya is more of a project - he’s the youngest player in this class, possibly its worst decision-maker, and needs to improve his perimeter defense and closeouts. But his fluidity, shooting, and defensive instincts at his size are fairly enticing as an upside play if he manages to figure the other stuff out. Zoosman is a long, hard-nosed, versatile wing defender at about 6’6 with a roughly 7’2 wingspan. He’s a smart player as a defender and passer, but his lack of assertiveness offensively is cause for concern. He’s a solid 3-point shooter, but he will need to have a quicker trigger from beyond the arc in the NBA.

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2) Based off who you think will be available at #16, which prospect seems to be the best fit/or make the most sense for the Magic?

Ricky: The Magic are in a weird spot because clearly, point guard and shooting from either guard spot is their biggest need, but they’re too low to nab one of the top initiators (Coby White, Ja Morant, Darius Garland) but taking one of the other guards (Shamorie Ponds, Carsen Edwards, Ty Jerome) would be an excessive reach there.

Romeo Langford doesn’t quite satisfy the shooting need, but I think he offers some much-needed ball-handling and scoring while keeping with the roster’s them of length and on-ball defense. I’m also a relative believer in the jumper coming around - he was consistently solid from deep range throughout high school, he has naturally soft touch, he’s a decent free throw shooter, and he’s been steady hitting unassisted two-point shots - all positive indicators. If they stay at 16, I think he’s the pick, but Talen Horton-Tucker is another interesting option. He’s more of a long-term developmental prospect that can handle, drive, and finish at a high level and has shown some potential for shot-making and defensive versatility.

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3) The Magic are also slated to pick 46th. Who are some off the radar guys that you think could potentially offer Orlando some value in that range?

Ricky: There are a few different directions I think they could go:

Firstly, point guards. Shamorie Ponds would be a fantastic add if he’s still around there. I would start considering him as a high as the late teens or early twenties for a lot of teams. His diminutive height at 6’1 might prevent him from reaching his potential, but he’s physically strong, a confident and dynamic pull-up threat and ball-handler, and much more than a pure scoring guard with his passing vision and anticipation. Justin Robinson, Tremont Waters, and Jeremiah Martin are probably not more than long-term backup point guards, but I think all are sensible fits as undrafted free agents if nothing else. Robinson is a small but high-IQ guard while Martin has more size, length, and defensive and driving ability (thus some sneaky upside) but doesn’t quite have Robinson’s feel or shooting. Waters might be the best of the group all-around, but is also the smallest.

Secondly, wings. It makes no sense that Cody Martin appears likely to go undrafted at this stage. Smart dribble-pass-shoot wings like him don’t grow on trees, though he has some athletic limitations, he can defend multiple positions and has consistently made plays off the ball throughout his career. Justin James is a high-level horizontal athlete that can defend both guard spots, make plays, and get into the defense with relative ease. Shooting is the main question with James, and while he isn’t outright terrible from beyond the arc, he is likely going to be below average. Josh Reaves and Quinndary Weatherspoon are some intriguing versatile two-guards, Reaves being one of the class’s best anticipatory defenders, and Weatherspoon looking like a safe bet to carve out a career with his boilerplate 3-and-D skill-set.

Thirdly, international and stash options. Zoosman, Smailagic, Didi Louzada, and Sirvydis will likely all be available here. Smailagic is super young and a bit of a weird player, but he outperformed any reasonable expectations with Golden State’s G-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, demonstrating his intuition for the game, defensive instincts, and potential versatility as a modern 4-5 man. Sirvydis is a high-feel 6’8 wing that can shoot off a variety of actions. Louzada is an athletic 6’5 wing who scorched nets from beyond the arc this past season in Brazil. I like how he leverages his upper body across the board (chest, core, hands) defensively to disrupt drivers and ball-handlers and on offense to get to his spots in spite of his rudimentary handle.

I’d like to thank Ricky again for taking the time to help us out and answer some draft-related questions. You can follow Ricky on Twitter at @scricca1 and find his work on The Stepien.