Despite being frequent members of the NBA lottery ‘club’ over the last decade, the Orlando Magic will be controlling the draft from the top for the first time since 2004 this time around.
With the 2022 NBA Draft now only ten days away, Orlando is primed to take the top player from the ‘22 class, adding said prospect to a trove of former top-ten picks (such as Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, and Wendell Carter Jr.) and other promising young players the Magic have already either drafted or traded for over the last few seasons.
Perhaps this is the year the Magic finally acquire that superstar the organization has been lacking since Dwight Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2012. We’re talking about 19 and 20-year old prospects entering the league at very early stages of their development, so stardom shouldn’t be expected right away. But again, this draft could be the beginning of what many Magic fans have been waiting on for some time - an opportunity to support a team that is competitive in the Eastern Conference (and relevant on a national scale).
With that being said, Orlando front office executives have their work cut out for them making the top overall pick this year, due to the fact that there’s not really an overwhelming, consensus, and/or obvious player to go number one as this process has played out (like a LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson, etc.).
I reached out to Ricky O’Donnell - SB Nation’s college basketball editor (and NBA Draft expert) - to get his thoughts on Orlando’s options with not only the first pick, but also regarding opportunities for the Magic later on in the night.
1) Last month, you wrote a piece advocating for the Magic to take Paolo Banchero first overall in 2022 NBA Draft. You made your case, but how likely (or not) do you think Orlando’s front office will go in a different direction with their pick?
(Ricky O’Donnell) I definitely think Orlando’s front office will go in a different direction. It has seemed like the pick will come down to Jabari Smith Jr. vs. Chet Holmgren since Orlando won the lottery, with Smith being the favorite. I expect Smith to be the pick just based off what’s been reported so far. It seems like many (most?) teams have Smith as the No. 1 pick in the class, so maybe it isn’t that difficult of a decision. If I was betting money on who would go No. 1, I’d take Smith.
If you missed any of our Orlando Pinstriped Post scouting reports on the top prospects in this draft class, you can find them here:
-Jabari Smith Jr.
2) If you were making decisions for the Magic, how willing would you be to listen to offers from other teams for the first pick? If so (hypothetically), what would a potential offer look like in that situation that would make enough sense for Orlando?
(R.O.) The Magic should definitely listen to trade offers, as should every team. At the same time, no one is going to confuse Orlando for a team that’s ready to win any time soon, so a deal would either have to include a young, playmaking star or be a trade down for one of the other top picks. The No. 1 pick was traded back in 2017 when the Celtics moved down to No. 3 in a deal with Philly. The Sixers got Markelle Fultz out of it, and Boston drafted Jayson Tatum and picked up a future pick. That’s probably the framework I’d be most interested in if I’m Orlando.
3) The Magic also hold picks 32 & 35 early in the second round. Orlando hasn’t made a pick in the second since 2018, trading their last four second round selections away (for either future picks and/or cash considerations). Let’s make an unlikely assumption that Orlando uses their seconds this time around. Who are some prospects the Magic should be targeting in that range?
(R.O.) There should be some good talent on the board at 32 and 35. Assuming Smith is the pick at No 1. Orlando would be wise to target a bigger playmaker and a wing shooter/defender with their second rounders. Dalen Terry from Arizona would fit the description of the former as 6’7 wing who put up impressive assist numbers despite a low usage rate. If he’s gone at No. 32, then Ryan Rollins from Toledo could also be a good pick. Some wings who might be available in the second round include Max Christie, Christian Braun, and Peyton Watson. Watson has the best tools but also had the worst season of the three and would likely need a few years to develop. Christie needs to add strength, but he’s a good shooter and should be able to check smaller off-ball wings as he fills out. Braun is a hellacious competitor with bounce and shooting potential. Any of those guys would feel like good selections for Orlando.
4) Second round picks, especially those early in the round (like Orlando’s), can prove to be extremely valuable to contending teams drafting in the late first round who find themselves in difficult salary cap situations. Is there a scenario you can envision where the Magic have an opportunity to trade back into the late first round using their two seconds?
(R.O.) Yeah, sure. For Orlando, it’s just about how many rookies you want to have on your roster next season. The team is already so young — do they really need three rookies? I could see a slight trade up into the first. My target there would be a bigger playmaker like Terry or Blake Wesley from Notre Dame. Some useful wings in that range include Jalen Williams and Jake LaRavia, who would both be very good picks. MarJon Beauchamp could also be someone good to target for defensive help.
5) Jeff Weltman and John Hammond have been building (and rebuilding) the Magic since they both arrived in town in 2017. Collectively - just taking a step back - what do you make of the young core that Orlando has assembled (through the draft and various trades)?
(R.O.) I like Orlando’s young core, but to me they really need a primary initiator to help everyone slot into more suitable roles. Franz Wagner is awesome, but it’s hard to see him as a No. 1 option who is running pick-and-roll and iso. on most possessions. I like Suggs as more of a complementary guard than a lead engine. Fultz has playmaking potential, but the shot is still broken and he’s a health risk. Cole Anthony would be perfect next to a bigger primary option to me. There are a lot of intriguing pieces here, but they need a star who can pressure the defense with his scoring while still getting teammates involved. To me, Banchero is the guy with the best chance to be that in this class, which I why I wrote that Orlando should take him. Even if the pick is Smith, the core is still impressive and could easily be the foundation of something good down the road if Smith lives up to the hype and someone from the Wagner/Anthony/Suggs/Fultz group emerges into a true primary.
We thank Ricky for taking the time to answer these handful of questions for us. Remember Magic fans, the big event (the NBA Draft) will be held on Thursday, June 23rd (7:30 PM EST) in Brooklyn, NY.
Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.