We’ve all read a countless number of NBA mock drafts. We’ve all changed our mind time and time again on who the Orlando Magic should take with the first overall pick.
The time to analyze and agonize is now over. It’s draft day.
So, the picks are in for each member of Orlando Pinstriped Post. Here’s who each writer would take if we were making this highly-stressful selection for the Orlando Magic....
Aaron Goldstone - Jabari Smith
Like I’ve mentioned before, I really never envied the position Orlando’s front office has found themselves in throughout this process. That may sound strange when discussing a team that is drafting from the pole position, universally recognized as a position of strength where teams “control the draft.” But for me, the widely understood top-three prospects in this class (Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr.) really are that even. All three promising young big men have loads of potential, numerous perceived strengths, and pedigrees that fit what often comprises a top overall pick. However, like any 19-20 year-old prospect at the early stages of their professional career, all three prospects that lead this draft class have imperfect games that will require development (and patience).
The Magic have the patience, but they also have to get this pick right. Maybe there’s not a Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, or LeBron James in this draft class. But Orlando must choose the right player, a young man who can grow (alongside Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, and Wendell Carter Jr.) with the organization - and ultimately help lead it back towards relevancy in the Eastern Conference. Rest assured, Jeff Weltman and John Hammond will get their guy. A high-character player that is about team first, is versatile, has positional-size, and will continue to help change the culture in Orlando that Coach Mosley and his staff have already begun to improve.
For me, that guy screams Jabari Smith. Yes, Banchero will get buckets in the NBA (and he’s a tremendous passer for a big). And yes, Holmgren is the basketball unicorn with the incredible length to go along with the defensive instincts, shot-blocking prowess, and offensive efficiency. But I really think it’s always been Smith Jr. for Orlando. Maybe they’ve been working the phones to see if they can “have their cake and eat it too” (move back a slot or two, take Smith Jr. and pick up additional assets), perhaps they’re still doing that leading up to Thursday. Yet at the end of the day, I think Smith Jr.’s maturity, leadership qualities, shooting acumen, scoring upside, and defensive potential are exactly what the Magic are looking for.
Garrett Townsend - Chet Holmgren
Seemingly like so many in Central Florida, I’ve whittled my preference down to a pair of potential options. Jabari Smith Jr. appears to be Rashard Lewis Mach II, a sweet-shooting forward who can stretch out all the way to the perimeter while also getting buckets in the post thanks to his size and shot. Add in a well-regarded defensive energy and versatility and you have a player seemingly destined to complement Orlando’s current roster. The other possibility is Chet Holmgren, a gangly collection of limbs, otherworldly defensive instincts, and guard-like skills, all wrapped up in an almost entirely unique seven-foot body. If you told me he was created in a lab specifically to appeal to the Magic’s front office, I wouldn’t doubt it.
So, of the pair, who is the right choice? Smith Jr. seems like an almost perfect fit when examined alongside the Magic’s projected depth chart. Like many, I’ve also been clamoring for the team to find some genuine scoring talent for the better part of a decade now. And yet, does he represent the ‘safe’ pick, with a relatively high floor (that’s good!) but a ceiling lower than you’d hope (that’s bad!). He’ll likely be good, perhaps even very much so. But can he be great?
An evaluation of Holmgren, on the other hand, tantalizes in the way that only ‘high-risk, high-reward’ gambles can. The uniqueness of his skillset, size and physicality provides little in way of meaningful player comparisons, leaving us no more confident in guessing whether the 20 year old is more likely to emerge as a game-changing unicorn or to flame out as a dispiriting bust. Is such uncertainty a risk one should tolerate when picking first?
Ultimately, I one day want to see the Magic win it all. Doing so requires at least one undeniable superstar, and this draft selection is almost certainly Orlando’s best chance to secure such a talent. It’s also unlikely that the team will be gifted the same draft opportunity again any time soon, so it makes sense to me to load up, swing for the fences, and to hopefully give the franchise its best chance to one day raise a banner.
Thursday night is the perfect time for the Magic to be brash. To be bold. To be brave.
Thursday night is the perfect time for the Magic to cash in the first pick for Chet Holmgren.
Mike Ferguson - Jabari Smith
What’s not a secret for the 2022 NBA Draft is that Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero are the top three prospects. When it comes to who I would like for our Orlando Magic to pick, I go back and forth, back and forth and then back and forth some more.
When the college basketball season ended, Banchero was my guy with Smith a close second. Entering draft night, that’s since been reversed. It feels like Smith is the safest pick. It also feels like Banchero and Holmgren each have more superstar potential.
Holmgren is an absolute unicorn, but I worry about how he’ll hold up with that slender frame. I’m equally worried about the Magic picking him as I am the Magic not picking him. Of the three, I think Holmgren has the most bust potential. He may also have the most superstar potential.
I didn’t like the picks of Cole Anthony or Franz Wagner in recent years and both are very good players, so take my evaluation with a boulder-sized grain of salt. If I’m the one pulling the trigger tonight, however, Smith would join Chuma Okeke as former Auburn Tigers to currently play in Orlando.
At 6-foot-10, Smith does a lot well. The Magic need someone who can score and someone who can knock down the outside shot. Smith proved he could do both last season. He scored 17 points per contest and shot 42% from distance and 80% from the charity stripe. He did so while averaging 7.4 rebounds, a block and 1.1 steals per game for an Auburn team that spent time as the No. 1 team in the country.
Jorie Mickens - Paolo Banchero
Paolo Banchero is the pick for me.
What has been made of Chet Holmgren’s untypical combination of size and skillset and Jabari Smith’s prospective shooting and defensive ability has overshadowed how unique a player Banchero really is.
His fluid handle, advantage creation and heady playmaking ability are all unconventional characteristics of a 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward. And the discourse surrounding his defense has become skewed in my opinion. Relative to a potentially generational rim protector and a supersized, rangy and laterally proficient wing, Banchero’s defense looks as good as mine. But given his physical tools and general court awareness, I have little doubt he can develop into a positive contributor on that end of the floor; especially on a team with so many capable and switchable defenders.
It is also worth noting that just because Banchero is seemingly the most “complete prospect” does not mean he has limited upside! His defensive consistency could stand to improve, but upon entering the league, he could develop the already refined parts of his game and blossom into a superstar.
Mike Cali - Jabari Smith
From the moment the Magic won the lottery to the moment I typed these words, I have believed the Orlando Magic would select Chet Holmgren with the first pick. He just seems like the type that Jeff Weltman and John Hammond would construct if they were building a player in NBA 2K. Holmgren’s length, range and shot-blocking ability will likely render the Magic brass blind to his potential flaws, starting with a build that makes Mo Bamba look like the Incredible Hulk.
While Holmgren is the player I expect them to take, he’s not the player I necessarily want them to take.
That would be Jabari Smith, who possess many of the same traits that WeltHam salivate over while being a far-less risky pick that Holmgren, in my eyes at least. Smith seems to be the best shooter in the draft, he might have the potential to blossom into a number-one option despite his limitations off the dribble and he has the defensive versatility that is coveted across the league.
For a team that has long had hopes of winning the lottery and getting a chance to pick a franchise-altering player, the Magic are in a high-pressure and somewhat unenviable position of deciding between the safer pick and the upside pick. They’ve waited a long time to be in position to make this choice and they can’t afford to get it wrong.
And if the Magic do take Holmgren, and he’s able to add mass and stand his ground in ways Bamba is yet to do, that very well could prove to be the right pick. The bust-potential and injury risk that comes with that project seems like years of stress that should not be associated with the top pick in the draft.