Recent Magic teams have been plagued by incompatibilities. Players that occupy similar spots on the floor and share similar skillsets have made up a majority of Orlando teams during this recent five-year playoff drought. Their budget is in complete disarray after signing big man Bismack Biyombo to a 4-year/$72 million contract this past offseason (largely based upon his short playoff run with Toronto).
New General Manager John Hammond has his work cut out for him, and with the current structure of the NBA, the upcoming draft is the absolute best place to facilitate the rebuilding process.
The No. 6 slot is a bit tough for Orlando -- as they’re basically waiting to see what top guy could fall to them. The prospects generally graded around that area (Dennis Smith, De’Aaron Fox, Lauri Markkanen, Jonathan Isaac) aren’t the most ideal fits. In a perfect world, Josh Jackson and/or Jayson Tatum would fall into their lap. Either guy would fit in nicely with the projected starting lineup. It would also enable Aaron Gordon to move full-time to his natural position at the four spot.
If they can snag Tatum – assuming he falls past Phoenix – they would be very content. The Magic have lacked a legit number-one scorer since Tracy McGrady, and Tatum is the best iso-scorer in the pool. He and Gordon would form a fun forward combo, as their differing styles would complement each other nicely. Tatum’s scoring ability would instantly boost a team that finished in the bottom three in points per game, field goal percentage, and three point percentage.
Outside of a player magically – HA! – falling to them, it will all depend on how Orlando views their own roster. If they aren’t as big on Elfrid Payton, Fox or Smith, French guard Frank Ntilikina could be a logical choice here.
Nikola Vucevic is on a friendly contract through 2019, but a frontcourt combo of Markkanen and Gordon is incredibly intriguing. With that said, any frontcourt combination of Vucevic, Gordon and another big man is just disastrous. Even Serge Ibaka – one of the best rim-protecting, stretch fours in the league – couldn’t spread the floor or protect the paint enough to make it work. Gordon clearly seems to be in Orlando’s future plans, and Vucevic is serviceable enough for the Magic to look elsewhere instead.
With the top two wings likely off the board, the next guard prospect would be Malik Monk. Monk could be in play here for Orlando, as they have a major need for outside shooting. But they already have Evan Fournier at two-guard -- who is arguably their most complete player. Neither of them would flourish in the point guard role, and they’re not exactly fit for a move to the three spot.
Orlando’s in a tough spot because players that they could really use will probably be gone, and the talented players left in the draft aren’t at positions of need. Typically when a team is drafting this high, they shouldn’t be worried about how a player fits because they can use all the talent they can get, but the Magic certainly don’t have an untalented roster. With a few decent enough pieces here and there, it’s not irrational to imagine a push for the 7th or 8th seed this coming season.
Trading up in the draft ultimately could be in the cards for Orlando. They have some nice pieces that could potentially be used as trade chips (Terrence Ross, D.J. Augustin, Mario Hezonja, and C.J. Watson). If they could package someone like Hezonja with their sixth pick, moving up to Philly’s or Phoenix’s spot might be an option in order to grab one of the wings.
There’s a lot of moving parts here, as nobody truly knows how Orlando feels about their young pieces. However, moving up a few picks to ensure they grab a wing and complete a functional starting lineup seems like the most logical choice.
THE VERDICT: Orlando would be wise to trade up in the draft – Hezonja + 6th Pick to Philly for the 3rd Pick (who says no?) – to grab a dynamic scoring wing in Duke's Jayson Tatum.
Source: Orlando Magic Daily