With two slots in the ping pong ball NBA Draft Lottery extravaganza, Orlando Magic faithful were hoping for a miracle and ended up with the fourth and twelfth picks in the NBA Draft. With lucky charm and franchise co-founder Pat Williams in attendance, Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan and Orlando fans crossed their fingers and toes that the team could leave New York with two out of the top three picks. With the third most ping pong balls based on their 23-59 record this past season, the team had a more than 15 percent chance of landing the top pick. Based on the Dwight Howard trade, the team also held the rights to the lower pick out of the two owned by the Denver Nuggets. If both of the Denver picks landed in the top three, then Orlando would have hit on the daily double of two picks at the top of the draft. Alas, the lottery magic did not occur.
Hennigan hopes that the upcoming draft will yield a star for the team to build around in the model of his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the number two overall pick of Kevin Durant in 2007 and Russell Westbrook at number four in 2008, the team has its stars and works to provide complementary talent. Orlando has a stable of good young players, such as center Nik Vukevic, Tobias Harris and Victor Olidipo. Unfortunately, the squad lacks a star caliber player as the primary building block. This past season of playing the young guns extensively helped the team gain experience and collect more lottery ping pong balls. Unfortunately, NBA draft lottery unlucky results point to a slower turnaround for the Orlando Magic given that they did not garner a top three pick.
The top three players in the draft, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jacobi Parker, are each viewed as stars in the making. While the team will obtain a high quality player at the fourth spot in the NBA Draft, the chances of the player becoming a franchise cornerstone are diminished. Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State could be the point guard of the future for the team, and may have been the team’s selection at number two in the draft if he came out last year, but temperament issues may get in the way for the image conscious team. Big man Julius Randle of Kentucky is another possibility, but at 6’9″, he may not have the size needed to be effective at a high level in the NBA. Another possibility is the Australian mystery man Dante Exum. As an athletic and tall point guard, he could become the class of the draft. The problem is the lack of exposure to top level US competition.
In all likelihood, the Orlando Magic executive team will work overtime to determine if Exum can give the team a lucky result, even if he was not their initial target prior to the NBA Draft Lottery. In 2008, Westbrook was not a consensus pick at number four, but he certainly turned out to become a top flight player. The question is whether or not the team tries to swing for the fence with the fourth pick or plays it safe.
Commentary by William Costolo