For The Magic To Succeed, The Early Draft Picks Can't Keep Missing Games


Denver Nuggets v Orlando Magic

In the last three NBA Drafts, the Magic have chosen players that all were hyped as athletic talents with huge upside. Sounds exciting and hopeful for a team still trying to build itself into a contending franchise.

But at some point production matters. And upside gets old. No one blames a player who is injured but return on investment matters in the NBA. And over the last three drafts the Magic have gotten minimal return.

The team has a decision to make on whether or not Jonathan Isaac(taken 6th in 2017) will play coming back from a knee injury seven months ago. Isaac has gone through some 5-on-5 workouts and the Magic don't have a deadline to announce whether the third year player is a go with a minutes restriction or sit him out with the goal of a healthy player for next year. Isaac has all-star potential and when healthy is one of the young elite defenders in the game and his offensive skills are getting better. But here's the problem with Isaac, three seasons into his career he has played in 134 of a possible 229 games (59%). He has gone through multiple injuries in his time in Orlando and while no one questions his talent the challenge is can he stay healthy.

The big buzz on the Magic's Mo Bamba(taken 6th in 2018) is that during the quarantine he added 21 pounds and it's lean muscle. The pictures and videos of Bamba show a young player that may be growing into a NBA big man body. 

Now the question is how does he play with the added weight. And the answer might take some time and not because you need a 30 game sample size. But it might take time because Bamba still is trying to earn playing time. As Bamba has been working at Disney with his team, his coach Steve Clifford was asked about his playing time when games resume and Clifford added, "He's gonna take some time for him to be able to get to a place that he could play more minutes." Bamba is two seasons into his career and he has battled injuries as well. Bamba has played in 107 of 147 possible games (73%)during his pro career.

Which brings us to the third player Magic President Jeff Weltman has selected during his time in Orlando. In the 2019 NBA Draft, Orlando selected Chuma Okeke with the 16th pick. Okeke suffered an ACL injury his final season at Auburn and has not appeared in a game this season. Some talent evaluators think Okeke was a steal and will be a productive NBA player and the Magic were able to take the gamble because of where the franchise is at in the development plan for the franchise.

Maybe Isaac will play when games resume at Disney and perhaps become the all-star player fans are hoping for. Perhaps Bamba will get into shape and stay healthy and play consistently. Maybe Okeke will be the draft steal and become a key player for the team in years to come. In total games available for all three over the last three seasons, they have appeared in 241 of 441 possible games(55%). For a team that needs to draft and develop players before they can entice a top free agent, the process has been frustrating because of injuries. But it's hard to develop when your young core misses games.


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