"The Best Available Player"...Right?
As I have always said, I don't care who the Magic take, just make the right pick. That's the job of Jeff Weltman to figure it out. It's why he is there.
Is it a three person draft? Is it a four person draft? For the Magic, it's a one person draft with several options and after they make the pick, no one will know if the pick is a home run for a while.
Will the Magic draft based on "best player" regardless of position or take a player for a need the team has? So let's take a look at a few things.
Before we get to who to take, let's look at what is here. Mo Bamba is a restricted free agent and I am not sure the Magic want to sign him to a long term deal, even if it's a contract similar to Wendell Carter Jr. But do the Magic want to part with a player this management team drafted? Maybe. Is there a market to trade Mo? If so, what is realistic to get back?
Jonathan Isaac remains a mystery and I think you can't assume he will be part of the regular rotation until he proves he can stay healthy and if you are looking at a future starting five, I just don't think you are putting him in that group. There is the glut of guards, that for now, you can live with. Let's assume Markelle Fultz is the one who can be healthy, as opposed to Isaac, then your mix of Markelle, Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs is a rotation you can live with. Franz Wagner showed an ability to be a playmaker and someone I think you can build around and add another player that is an impact guy. Anyone else on the roster is a role player that is interchangeable although I still think RJ Hampton is a player you like having around.
So who should the team draft? For now, I think Jabari Smith is the safest pick of the group. Smith shot 42% from three at Auburn and his size makes him tough to defend. He can create his shot and has a nice pull up jumper. His defense and passing are areas he will need to improve. Smith would give Orlando a front line of Carter, Smith and Wagner with Isaac as a wildcard.
Chet Holmgren is so intriguing for so many reasons. He is 195 pounds and seems like he would get pushed around in the NBA but he might be the most skilled player of all in the draft. He might actually be a perfect fit to play with Wendell Carter Jr. because he wont crowd him. Holmgren can step out and shoot and he is also a very good rim protector. If the weight is a concern, how long will it take to add weight and is a Holmgren a project?
Paolo Banchero might be Wendell Carter 2.0. But he is also might be more NBA ready than Smith and Holmgren. Banchero is a tough matchup and has really good ball handling skills. His defense, like most college guys, is not great.
What if the Magic think Jaden Ivey is the best shooter in the draft? The team has been searching for a shooter for years and if Ivey is that, can you pass on that? Ivey shot 36% from three in college but might have one of the quickest releases you will find.
And then there is this, would you trade the pick if you feel that the guy you want will be there at number two? Oklahoma City has a ton of draft picks, including multiple picks in this year's draft. If the Magic love Jabari Smith and OKC loves Chet Holmgren, would you make a deal to move to number two and get something in this year's draft or a future one?
With Smith as the pick, the Magic could offer Carter, Smith, Wagner, Fultz and Anthony/Suggs. It's a group of talented young players that would be exciting and the thought of Isaac giving you some quality minutes has the make of an improving team that would be fun to watch. Take Holmgren and get a lineup of him, Carter, Franz and your guards creates some interesting things with what Holmgren can do on both ends.
Today my guess is Mo is not back and the Magic take Smith or Holmgren. I still think Jaden Ivey and Kentucky's Shaeden Sharpe as wildcards because of Ivey's shooting and the whispering buzz of Sharpe and his star potential.
There is no slam dunk number one and that makes this year's draft interesting. But the Magic are interesting for a few weeks as we speculate who they will take and I am not sure they know today who the pick will be.
Let the interviews and workouts begin and get ready for plenty of rumors and inconsistent mock drafts. In the end, the Magic will tell you the guy they take was always their number one choice and he was incredible in the interview and workouts because every team with the number one pick says that.
Now, let's let Jeff Weltman do his job and pick the right guy, whoever that is.
Final note: Thirty years ago the Magic drafted Shaq. Alonzo Mourning and Christrian Laettner went second and third. That group played a combined 11 seasons of college basketball. Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero played a combined 105 college games.