Markelle Fultz. Cole Anthony. R.J. Hampton. Now, Jalen Suggs. For years, the Orlando Magic were mostly hurting for point guards, trying to make things work with the likes of D.J. Augustin and Elfrid Payton. Suddenly, after Thursday’s thoroughly surprising NBA draft, the Magic find themselves filthy with talented young point guards and, possibly, finding themselves looking to deal their way out of a logjam.
But that’s a problem this team will welcome. After a difficult blow on lottery night left them with the No. 5 pick in what was widely viewed as a four-player draft—despite a full-on tank job that left them with the third-worst record this season—the Magic needed a little good fortune to come their way. When the Raptors surprised many by taking Florida State’s Scottie Barnes with the No. 4 pick, fortune smiled on Orlando.
As team president Jeff Weltman said, “It was a great night for the Magic.”
The Barnes pick meant Suggs, a consensus All-American who averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists for Gonzaga last year, was still on the board. The Magic did not need another young point guard who is not a great shooter, but what they do need is talent. Suggs was one of the most accomplished players coming into this draft. He has talent.
The pick brought to mind what Weltman said on Tuesday leading into the draft when he was asked about the possibility that the Magic would draft based on need. When Orlando pulled off a fold-the-cards week ahead of a the trade deadline in March, giving away Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon in separate deals within a matter of hours, it was clear they’d given up on need and were just looking for young guys with some potential.
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“You know where we are right now,” Weltman said. “We’re looking for talent, we’re looking for character. I would say specific positional needs and slotting in certain skills would probably—they’re always important, they’re always part of the discussion but I would say they probably take a little bit of a backseat given where we are right now. Most important for us is we feel we are going to add two talented guys that can grow into being high-level players and high-level teammates, and I think we are looking at a bunch of guys that can fit that bill. But I’m very hesitant to say—we’re not where we were a few years ago where we can slot in a specific need. We need to add guys we can grow with.”
Suggs is a guy the Magic can grow with. Orlando, of course, also had the No. 8 pick, which was used on Michigan forward Franz Wagner, an interesting pick because he, like so many Magic prospects, does a lot of things well but shooting is not on that list. That is a problem in a shooting-heavy league. Orlando was 26th in 3-pointers made last season (10.9) but that is only part of the story. After the trade-deadline moves, the Magic made only 9.1 3-pointers per game and shot a woeful 31.7% from the arc.
That’s a problem, but one that, evidently, the Magic did not want to address in this draft. That is understandable. Like Weltman said, the Magic do not have the luxury of drafting for need. They’ve just got to get players, guys they can grow with.,
Coming out of the draft, the Magic have that. Orlando now has a roster loaded with potential, combining young guys like Suggs with Gary Harris, Hampton and Fultz in the backcourt and Wagner with Jonathan Isaac, Chuma Okeke and Wendell Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. It’s not all going to work out, of course. Isaac, Okeke and Fultz have had health issues. Harris has seen his confidence crater as health problems have worsened. The team probably will have to move on from the No. 6 pick in the 2019 draft, Mo Bamba. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops for the Magic.
But they got one of the Top 4 in this draft despite having the No. 5 pick. That’s a win for the team, by any measure. And the Magic needed a win.
Source: Forbes – Business