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2023 NBA Draft Lottery Team Preview: Orlando Magic
With the 2023 NBA Draft fast approaching, we're taking a look at what each lottery team needs to target with their draft selections, continuing today with the Orlando Magic.
Corey: This is a piece about the Orlando Magic and the draft. But I have to start it off by saying that it’s a travesty that the Magic organization hasn’t gone back to the 90s pinstripe jerseys full-time. It hurts my soul. Do you know how much cooler Paolo and Franz would look in those perfect classic jerseys full-time?
OK, back to your regular scheduled programming.
The Orlando Magic have crushed the last two drafts by nabbing two franchise cornerstones in Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. The duo are the kind of jumbo wings that every team covets. Multi-dimensional scorers and playmakers that have the strength and agility to fill a multitude of roles on both sides of the ball. They rock.
So what else do the Magic have? Most people seem to always want Orlando to add point guard help, but the emergence of Markelle Fultz has made that spot much less of a pressing need. In fact, head on over to Magic Twitter and bring up that Orlando should draft a point guard and see how that goes for you. Cole Anthony is a divisive player as he has certainly lived up to expectations and is an intriguing bench option that brings some heat-check elements to his game. I don’t know if he is a guy that has to be in the long-term plans but he made huge strides in his game this season. Jonathan Isaac is a good basketball player when he is on the court, but it remains to be seen whether he’s going to be able to do that with any consistency or if that is the career path that he prefers given his…um…social media. The Magic should still feel invested in developing Jalen Suggs. He may not have the NBA star qualities that many felt he had during the 2021 draft cycle, but I think he can be one of those connecting guards that get after it on both sides and make winning plays. We’ve seen how those guys have impacted playoff games this year. Finally, Wendell Carter has been a great addition for the Magic. He has seemed to feel much more comfortable developing the complexities of his game since Orlando acquired him. He’s a little undersized to deal with some of the game’s best centers, but he’s on a value deal and fits the high-feel roster the Magic are building.
So with a ton of young talent on the roster, what should the Magic be looking to accomplish with their two lottery picks?
Albert: SHOW ME THE SHOOTING! The Orlando Magic have a lot of really fun players as Corey mentioned above in the intro. Whether you’re a fan of the team or not, you can’t help but notice the beautiful versatility of Franz and Paolo. Have they come up with any cool nicknames for the duo? The Wanch-eros? Too much? Definitely.
The Magic have two budding superstars that can do almost anything they want on the court. With two guys that can do so much with the ball in their hands, all you have to do is start adding guys that can play off of them and make beautiful music. I like how Corey highlighted some current guys on the team that should be a part of the build, I actually think guys like Jalen Suggs makes a ton of sense with the Wancheros because of his defensive ability and overall selflessness. The aspect of the team that’s missing big time is spacing. They did get some good shooting numbers from Gary Harris last year and grabbed Caleb Houstan in the draft last year, but adding to that with a high-end sniper would be magical.
Luckily for the Magic, there should be a slew of dead-eye shooters available when it’s their turn to pick. Whether it’s with their #6 pick or their #11 pick, there will be some truly intriguing shooters that also have more than just shooting in their arsenals. As we predicted in our most recent No Ceilings Mock Draft we could easily see the Magic taking a risk at the sixth pick on a wing like either Amen Thompson or Ausar Thompson. If that were to happen then you’d 100% expect the Magic to use the 11th pick on a shooter. Of the options available in that range you have to mention guys like Jordan Hawkins, Brice Sensabaugh, Jett Howard, and Gradey Dick. If you’ve read my writing before, you’ll know how much I love Jett Howard, and I continue to rate him as one of the top five players in this class. If the Magic could grab another 6’8” monster with elite shooting skills, a wicked handle, and slept-on passing ability, that would be a steal in my opinion. Jordan Hawkins is going to be a popular name as well with the wild volume and efficiency he posted as a sophomore for the UConn Huskies. Hawkins is a ball of energy on both ends of the floor that will add a spoonful of chaos to the squad that I think would be immensely valuable.
Keep in mind that as much as I think the Magic could take a risk at pick six, I wouldn’t rule out them grabbing a shooter at that pick either. Let’s send it back to Corey before I talk about shooters forever.
Corey: Your mind is in the right place targeting shooters for the Magic. Orlando was 22nd in the NBA in 3FG% frequency this season and 25th in 3P%. In other words, they didn’t take a lot of them and they didn’t shoot them well when they did. This isn’t your grandmama’s NBA anymore, you have to have reliable three-point shooters on the floor. Orlando has the opportunity to pick up shooting with at least one of their picks and maybe even both depending on how frisky they’re feeling. If Orlando keeps both picks I’d imagine they target shooting with the 11th pick. Albert mentioned an intriguing batch of shooters and I’ll add Keyonte George to the mix. To be honest, although probably a fairly unpopular opinion, I would feel comfortable taking Keyonte with the sixth pick. Everyone talks about George’s self-creation on the ball, but to me what makes him a potentially deadly scorer is his ability to play off the ball. George has a lot of Jamal Murray to his game in that he can dance with the rock, but his ability to play off of stars is what makes him special. I want that kind of guy playing next to two high-feel guys like the Wanchero’s. When George shares the court with just one of Disney’s young duo, he can confidently take more on-ball responsibility. I also think Sensabaugh is a perfect fit at 11 for those same reasons. I think Sensbaugh’s offensive season is getting really underrated. This man was a beacon of efficiency as a freshman who could basically get to his spots whenever he wanted. There are certainly questions about his frame and knees, but I am very much willing to bet that Sensabaugh outperforms his draft slot given his combination of positional size, strength, shooting, and touch. Plus it’s always fun when a dude gets to play for his hometown.
But moving off the pure shooters for a second, I’d be remiss if I didn’t look at all my options with the #6 pick. If the Magic want to swing more for the fences they may get an option to do that with a Thompson if one or both are still on the board. I favor Ausar, not just for pure fit, but because I think he is the better long-term NBA prospect. His shooting is questionable, but I think his form lends reason for optimism. He’s not as quick-twitchy as his brother, but he’s still a top-tier athlete and I love his pace and change of speed. His two-hand chase-down block during the TBT tournament lives in my head rent-free. Ausar is also used to playing off the ball having grown up playing more of the wing spot and will be comfortable finding ways to contribute when Paolo and Franz are creating. For a lot of similar reasons they can look to add a guy like Cam Whitmore, and it’d be a good pick, but Ausar’s passing feel is much more advanced at the moment.
I also feel the Magic have to be prepared to make some weird decisions if they are taking a BPA approach. Jarace Walker is my dude from this cycle, I have had him as a Top 3-4 player in the class since the summer, the rub is that he is a really weird fit next to the Wanchero’s unless you envision him as a pure 5, which I don’t believe will be his best spot. Hendricks is tricky for those same reasons. If the Wanchero’s are your guys then does it make sense to draft the “BPA” if they’re bound to play a backup role for the duration of their rookie contract?
Albert: This is why Corey gets paid the big bucks, because he asks the bone-chilling difficult questions that only God has the answers to. I’m with you with the Keyonte stuff. I think George is a dazzling offensive player that played through some injuries and has a game that tailor-made for the NBA.
This is why I’m starting to wonder if maybe the Magic shock the world and go with one of the shooters we’ve mentioned so far at six and then target a Dereck Lively at 11. I know 11 might be a little rich for some when it comes to taking Lively, but is it really that crazy? I know Wendell Carter had a good season for the Magic, but there could be a world where they look to invest in an athletic big that can protect the rim, pass the ball a little, and maybe one day even shoot threes. What if they left the draft with Keyontae George and Dereck Lively? You’d walk away with an offensive weapon in George that can play both on and off-ball for you and a giant big with some real skills that could develop into a dynamic vertical threat and defender with a sprinkle of other skills as well.
I understand that this may not be the sexiest haul for the Magic but it could be a realistic one for them. Jonathan Issac is never healthy, they already quit on the Mo Bamba project, and I don’t know how committed they are to Bol Bol and Mo Wagner. Ultimately, I do subscribe to the idea that they’ll probably take a big swing at six and grab a shooter at 11, but who actually knows? Another possibility that we haven’t even discussed is if the Magic choose to package their picks into something else. Maybe they go chasing for a star, maybe they package their picks to move into the Top 3 and try to grab Scoot? That would actually break my brain. The idea of Scoot playing with Franz and Paolo is one I haven’t thought a lot about, but he could be really enticing. I think there will be some roster consolidation happening this summer with the Magic offloading some of the guys that just haven’t panned out. Whatever direction they end up going with will be really interesting to watch, and that is why I think the Orlando Magic are one of the most interesting teams to watch during the off-season.