The NBA Draft is just under two weeks away. The Orlando Magic will seek to address key areas in order to turn their young roster into contenders. Coming off an utterly disappointing season in which the Magic looked to take the next step, the team fell way short of expectations. Entering the 2017 off-season, this team needs to add a spark on both ends of the floor.
With a deep and impressive draft class, the Magic currently hold what is regarded as the third best selection of draft picks. The draft presents the first opportunity for the Magic to improve their roster; with the new Magic front office seeking to transform the team into a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Orlando Magic 2017 NBA Draft Strategy: Building a Contender
The Magic currently hold the 6th, 25th, 33rd and 35th picks in what many experts are saying is the best draft class since the 2003 group that brought LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade to the league. John Hammond will be presented with his first real challenge as Magic general manager, hoping to improve the team in key areas.
The Point Guard Debate
A divisive issue amongst Magic fans heading into the draft is what to do about the point guard position. For current starting guard Elfrid Payton; who despite improving this season, is yet to convince some that he is a legitimate starter in the league. Payton averaged a career high 12.8 points, 6.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds this season. He was one of the bright sparks for the Magic at times. Payton occasionally displayed starting qualities, including a spell in January, during which he averaged 21 points, 8 assists and 4.6 rebounds over five games; whilst shooting 48.7% from the floor. Despite some notable improvements, Payton has yet to develop any real consistency of offense. This is especially true from beyond the arc, where he shot just 27.4%.
Holding the sixth overall pick, the Magic will likely be able to pursue point guard prospects such as Dennis Smith Jr. and De’Aaron Fox; both of whom have drawn interest from the Magic in recent weeks. Both are significantly better offensively and have averaged 18.1 and 16.7 points per game respectively this season. Smith has proven to be a favourite amongst Magic fans and is regarded as an ideal replacement for Payton; even coming into the conversation as the best point guard in the draft. Both have plenty of upside and with Payton failing to solidify himself as a franchise point guard three years into his career, the Magic could seek to change direction.
Addressing Scoring Issues
Make no mistake, the Orlando Magic are arguably the worst team in the league offensively at times. The team ranked 29th in the league in offensive efficiency, and just 27th in points per game. Evan Fournier proved to be the highest scorer on the Magic roster, averaging 17.2 points per game having also been injured for long spells of the season. If the Magic look to really develop into a contending team, they will simply need to score more. There are a varity of ways the Magic could go about doing this. Should the team not choose to draft a point guard at number six, players such as Jayson Tatum, Malik Monk and Josh Jackson are all options, should they still be available.
However, the most likely scenario is that Orlando will look to find a proven scorer in their late first round pick. The best option for the Magic could present itself in Duke shooting guard Luke Kennard, who has a workout scheduled with the Magic. Kennard was arguably the best shooter in the ACC this past season and was influential for his team. Averaging a stellar 19.5 points per game, Kennard also shot a field goal percentage of 49.0 percent. He also averaged 43.8% from beyond the arc.
Whether Kennard is still available when the Magic select 25th remains to be seen. However, it would be no surprise if Orlando moved up to draft him. Should the Magic miss out on Kennard, other options include Arizona shooting guard Allonzo Trier or Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell. Whatever happens, the front office will seriously need to address the lack of offense on the current Magic roster.
Depth at the Four
Another key area for the Magic going into the draft is finding depth at the power forward spot. Aaron Gordon has finally established himself at the four after a failed experiment at small forward and looks far more comfortable and effective in his new role. However, with players such as Jeff Green and Damjan Rudez likely moving on this summer, the Magic will need to provide Gordon with backup.
There are plenty of options to accomodate this through the draft, especially using the 33rd and 35th picks. The draft class is packed with versatile forwards who are efficient on both ends of the floor. Syracuse big man Tyler Lydon is an obvious candidate to fill this role on the Magic roster. Expected to fall somewhere between the late-first and early-second round, Lydon ticks all the boxes for the Magic. He also averaged 11.6 points per game over his collegiate career. Lydon established himself as a force on both ends of the floor. Shooting 47.5% from the floor and an impressive 39.8% from three-point range, Lydon would be an ideal compliment to Gordon. Effective on the defensive end, Lydon had the sixth best defensive rating in the ACC during the 2015-16 season. He was amongst the top ten block leaders and rebounders during his two seasons in college.
Following an overhaul in the Magic front office, the team is set up for an equally transformation this off-season. The draft represents the first opportunity for Orlando to change the direction of the franchise. They cannot afford to mess it up.