Following a season in which the Orlando Magic slumped to a 29-53 finish, the Magic lacked scoring, defense and above all else, a franchise player. After going all-in last summer in free agency, John Hammond and President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman inherited a team in a difficult situation and looked to address some of their issues through the draft. Entering Thursday evening holding the 6th, 25th, 33rd and 35th picks, in what many lauded as the deepest draft class since the star studied 2003 group that brought Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade to the league.
Orlando Magic Commit to Rebuild Following Draft
Hammond stated earlier in the week that the Orlando Magic would potentially look to move one or more of their four picks heading into the evening. True to his word, the new front office delivered what was a bold, yet unexpected 2017 NBA Draft for Orlando. A commitment to the long-term future of the team was made clear, once again looking to build around a talented young core. With the 6th overall pick, the Magic selected forward Jonathan Isaac from Florida State University.
From Tallahassee to Orlando
Arguably the player with the highest ceiling in the draft, the decision to select Isaac proved to generate mixed feelings from the Orlando faithful. A player with great versatility, Isaac can play either the three or the four and create mismatches against smaller opponents. Standing at an impressive 6’10”, Isaac possesses tremendous athleticism for such a young player, and his standing reach (9’0″) gives him an advantage on the boards. Averaging 12 points per game and shooting 50.2 percent from the floor, as well as 35.3 percent from three-point range, Isaac shone in his freshman year at FSU. Although not the established scorer the Magic were seeking, Isaac is a project player and has all the necessary tools to reach the heights NBA stardom.
This move will certainly be a waiting game for the Magic, as Isaac is still some way off the final product. Isaac is undersized for the league and will need to bulk up significantly to have any chance of success. Isaac will also need to work on his shot mechanics and his isolation scoring. Compare this with other issues prospects face, and the road ahead looks bright for the former FSU star. The front office has issued a clear statement that they are looking to build around Isaac, as well as some of the existing young talents on the Magic roster. When paired with Aaron Gordon, the duo has the potential to be a force at the forward spots.
Gordon has matured significantly this past season and has become a figurehead in the Magic locker room. Looking to already establish a good relationship with Isaac, Gordon can help Isaac transition to the high standards of the NBA.
After selecting Isaac, the Magic then proceeded to look ahead to the future. Firstly, Orlando traded the 35th pick to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for a 2019 second-round pick via Brooklyn. Having no real need to draft four rookies, the front office also traded 25th pick Anzejs Pasecniks to the Philadelphia 76ers, in exchange for a 2020 first-round and second-round pick. Both picks emphasize the commitment to the long-term future in Orlando, as well as the tactical move to keep some extra cap room open heading into free agency in July.
The ‘Three and D’ Prospect
The main issue for the Magic heading into the draft was the need for a shooter, on a team that ranked 29th in points per game. Orlando got their man in Kansas State wing Wesley Iwundu. Iwundu capped off an impressive senior year and has developed into a reliable scoring output during his time as a Wildcat. Shooting nearly 40% from beyond the arc as well as an effective defensive player and ball handler, Iwundu could develop into a solid ‘Three and D’ player in Orlando. Although his high number of turnovers is a cause for concern, Iwundu is also a project player and could develop into an effective bench player down the line.
If anything has been made clear following the draft, it’s that the Orlando Magic have dropped the ‘win now’ philosophy that was prevalent this time last year. With a new and ambitious front office, a strong coach in Frank Vogel and a selection of talented prospects, the Orlando Magic are once again embracing a rebuild. Heading into free agency, many questions still need answering, but there is room to be optimistic for Magic fans.