Magic Confident They Will Get Quality Talent in Draft
By John Denton
May 21, 2014
NEW YORK – Irked when the Orlando Magic’s placard was flipped over at fourth in Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery, CEO Alex Martins squirmed in his chair and briefly allowed his shoulders to slump.
The Magic were disappointed to have fallen in the lottery – they had the third-best odds prior to the event – and they were bothered by the fact that they could potentially miss out now on some of the top stars in the June 26 NBA Draft.
But after digesting the initial shock of the moment, Martins was put at ease by knowing that the Magic’s team of personnel evaluators – led by General Manager Rob Hennigan – will make the best of a somewhat challenging situation and find the player that best suits Orlando’s roster. Orlando is one of just two NBA teams with two lottery picks – Philadelphia is the other – and Martins likes the Magic’s chances of landing one or two impact players.
``The thing that I have the most confidence in is our (front office) team because they have done such a good job of drafting and trading players and signing free agents so far,’’ Martins said. ``I know they will continue their great work. They have been working extremely hard all year long to gather all of the information and intel about these players on and off the court. We’re going to find in these picks in the first round two individuals who fit well into our culture, want to wear the Orlando Magic jersey and will work hard. The great news is that there’s a lot of talent in this draft and I’m confident that our guys will find the right players for us.’’
Martins exudes confidence because of the solid decisions that Hennigan and his staff have made in acquiring promising young talent and valuable salary cap flexibility over the past two seasons. Following the defection of Dwight Howard, Hennigan had to basically start from scratch with the roster and he’s been able to establish a solid foundation in the form of Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Kyle O’Quinn and Maurice Harkless. Afflalo, Vucevic, Harkless – all starting players – and the No. 12 pick in this June’s NBA Draft came from the Howard trade. Hennigan also wisely flipped J.J. Redick’s expiring contract for Harris and he nailed the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft by snagging the rapidly improving Oladipo.
Added Martins: ``(The Magic Basketball Operations staff) is what I have the most confidence in. I know that our guys are working as hard or harder than anybody else. They’ve gathered all of the intel and they have watched thousands of hours of tape live and in person. I know that we will make great selections to compliment the young core that we already have. I have supreme confidence in that.’’
Hennigan will be tasked with finding a difference-maker of a player with the fourth pick. Most experts have slotted freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid into the first three spots as the most desirable players in the draft, but that could certainly change between now and the June 26 NBA Draft. Embiid, a shot-swatting center, missed the final week of Kansas’ regular season and two NCAA Tournament games because of a stress fracture in his back – an injury that could cause his draft stock to plummet.
Several other elite-level prospects – point guards Dante Exum and Marcus Smart, forwards Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh, Arron Gordon and Doug McDermott and shooters James Young and Nick Stauskas – are expected to be in play when the Magic select No. 4 and again No. 12.
Hennigan said that the Magic can take solace that the draft pool is considered to be especially deep a year after the 2013 class was panned for being short on talent and depth. Some experts have predicted that the 2014 class will rival that of 2003 that produced LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.
Hennigan said that it eases the consternation picking fourth when there are so many players with tremendous potential in this draft.
``The draft is such that there are going to be good players available for awhile,’’ Hennigan said. ``That’s a positive thing for us and it’s our job to figure out who that right fit is for our team and our roster. … I’d be lying if I said we didn’t want the No. 1 pick. But it’s not deflating. This is where we’re sitting and where we’re picking and we have to make the most of our situation.’’
History also suggests that Orlando can still come out of this draft with a standout player. Dikembe Mutombo, Rasheed Wallace, Antawn Jamison, Chris Paul, Mike Conley and Russell Westbrook were all No. 4 selections in the NBA Draft. More recently, Tyreke Evans, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Cody Zeller were nabbed with No. 4 picks. Also, the last two Rookie of the Year award winners – Portland’s Damian Lillard and Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams – came from the sixth and 11th picks in the past two drafts.
``I think that this is a very deep draft,’’ Martins said. ``We heard (ESPN analyst) Jay Bilas say that this is at least a one-round deep draft, if not into the second round. There is a very talented pool of young men who I think in those two picks will be great additions to our ball club.’’
Hennigan and his staff have been preparing for this draft for two years and they have scouted dozens, if not hundreds of players, extensively both live and in person. That work has allowed them to see players progress and regress and get to know their personalities and work ethics. Hennigan stress that the work of learning more about players will continue for the next month as more interviews and personal workouts are conducted.
``There will be a lot of going through information and going through the information that we have gathered,’’ Hennigan said. ``We’ll be looking at where we think the roster needs the most improving. We’ll hopefully improve it through the draft and then moving into July. Now that the puzzle is set you have a much better idea of the types of guys who may or may not be in your range. Now, we can game plan accordingly.’’
Added Martins: ``There are no shortcuts and it takes time for players to grow. They’ve got to assimilate themselves and we have a really good young core of players already. They’re about to get two really talented teammates and they’re all going to grow together. This will be another great step in the process for us adding two more great young players.’’