Magic Will Select 4th and 12th in 2014 NBA Draft
By John Denton
May 20, 2014
NEW YORK – So successful at the NBA Draft Lottery in years past, the Orlando Magic are going to have to rely on the depth of what is considered to be an exceptionally expansive NBA Draft following a somewhat unfortunate break on Tuesday night.
When the Magic’s placard was flipped over fourth in the televised version of the NBA Draft Lottery, Orlando’s front office staff and fans back in Central Florida were hit with the reality that the team would not be getting one of the top three picks in the June 26 NBA Draft. When the Magic missed out on one of the top three picks, they were automatically slotted in at No. 4 based on last season’s 23-59 record.
The Magic entered the night with the third-best odds of winning the top spot, but they fell behind Cleveland, Milwaukee and Philadelphia in the draft pecking order. The Cavaliers incredibly won the lottery a second straight year and the third time in the past four seasons. Milwaukee had the best odds in the draft by virtue of its 15-67 record, but it was the 11th straight year when the team with the worst record failed to get the top overall selection. Orlando was the last to do so when it won the first pick following a 21-61 season in 2004.
``Never a dull moment. We would have liked to have seen the highest number possible for us – all of the teams would – but we like where we’re sitting and we feel like we can get a good player,’’ said Magic GM Rob Hennigan, who was seated in the crowd along with CEO Alex Martins and head coach Jacque Vaughn. ``We feel like we have our work cut out for us these next couple of weeks to figure out who that (best player is), but we do like where we’re sitting.’’
In the actual lottery, which was held an hour earlier behind closed doors for team executives, a couple dozen NBA officials and five selected media members (including OrlandoMagic.com), Magic Senior Vice President of Communications Joel Glass knew the team’s fate early on. When the first four numbers drawn out stay high – 13, 7, 9 and 14 – the Magic had no shot at winning the first pick. Cleveland was assigned just 17 combinations (or a 1.7 percent chance), but its 10th combination shockingly came up.
Orlando, which had 156 four-digit combinations, was in the running for the second and third picks, but those slots went to Milwaukee (250 combinations) and Philadelphia (199 combinations). The winning numbers for Milwaukee were 8, 6, 11 and 1, while Philadelphia nabbed the third pick with 7, 2, 6 and 5.
``I think this is what it’s going to take to get Cleveland the championship that we promised them,’’ said Cleveland Vice Chairman Jeff Cohen, who has been present in the lottery room for all three of the Cavaliers’ wins. ``Winning last year was exciting, but this year the draft is world class and that makes this even better.’’
Orlando also has the 12th pick – compensation from the 2012 trading of Dwight Howard – to give them a second lottery pick with which it can add to the roster.
Martins said he has supreme confidence that Hennigan and his staff will uncover the best player available at No. 4. Experts are saying that this draft could be the most star-packed since the 2003 Draft that produced stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. Martins believes that the Magic will do the homework necessary to find the best player available at No. 4.
``Well, it’s certainly not where we hoped to be because you always want to win it, but it’s not as bad as it could have been either at No. 6,’’ Martins said. ``The fact of the matter is that this is that this is an incredibly talented draft and we’ve got two of the top 12 picks. We’re going to take the next month and work real hard and supplement all of the information that we’ve already gathered around these great, talented young men and make the right choices to help our ball club.’’
The lotto results likely mean that the Magic will miss out on a consensus top three of Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid if they remain at No. 4. A next tier of players including Kentucky forward Julius Randle, Australian point guard Dante Exum, Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, Indiana forward Noah Vonleh and Creighton scorer Doug McDermott could be in play, but it’s far too early in the process to speculate which player might interest the Magic the most.
``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.’’
Hennigan said that time will tell if this draft is a star-studded and deep as most experts are tabbing it. Hennigan and his staff have been scouting many of the players from this class for two years, so they have good baseline measurements on those athletes. The Magic could start bringing players into Orlando as early as later this week for private workouts and physicals.
``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.’’
On the NBA Studios stage before a nationally televised audience, Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams leaned back in his chair and let out a frustrated sigh when it was revealed that Orlando would pick fourth.
``The good news for Magic fans is that we’re still going to get two really nice, young prospects to join the current group of players,’’ Williams said. ``I think that’s exciting and fun. Seeing young players develop, that’s the best part of this business.’’
Williams, the Magic’s co-founder and a Hall of Famer, was taking part in his 12th NBA Draft Lottery with the Magic and he was hoping for his fifth lotto victory. He won once with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1986 and three times with the Magic in 1992, ’93 and 2004. Orlando, of course, used those first selections on franchise-changing stars Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway (via a trade) and Dwight Howard. Williams was also on the podium last May when Orlando nabbed the No. 2 pick with which it used to draft standout guard Victor Oladipo.
``I still think it’s nerve-wracking,’’ Williams said. ``You see the countdown from 14 on down and it’s pretty standard and you are hoping that there’s nothing weird that goes on. But there’s usually a team that jumps up there. We’ll be picking fourth, but we’re confident that we’ll still be able to get a really good player at that slot.’’
The Magic are excited about the prospects of adding two promising players to a strong core of players that includes Nikola Vucevic, Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Kyle O’Quinn and Maurice Harkless. Those players made tremendous strides this past season as Orlando knocked off some of the league’s best teams and posted a seven-win improvement in home games at the Amway Center.
Through the years, the lottery has served as a lifeline to provide the Magic with some of the best talent in the NBA. Orlando built the core of the 1995 NBA Finals team by getting Nick Anderson with the 11th pick in 1989, Dennis Scott with the fourth pick in 1990, O’Neal with the No. 1 pick in 1992 and Penny Hardaway in ’93 after trading Chris Webber.
The Magic were down on their luck again in 2004 following a 21-61 season and they were able to cull the No. 1 pick from the lottery. They picked Howard first overall and were back in the NBA Finals five years later in 2009.
Now, following 20- and 23-win seasons as the franchise transitioned from Howard to a new core of young and hungry players, the Magic are hoping to use their two lottery picks to add a couple of more standout players who can get them back in playoff contention.
``Once we figure out who we’re drafting and we figure out what they are about, we’ll have a better idea about how they fit with the other pieces,’’ Hennigan said. ``But right now, T.B.D. (to be determined).’’