Denton: Magic Select Oladipo Second Overall in 2013 NBA Draft
By John Denton
June 27, 2013
ORLANDO – With their choice of highly projected players available after Cleveland’s shocking No. 1 selection, the Orlando Magic could have taken shot-swatting center Nerlens Noel or scoring sensation Ben McLemore with the No. 2 overall pick.
Instead, the Magic opted for a player – Indiana University shooting guard Victor Oladipo – who thrives both on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. And in Oladipo, the Magic also targeted a mature and steadily improving player who fits in perfectly with their culture of hard work and discipline.
The Cavaliers stunned the basketball world when they selected injured UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett with the top pick. That left the Magic with the option of picking Noel, whom many had atop their mock drafts despite a knee injury that won’t allow him to play until January.
But a Magic organization under the direction of GM Rob Hennigan and head coach Jacque Vaughn that has spent the past year restructuring the roster with promising young pieces never wavered on picking Oladipo. Hennigan resisted the notion to trade the second pick despite loads of interest from several teams wanting to move up to snag the talented guard.
Oladipo, the national Defensive Player of the Year last season in college, knows exactly why he was so coveted by the Magic.
``My defense is everything; it’s the reason I got here and the reason I’m at the point that I am now,’’ Oladipo said via conference call from New York City. ``And (his defense) is going to help me separate myself in the future. So defense is everything for me and I feel I can grow in different aspects of my defense as well. So I will bring that to the Orlando Magic program and help my team win.’’
The Magic interviewed Oladipo in Chicago during the NBA Pre-Draft Camp and once again in Orlando earlier in the month. They obviously liked what they saw and heard from the standout shooting guard in interviews and a private workout.
``We liked a lot of different things about him,’’ Hennigan said. ``When we first started evaluating (Oladipo) early in the season his competitive spirit really resonated with us. His ability to impact both sides of the floor was appealing as well.
``We like Victor because we feel Victor has a work ethic and an approach to the game that will allow him to continually improve. And we feel that way about a lot of the players that we have,’’ Hennigan continued. ``It was more about his work ethic, his approach and his tenacity. That really resonated with us.’’
With their second-round pick, the Magic selected power forward Romero Osby with the 51st overall pick. Osby, a 6-foot-8, 232-pound power forward, averaged 16 points and 7.0 rebounds for the Oklahoma University while also shooting 52.6 percent from the floor. The Meridan, Miss., native started his college career at Mississippi State before transferring to Oklahoma.
Oladipo will be in Orlando on Friday to meet the Magic front office and the Central Florida media. He is expected to play on the team’s Summer League squad on July 7-13 in Orlando.
``I know there are a lot of young and good players there and I know the sky is the limit for them,’’ Oladipo said of the Magic’s core. ``I know they are working to get better. I’m looking forward to getting out and helping them win. I’m looking forward to get to Orlando and just getting started.’’
Oladipo, 21, was a consensus All-American this past season as a junior at Indiana. In 36 games, the 6-foot-3, 213-pound wingman averaged 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds while dramatically bettering his outside shot. He made just 30 3-pointers all season, but his 44.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc was dramatically better than the 30.8 percent and 20.8 percent that he shot as a freshman and sophomore. He also led the Big Ten in field goal percentage at 59.9 percent.
Oladipo is known most for his defensive skills. He has both the quickness to check guards and the strength to guard small forwards. And his basketball smarts are complemented by a 6-foot, 9-inch wingspan and an 8-foot, 5-inch standing reach. Oladipo also led the Big Ten in steals at 2.2 swipes a game.
``To be honest, it’s crazy and a humbling experience,’’ Oladipo said of his climb from an unheralded high school player to the No. 2 pick in the draft. ``This day is crazy. I’ve been dreaming about this day for a long time. To actually be here, it’s surreal feeling. I’m blessed and humbled by it.’’
Magic scouts watched Oladipo practice and play in person ``a half-dozen times,’’ according to Hennigan, who also scouted the shooting guard in person. Hennigan especially liked Oladipo’s grit when it came to the defensive end of the floor.
``We really saw Victor as someone who took pride in defense and took pride in defending the best player on the opposing team,’’ Hennigan said. ``Any time you have someone who wants to play defense and gets excited about defense, that excites us. That’s one of the reasons that we liked him as much as we do.’’
Cleveland, which won the first pick in the NBA Draft Lottery last month, shockingly chose Bennett with the top overall selection. It’s the Cavaliers’ second top pick in the past three years after they selected Kyrie Irving two years ago. Few had Bennett, a 6-foot-8 power forward, going top overall, but Cleveland didn’t hesitate taking a player who couldn’t go through pre-draft workouts because of a shoulder injury.
Noel, a 7-foot, 216-pound center who was projected by most to go first overall, plummeted in Thursday’s NBA Draft after he tore his ACL in February. He likely won’t be back on the court until January and he has plenty of work to do on his rail-thin frame and shaky offensive game.
Hennigan said that Noel’s knee injury ``played in a little bit, but it certainly wasn’t the end-all, be-all.’’ New Orleans traded Noel to Philadelphia for all-star point guard Jrue Holiday and a protected pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
``We had a lot of different things thrown our way,’’ Hennigan said. ``That specific deal (Noel and a protected first-round pick for Holiday) wasn’t on the table.’’
McLemore also fell in the draft, falling from a top-two projection to the Sacramento Kings at No. 7. The Magic interviewed McLemore at the NBA Draft Combine and again in Orlando, but they clearly felt more comfortable with Oladipo. He admitted Thursday that he had a good feeling upon interviewing in Orlando, but he didn’t know he for certain that he would be the Magic’s selection until he heard his name called by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
``I mean I had an idea, but I wasn’t very certain until they called my name,’’ Oladipo said. ``It’s a great program and there are great people down there (in Orlando). I can’t wait to get down there and help the program.’’
Thursday night was the first time in the Magic’s 24-year history that they selected second overall in the draft. The Magic have a strong history of scoring with top five picks, nabbing Dennis Scott (No. 4 in 1990), Shaquille O’Neal (No. 1 in 1992), Penny Hardaway (No. 3 in 1993), Mike Miller (No. 5 in 2000) and Dwight Howard (No. 1 in 2004).
The Magic, 20-62 this past season, are still in a transition mode and hoping to rebuild their roster around a host of young players. Center Nikola Vucevic and forwards Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless showed tremendous promise last season and are building blocks for the future.
Hennigan said on Wednesday that the Magic had received trade proposals from a half-dozen NBA teams and that the franchise was seriously considering ``two to three’’ of those possible deals. Those deals likely would have been for the No. 2 pick and would have armed the Magic with more draft picks or more young players. ``We considered (moving down). I would say there were certain instances where we came close to pulling the trigger, but we opted not to,’’ Hennigan said. ``I’d say we were semi-close.’’
The Magic’s own second-round pick now belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers by virtue of the Justin Harper trade from two seasons ago. The Magic do have the No. 51 pick of the second round via Golden State.
While this draft has been panned as a weak one because of the lack of star power and a lack of depth, the 2014 NBA Draft is expected to be a more powerful one. Orlando already has two first-round picks – its own pick and the better pick belonging to Denver or New York. The Magic could also be in the market for additional first-round picks for next year to continue to bolster its roster.
Oladipo said the work that he’s put in to improve his game at Indiana will continue in Orlando as he works to crack the Magic’s rotation at either shooting guard or point guard.
``I definitely see my game transferring over because of my work ethic and I’m going to keep working at it,’’ he said. ``I’ll be staying in the gym and working on my overall game to be the best I can be. I think my game will transfer over and I can’t wait to get started.’’
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