ORLANDO – While most of the basketball world continues to debate and deliberate who the lottery picks will be in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic have broadened their focus much wider in their pursuit of difference-making talent.
After all, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that an under-the-radar, yet ready-to-shine star could be lurking in the night’s second round, and the Magic are eager to find them.
That’s a big reason why President of basketball Operations Jeff Weltman, GM John Hammond and several other staffers worked through the weekend – save for a few hours to celebrate Father’s Day with their families – while pouring over game footage and ranking potential second-round selections.
In addition to picking sixth in the first round, Orlando owns the Nos. 35 and 41 picks in Thursday night’s draft. While those selections usually don’t capture the imagination of the highlight shows or the barber shop arguments, they often prove to be essentially important to teams when executed properly.
``The sixth pick you would say, conventionally, that that’s the difference-maker and the odds of (picks) 35 and 41 becoming rotational players, the odds are a lot lower, but we spend a lot of time on those picks and pour over them and bring in dozens and dozens of kids,’’ Weltman said. ``We value those (second-round) picks and we hold ourselves to a standard that we expect those guys to become players for us.’’
Some of the NBA’s best all-around players have come out of the second round. Sure-fire Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili was the 57th pick of the 1999 draft by San Antonio and he’s played on five championship teams for the Spurs. Draymond Green, who wears No. 35 to symbolize his spot drafted in the 2012 NBA Draft, has been an integral part in three Golden State titles in the past four seasons. Others such as Steve Kerr and Dennis Rodman also proved the doubters wrong as second-round picks and filled their fingers with championship rings. Then, there’s Isaiah Thomas, who incredibly went from the 60th pick in 2011 to a MVP candidate and an all-star in 2017 while playing for the Boston Celtics.
The Magic have featured several key contributors through the years who came out of the second round. Rashard Lewis, Gilbert Arenas, Mark Price, Rafer Alston, Ersan Ilysova, Glenn ``Doc’’ Rivers, Glen Davis, Matt Barnes and Zaza Pachuila – just to name a few – were high-level talents in Orlando after falling to the second round on draft night.
Recently, NBA players such as Jordan Bell (2017), Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon (2016), Josh Richardson (2015), Nikola Jokic (2014) and Allen Crabbe (2013) have made it big in the NBA despite being mostly overlooked on draft night. Orlando missed on those players and struggled to find a second-round keeper while drafting Stephen Zimmerman (2016), Tyler Harvey (2015), Devyn Marble (2014), Romero Osby (2013) and Kyle O’Quinn (2012). Wes Iwundu, last season’s No. 33 pick, had a solid rookie season and team has high hopes for him as a three-and-D player going forward.
Which direction the Magic go with their first pick could play a major role in their second-round targets. Orlando is in need of a play-making point guard and could pick Oklahoma star Trae Young with its No. 6 selection. However, if the Magic instead opts for big men Jaren Jackson Jr., Mo Bamaba or forward Michael Bamba, they almost certainly will take a point guard in the second round.
Jalen Brunson, fresh off a National Championship while starring at Villanova, could very well be available in the second round. West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, who some top picks considered to be the nation’s best perimeter defender last season, could also be there for the taking when the Magic draft.
Then, there’s the curious case of Anfernee Simons, a native of Altamonte Springs and a life-long Magic fan. Simons, who only recently turned 19 years old, backed out of his college commitment to Louisville after that school was hit with scandal and he instead did his post-high school prep at IMG Academy in Bradenton. His slick ball-handling, creativity in getting his own shot and his explosiveness could make him a perfect second-round find for Orlando. That would be ideal, too, for the hometown-based Simons.
``It would mean everything, honestly,’’ Simons said when asked what it would mean to be picked by the Magic. ``It would be a dream come true to come here and I feel like the whole city would be welcoming of me because I’m from here and I know everything about the city. That would be a dream come true, honestly, and I can’t even describe that in words.’’
Weltman, who admitted that the Magic will be trying to fill a variety of needs in this draft, knows the vital importance of adding more depth to the roster. Weltman said that because the Magic have such a symbiotic relationship with their G League franchise, the Lakeland Magic, that it opens them up to drafting a player who needs additional time to season at a lower level.
``I think the importance of the G League is growing and with us having it in Lakeland now, it’s more attached now to our (NBA) group,’’ Weltman said. ``(Lakeland coach) Stan Heath has been in our gym every day and talking to (new Magic coach Steve Clifford) and being around our players. Obviously, (Lakeland GM) Anthony Parker and (Assistant GM) Adetunji Adedipe are big parts of what we do. And, actually, (Lakeland’s role) is a big part of the (pre-draft) conversations. `If we select this kid, what will his path be and how does he fit into our team?’ So that has all become part of the conversation.’’
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