ORLANDO – All eyes are now officially on the Orlando Magic.
With the 2022 NBA Finals wrapped up and the Golden State Warriors crowned champions, the basketball world has completely shifted its focus to the draft.
After winning the lottery and acquiring the first overall pick, the Magic are in the driver’s seat for what will happen on Thursday night when the selection process begins.
While the team has been diligent about its research, hosting countless workouts, numerous interviews, digesting hours upon hours of film, and having conversations with a wide-array of individuals who’ve been around these prospects, Orlando will utilize every second leading up to the draft to make its ultimate decision of what to do with the first overall selection.
“We’re going to continue to evaluate and discuss,” said Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman on Monday morning. “New information comes in, believe it or not, still, now, all the time. So, we’ll continue to go through the process and get to the point where we have to make our decision on Thursday night.”
There are a number of players in this draft class clearly worthy of that first overall selection. Duke’s Paolo Banchero offers a unique blend of size, skill, and scoring for a player who’s at least 6-foot-10 and weighs approximately 250 pounds. Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren fits the unicorn bill as a 7-footer who has the potential to be a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate with a wide-array of offensive capabilities. Purdue’s Jaden Ivey no doubt deserves a mention as an electric guard whose speed and athleticism will likely make him a nightmare in transition for years to come. And Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr.’s blend of size, shooting, and defensive versatility are skills high in demand in the modern-day NBA.
“I’m very confident that we’re going to get a player with size, talent, IQ, skill, character, everything that we want to be about,” Weltman said.
Regardless of who the Magic select, the player will be joining a core that’s certainly not devoid of talent. The group currently features a number of lottery selections, including Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., and Jonathan Isaac to go along with other promising young pieces such as Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton, and Chuma Okeke.
“We’re going to add (the pick) to an already exciting group of young players and we’ll put him in position to fully maximize his potential,” Weltman explained. “Beyond that, it goes where it goes.”
That aforementioned young core is already hard at work. Many of them have spent much of their offseason in Orlando working diligently at honing their craft. The dedication and commitment has been noticeable and the number of players choosing to do it at the Magic’s practice facility has been impressive.
The continued development of that group will no doubt be on Weltman and his staff’s mind as they decide what to do with picks 32 and 35 overall on draft night. While adding two players at the top of the second round will certainly be intriguing, they must balance the potential of those additions with what’s also best for their current young nucleus.
“How many rookies do we want this year,” asked Weltman of the prospect of adding three rookies to an already young locker room. “We’ve got a young team already. How can we keep the pathway clear for our young players to develop? With that will come a whole bunch of explorations about what to do with those two picks. You can almost go on forever with the if/thens and play that out.
There will be no shortage of if/thens among media and fans leading up to draft night about what the Magic should do with the first overall pick as well as selections 32 and 35. But that’s what’s so exciting about holding one of the most prized possessions in all of sport.