Orlando Magic Draft Board: Post NCAA Tournament
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So March Madness has come to an end. Hours upon hours of basketball have been watched, brackets have been busted and history has been made. Louisville and Michigan played a terrific championship game with the Cardinals emerging victorious.
In the eyes of NBA executives, however, yesterday marked the final opportunity for players and prospects to make an impression during a high-pressure, live-game situation.
For the Orlando Magic and general manager Rob Hennigan, it was another opportunity to scout Michigan Wolverines All-American point guard Trey Burke to see if he could continue his meteoric rise and catapult himself to the top of Orlando's draft board.
Although the Magic are projected to finish with the second-worst record, according to John Hollinger's Playoff Odds (via ESPN.com), meaning they are almost assured a top-five selection, we'll look at six of the prospects that Orlando shall be scouting heavily and targeting in the upcoming draft.
The order shall be descending from six to one, with the player ranked first on the draft board being the Magic's top overall prospect.
6. Michael Carter-Williams
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Carter-Williams, a sophomore point guard at Syracuse, has had a season marked by highs and lows, yet he is one of the top prospects of the 2013 NBA draft.
A highly talented player with the flexibility to man either guard spot, Carter-Willams can drive to the hoop and score from almost anywhere on the floor, while maintaining his court vision to find the open man. He averaged 7.3 assists per game on the season.
For a point guard, Carter-Williams is also blessed with exceptional size (6'5"), and despite his unexceptional length—his wingspan also measures 6'5" (according to Draftexpress.com)—he still averaged 2.8 steals per game.
The biggest complaints about the Syracuse point guard are that he is a poor perimeter shooter, shooting a paltry 29.2 percent from three and 69.4 percent from the line. In addition, after feasting on nonconference opponents, Carter-Williams' numbers took a dive during Big East play.
So unless he absolutely blows the Magic front office away with his workouts, the chances of Carter-Williams donning a Magic jersey next season are not high.
5. Nerlens Noel
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Noel, a freshman power forward/center at Kentucky, was having a spectacular year until he tore his ACL during a game against Florida back in February. Much like former Kentucky center and freshman sensation Anthony Davis, Noel wowed scouts with his dominant defensive presence and athleticism.
Unfortunately for Noel, his injury and the fact that Orlando's roster is filled to the brim with power forwards and centers make it unlikely that he will be drafted by the Magic. His skills and potential would likely supplant any frontcourt player that the Magic currently have (with the only possible exception being center Nikola Vucevic, who, along with Noel would comprise a deadly frontcourt combination), but if a highly touted guard is available when Orlando is on the clock, I'd expect another player to be selected.
4. Victor Oladipo
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Oladipo, a junior shooting guard at Indiana, was arguably the best player on one of the best teams in the country. And this is truly impressive as one of his Hoosier teammates, center Cody Zeller, is another potential lottery pick.
A solid player, but by no means a star coming into the season, Oladipo burst onto the scene in 2011-12. NBA front offices took notice of Oladipo's efficient offensive game (scoring 13.6 points per game while shooting a blistering 59.9 percent from the field), improved perimeter shot (improving from 20.8 percent from three as a sophomore to 44.1 percent this season) and the extreme athleticism that transformed him into a defensive force who won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Oladipo certainly has an incredibly high ceiling, given his athleticism and improving offensive game. Still, one has to wonder if his shooting numbers will continue to rise or whether this past year was an outlier.
The other factors that hold Oladipo back from being on the top of Orlando's draft board is that the Magic already have a fairly similar player in Arron Afflalo (even if Oladipo has a much higher ceiling), and the team desperately needs an heir to take over the point guard spot for veteran Jameer Nelson.
3. Trey Burke
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Burke, a sophomore point guard at Michigan, enjoyed a spectacular season in which he won every major Player of the Year award and played in the national championship game (which the Wolverines could have won if he hadn't gotten into foul trouble).
A strong player who can get to the rim and finish while hitting perimeter shots (Burke shot 38.4 percent from three on the season), Burke is also the consummate floor general, balancing scoring with setting teammates up for easy baskets (18.6 points and 6.7 assists per game). Burke is a sensational leader who was the driving force behind a team that finished the season as the national runner-up, and one whom the Magic would love to add to their roster.
The only knocks on Burke are that he is not a great defender and is slightly undersized for a point guard (listed at 6'0" according to Draftexpress.com), but unless one of the two players ranked above him are available, it would not be shocking to see Burke playing in Orlando next season.
2. Ben McLemore
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McLemore, a freshman shooting guard at Kansas, is one of the top-rated players available in the upcoming draft and is ranked in the top three of almost every scout's draft board.
As one of the best players on a highly talented Kansas squad that was one shot away from the Final Four, nobody questions his talent. An athletic "freak" with a highly polished skill set—he has drawn comparisons to Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen—who boasts solid defensive fundamentals, McLemore has NBA general managers and scouts drooling over his potential.
As previously mentioned with Victor Oladipo, the Magic already have a fairly solid shooting guard in Arron Afflalo, which would likely make the team hesitant to draft another player in a position of relative strength. But unless the top ranked prospect on Orlando's board is taken when the Magic pick, the team would be crazy to pass on McLemore.
1. Marcus Smart
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Smart, a freshman point guard at Oklahoma State, is a player who grew on scouts tremendously as the college basketball season progressed. A highly touted prospect, Smart initially was a first-round candidate but has worked his way into contention for being the top overall selection of the 2013 NBA draft.
Flexible enough to play either guard spot (although slightly undersized as a shooting guard, according to Draftexpress.com), the 6'4" Smart boasts a skill set that any organization would be ecstatic to add to their team.
Scoring ability, particularly on drives to the hoop? Definitely. Ability to set up teammates for easy baskets? Yes. Rebounding? Superb, especially for a guard. Size and athleticism? You bet. Defensive skills? Spectacular. Scouts also rave about his competitiveness and character, which are crucial aspects of being a successful NBA player, especially at the point guard position.
Still, there are some concerns about Smart. It's debatable that he has a clear-cut position, although most every draft expert and scout lists him as a point guard. He's a mediocre perimeter shooter (29 percent from three on the season) and while he is a very good athlete, he is not an elite athlete like many of the star point guards currently gracing the NBA, such as Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook or John Wall.
And while Smart may not be the perfect prospect, he is as good a one as Orlando could hope for given the team's needs. Should Orlando land the top overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft, or find themselves with the opportunity to select Smart when they make their selection, you can bet the organization will pull the trigger and put Smart in a position to be one of the team's future stars.