Currently with the second-worst record in the NBA, the Orlando Magic (15-37) are all but guaranteed to have a top-five pick when the 2014 NBA draft rolls around, with that pick most likely being closer to No. 1 than No. 5.
The strength and depth of this upcoming draft has the potential to kick-start the Magic franchise back into winning form.
Not only will they have a likely top-five pick, but the Orlando Magic will also have another first-round pick that will end up somewhere in the top 15.
Thanks to the Dwight Howard trade, the Magic will receive the first-round pick of whomever finishes with a better record, the Denver Nuggets or the New York Knicks, and that pick looks to be between a late lottery pick and a mid-first-rounder. According to NBADraft.net, if the draft were to be today, then that pick would be 13th overall.
First, we’ll take a look at a couple of players the Magic should target with that second first-round pick, and then we’ll count down the five best players they should target with their top-five selection.
If the 2014 NBA draft were to happen today, then the Magic’s pick acquired from the New York Knicks would be 13th overall, according to NBADraft.net. This would give the Magic two lottery selections, enabling them to make some serious headway in the rebuilding process.
Who are the best options for the Magic at that 13th overall spot?
Tyler Ennis: Syracuse, Freshman Point Guard
At 6’2” and 180 pounds, Tyler Ennis is a special point guard, especially for only being 19 years old. Ennis is one of the most poised and pure freshman point guards you’ll ever see in college basketball.
He’s not the most athletic player, but the kid has led the undefeated, top-ranked Syracuse Orange while averaging 12 points, 5.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. He also has an eye-caching 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, shoots nearly 40 percent from long range and averages 2.3 steals per game.
Depending on who the Magic take with their top-five selection, Ennis could potentially be just what the Magic need.
With Jameer Nelson aging and constantly being on the injured list, Ennis could step in right away and take over point guard duties, which would also allow Victor Oladipo to stay at his more natural position on the wing.
Doug McDermott: Creighton, Senior Small Forward
Doug McDermott is all but a lock for the Naismith National College Player of the Year Award, averaging 25.3 points and 7.2 boards, while shooting 50 percent from the field, 43 percent from three and 89 percent from the charity stripe. Coming in at 6’8” and 225 pounds, the guy can flat-out score.
You don’t just slide into the 18th spot on the all-time NCAA scoring list without being able to ball a little bit.
The knock on him always will be his lack of quickness and athleticism, but he makes up for it with his basketball IQ. He’ll be a Kyle Korver-type player in the NBA, except with the ability to seriously put that ball on the floor and go around defenders.
He should have a long NBA career, relying on his shooting and scoring abilities. For the Magic, he would fill the desperate need of an outside shooter. Think almost like what Hedo Turkoglu did in his prime for the Magic, except McDermott is an even better shooter and overall scorer.
Rodney Hood: Duke, Sophomore Small Forward
Rodney Hood is another scary offensive weapon in this draft.
At 6’8” and 215 pounds, the lengthy guard possesses great size for the position and has a huge offensive arsenal. Don’t leave him open, because he’s shooting a blazing 45 percent from deep this season, but don’t crowd him too much either, as he’ll go right around you and attack the basket.
The Magic would benefit greatly from having Hood, giving them a big-time scorer (averaging 16.5 PPG) who can finish in a multitude of ways, helping the Magic offense that ranks 24th in the NBA in points per game. He would also provide that outside shooting presence that the Magic are lacking.
Depending on who Orlando takes with its top-five pick, Hood could either come in and start at small forward, providing an immediate shooting upgrade over Tobias Harris, or come in and provide an excellent scoring presence off the bench.
Kyle Anderson: UCLA, Sophomore Point Guard/Small Forward
Kyle Anderson’s stat line is flat-out ridiculous.
The 20-year-old literally does everything, averaging 15 points, 8.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Although he’s not a great athlete, he possesses arguably the best court vision of any player in the country.
He has the ability to play any position on the court besides center, but at 6’9” and 235 pounds, he is Magic Johnson-like at the point guard spot. He’s a wizard on offense and also a very good rebounder. He’s greatly improved his three-point range this season, shooting 50 percent, and has a very solid mid-range game.
For the Magic, he would provide an outstanding and unique playmaker at the guard spot. If you put him at the point guard spot and combine him with whomever they pick with their top-five selection, the future could become bright very quickly in Orlando.
Now let's count down the top five players the Orlando Magic should target with their own, destined-to-be top-five draft pick.
At 6’10” and 240 pounds with a 7’4” wingspan, Noah Vonleh has an NBA-ready body, and he is still only 18 years old. One of the more intriguing prospects on the board, Vonleh is starting to make some serious noise as the draft approaches.
The young freshman is a warrior in the paint with a great motor. He is a terrific rebounder and defender and possesses a solid perimeter game. He’s a surprisingly decent ball-handler and shows nice potential in his perimeter shooting.
He averages 11.7 points and 9.5 rebounds in 25 minutes per game.
The biggest knock on Vonleh is that he is still quite raw offensively, but with him constantly improving throughout the season and Indiana sure to continue giving him more touches, his potential is endless.
For the Magic, Vonleh would provide an immediate defensive and rebounding presence down low, two areas where the Magic need help. Even with his raw offensive game, Vonleh would push an aging “Big Baby” for starting minutes right away based on his size, motor and defensive capability.
Vonleh would drastically help the Orlando defense that ranks 20th in the league, and with a little time to develop in the NBA, he could turn into a beast and a cornerstone in the Magic’s rebuilding process.
Joel Embiid is a just a flat-out monster.
At 7’0'' and 250 pounds, his game and background are eerily similar to that of the great Hakeem Olajuwon.
Embiid’s coordination, natural athleticism and footwork down low are better than any big man I’ve ever witnessed in the collegiate ranks. He’s extremely long, making him an elite shot-blocker and rebounder. For someone who has only played organized basketball for three years, he has an impressive feel for the game.
Check out Embiid pulling off the “Dream Shake” move.
The only knocks against Embiid are his lack of game experience and that he needs a tad more strength.
Embiid is projected to go No. 1 overall on almost every mock draft out there, so you might be asking why he’s only No. 4 on this list? Well, because specifically for the Magic, he doesn’t fit in very well. Orlando already has an extremely solid and emerging center in Nikola Vucevic.
If they were to draft Embiid, it would create a bit of a logjam in the frontcourt. The Magic could try playing both bigs at the same time, but they would get easily exposed by the ever more prevalent “small ball” lineups that the NBA is seeing more and more of these days.
There’s no denying Embiid’s talent and absolutely incredible potential. Orlando still may take him because of that and maybe it could figure out a way to make that lineup work, but there are other options that just simply make more sense for the team right now.
Wiggins has been on a roller coaster during his freshman year in college.
He came in hyped as the next LeBron James, and then he struggled through the beginning of the year, creating a media circus filled with doubters. Now, however, he is finally living up to the hype and playing significantly better.
Averaging 16 points and six rebounds per game, the wiry wing player is immensely talented. He may be the most athletic player on the draft board, possessing an incredible first step and an elite leaping ability. He is the best transition player in the country.
With his skill set, Wiggins also thrives as a superb defender. The biggest knock on him is his lack of offensive assertiveness.
He’ll have games where he looks like the No. 1 overall pick, and then he has games where you don’t even know he’s in the building. When his offensive mentality grows more dominant, he could become a superstar in the NBA.
For the Magic, Wiggins would be outstanding. His young and athletic frame and his ability to defend, score and get up and down in transition would be great on a Magic team that struggles in basically all of those categories.
Maybe most importantly would be just his name itself.
He has been talked about and hyped for so long, the sheer amount of excitement he could bring to Orlando would do wonders in jolting some life back into the franchise. Wiggins would come in with the ability to start and contribute from the get-go, with no telling of how high his ceiling could be.
If Dante Exum was playing in the United States right now, rather than Australia, he would be highly considered for the No. 1 overall pick. The 6’6”, 188-pound guard can flat-out play.
He has unique size and length for a point guard, and he is able to play either the 1 or the 2 whenever necessary. He has supreme athleticism, and he is a great penetrator, a good passer and an outstanding finisher.
Not everyone knows how good Exum is yet, but when he arrives, he’ll take the NBA by storm. The only knocks on him are that he needs to add a little bit of strength and improve his consistency on his perimeter jump shot.
For the Magic, Exum would be a phenomenal acquisition.
As an automatic upgrade over an aging Nelson, Exum would bring a ton of hype and excitement to an Orlando Magic franchise that certainly could use it.
If Orlando selects Exum, all of the groundwork will be laid for him to succeed. He could come in right away and step into the point guard spot, creating a dynamic backcourt alongside Arron Afflalo and Oladipo.
Exum has all the makings to be a future NBA All-Star, and in Orlando, he would certainly be able to showcase the maximum of his abilities.
Coming in at a solid 6’8” and 235 pounds, Parker is the most NBA-ready player on the board.
Although he hit a slump early in January, he since has regained his swagger and is back to playing like the All-American candidate he is.
Averaging 19.2 points and 8.5 boards per game, Parker has one of the most complete games of any freshman ever to play college basketball.
He is very skilled and is blessed with elite basketball instincts and a high basketball IQ.
Every skill you can think of, he possesses. He’s a good shooter, a very good ball-handler for his size, a solid rebounder at the 3, has a very good motor and is an extremely high-character guy.
His game is most often compared to Carmelo Anthony's.
The knocks on Parker are that as an athlete, he is good, but not great, and he is just an average defender. He will improve on defense as he matures, and he can get away with not being as dynamic of an athlete because of his overflowing arsenal of offensive skills.
For the Magic, they need someone who can come in and contribute right away, and Parker is the perfect guy for the job. The most NBA-ready player on the board would come in and not only contribute right away, but Parker would also become a star for the Magic.
Just like the other top guards, Wiggins and Exum, Parker would bring a ton of excitement to a franchise that is currently in a lull. He’d provide the Magic with a first-class scorer who is destined to become an NBA All-Star.
If I had to make a prediction as to who will win Rookie of the Year in the NBA next season (assuming everyone declares for the draft), I would 100 percent go with Parker, and on the Magic, he would be on a roster where he would be allowed to absolutely thrive.