It's been a rough two years for the Orlando Magic from a wins perspective. Since the 2012-13 season, the Magic have racked up just 43 wins, a total that 16 teams matched or exceeded in this season alone.
Still, there's plenty of reason for Magic fans to feel optimistic about the team moving forward. Orlando has uncluttered its cap situation, already has a couple of exciting young players on the roster and, most importantly, will have two lottery picks to work with in the 2014 draft. Pretty exciting stuff.
But even though the Magic have a legitimate shot at the top pick, the stakes aren't actually all that high for them in Tuesday's draft lottery. There's no can't-miss, Anthony Davis-type of prospect in this year's draft, no surefire franchise centerpiece.
What there is is a handful of blue-chip prospects (namely Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Dante Exum) who could, with luck, develop into stars. And Orlando has a very good chance of landing one of those guys.
According to The Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins, the Magic have a 15.6 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick, a 15.7 percent chance at the No. 2 pick and a 15.6 percent chance at the No. 3 pick. They also have a 22.6 percent chance of picking fourth, a 26.5 percent chance of picking fifth and a 4.0 percent chance at picking sixth.
That gives Orlando a 69.5 percent chance at landing one of the draft's top four players, even before factoring in the chance that one of them happens to slide to fifth or even sixth. And the gap isn't even all that wide between, say, Exum and Julius Randle.
Obviously, the higher the pick, the better, but this is one of the rare drafts in which missing out on a top pick isn't likely to be a franchise-altering stroke of bad luck.
The odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the Magic landing a top-five pick (and the No. 12 pick, per Robbins), and anyone they take in that range has the chance to be a true star. Let's take a look at who the Magic might draft depending on where they land in the lottery and how those players might fit on the team.
No. 1/2 pick: Jabari Parker
Parker's already a mean inside-outside scorer, and when he's at his best, the Carmelo Anthony comparisons are hard to ignore.
Parker shot 36 percent from deep this season, and like Anthony, he's a nightmare cover when he gets the ball with space in the low or high post. He can back down smaller defenders with ease and is particularly strong at facing up and beating bigger defenders off the dribble.
Parker also has a smooth pull-up jumper, and despite averaging just an assist per game at Duke, he's flashed some clever passing skills that Orlando could develop into something.
Not that many bigs can fit passes through traffic the way he does in the play below. That, combined with his shooting and ability to get to the rim, could make him a dangerous pick-and-roll ball-handler in the near future.
Parker's defense is a bit worrisome, as he's not quick enough laterally to corral the NBA's best 3s. Shifting him over to the 4 would help, but it could cause problems with the Magic.
Parker and Nikola Vucevic would be a killer combo offensively; however, neither provide much rim protection, and it's hard to see how Orlando could squeeze anything above a league-average defense out of the pair (though the Charlotte Bobcats have Al Jefferson anchoring a top-notch defense, so who knows?).
Parker's the most NBA-ready player in the draft and should be able to step in and provide serious scoring from day one.
No. 1/2 pick: Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins' game may have some notable flaws, but his potential is huge. He'd fit nicely in Orlando.
Wiggins is big and athletic enough to play the 2 or 3, so he'd give the Magic some flexibility as they decide what to do with Arron Afflalo and where exactly to play Victor Oladipo.
He also has insane defensive potential, and if all went right, he and Oladipo could form a devastating combination on the wings to the point that Orlando might be able to excel defensively despite its meager rimprotection.
Offensively, though, things are a mixed bag. Wiggins has all of the tools to be an elite offensive player, and he already does some good things on that end. He can get to the basket and draw a ton of fouls (6.5 free throws per game), has a decent outside jumper and is terrifying in transition.
Unfortunately, his ball-handling is below par, and he has problems finishing at the rim—pretty bizarre considering his athleticism. In February, Dean Demakis of Dean on Draft had this to say concerning Wiggins' touch around the basket:
There’s no way around it: Andrew Wiggins has horrific touch around the rim and is completely inept at finishing in traffic. In 10 games against teams that are top 130 in both defense and block %, Wiggins is shooting just 22/72 (30.6%) from inside the arc. There’s likely bad variance on long 2′s in that sample, but the fact remains that it’s hard to find footage of him finishing over trees.
That doesn't exactly paint an encouraging picture of Wiggins' transition to the NBA, not for the first few years anyway. With proper coaching, Wiggins could be an offensive stud, but it would likely take a few years for him to be the high-usage scorer the Magic could use.
No. 3/4 pick: Joel Embiid
Embiid doesn't exactly fit with Vucevic, and if Orlando winds up taking him, then it'd be almost certain to part with Vucevic shortly thereafter (who they could likely get some nice players for, it's worth mentioning). That would be a risk, but if Embiid even scratched the ceiling of his talents, it would be well worth it.
If not for some dicey back issues—a not-insignificant red flag—Embiid would almost certainly be the consensus No. 1 pick. He has a chance to be an elite two-way big, the rarest commodity in the NBA by far.
Embiid averaged a whopping 19.4 points, 14 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes this season, per Sports-Reference. He's almost certain to be an elite rim-protector at the next level and has the quickness and athleticism to be one of the best defensive players in the league, period.
On the other end, Embiid's not the most versatile player, but he's effective. He's got a good stable of moves in the low post, draws a ton of fouls and hit free throws at a nearly 70 percent clip last season.
He turns the ball over quite a bit (almost 22 percent of possessions, per Sports-Reference), but he should improve in that regard over time, and he's already a solid passer out of double-teams.
Again, the fit in Orlando isn't great, but Embiid is a ridiculous talent, and if the Magic don't think the injuries are a concern, he'd be a phenomenal pick.
No. 3/4 pick: Dante Exum
Since he doesn't play stateside, Exum isn't really a household name, but he's a great prospect and would fill a glaring hole at point guard for the Magic.
As DraftExpress points out, Exum has some real shooting issues, and that makes him a bit of a tricky fit alongside Oladipo. But shooting is workable, and Exum already makes up for that lack of shooting in other ways.
Exum has elite quickness and ball-handling, and he pretty much gets to the rim at will. His shot selection is sometimes wacky, but that too is coachable. Exum is also a much better passer than his numbers would suggest. He sometimes misses teammates or forces passes, but he's more than capable of running an offense at the next level.
Thanks to his speed and height (he's 6'6” per DraftExpress), Exum also projects to be a plus defender. Even if he's not a stopper, his size alone will help him seal off passing lanes and force a lot of deflections, which should lead to easy transition opportunities for the Magic.
Orlando needs a point guard, and Exum is the best one on the board. Given time, he could be exactly what the team needs.
No. 5/6 pick: Marcus Smart
Similar to Exum, Smart is a big point guard with a shaky jumper who does most of his damage at the rim. He shot only 30 percent from deep this year (yuck) but averaged eight free throws per game.
Smart isn't nearly as quick as Exum is, but he's solidly build at 6'3”, 227 pounds, per DraftExpress, and he's insanely strong. Smart can post up most guards with ease, and there's a legitimate chance that certain teams will have to switch bigger players onto him in the NBA.
That same strength gives Smart serious defensive potential. He may not be the quickest guard, but he's tremendous at fighting through screens and can hold his own down low against players much bigger than him.
He and Oladipo would make a terrific defensive backcourt, even if their lack of shooting would hurt Orlando's spacing on the other end.
Again, Orlando would obviously prefer to have as high of a pick as possible, but it's in decent shape regardless of where it drafts. Even if the Magic fall all the way to pick No. 6, they have a real shot at drafting a great player. It's choosing that player that will be the real test.