6 Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Interest the Orlando Magic
In a shocking turn of events, the Magic were bumped out of the top three by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who went on to win the No. 1 pick for the third time in four years. However, this might not be a bad thing considering Orlando's needs.
There's no question the Magic need a point guard, especially with Jameer Nelson's status still up in the air (he has an non-guaranteed contract worth up to $8 million). Australian point guard Dante Exum seems to be the go-to pick at No. 4.
The Magic could also look to add a defensive presence up front, given Nikola Vucevic isn't an effective rim protector.
We'll look at three different prospects Orlando could potentially take with each of its two picks, starting with the No. 4 selection.
No. 4 Pick: Noah Vonleh, C, Indiana
Indiana's Noah Vonleh was one of the combine's standouts, and with a versatile game unlike any other center in this draft class, Orlando should certainly give him a closer look.
Vonleh has shown an ability to score both inside and outside, shooting an impressive 48 percent from behind the arc. With a long reach and wingspan, he's able to shoot over defenders without running the risk of getting his shot blocked.
Defensively, Vonleh has the potential to be an outstanding rim protector.
He averaged 1.4 blocks per game during his lone season in Indiana, but he might lack the explosiveness to become an elite shot-blocker in the NBA. His aforementioned wingspan—measured at just over 7'4"—does make up for his lack of athleticism, though.
At 6'10", 247 pounds, Vonleh can bang down low with bigger forwards on both ends of the floor. He's shown it through his rebounding ability, where he chases down rebounds at either end at a high rate.
Pairing the former Hoosier with Nikola Vucevic would give him more space to operate inside since Vonleh can do a bit of work from the perimeter. It also improves the Magic's rim protection given Vonleh's reputation as a shot-blocker.
This could give Orlando a lengthy frontcourt if it slides Tobias Harris down to the 3. It could also elect to move Arron Afflalo up one spot and start Victor Oladipo next to a point guard, sending Harris to the bench to lead the second unit's frontline with Kyle O'Quinn.
Vonleh still has to grow offensively, though. He's really rough around the edges and lacks finesse and a set of go-to moves. His explosiveness off the dribble isn't great, either, although he showed some improvement through the combine drills.
The 18-year-old forward will be a work in progress, but it's a move that could lead to a big payoff in the near future.
No. 4 Pick: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
What’s not to love about Kentucky's Julius Randle?
His back-to-the-basket game has become a rarity in the NBA, and he’s a double-double machine who, if paired up with Vucevic, could be part of a deadly frontcourt.
Randle could be a good fit because his and Vucevic's styles vary just enough.
Vucevic has a solid all-around game, but he does struggle in the post because he doesn't have a deep set of moves. He does, however, have a smooth mid-range shot that defenses have to account for. This past season, the Switzerland native shot 50 percent on attempts between 10 and 16 feet from the rim, per Basketball-Reference.com.
This would provide Randle space to work in the post, his bread and butter. He has a fast spin move in the low block, and he can post up just about anywhere on the court since he can face up and rely on his athleticism to get inside the paint.
Randle has to improve defensively, though. He struggles against bigger players (on offense, too) and didn't prove he could function as a reliable rim protector. Pairing him up with Vucevic—who allowed opponents to convert 56 percent of shots at the rim, per NBA.com—could spell trouble for the Magic's interior defense.
However, Randle can improve defensively as his career progresses. His explosion off the dribble in face-up situations and array of moves with his back to the basket are rare in such a young prospect.
Randle could develop into a two-way player, which could quickly make him one of the biggest threats in the league.
No. 4 Pick: Dante Exum, G, Australia
Aussie standout Dante Exum is the reason dropping out of the top three isn't as bad as it may seem.
It allows the Magic to address a more dire need: their point guard situation. While Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are being declared as the franchise-changing players, Exum really isn't far from that label, either.
The 18-year-old gives the Magic a point guard with a vast set of skills.
He's comparable to Michael Carter-Williams in that they both have similar size, ball-handling skills and scoring abilities. Exum excels at attacking and finishing around the rim. Surprisingly, he can also finish through contact despite his somewhat lanky frame.
Exum's defensive ceiling is high as well. He can guard multiple positions and has the speed and quickness to stay in front of the quicker guards in the league.
One thing that should make the Magic excited is his declaration that he would like to play with them, per B/R's own Jared Zwerling. He also seems to have a close relationship with Victor Oladipo, and Exum would allow the former Hoosier to develop and work off the ball, as Oladipo is more of a natural 2-guard.
Exum has huge upside, and while there isn't a ton of film on him, all signs point to him developing into an All-Star and possibly a franchise-caliber player.
No. 12 Pick: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The Magic currently have two bigs under guaranteed contracts for next season: Vucevic and Tobias Harris, although Kyle O'Quinn is sure to be on the team as well after a solid 2013-14 campaign.
Still, the Magic could use some depth and rim protection up front. At nearly 7'0" and 280 pounds, Bosnian prospect Jusuf Nurkic is projected as one of the best centers coming into this year's draft.
While he hasn’t been on the court very much, playing just 16.6 minutes per game in the Adriatic League, Nurkic managed to still score in double digits, shooting 54 percent from the floor.
Despite being only 19 years of age, Nurkic has proven he has a relentless interior game. He has a smooth, high-arcing hook shot and a strong, quick spin move from the low block.
But what stands out the most is Nurkic's size. He's an imposing will inside that is hard to stop without fouling. If I had to compare his game to anyone, it would probably be Nikola Pekovic, but with a higher upside defensively due to his 7'2" wingspan.
There are some concerns with his explosiveness, though, as well as his high turnover rate. In the Adriatic League, Nurkic averaged 1.6 turnovers per game. That figure was even worse in the Eurocup, where he averaged over two per game in one minute less of action.
These are all areas where he can improve with proper coaching, though. Given his age and skill set, it would not be a surprise if the Magic take a chance on Nurkic.
No. 12 Pick: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
If the Magic want a more versatile and offensive-minded big man, Croatian forward Dario Saric is the way to go.
Saric’s calling card is his offensive repertoire. He’s a great ball-handler in the open court, especially for his size, and has great vision, which allows his passing skills to shine. Saric can also stretch the floor a bit and knock down some long-range shots.
The 6'10" forward also improved on the boards, grabbing nearly 10 per game in the Adriatic League. Pairing him with Vucevic, one of the league's premier rebounders, could make the Magic a very powerful team on the boards.
There are questions about what position Saric will play, however. He doesn't quite possess the size to play inside with NBA bigs, but he lacks the quickness and agility to play in the wing as a 3. Coaches will have to work on that once he enters the league, but there's no question he has NBA-level talent.
Saric’s main caveat isn’t about his on-court performance, though. It's whether or not he will even step on the court. In an interview with Draft Express, Saric's agent, Misko Raznatovic, stated Saric's intent to stay in Europe for two more seasons. He went on to say he'd be in the league no later than 2016.
This may make some teams stray away from the versatile big, but as front offices interview him, his intentions could become clearer. Regardless, Saric is one of the most versatile and dynamic power forward prospects in this class and is worth a look in the top 15.
No.12 Pick: Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
Orlando's first pick will dictate what it addresses with its second (or if it even uses it). There will be plenty of options at No. 12 for the Magic if they choose to go backcourt. None are more dynamic than UCLA’s Zach LaVine.
LaVine’s combine performance was off the charts, from his dominance in drills to his measurements—where he measured a quarter-inch shy of 6'6"—the incoming freshman has an incredibly high ceiling.
He's explosive in the open court and finishes in transition better than most incoming guards.
LaVine's shot is also very consistent from the perimeter, knocking down 37 percent of his three-point attempts at UCLA. His ability to create off the dribble isn't great, but he can pull up off the dribble and shoot over most defenders thanks to his incredible leaping ability.
The 19-year-old has much to learn defensively, though. He's not very big and could be easily bullied by bigger NBA guards, and at times, it just doesn't feel like he's giving effort on that end. He will have to show a considerable amount of effort defensively to avoid becoming a liability.
LaVine could be a reach at No. 12. However, he could also be a steal. He has the tools to be a dynamic scorer and possibly an All-Star-caliber player. He has the athleticism and the shot to do it, and if he can match it with a strong drive and determination, he'll surely reach his full potential.
Note: Stats gathered from DraftExpress.com unless otherwise stated.
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