The 2014 NBA draft is nearly upon us and every day brings new rumors. That is especially true for the Orlando Magic who have two lottery picks. Who will they draft with No. 4, who with No. 12? Will they make a draft-day trade?
With two picks come a lot of possibilities. That, by itself, causes a lot of rumors surrounding Orlando. But sometimes, things can get even more complicated. To highlight the fragile construction of mock drafts and predictions, consider the following: This article was already finished and ready to be published.
Then this happened:
Joel Embiid was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right foot during his workout for the Cleveland Cavaliers. All of a sudden, draft predictions started falling apart. After all, Embiid was the consensus No. 1 pick until June 19.
Most experts, including Adrian Wojnarowski, now expect the Cavs to pass on the 7-footer.
Some see his stock drop dramatically, while others believe he will not slide past the seventh pick at the very worst. The sheer level of talent seems too high to not take the risk for some of these teams.
Be that as it may, the Orlando Magic suddenly face a completely different scenario.
What a Difference a Day Makes
Twenty-four little hours ago, Dante Exum was being treated as the most likely candidate for the Magic.
It made absolute sense.
All positions except the point guard are brimming with young, talented players. Many have starter potential, while others are expected to become valuable role players. However, the playmaker position rests mainly on Jameer Nelson's shoulders with Victor Oladipo clearly feeling more comfortable as a shooting guard.
The main question was whether it would be the Australian or Marcus Smart.
Noah Vonleh became another possible pick, while Smart seemingly fell out of favor with the Magic, according to Chad Ford of ESPN SportsNation:
They've been big fans of Marcus Smart, but I've heard neither of his workouts have been particularly strong. The Exum workout was a wow I'm told. But so was the Noah Vonleh workout. While I don't completely rule out Smart there, I think it will either be Vonleh or Exum. Some of their choice may come down to who they believe will be available to them at 12.
All of that was before reports of Embiid's fractured foot emerged.
Now Exum may well be gone before it's Orlando's turn. Some pundits, like CBSSports' Matt Moore, expect him to be picked second, others third. But hardly anyone believes he will still be available after the Philadelphia 76ers are on the clock.
Currently, Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan and his staff are frantically trying to get as much information on Embiid and his injury as possible, as reported by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.
We’re going to try to gather as much information as we can, and we’re going to continue to do so right up until the draft. We have some information now, and we’re always looking to acquire more information that can help us make a decision.
All of a sudden, Orlando may face the tough decision of whether or not to pick an injured Embiid at No. 4. Everyone was sure he would not be an option before. How sure?
Embiid never was scheduled for a workout with the Magic. It made no sense, knowing he would certainly become a Cavalier.
If Exum is already gone, it may be worth the risk taking a player who was commonly thought of as the clear No. 1 pick. That, however, depends on the time needed for the foot to heal completely and the likeliness of the injury recurring.
According to Wojnarowski, recovery could take up to half a year.
Not only will Embiid miss Summer League and the entire offseason preparation, he will return with the season already in full stride. That is difficult for any player, let alone a rookie.
Basically, the first season will be lost for him and the team he ends up with.
What Happens With The No. 12 Pick?
For the Orlando Magic, this choice will mainly depend on who they acquired eight picks earlier.
If Exum surprisingly does drop to the fourth spot and ends up in Florida, there will be no need for another point guard. Instead, Orlando's management can go for the best prospect, regardless of position. Some of the players thought to be available—and of interest for the Magic—are Dario Saric, Nik Stauskas, Adreian Payne or Jusuf Nurkic.
Saric can be a stretch 4 and has good rebounding potential, while Stauskas is a sharpshooter and has the potential to become the perfect sixth man on the Magic roster. The Canadian is said to have a high basketball IQ and good ball-handling skills, per NBADraft.net. His arrival could make up for possibly sending Arron Afflalo away in a trade.
Payne could go as early as No. 7, according to ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required), due to his NBA readiness paired with considerable upside. He is athletic and a versatile player, who can play both offense and defense. Nurkic has been all over the boards in various mock drafts. However, he is one of the few true big men in this year's draft, which helps his stock.
If the Magic can't get Exum and decide against Smart with the fourth pick, they are going to pursue a point guard with pick No. 12.
Elfrid Payton has risen across mock draft boards in the past weeks and may be a great option for Orlando. The 6'4" guard is an unselfish player with good understanding for the game, according to Ford (subscription required). His quickness and defensive tenacity may make him the third-best point guard behind Exum and Smart.
Zach LaVine is 6'6" and displays outstanding athleticism. He may need more time to develop his game but seems to have a lot of upside. Ford wouldn't be surprised if LaVine ended up in the top 10, but the main question remains whether he is in fact a point guard or more of a shooting guard. In Oladipo, the Orlando Magic already have a combo guard who leans toward the 2.
Tyler Ennis, finally, is probably the most NBA-ready playmaker at this point in the draft. His game may not be flashy and spectacular, but he rarely makes mistakes. What he lacks in future potential, he makes up for in consistency.
As if all of the mayhem caused by Embiid's foot injury wasn't enough, there are also rumors about the Orlando Magic looking at the possibility of a trade on draft day. Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins quoted GM Hennigan saying, "We feel like we’ve made all the effort at our disposal to look for opportunities above us or behind us."
The necessity for a trade will largely depend on the outcome of the whole Embiid scenario.
The main dilemma facing Orlando is whether to take the risk and pick the former No. 1 prospect if he is still available. It seems more likely than Exum still being up for grabs.
Embiid certainly has a lot of potential and could become a dominating center. He could also end up a bust, depending on his health. And the NBA has been riddled with big men having health issues. There is a certain fear factor involved when going after the talented 20-year-old.
If the Orlando Magic choose to go big with their first pick, Vonleh seems like the safe choice while still offering a lot of potential. Embiid's upside, however, is unrivaled. That is why he was considered No. 1 despite his back issues. It is the reason for him still being ranked as high as No. 3 in some mock drafts, like the one by Zach Harper of CBSSports.
Strange as it may sound, Embiid's injury opened a whole lot of new options for Orlando rather than narrow down the choice.
One way or the other, Hennigan will have to make a tough call.
You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic in particular.