Now that Magic know where they’re picking, the real work begins
From left, NBA draft prospects Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, Tyler Ennis of Syracuse, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid of Kansas, Noah Vonleh of Indiana, Doug McDermott of Creighton and Aaron Gordon of Arizona pose for a photograph before the NBA basketball draft lottery.
I bet general manager Rob Henningan would gladly fork over a million large if you could simply guarantee beyond all doubt his club’s fourth and 12th picks will be impact players.
So much promise in a realm of uncertainty.
Rise and shine, campers. Those dreams of winning the lottery are but a wisp. Time to be accountable. Make the call. Whom do you take? Why do you take ’em?
The newest enshrinee in the Lucky Ping Pong Ball Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Cavaliers will draft first. With a core of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, the Cavs should go big for the second straight year. Buy a coat, Joel Embiid. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is quite nice.
With the second selection, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins will be bound for the Milwaukee Bucks. I enjoyed a winter concert with Willie Nelson in downtown Milwaukee. The Brewers stadium has a domed roof. You are only an hour from Chicago.
Philadelphia, choosing third, will add Parker, more likely than not, to an attack that offers Michael Carter-Williams. A tradition-rich franchise playing in a sports-crazed city, accented by the culture of world class museums. That one season at Duke will open Jabari’s eyes to this opportunity.
On the clock, five minutes later, the Magic meet the moment. Three hundred seconds at the culmination of 24 months of rebuilding. And the name announced must, beyond all doubt — especially in the four-spot — be exceedingly athletic and incredibly mentally tough.
Here is the dividing line between NBA baller and pro basketball bust: Is he passionate about the game? About winning? Does he live to compete, or does he masquerade, instead loving the life riches may bring?
Forget scoring averages, rather look at his feet. Can he move? Can he get in the way and defend? Can he think and process switches? There will be ample time to teach shot making, post moves, and to enhance offensive punch.
There are those who’ve played a decade in the league that are intrigued by the promise of an 18-year-old Australian point guard in Dante Exum. He stands 6-foot-6. Has faced international competition and fared well. Imagine a backcourt tandem that also offered Victor Oladipo.
The Rookie of the Year runner-up watched the NBA lotto intently Tuesday with the Magic’s corporate clientele in Amway Center, as curious as the rest as to what the future holds.
Is success against Under 19-teams globally — against teenagers from Spain and Eastern Europe — a predictor as accurate as Southeastern Conference accolades earned by forward Julius Randle at Kentucky? He starred for John Calipari. Stands 6-9, tips the scales at 250. This is the second coming of Zach Randolph.
Familiarity breeds content.
As with the tantalizing tall forward from Indiana, Noah Vonleh. Towering at 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan, about the same width as the team’s charter jet. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year is all of 18, too. He averaged nine rebounds a night in that league. Did I mention the 7-3 wingspan?
Oladipo, while making the rounds among flashing photography and waves of autographs, looked me in the eye and affirmed, "Noah can play in this league."
As at fabled Faber College, Knowledge Is Good.
Understandably, Hennigan’s staff operates in a cone of silence. Trappist monks are comparatively chatty when it comes to Orlando’s player personnel hoops scoops. Nobody’s talking.
Here are three shots — among so many — available for pinstriped employment. And there is a fourth, who will fall to No. 12, where the Magic will mark their second selection.
By his own admission, Creighton’s Doug McDermott is far from athletic in the comparative peerage of NBA elite. Even at this spot, tumbling down the first round, he might be a reach.
But the college game’s top scorer can make an open shot. He can stretch defenses. He measures 6-8.
Here lies the temptation of scoring from a four-year college grad. Will he work harder than he ever imagined? Can he convince a GM with much at stake that this is a pick with pop?
So much to discuss. So little time.
The NBA draft, and Orlando’s immediate future, is 36 days away.