ORLANDO, Fla. — Although they are one of only two teams with a pair of lottery picks in the NBA draft, the Orlando Magic are by no means locked into selecting fourth and 12th Thursday night.
Not after the events of the past week in which potential top pick Joel Embiid had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot, potential No. 12 pick Dario Saric signed to play in Turkey, and superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony both opted out of their existing contracts in order to explore their options in free agency.
"It makes an unpredictable night even more unpredictable," Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said Wednesday.
More than a decade after gambling and losing on the condition of Grant Hill’s left ankle, and two years after Hennigan passed on acquiring brittle big man Andrew Bynum in the trade which sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Magic might need to rethink the prevailing wisdom which suggests they were leaning toward drafting 18-year-old Australian point guard Dante Exum. Should the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers all decide not to take Embiid, it could raise the level of drama at the Magic’s draft watch party at the Amway Center.
There have also been recent reports that Arron Afflalo, their leading scorer during a season in which they won only 23 games, could be traded to a title-contending team so the Magic can acquire more draft picks or create yet more salary-cap space.
"We’re open to anything. I think we have to be," Hennigan said. "We have to be opportunistic, and we have to be willing to be flexible and creative and aggressive, if need be."
He would not comment on whether Arn Tellem, the agent for Embiid, has provided the Magic with access to the medical records of the 7-foot center whose one year at Kansas ended with a back injury. But Hennigan said the Magic "do have information, and we’re analyzing it. And we’ll continue to look to gather more information leading up to (Thursday) night."
Exum is a mystery of a different sort. Except for last year’s Nike Hoop Summit and a handful of workouts for teams, few talent scouts have seen much of him in person.
Asked whether he and his staff have enough information on the 6-foot-6 guard to make an informed decision if Exum is available with the Magic’s first pick, Hennigan simply said, "Yes."
Saric, a forward from Croatia, was projected as a possible selection by the Magic later in the first round. (They have no picks scheduled in the second round.) The decision-making process, which Hennigan said involves "a dozen or so" people on his staff, will not necessarily be determined by the team’s need at a particular position or whether a player might play overseas instead.
"I think there’s a possibility we could select at 4 and 12," he said. "I think there’s also a possibility that some or both of those picks could be in play. So our job over the next however many hours until the draft is to prioritize what we feel is the best opportunity for us and go ahead and capitalize on that."
Should the Magic pick Exum, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart or Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis a year after they drafted guard Victor Oladipo second overall, it could raise further questions about the futures of Afflalo and franchise all-time assist leader Jameer Nelson. The Chicago Bulls, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Hornets have all reportedly expressed interest in Afflalo, and the Magic would be obligated to pay only $2 million of Nelson’s $8 million salary for next season if they waive him before mid-July.
"Everything’s connected," Hennigan said. "So the way to try to make decisions, one should lead to the next, should lead to the next, should lead to the next. It’s sort of a domino type of system.
"We’ve got to get through the draft. And that will, we hope, clarify maybe not everything but the majority of things."
This is the second draft involving the combination of Hennigan and coach Jacque Vaughn. The Magic didn’t hire Vaughn until a month after the 2012 draft, when they took Andrew Nicholson in the middle of the first round and Kyle O’Quinn late in the second round.
"Jacque and I are very much aligned in what our goals are and what our vision is and what our objectives are," Hennigan said. "He probably has more say than I do."