For the first time in years the Orlando Magic have a high pick in a deep 2017 NBA Draft class. They should not use it on Dennis Smith Jr.
Although the Orlando Magic would have liked to have picked higher, they’ve got to be happy with the sixth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
This is especially true when you consider the depth of the incoming class of rookies, spoken about as potentially up there with that famous 2003 draft class.
While a top-three pick would have been fantastic, the team still has plenty to work with in terms of who will still be available to choose from when they’re on the clock. Guys like Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball will be gone by then, and it’s likely Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum will as well.
Of course we can’t predict the future, but the ceiling of the above players, as well as the needs of the teams drafting ahead of the Magic, would indicate strongly that this will be the case.
One player whose hype is building nicely is guard Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State. In fact, he’s already worked out with the Magic.
Jan 23, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried talks with guard Dennis Smith Jr. (4) on the sidelines in the first half of their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
The 19-year-old has tremendous upside, but then again what player isn’t being talked about in this way right now?
There are many positives to his game, but taking him sixth is a reach, and the Magic should stay away from him for this reason.
This goes beyond Smith’s game, however. The simple fact is there are other players who have overtaken him in the race to be drafted before him.
Smith was actually spoken about as a top-three pick back in 2015, but he tore his ACL. He looked back to his best this season, but do you really want to take a risk in drafting somebody who has had already endured damage to their knee?
As we’ve examined already, the Magic need to nail this draft pick, and there is certainly risk attached to taking a player like Smith.
They’ve had no sure things in the draft since taking Dwight Howard in 2004, and in this decade Aaron Gordon looks to be the closest they’ve come.
Smith may make the Magic regret passing on him, but a look at the talent pool this year makes that less likely. Between the aforementioned Fultz, Ball, Jackson and Tatum, as well as De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, the Magic are guaranteed to pick up one of these guys.
Why not go with one of these more talked about guys, when an unnecessary risk like Smith may take time to develop?
To be fair, Smith appears to be a tenacious player, and really the team is in a good place to even be in a position like this.
Of the likely top 10 picks, he averaged the third-most points (18.1 per game), behind only Monk (19.8 per game) and Fultz (23.2 per game). The Magic could do with a scoring guard, as they averaged just over 101 points per game during the regular season — the fourth-worst mark in the league.
Then again, if scoring is what the team is going for at that position, Monk averaged more points and shot 39.7 percent from three point range (compared to Smith, who shot 35.9 percent).
Monk did this while shooting 262 threes over the course of the year. Smith shot 200.
Smith does a lot of things well on the court, but then again so does Elfrid Payton, the team’s current starting point guard.
This is the next reason to pass on Smith. Is his ceiling and what he can do on the court that much higher than Payton’s? Perhaps the answer is yes, but one thing this franchise no longer has is a lot of time.
They need to get back into postseason contention sooner rather than later, and guys like Monk and Tatum figure to have a bigger impact from day one.
Speaking of Tatum, there is no guarantee the Magic even look to draft a guard. They have many needs on this roster, but Payton has just completed his best season as a professional.
Terrence Ross was a great get from the Toronto Raptors before the deadline as well, and that shooting guard spot is his to lose.
The team is still high on Gordon, but perhaps they go down the Jackson or Tatum route if they’re still available. Jackson looks to be the real deal, and he posted a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 24.5 during the season.
Even if he’s unlikely to still be there, there’s no guarantee the team goes for a guard. They simply have too many needs for this to be a formality.
Another road worth exploring is trading down in the draft, depending on what is on the table, though it’s unlikely another team is desperate enough to give up a pick and another player/pick to get to where the Magic are.
Then again, you can rule nothing out when it comes to the New York Knicks, who currently sit in eighth spot. The Knicks would have to be in love with Dennis Smith’s game for that to be the case, but it just looks like there is no scenario where that would be the case.
Assuming they keep the pick, would anyone be surprised if the Orlando Magic wound up reaching for Smith?
They shouldn’t do it, since there are plenty of reasons not to between who else will be available, what the team already has on their roster and Smith’s injury history.