Orlando Magic: Take Malik Monk and build

With so much talk around which NBA teams will draft certain players, the Orlando Magic need to stay quiet, take Malik Monk and build.

While everybody else adjusts to the news that the Boston Celtics have traded down from the top spot in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic have remained quiet.

It may seem strange that they are approaching such a talented draft class in this manner. After all, it can’t hurt to get involved in conversations, and it’s always interesting to see what kind of deals are available out there.

Then again, with the sixth pick the team can sit and wait and take whichever talent falls into their lap.

By the time they’re on the clock, Malik Monk is likely to be the best player available for them to take. He is also the player the Magic should take without hesitation, and last-minute changes of heart would be foolish from a team that could do with a sure thing.

Monk would come closest to fitting that bill, with this team infamously striking out on a number of picks since Dwight Howard left in 2012.

Mar 17, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Malik Monk (5) shoots against Northern Kentucky Norse forward Carson Williams (23) during the first half in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Gordon has turned out to be the best player they have drafted, although if they’d have let Victor Oladipo hang around, perhaps things would be different.

So why then should the Magic take Monk for sure? What can he do that will lead to him hopefully emerging as a key piece for this team?

It starts with his shooting ability, something the Magic desperately need more of.

Despite trading for Terrence Ross (more on him in a bit) midway through the season, the team still ranked second last in three-point shooting (32.8 percent). Many nights their offense turned stagnant, with the mix of Elfrid Payton, Bismack Biyombo and Gordon failing to inspire.

Monk can help here right away, as he can shoot from distance and is a nice spot-up shooter too. As a freshman, he led the Kentucky Wildcats in scoring (19.8 points per game) as the team made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.

His offensive prowess would take some time to translate to the pros, but that’s the next reason the Magic should draft him. In the grand scheme of things, time is something they suddenly have plenty of.

Yes, fans are growing impatient and of course it’s perceived as having a losing mentality if you don’t think your team can win.

But the Cleveland Cavaliers are clearly the best team in the East, with the Celtics looking primed to take over when they get their chance. The Golden State Warriors look untouchable at the moment as well, so really no matter what the Magic do over the next couple of years, it’s not going to be enough to become a legit contender.

By adding Monk and letting him take all the shots he wants as a rookie, the team will head back to the lottery next year.

But as we’ve seen with the Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Warriors before them, you can build a contender if you draft correctly.

That is exactly what the new combo of John Hammond (general manager) and Jeff Weltman (president of basketball operations) were brought in to do.

They have a solid track record between them, and although Magic fans would be understandably nervous about building a team this way, they now have the time and personnel to do so.

Beyond that, Monk would be a great fit when you slot him in next to the other players on this roster.

That hasn’t always been the case, with guys like Oladipo, Harris, Channing Frye and Nikola Vucevic not complementing each other in the best way.

The roster was a random bunch of players as the franchise searched for a direction to go in, but drafting Monk would go some way in changing that.

He’s a little undersized for a shooting guard (6’3″) and although he can keep up with his man, he has much to learn defensively.

Pairing him next to Payton would be perfect, however, as he is a pass-first guard who could defend an opponent’s better backcourt player each night.

This would be hiding Monk defensively in a way other lottery teams could not, while he learned from somebody like Payton, who is an above-average defender in the NBA. He could also phase out Ross in time, and this is another key reason the Magic should draft him.

For the record, Ross is great. On some nights, he was about the only good thing about this team on the court.

He can shoot the ball extremely well (career 37.4 percent three-point shooter), and he spread the floor for his teammates excellently. He is already a fan favorite too. The team needs him and there’s no doubt he’ll be starting for the Magic on opening night next season.

But that would allow Monk to come off the bench and learn from a guy like Ross as well. While other lottery picks will have much expected of them quickly, that wouldn’t be the case for Monk.

At only 19 years old, this would be a more ideal way to enter the league, especially given that we live in an era where we want instant results from these players, and especially from this draft class, spoken in the same breath as those famous crops from 1996 and 2003.

Mar 24, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Malik Monk (left) and guard De’Aaron Fox speak at a press conference after defeating the UCLA Bruins during the semifinals of the South Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum. Kentucky won 86-75. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Ross would then be a prime trade candidate for a contending team. It’s easy to see him coming off the bench and hitting big shots for the Celtics or Cavaliers down the line.

He’s also contracted through to 2019, making $10.5 million a year. That’s just over $3 million less than J.R. Smith made this season.

Smith hit some huge shots as the title slipped away from the Cavaliers, but if you put Ross in that position and then had money to put elsewhere, who knows what could happen.

That’s not the point, however, since Ross is clearly no franchise savior. But what he could be is an ideal trade candidate at some point in the future.

The changes to the team’s front office should at least ensure a sensible decision is made with the sixth pick, so there’s really no reason for the Orlando Magic not to take Malik Monk unless he’s somehow off the board.

This team can’t mess this pick up too badly no matter what they do either either, but it just feels like there’s so much to like about Monk coming to Orlando. He has that something about him that excites fans as well — another component this team is lacking right now.

It’s the pick that needs to be made, but when have the Magic ever done the easy thing at pivotal moments like this?

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