Insider: The Orlando Magic & The Draft: Bigs
We continue our look at which players the Magic could select with the 19th pick in the NBA Draft. The draft will take place on Thursday, June 28.
Today, we’ll focus on the guys who do the dirty work down low (Here is the story focusing on what big men the Magic could target in free agency).
Obviously, Anthony Davis of Kentucky and Thomas Robinson of Kansas, the two players who will likely be selected with the first two picks of the draft, aren’t options. Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Andre Drummond of Connecticut, will also be picked in the lottery. North Carolina teammates John Henson and Tyler Zeller are projected to go in the lottery as well. The stock of Baylor forward Perry Jones III seem to be falling, but he’s still unlikely to make it to 19 (although a few mocks do have Jones heading to Orlando).
Terrence Jones of Kentucky also may wind up becoming an NBA Power Forward, but he’ll likely be off the board as well.
Let’s take a look at a few players who are more likely to be available.
Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Leonard is a guy who seems to be climbing up the boards. After barely seeing the court his freshman season, Leonard played 31.8 minutes per game as a sophomore and it paid off for the Illini. He averaged 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
Obviously, Leonard’s size stands out. At the combine, Leonard measure in at 6’11.75 in socks and 7’1.25 in shoes with a wing span of 7’3. Plus, at just 20 years old, Leonard weighs 245 lbs.
Leonard moves well for his size and is a nice athlete.
He also can score in a variety of ways. He’s scored the majority of his points with his back to the basket, but as Walker Beeken of Draft Express points out, Leonard is a good shooter (he shot 73.2% from the charity stripe last season) and could be dangerous in the pick-and-pop game. With Leonard’s size and athleticism, he should become an excellent screener.
Defensively, Leonard is going to need to continue to add strength and fill out, but it looks like he is the frame to do so. He was a very good college shot-blocker, leading the Big 10 with 1.8 blocks per game. Breeden also likes the fact that “agility for a player his size should also help him defending pick-and-roll sets, giving him the ability to hedge and recover quickly.”
Leonard, who reportedly “looked awesome” at the combine. It’s looking increasingly more likely the Magic won’t have a chance to take Leonard at 19. However, if the Magic could grab Leonard and retain the other players in the front court, he could be an excellent fourth big next season and give the Magic a true backup center for the first time since Marcin Gortat was dealt to Phoenix.
Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State
Moultrie is player many pundits have slated the Magic to pick at 19.
Moultrie played his first two seasons at UTEP before transferring to Mississippi State. He had to sit out the 2010-11 season because of the NCAA transfer rules. This season, he was very impressive. He averaged 16.5 points per game, good for second in the SEC and 10.5 rebounds per game, which led the conference.
Moultrie shot 54.9% from the field and 78.0% from the free throw line. According to our buddy Steve Kyler of Hoops World, Moultrie has excellent range. Joe Treutlein of Draft Express further described Moultrie’s offense, saying “Moultrie is clearly at his best when he can utilize his excellent tools off the ball, attacking the basket on cuts and offensive rebounds.”
Moultrie is a fantastic athlete is able to get up and down the floor quickly and is a great finisher, largely due to that athleticism.
That allowed Moultrie to play both forward spots in college, but he looks like he’ll be used primarily as a Four in the NBA.
Moultrie has great height at 6’11, but many are worried about his back-to-the-basket game in the NBA because of his smaller frame (220 lbs.). Moultrie probably won’t be able to simply out-strength opponents down low. Clearly, he needs to add some bulk.
Defensively, Moultrie has show improvement throughout his college career, but his block totals are surprisingly low (.8 per game) for that kind of athlete.
It looks like Moultrie has a decent chance of being available at 19, but if the Magic don’t trade Dwight Howard and decide to keep Ryan Anderson, the front court could be a little crowded with Howard, Anderson and Glen Davis. If Moultrie can bulk up and give the Magic good minutes at Center, with Anderson in the game, in addition to Power Forward, playing next to Howard or Davis, he could be a nice value.
Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure
The Atlantic-10 Player of the Year had a great four-year career for the Bonnies, but really came on to the national scene after leading the Bonnies to the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament Championship and a bid in the NCAA Tournament. Although they blew a second half lead and bowed out to Florida State in their first tournament game, it was quite an accomplishment.
Nicholson averaged 17.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game over his career.
Although he averaged more points as a junior than as a senior, Nicholson’s best and most consistent season came in his final year at St. Bonaventure. Nicholson averaged 18.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Nicholson shot an impressive 43.4% from beyond the arc, 77.6% from the free throw line, posted an effective field goal percentage of 60.1% and a true shooting percentage of 63.7%.
With his range, Nicholson at 6’9.5 (in shoes), could become a Stretch Four for the Magic like Anderson, Rashard Lewis and what the Magic hope soon-to-be second year pro Justin Harper can be.
Although he is not a great athlete by NBA standards, Nicholson has been able to get to the basket off of the dribble, a skill the Magic lack at nearly every position.
Nicholson probably isn’t as good of a rebounder as some teams would like (but he’s shown improvement). However, because of his excellent length (he measured in with a wing span of 7’4 at the combine), he clearly has the potential to improve significantly in that area.
Derek Bodner of Draft Express is worried about his defense on the next level, writing “Nicholson’s physical profile presents some potential problems, which are further increased by his inconsistent effort on that end of the court. Nicholson has the length and timing needed to contest and block shots, and because of that can be a useful defender at the collegiate level. At a wiry 220 pounds, he lacks the lower and upper body strength to hold his ground at the next level, and he doesn’t do a good job of fighting for position early in the shot clock to make up for that.”
Nicholson worked out for the Magic on May 30.
Nicholson will likely be there at 19, but if the Magic have Anderson, Davis, Howard, Harper and potentially Earl Clark, who has a player option, they my better off using their pick elsewhere.
His skill-set on offense with his ability to knock down shots from the outside and his length may make him difficult to pass on. Plus, there is room for growth. Despite being a four-year college player, Nicholson only started playing basketball during his junior year of high school.
Fab Melo of Syracuse is an intriguing prospect, who had a disappointing college career, has a lot of talent. Undersized Michigan State forward Draymond Green and New Mexico big man Drew Gordon have seen mostly high second-round projections. Florida State Center Bernard James will likely be selected in the middle of the second round. UAB power forward Cameron Moore worked out for the Magic and could be an option at 49.
(Andrew Melnick is the ESPNFlorida.com Magic and NBA Insider, co-host of the ESPN 1080 Insiders Show and publisher of Howard the Dunk. The Insiders Show can be heard Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST on AM 1080 in Orlando and on ESPNFlorida.com. You can follow Andrew on twitter here.)