With two lottery picks at their disposal in this year’s NBA draft, the Orlando Magic have plenty of options to mull over from now until June 26th. Unless the Magic trade up into the top two slots of the draft, they are most likely to lose out on Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Duke’s Jabari Parker. The Philadelphia 76’ers currently hold the third overall pick, and I anticipate that they will select Marcus Smart, the talented, but volatile shooting guard from Oklahoma State. Assuming those three players are off the board before Orlando makes its first selection, let’s examine the options for the Magic as they hold the fourth and twelfth overall picks in the 2014 NBA draft.
If the Magic select Dante Exum, the 6-foot-6 inch point guard from Australia, it likely means that 10 year-veteran Jameer Nelson’s days are numbered in Orlando. The former St. Joe’s product will be entering the final year of his 3-year, $25.2 contract in 2014-15. Expiring contracts always make attractive trade assets for teams looking to dump salary, so look for Nelson to be on the move if Exum is selected by Orlando at number four. Although Exum is very raw and has not played against top competition as of yet, his unique size and skill set may remind Magic fans of a poor man’s Penny Hardaway.
Orlando is also rumored to have their eye on Kansas center Joel Embiid with their first pick. This franchise has been starving for a legitimate center since the Dwight Howard saga in 2012, and Embiid has the intriguing physical skills to warrant such a high pick. However, with a recent foot surgery that will keep Embiid on the shelf for the next four to six months, it would be quite a roll of the dice to spend their first pick on him. A much more prudent decision would be to pass on Embiid at four, and hope he falls into their lap at number twelve.
In my opinion, the Magic’s best bet at number four is to nab Julius Randle, the bull-dozing forward from Kentucky. Randle is an absolute bully in the paint, and would form a nice tandem down low with third-year center Nikola Vucevic. Before long, this dynamic duo of hustle and muscle could remind people of a younger version of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis. Taking Randle would also allow emerging star Tobias Harris to slip back into his more natural position at small forward. With three talented front court players under the age of 25, this would be a formidable group that Orlando could build their team around for years to come.
As for their second first round pick, Orlando may opt for a point guard at this spot if they decide to pass on Exum and Embiid does not slip to twelve. Zach LaVine of UCLA could provide a much needed spark at the point with his superior athletic ability, something that the aging Jameer Nelson doesn’t quite have anymore. Another option at twelve could be the six-foot-eleven inch big man Jusuf Nurkic of Bosnia & Herzegovina. With long arms and a mean streak to match, this 19-year old European product could provide the inside presence Orlando is looking for if they decide to pass on Randle at four.
With the likes of Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless, and the aforementioned Tobias Harris in the mix, Orlando seems to be well stocked with young talent at shooting guard and small forward. That being said, I anticipate a point guard and either a power-forward or a true center to be selected by the Magic in this draft. The real question for Orlando will be in which order do they address these two glaring needs.