By John Denton
May 17, 2017
ORLANDO – History strongly suggests that the Orlando Magic can snag a major, difference-making player with the No. 6 pick out of the June 22nd NBA Draft. And even if there isn’t a Larry Bird – the sixth overall selection in 1979 – available, the Magic are still confident that there will be a talented player to be had in a draft that is considered especially deep.
Orlando didn’t get the result that it wanted in Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery in New York, dropping to the No. 6 selection when it was improbably passed by Sacramento Kings. Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Sacramento will comprise the top five picks, leaving Orlando at sixth.
Still, a Magic contingent of CEO Alex Martins, COO Charlie Freeman, Senior Vice President Pat Williams, Interim GM Matt Lloyd and head coach Frank Vogel remained undeterred by the turn of events because of the options still expected to be available.
Lloyd, who is running Orlando’s draft prep following the April 13 firing of Rob Hennigan, scouted 75-to-80 college and international games over the past year and he is confident that the Magic will still come out of next month’s draft with a player of their liking.
“From a philosophical perspective we’re going to look at trying to get a player who we think can be a star,’’ said Lloyd, a candidate for the Magic’s long-term GM gig. “There are going to be players in that range (of the sixth pick) who we think can outkick their coverage from where they’re picked. We’re going to get them all in, get them all lineup up and we’re going to pick the best one.’’
Vogel, who admitted to feeling “awkward’’ on the dais for the made-for-TV portion of the NBA Draft Lottery because of the tension of the teams, said there’s no reason why the Magic can’t mine the draft for an elite player with the No. 6 pick. During his lengthy run in Indiana while coaching the Pacers, Vogel had tremendous success with players such as Paul George (the No. 10 pick in 2010), David West (the No. 18 pick in 2003), Danny Granger (the No. 17 pick in 2005), Roy Hibbert (the No. 17 pick in 2008), George Hill (the No. 26 pick in 2008) and Lance Stephenson (the No. 40 pick in 2010).
“You feel that way every year that if you do your homework, you are going to get a good player,’’ said Vogel, who recently completed his first season as Orlando’s head coach. “This is a deep draft and this is why we continued to preach winning down at the end of the season because there’s so many times where the sixth pick turns out to be as good as the first pick or the 10th pick is as good as the first. We’ve had a lot of luck in my career with players who weren’t (number) one, two or three picks and they turned into top players. So, that’s the plan here.’’
Point guards are expected to dominate the early stages of next month’s draft what with Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and Kentucky’s D’Aaron Fox atop most of the mock scenarios. Forwards Josh Jackson (Kansas), Jayson Tatum (Duke) and Jonathan Isaac (Florida State) could still be around for the Magic at No. 6, while other dynamic guards such as Dennis Smith Jr. (N.C. State) or Malik Monk (Kentucky) might be a fit for Orlando.
“Playing the pick-and-roll, I think that’s something I can do amazingly and I don’t think a lot of people have seen that from me,’’ Monk said at Tuesday’s lottery. “That’s what’s going to happen in the (NBA) and it’s something I want to show everybody.’’
The history of the NBA Draft suggests that the Magic certainly can find success while picking sixth. Bird is unquestionably the best player ever chosen with the No. 6 selection, but Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens isn’t far behind. Other NBA champions Adrian Dantley, Kenny Smith, Fred Brown, Johnny Kerr were also chosen sixth overall. More recently, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, a two-time All-NBA performer and a two-time all-star, has had loads of success at the NBA level after being mostly overlooked as a prospect on draft night in 2012.
“There are some bigs, some wings and some guards that will be there for us, so we’re not worried about picking No. 6,’’ Vogel stressed. “Again, the depth of talent (in this draft class) is what is most impressive and exciting. And it really doesn’t matter what position you’re looking for, there will be players there for us at No. 6.’’
Another blow for the Magic came when the Lakers nabbed the No. 2 pick on Tuesday. By staying in the draft’s top-three picks, L.A. hung onto its first-round pick in 2019 and will instead convey second-round selections this season (No. 33 overall) and next season to Orlando. Those are the final pieces of the four-team, 12-player trade in 2012 that shipped center Dwight Howard to the Lakers.
In addition to having the Nos. 6, 33 and 35 picks, Orlando also owns the No. 25 pick courtesy of the Feb. 14 trade of Serge Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors. Owning so many selections should give the Magic flexibility to either move up on draft night or acquire a much-needed veteran player in a trade, Lloyd said. All in all, the interim GM noted, the Magic are still in a solid position going into next month’s draft.
“To come out with six, 25, 33 and 35, that means we’ve got four of the top 35 picks in the draft and the percentages are playing in our favor,’’ Lloyd said. “So we’re going to have the opportunity to move around a little bit (potentially with trades) and have a handle on the draft. So that’s exciting.’’
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