By Josh Cohen
Aug. 4, 2017
#8 Wesley Iwundu
Iwundu changes pace and direction really well (very shifty and unpredictable) and he makes excellent decisions. He was Kansas State’s primary distributor and playmaker this past season. With his length (7-foot wingspan) and versatility, Iwundu should be able to help generate effective scoring opportunities throughout his rookie year.
#7 Mario Hezonja
Hezonja has the potential to be a triple-threat. He has the shooting form and range to be a prolific outside shooter. He has the athleticism and agility to be a high flyer in transition. Most undervalued, perhaps, is Hezonja’s vision and attentiveness. Don’t be surprised if he’s asked to be a point forward more often in 2017-18.
#6 Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic is one of the better playmaking bigs in the league. He excels finding cutters (either out of the post or when he faces up). The Magic shot 68 percent from the field in 2016-17 when Vucevic delivered a pass to a teammate sprinting toward the basket. He had five assists or more in 15 games last season.
#5 Jonathon Simmons
Simmons is ultra-aggressive and tenacious. He’s very crafty and resilient when he drives inside. He’s also an underrated passer. He makes really nice kick-out passes when he attacks the lane. The Spurs shot 42 percent from 3-point distance last year when the kick-out feed came from Simmons.
#4 Shelvin Mack
Mack is very meticulous. He minimizes mistakes (low turnover rate) and plays well within a team structure. Mack has several good floor general qualities. He does an excellent job identifying holes in the defense and he makes terrific interior passes (Jazz shot 66 percent last season when Mack delivered an interior pass to a teammate).
#3 Aaron Gordon
Gordon’s playmaking abilities really stand out in transition. He’s very fluid when he accelerates down the floor. The Magic shot 36-of-53 (68 percent) from the field and 11-of-20 from 3-point range in transition when Gordon made the possession’s final pass. AG has an extremely quick first step off the dribble. When he eludes his initial defender, Gordon often forces defenders to collapse on him. That helps create open scoring opportunities for his teammates.
#2 Evan Fournier
Fournier has outstanding footwork, balance and body control. He’s able to repeatedly attack the lane and create scoring opportunities for himself or for his teammates (delivers nice drop-off and kick-out passes). Fournier averaged a career-best 3.0 assists per game last year. He has tremendous chemistry with Nikola Vucevic, who shot 51 percent from the field when the pass came from Fournier.
#1 Elfrid Payton
Payton has superb court vision, awareness and precision. He averaged 8.4 assists after the All-Star break last season, which coincided with the Magic’s acquisition of Terrence Ross. Payton limits turnovers and he’s extremely unselfish.