The Orlando Magic are currently 23-56, good for the third-worst record in the NBA. The Magic are tied in the loss column with the Utah Jazz, so when the book is finally closed on the 2013-14 regular season, Jacque Vaughn’s crew will have either the third or fourth most ping pong balls in the laughably-intricate NBA draft lottery.
Looking forward, the 2014 draft will help determine where the Magic are headed in the near future. To me, the only surefire foundational pieces on the Magic are Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo. However, with the year Arron Afflalo is having, it seems very likely that the Magic will keep him around for next year and see how the team progresses (although he’d make an interesting draft-day trade piece).
Guys like Tobias Harris, Kyle O’Quinn and Maurice Harkless are also likely to be part of the team’s future, but I would consider them peripheral pieces at this point.
Orlando isn’t particularly good on either side of the ball right now, sitting 24th in points per game and 18th in opponent’s points per game. That essentially means that the Magic can go a number of routes with their first-round pick.
So with a likely top-five pick in a draft that has no shortage of talent, where do the Magic look? Well, that depends on a few things. Yes, it would be nice to find a guy who can share point guard duties with Oladipo going forward, but if the Magic are set to pick and Jabari Parker is still on the board, I think it’d be difficult (and foolish) to pass him up.
Parker has yet to declare for the draft, but if he were decide to, Orlando would be a great landing spot. In his freshman year at Duke, Parker averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point land. At 6-foot-8 and 240-pounds, Parker’s body is very mature, which should help him contribute from day one.
Parker is a superb jump shooter who’s equipped with a perfect release point and his scoring chops are very polished for such a young player. He’ll be an undersized four in the NBA (which is why his likely career-long position will be at the three), but if he goes to Orlando, he and Harris would be able to share the forward responsibilities, which would keep Vucevic’s rebounding responsibilities where they are but will also create more space for the big man to operate in the post.
Oladipo is the key to Orlando’s future backcourt, so supplying him with another solid shooter will help him build on his rookie campaign. With Oly likely to take over point guard responsibilities next year, creating space in the middle of the floor will be of the utmost importance, and that’s something that Parker can help with from right away.
As with all NBA draft prospects, we don’t know how they will blossom. In this one-and-done era, it’s harder to gauge the on-court personalities of each prospect, as so many freshman join teams where they are the most talented player but never fully take on the role as leader because they’re four years younger than their oldest teammates. With Orlando already having a non-stop engine like Oly in the backcourt, Parker’s rookie role should be one that’s very easy to fit into and will work to the team’s advantage.
The biggest decision that Orlando will need to make with their top pick is this: Is it of the utmost importance to pair Oly with a backcourt mate who can help him run the offense (Dante Exum or Marcus Smart) or taking the best player on the board? Exum and Smart both have a lot more questions when it comes to transitioning to the NBA, while Parker looks like an immediate starter and likely perennial All-Star (I think he’ll become a Carmelo Anthony-type who averages 20 and six with better intangibles).
The draft lottery (or Parker’s decision to stay in school) might answer that question for the Magic, as a pick outside of the top-four will almost definitely be too late to land Parker. However, if the lottery is friendly to Orlando, then I can’t see the Magic passing up on college basketball’s most productive freshman (unless Andrew Wiggins is still on the board).