The Orlando Magic know as well as any other team how the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft can change the trajectory of a franchise.
The last three times the Magic have been the first pick in the draft and knocked him out of the picture: Shaquille O’Neal in 1992, Chris Webber, who was traded by Orlando to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway, and three future first-round player in ’93 and Dwight Howard in 2004.
Now President of Basketball Operations Jeff Veltman is getting his first shot with Orlando at No. 1 in the NBA Draft on Thursday, including the pressure that comes with choosing the type of franchise-changing players associated with the best pick.
The Magic also have two second round picks, numbered 32 and 35.
“I would never pressure anyone who picks 15, 8 or 1 that you get the franchise guy,” Veltman said ahead of the draft, which starts at 8 p.m. at the Barclays Center in New York. The draft will air on ABC (first round) and ESPN (first and second rounds).
Veltman added, “I don’t think that’s fair to a guy who hasn’t played a minute in the NBA yet.”
Still, that’s the expectation of the No. 1 pick. The clock in Orlando has been ticking since the draft lottery was held in mid-May, and it’s up to Veltman and the Magic’s basketball operations executives to make the right choice.
Duke’s Paolo Bankero, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Auburn’s Jabari Smith are considered the top picks in the draft, and most contending executives and scouts believe Holmgren or Smith will go first.
Each potential client has their own unique set of skills and arguments for being the best choice.
Banchero case: He may be the closest offensive pick in this class of draft due to the high level of scoring and assists he has shown with the Blue Devils. Bunchero can play in many ways with the ball in his hands.
Holmgren case: A set of skills at both ends of the court, not often found in a player of his size (7 feet and 195 pounds with a wingspan of 7 feet 6 inches). He has a combination of under the rim defense, defensive versatility, handles, rim touch, basketball IQ, and the ability to play at distance from each other, leading some to think he can be a defensive anchor and offensive coordinator.
The Smith Case: A rare combination of size, shooting/heading ability and versatility on both sides. Smith can score in a variety of ways without creating a significant lead and brings an intensity to the defense that could help him become a two-sided star.
“For these three [players]as well as a number of others [they] could be the future All-Stars,” Ryan Blake, who has helped direct NBA scouting since 1996, said in a recent phone call with the Orlando Sentinel. “Old cliché [is] it’s in the eye of the beholder. It’s close.
Ultimately, Smith is the player the Magic needs to put first.
Smith will provide the defensive versatility that the Magic and coach Jamal Mosley value so much, and Orlando will be able to shoot the shots Orlando needs, regardless of the situation, pull-ups, elbows and uprights or breaking away from the screens.
He is the most proven shooter (42% 3rd shot on 5.5 attempts with the Tigers) and will open up the field for the Magic they need after 33.1% 3rd-worst shooting in the league in 2021. 22.
His ball possession and play should improve, but the Magic have ball handlers (Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr.) who are responsible for building while he works on those skills to become full player. transition option that it can be.
On defense, Smith will be able to switch between most if not all positions. There shouldn’t be a defensive cover he can’t play. The Magic were proud of their defense in their first season under Mosley, and Smith fits right in.
Smith will open more combinations for the Magic at both ends of the floor than any other player in this draft, raising their overall level and ceiling, fitting in with what Orlando has begun building since the start of a March 2021 rebuild focused on younger talent.
He is also the most malleable of the three players on the court, allowing the Magic to create different lineups around him depending on which direction their front office decides to rebuild and what the future of the NBA looks like.
Bunchero and Holmgren would suit Magic’s needs in their own way, but Smith must be the player, Magic’s number one target.
“I’m very confident that we’re going to get a guy with the size, talent, IQ, skills, character – everything we want to be,” Veltman said. “We are going to add him to our group of already interesting young players. We will give him the opportunity to reach his full potential. Besides, he goes where he goes.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Hobie Price at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.