Orlando Magic Draft Preview

The drafting history of the Orlando Magic has been decidedly a mixed bag.

The best drafting years in the team’s history came under Pat Williams’ tenure as GM. He nailed four of the team’s first five drafts, picking up Nick Anderson in ’89, Dennis Scott in ’90, Shaq in ’92, and trading Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway in ’93. Those four players all started on the Magic’s 1995 NBA Finals squad. That is how you draft your way to a championship contender.

In the remaining years, only 2000 pick Mike Miller (Rookie of the Year) and 2004 pick Dwight Howard have received league honors while in a Magic uniform. Many of the team’s choices have carved out their niches in the league and some have been quite productive: 1998 picks Michael Doleac and Matt Harpring, 1999 pick Corey Maggette, 2000 picks Mike Miller and Keyon Dooling, 2003 pick Zaza Pachulia, and 2004 pick Anderson Varejao. The team also picked up Marcin Gortat in 2005, and he showed some flashes at the end of last season that indicate he might end up playing in the league.

There is pressure on current GM Otis Smith to get this draft right. His first draft was 2005, and that was the infamous Fran Vasquez draft. The team hopes he will come over to America someday and contribute, but that’s the modus operandi for late second round picks, not the #11 overall pick. In 2006, they took J.J. Redick, who has since been buried on the bench for the defensive issues that were known before the draft, and the team basically sat 2007 out.

With the Magic just a player or two away from serious contention but without cap room, getting this pick right could make the difference in a championship run. Here is a look at what Orlando needs and doesn’t need.

DOESN’T NEED

Center

This one should be obvious. Dwight Howard will start for the Magic at center for as long as they can keep him under contract. Adonal Foyle leaving hurts depth, but Tony Battie can play both the 4 and the 5 and Stan van Gundy showed faith in Gortat by playing him in the playoffs.

Small Forward

Anyone who sees the Magic drafting a small forward in the first round must not have watched the team. They have not just one, but two all-star caliber swingmen in Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. Lewis played out of position all year at power forward, but he is really a tall 3. There is too much money tied up in this position already to draft another in the first round.

ONLY IF SOMEONE FALLS

Point Guard

Jameer Nelson assuaged some of his doubters with some pretty good play in the playoffs. Keyon Dooling wants to come back and the team wants him back for his defense and versatility. Carlos Arroyo is likely gone.

The organization definitely feels Nelson is the long-term answer here, so unless they can nab a big point guard with some defense, they are passing on the point this year.

NEEDS

Power Forward

Battie returning helps here, but the Magic still need another credible big man to have Howard’s back. The Magic resembled a college team last season, more or less surrounding one excellent post player with a battalion of long range shooters.

Taking someone who played center in college will work here, just as long as he is willing to bang. Scoring won’t be a huge concern given Howard’s developing post game and the array of aforementioned shooters. Unfortunately, most of the quality guys with size will be gone by the Magic’s pick, though it’s possible that one out of the set of Marreese Speights, Roy Hibbert, and Robin Lopez will still be around.

Shooting Guard

The consensus seems to be that this is the position the Magic will be taking at #22. Maurice Evans had a nice end to the season, but it just screams “contract year” given the rest of his career. Keith Bogans will likely not opt out of his contract, but his upside is limited at this point. The front office is still set on not trading J.J. Redick, so he’s still around if he can ever get out of Stan van Gundy’s doghouse.

The names Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts have been thrown around a lot, with Lee the seeming frontrunner. Lee is a pure shooter, but CD-R can score from the post. Either one could contribute right away in 2008.

Second Round?

At the moment, Orlando does not have a second round pick. Otis Smith has expressed interest in obtaining a high second round pick, but he has not said what it would be for. If he trades for it early, it could be to try to package it and move up to secure a big man. If that’s not the plan, it’s unclear at this point who his target might be.

The Magic already have two bigs marinating in Europe, between Vasquez and 2007 draft-day acquisition Milovan Raković, so I think it’s unlikely that they’d trade for the opportunity of stashing another project pick abroad. If the Magic go big at #22, their options for a second round acquisition likely include SG Bill Walker, SG Jamont Gordon, and ace defender Luc Richard Mbah a Mouté.

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