2022 NBA Draft: Q & A with SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell

Though the Orlando Magic have been frequent members of the NBA lottery club for the past decade, this time they will have top-down control of the draft for the first time since 2004.

With the 2022 NBA draft just 10 days away, Orlando is primed to pick the top pick from the 22-draft and turn this prospect into a treasure trove of former top ten picks (like Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz, Jonathan) Isaac and Wendell Carter Jr.) and other promising young players who have either drafted or traded the Magic in recent seasons.

Perhaps this is the year Magic will finally acquire the superstar the organization has been missing since Dwight Howard joined the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2012. We’re talking 19- and 20-year-old prospects who enter the league at very early stages of their development, so glory shouldn’t be counted on right away. But again, this draft could be the start of what many Magic fans have been waiting for—an opportunity to endorse a team that’s competitive in the Eastern Conference (and relevant nationally).

That being said, Orlando’s front office executives have their hands full trying to make the top overall picks this year as there isn’t really an overwhelming consensus and/or obvious player that could become number one like this process played (like a LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson, etc.).

I reached out to Ricky O’Donnell — SB Nation’s college basketball editor (and NBA draft pundit) — to hear his thoughts on Orlando’s options not only with the first pick, but the possibilities for the Magic later that night.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

1) last month, You wrote an article campaigning for the Magic Paolo Banchero to lead overall in the 2022 NBA draft for the first time. You’ve made your case, but how likely (or not) do you think Orlando’s front office will go in a different direction with her election?

(Ricky O’Donnell) I definitely think Orlando’s front office will go in a different direction. It seemed like the choice would be between Jabari Smith Jr. and Chet Holmgren since Orlando won the lottery, with Smith being the favorite. I’m assuming Smith will be the pick based on what has been reported so far. It seems like many (most?) teams have picked Smith as #1 in class, so the decision might not be that difficult. If I were to bet on who would come first, I would pick Smith.

If you missed one of our Orlando Pinstriped Post-Scouting reports on the top prospects in this draft class, you can find them here:
– Paolo Banchero
– Chet Holmgren
– Jabari Smith Jr.

2) If you were making decisions for Magic, how willing would you be to listen to first-choice offers from other teams? If so (hypothetically), what would a potential offer in this situation that would make sense enough for Orlando look like?

(RO) The Magic should definitely listen to trade offers, just like any team. At the same time, no one will confuse Orlando with a team poised to win anytime soon, so a deal would either have to involve a young, playful star or be a swap for one of the other top picks. The No. 1 pick was traded back in 2017 when the Celtics were relegated to No. 3 in a deal with Philly. The Sixers picked out Markelle Fultz, and Boston drafted Jayson Tatum and clinched a future pick. That’s probably the frame I’d be most interested in when I’m Orlando.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Semifinals - Villanova vs. Kansas

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3) The Magic also hold picks 32 & 35 early in the second round. Orlando hasn’t made a second-round pick since 2018, trading away his last four second-round picks (either for future decisions and/or cash considerations). Let’s make an unlikely assumption that Orlando is using his seconds this time. What prospects should Magic target in this space?

(RO) At 32 and 35 there should be some good talent on the board. Assuming Smith is the No. 1 pick. Orlando would be wise to target a larger playmaker and a winger/defender with his second rounds. Arizona’s Dalen Terry would fit the former’s description as a 6’7 winger who boasted impressive assist numbers despite a low utilization rate. If he’s gone 32nd, Toledo’s Ryan Rollins could also be a good choice. Some wings that could be available in the second round are Max Christie, Christian Braun and Peyton Watson. Watson has the best tools but has also had the worst season of the three and would likely take a couple of years to develop. Christie needs to add power, but he’s a good shot and should be able to check smaller off-ball wings if he fills in. Brown is one hell of a competitor with jumping and shooting potential. Any of these guys would feel like a good pick for Orlando.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga in Santa Clara

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4) Second-round picks, especially those early in the round (like Orlando’s), can prove extremely valuable to competing teams drafted in the late first round and in difficult salary cap situations. Can you think of a scenario where the Magic have an opportunity to trade their two seconds back into the late first round?

(RO) Yes, sure. For Orlando, it’s all about how many rookies you want on your roster next season. The team is so young – does it really need three rookies? I could see a light trade up to the first. My goal there would be a bigger playmaker like Notre Dame’s Terry or Blake Wesley. Some useful wings in this area are Jalen Williams and Jake LaRavia, both of which would be very good picks. MarJon Beauchamp could also be someone good at defensive help.

Orlando Magic vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

5) Jeff Weltman and John Hammond have been building (and rebuilding) the Magic since they both arrived in town in 2017 (different professions)?

(RO) I like Orlando’s young core, but I think they really need a primary initiator to help everyone slip into more appropriate roles. Franz Wagner is great, but it’s hard to see him as the #1 option running pick and roll and iso. on most possessions. I like Suggs more as a supplemental guardian than a lead engine. Fultz has playmaking potential but the shot is still broken and he’s a health hazard. Cole Anthony would be perfect alongside a bigger primary option for me. There are many intriguing plays here, but they need a star who can pressure the defense with his goals while also engaging teammates. For me, Banchero is the guy with the best chance of becoming that in this class, which is why I wrote that Orlando should take him. Even if the choice is Smith, the core is still impressive and could easily be the basis of something good in the future if Smith lives up to the hype and someone in the Wagner/Anthony/Suggs/Fultz group becomes a true primary group .

Thank you Ricky for taking the time to answer this handful of questions for us. Remember Magic fans, the big event (the NBA Draft) is taking place on Thursday, June 23 (7:30pm EST) in Brooklyn, NY.

Aaron Goldstone has been a writer for the Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.

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