ORLANDO- All eyes are now officially on the Orlando Magic.
With the conclusion of the 2022 NBA Finals and the crowning of the Golden State Warriors as champions, the basketball world has completely shifted its focus to the draft.
After winning the lottery and acquiring the first overall pick, the Magic are in the driver’s seat for what will happen Thursday night when the selection process begins.
While the team has diligently researched, hosted countless training sessions, hosted numerous interviews, processed hours of film, and interviewed a multitude of people who have come into contact with these prospects, Orlando will use every second before the draft to make his final decision on it decide what to do with the first overall selection.
“We will continue to evaluate and discuss,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said Monday morning. “New information is coming in, believe it or not, still, now, all the time. So we’re going to continue through the process and get to the point where we have to make our decision on Thursday night.”
There are a number of players in this draft class who are clearly worthy of this first overall pick. Duke’s Paolo Banchero offers a unique blend of size, skill and scoring for a player who is at least 6ft 10 and weighs approximately 250 pounds. Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren fits the unicorn list as a 7-footer who has the potential to become a consistent contender for Defensive Player of the Year with a wide range of offensive skills. Purdue’s Jaden Ivey undoubtedly deserves a mention as an electric guard whose speed and athleticism are likely to make him a transitional nightmare for years to come. And Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr.’s mix of size, shooting prowess and defensive versatility are skills that are in great demand in the modern NBA.
“I’m very confident that we’re going to get a player of size, talent, IQ, ability, character, everything that we want to achieve,” Weltman said.
Regardless of who the magic chooses, the player will join a core that is certainly not devoid of talent. The group currently features a number of lottery selections including Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr. and Jonathan Isaac, along with other promising young plays such as Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton and Chuma Okeke.
“We’re going to add (the pick) to an already exciting group of young players and position him to reach his full potential,” Weltman stated. “Beyond that, it goes where it goes.”
The young core mentioned above is already hard at work. Many of them have spent much of their off-season in Orlando working diligently to hone their craft. The dedication and commitment was palpable, and the number of players who chose to do it at Magic’s practice facility was impressive.
The development of this group will no doubt be kept in mind by Weltman and his staff as they decide what to do with picks 32 and 35 overall on draft night. While adding two players at the top of Round 2 will certainly be intriguing, they will need to weigh the potential of these additions against what is also best for their current young core.
“How many rookies do we want this year,” Weltman asked about the prospect of adding three rookies to an already fledgling locker room. “We already have a young team. How can we keep the development paths free for our young players? With that comes a whole lot of exploration into what to do with those two picks. You can go on with the ifs/thens and play through this almost forever.
Leading up to draft night, there will be no shortage of if/then questions from the media and fans about what Magic should do with the first overall, picks 32 and 35. But that’s what’s so exciting about owning one of the most prized possessions in all of sport.