Quick Bit: The Magic are picking first in the NBA Draft for the fourth time in their history. They’ve had a good record so far selecting impact players. Can they do it again?
The Orlando Magic are picking first in the NBA Draft for the fourth time in their history.
Each of their three previous No. 1 selections ended up having an immediate impact on the fortunes of their franchise. First, Shaquille O’Neal in 1992. Then, lightning hit twice when they received the No. 1 overall pick in 1993 and selected Chris Webber, trading him straight away to Golden State for Anfernee Hardaway and picks. Finally, they selected the second greatest center in franchise history, Dwight Howard, in 2004.
Will Orlando’s run of good No. 1 picks continue on Thursday night?
The players who project to be in the top three are Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr., Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero.
Whoever the Magic select will join a young core in Orlando that already includes 2017 top pick Markelle Fultz, a pair of top-eight picks from the 2021 NBA Draft in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, and Cole Anthony — the No. 15 pick in the 2020 draft.
Despite finishing last in the Eastern Conference this season, there is a sense that the Magic are building something tangible, and their young core could do with a boost on the defensive end of the court.
Magic president Jeff Weltman wouldn’t give much away earlier this week when asked if the franchise had made a decision on who they would select.
“I tell you, it’s still early in the process,” Weltman said Monday.
So… who should the Magic select with their No. 1 pick? We make a case for the top three.
Jabari Smith Jr.
According to Vegas Insider, Smith is the favorite to be taken No. 1 overall by the Magic.
Smith has all the tools to be an elite scorer in the NBA. He possesses the size and length to get his silky smooth jumper off and has shown the ability to lock in defensively for stretches.
Here’s what TSN’s draft expert Kyle Irving had to say of Smith in his latest scouting report:
How often could you make the argument that a 6-foot-10 forward may have the best jumper in their draft class? In recent memory, Kevin Durant is the only example I can think of (and no, this is not a comparison between Smith and one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen). As great as Smith looked at times, Durant is in another echelon.
Nevertheless, Smith’s fluid shooting motion, high release and soft touch have him up to par with any of his sharpshooting peers.
Pairing Smith with the young core the Magic already have in place seems like a match made in heaven. A pick and roll or pop combination of Smith and Jalen Suggs could be a nightmare for opposing teams to have to defend.
The Magic could be on the right path if they select Smith at No. 1.
Would it be a shock to hear Holmgren’s name called by the Magic? Not entirely.
Holmgren is a unique prospect that could very well end up as the best player in the class when it’s all said and done.
Despite Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl’s comparisons to Shawn Bradley, the ceiling looks to be quite high for Holmgren. With no pressure to win right away in Orlando, he’d be allowed the time to develop into the player many expect him to become.
TSN’s Irving had this to say about the most intriguing player in the draft:
At 7-foot-1, 190 pounds, it’s easy to look at Holmgren and say “that won’t work in the NBA.” When Gonzaga faced off against Memphis and fellow lottery prospect Jalen Duren in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, NBA Draft junkies immediately circled that game as an opportunity for significant insight into Holmgren.
At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, Duren is the most physical player in this year’s draft class with some comparing him to a young Dwight Howard. Holmgren’s matchup against Duren was the chance to prove he could hang with someone much stronger and more physical.
And Holmgren passed that physicality test within the first few minutes of the game.
You can’t count Banchero out for being the first player off the board on Thursday. The betting market certainly hasn’t. Banchero’s odds to go No. 1 overall have fluctuated a ton over the past 48 hours. Could Vegas know something we don’t?
If Banchero is the pick for the Magic, they’d be getting the best player in the draft according to Irving.
Here’s what Irving had to say about the Duke standout:
Going into his freshman season, I compared Banchero to Hawks forward John Collins because of his fluid athleticism and physicality.
After watching his developed playmaking and ability to create his own shot, I started to see shades of what we saw from Knicks forward Julius Randle during his All-Star season in 2020-21.
If you told any fan of a team that drafts Banchero that he’ll someday average 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game while also shooting over 40% from the 3-point line, they’d take it in a heartbeat. Well, that’s exactly what Randle did in 2020-21 while carrying the Knicks to the playoffs.
Banchero’s production projects at an All-NBA level. The question becomes whether or not he has the motor and consistency to deliver.
Originally found on Sporting News Read More