The Orlando Magic Have Options As The Trade Deadline Approaches

This is the time of year the trade winds start brewing in Orlando. The 2018 trade deadline is approaching and the Orlando Magic have options.

Wins are difficult to acquire for the Orlando Magic this year. Eight of the teams wins, came within the first 12 games of the season.

The 2017-18 season is going in the history books as another lost season for the Orlando Magic.

Hope for the team’s future is not as lost.

This is the time of year, teams look at their respective rosters and gauge if they will maneuver for a playoff run or if they are fishing for a top lottery pick. The Magic are headed towards the latter scenario.

This will be the first trade deadline for Hammond and president of basketball operations, Jeff Weltman, with the Orlando Magic. Weltman stated before the season began, that this would be an evaluation season for the team. He included the Orlando Magic would do their due diligence and evaluate what each players value is and would be towards the Magic’s future. And this upcoming deadline will prove to be a true test of their evaluation process.

The season has been a disappointment thus far at the midway point but the Magic will have an opportunity to change their misfortunes.

A few rumors have already surfaced that link the Magic towards a core shakeup. The most common name involved is wingman Evan Fournier. But the Magic are not looking to make a deal just to please the public’s perception of the teams flaws. If a favorable deal surfaces, then management will choose whether or not to make a deal. But don’t expect it to be for pennies on the dollar.

In an interview with ESPN Orlando Scott Anez, Jeff Weltman indicated the Magic would receive calls for just about everyone on the roster. Teams around the league view Orlando as a franchise who may make a deal to give them a sense of new direction. What’s not clear is the direction the Orlando Magic intend to take. Magic brass has been quite mum on their future intentions but the team is willing to listen to all offers. Only the deals aligning with the long-term vision will be given a second look. And this team has a few options ahead of the trade deadline.

Blow It Up and Build From Scratch

The Orlando Magic could choose to start the new era of Magic basketball by unloading everyone on the roster not in the long-term plans. The Magic have value in their current players and teams around the league recognize it. That talent just hasn’t been able to mesh well together in Orlando and that could lead the team into moving on from anyone not in the long-term plans.

Most of the current players would be easy to move because of their current contract status but realistically all of them could be serviceable to another team under the right situation.

A move of this magnitude would mean the Magic would have to embrace another three to five years of rebuilding.

As of now, reports indicate forward Aaron Gordon and rookie Jonathan Issac to be out of trade inclusions. Those two figure to be the two players the current regime intend to build around. Everyone else should be expendable for the right price under this plan.

Retain the Current Core of Players and Add Pieces

The Orlando Magic are not a team incapable of winning. Weltman stated the Magic were an astounding 8-4 when everyone was healthy and played their team roles. Clearly an indication the team is capable of winning. They sported a top five offensive unit during that stretch and top five overall net efficiency rating. But the team had deficiencies in the rebounding area and efficient scoring from the guard positions.

Those needs could be addressed via the draft and or free agency this summer. If the team felt they could win sooner with current players on the roster then the core may be around longer than this season.

A key issue the Magic have endured this season is injuries. Injuries may as well have an assigned Orlando Magic jersey. The Magic were off to a torrid start shooting the ball that simply couldn’t be sustained all season. But with a healthy roster, the team could have competed in the Eastern Conference.

It’s already been confirmed the Magic have scouted highly rated players like Oklahoma Sooner’s Trae Young and Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic this season. Both players offer dynamics that the team currently does not possess in playmaking and shooting. Orlando will consider both players if they become available to the team during the 2018 NBA Draft.

The Magic are not done scouting and will continue to gather information on other top rated NBA prospects including top rated front court players like Arizona Wildcat Deandre Ayton, Duke Blue Devil Marvin Bagley III, and Missouri Tiger Michael Porter Jr.

The newcoming NBA rookies are sure to be intriguing. But the Orlando Magic will have to be strategic in free agency as well to fill out the roster. Last summer, the Magic signed veteran free agents who could contribute to the team immediately. This summer should be no different. The team must continue to add strong veterans who can mentor and lead this ball club into a winning season.

While maintaining the current core players past this year may not be a fan favorite idea, it’s highly plausible and must remain in play if the team values improving and winning over simply getting younger and starting from scratch.

Trade For A Bona-Fide Superstar

The last scenario that favors Orlando at the moment, is to push for an established star player. The Orlando Magic ar not the star chasing type of team. Usually they end up with a borderline star type of player — or a player past his prime. This regime will be no different. Current reports indicate Orlando would be willing to pull the trigger only if the right deal came along.

The Magic are not an attractive team for the league’s star players. But that doesn’t mean they should not make the pitch If they find a star worth pursuing.

Several league marquee players are on the trade market. Their current situations are not quite panning out as expected. That’s a window of opportunity for Orlando — however small it may be.

The Magic will have a difficult task of signing a star player outright this summer. A trade is the only realistic option. To do so, Orlando must first be able to convince a star player of greener pastures soon to come. Only 10 teams will have more cap space than the Magic this summer to pursue players. Combine that idea with the thought of playing with a potential number one pick and a player like Aaron Gordon or Jonathan Isaac and it just may be possible.

Players such as Oklahoma Thunder’s Paul George and Charlotte Hornets Kemba Walker are a couple of players the Magic could choose to target for a rebuild. George makes the most sense due to his long history with head coach Frank Vogel. But nothing is likely to gain traction until closer to the February 8th trade deadline.

Whatever process Hammond and Weltman decide to take the team, the Magic community will have to trust that it’s for best.

But also trust that it won’t come at a discounted price as the Magic have options.

The Orlando Magic are making the right moves, despite not making a big move this year

The Orlando Magic are not in a good place. But that is good news for the team.

The 2016-2017 NBA season ended roughly three months ago for the Orlando Magic. Fans have become accustomed to it over the past five years. This past summer that feeling seemed like it could be trending positively. Magic fans have been given a glimpse of hope in the form of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond.

The NBA draft has passed. The Magic have decided to go forward with a discreet rebuild by selecting a project player in Jonathan Issac. However talented he may be, he will need time before making a real contribution to the team.

Free agency is already a week into the process and the Magic have made one small move thus far that has many fans curiously anxious about what’s next to come. The Magic front office keeps preaching about patience and future flexibility. They are in no rush to spend unnecessarily. Too bad fans only hear, “We’re about to tank for the umpteenth time with no clear direction”.

The Magic will face a few options heading into next season that they will need to make decisions on. The two biggest questions will be whether to make qualifying offers to forward Aaron Gordon and guard Elfrid Payton. After the upcoming season, the Magic will know what they have in both players, if not already, and whether or not they view those players as fixtures in the team’s future.

After settling up on Gordon and Payton, the Magic will have to shift focus to Mario Hezonja and whether to exercise their team option on his fourth year worth nearly $5.2 million. Early indications suggest the team not will not keep Hezonja on the roster.

*For the sake of this article, we assume the Magic make no other player trades or trade acquisitions that bear weight on significant cap holds

The Summer of 2019

Jeff Weltman and John Hammond both indirectly indicated that change and improvement is not going to magically occur overnight. There is no magic wand that they can wave to magically solve all of the teams issues. They must stay the course. They made it quite clear that it’s a process and a very analytical process at that. The salary cap for the 2017-18 season is set at $99.1 million. The 2018-19 season projects at $103 million. The 2019-20 season projects near $106 million dollars. That’s the number the Orlando Magic more than likely have in mind. As of today, the summer of 2019 for the Magic projects them to have only four guaranteed players under contract in Bismack Biyombo ($17 million), Evan Fournier ($17 million), DJ Augustin ($7.25 million) and their 2018 first round pick for a total between $42.25 million and 46.25 million dollars. The team likely will pick up rookie Jonathan Issac’s third year at $5.8 million bringing that total between $49 million and $52 million in guaranteed money for five players.

And that is where things start to get interesting.

Future Assets

Entering the summer of 2019, the team will have an assortment of assets they are guaranteed to be willing to cash in on.

In summary, the team currently will have a 2019 second round pick from the Brooklyn Nets, a 2nd rounder from either the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, or Portland Trailblazers (more favorable), a 2020 first rounder from the Oklahoma City Thunder, and a 2020 second round pick from the Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks (less favorable). They will also own their first round pick and second round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. *For a complete breakdown of draft picks click here.

The 2019 NBA Draft

The 2019 draft projects as a very strong draft. That year projected players Marvin Bagley Jr, Zion Williamson, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Shareef O’Neal and Moses Brown could declare for early entry. Hammond and Weltman know whats at stake by missing out on franchise changing prospects. Bagley, O’Neal, and Brown look to be the on the Magic’s radar since that is the year current center Nikola Vucevic contract comes off the books. Plenty of speculation and rumors are sure to generate well before then about the free agent to be center.

It’s worth the gamble to assume the Magic front office is aware of what else will occur that year.

The 2019 Free Agents

The 2019 free agent pool is loaded with marquee players. The Magic would have roughly $62 million dollars to play with and about $82 million before the luxury tax threshold. The list of unrestricted free agents that year include names like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, John Wall, Kemba Walker, and a host of others. *For a complete free agent list that year click here.

Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves and suggest that Orlando will sign the top league players but the team could and will likely pitch the idea of a stars uniting in Orlando. They are banking on Jonathan Issac developing and being able to help recruit others to join him in Orlando.

Let’s take a hypothetical look at what potential lineups could resemble.

PG: John Wall / Russell Westbrook /Elfrid Payton / Luke Doncic (2018)

SG: Klay Thompson / Evan Founier / Hamidou Diallo (2018)

SF: Jonathan Issac / Kevin Durant/ Paul George / Zion Williamson (2019)

PF: Aaron Gordon / Tobias Harris / Kristaps Porzingis (RFA)

C: Marvin Bagley Jr or Moses Brown (2019) / DeAndre Jordan / Nikola Vucevic / Karl-Anthony Town (RFA)

The reality is that Orlando would be hopeful to sign anyone currently not listed as an Orlando Magic player. They could pull out the same game plan as they did in the year 2000.

In 2000, the Magic almost landed a big three of Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill, and Tim Duncan. They were successful in landing two of the three, as Duncan opted to remain in San Antonio just hours after house hunting in Orlando.

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The Realistic Plan

The pains of being strategic aren’t beautiful but it’s an approach that the Orlando Magic need to take. And the fans need to accept. The team has been out of the playoffs for the past five seasons and projected to miss out next season. Hammond and Weltman are unlikely to reveal any type of long-term plan outside of Magic headquarters, but it’s clear they intend to rebuild the team within the two to four year range. After inheriting bad contracts and a congested roster, they will play the waiting game and “evaluate” the roster as is for the next season or two.

The Orlando Magic are making the best move possible by not making a big move to sign or trade for someone this year. Or next year. Quietly, the Magic are setting themselves up for quite the year in 2019 by staying the course. They will have a clearer understanding of Issac as a player and will have added another quality rookie in 2018. In 2019, they can afford to be very aggressive by adding players to put themselves back into the playoff conversation.

That’s a clear direction whether the team says it or not.

The Orlando Magic waive second year center Stephen Zimmerman

The Orlando Magic have decided to waive former second round pick, Stephen Zimmerman according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

Stephen Zimmerman was drafted 41st in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Magic. Upon his selection, he was projected as a backup option to starter Nikola Vucevic. The Magic had hoped to see improvements from Zimmerman after short stints with the Erie Bayhawks to increase his playing time last season.

After a lackluster campaign in the Orlando Magic Pro Summer League, the Magic decided to not guarantee his salary for the upcoming season.

In 19 career games with the Orlando Magic, he averaged 1.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per game.

After this recent transaction, the Magic will have 11 guaranteed players under contract. The team only has two centers under contract in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic.

Five reasons to be excited about the Orlando Magic Pro Summer League 

The Orlando Magic annual Pro Summer League kicks off this weekend and there is plenty of reason to be excited.

While not exactly the type of basketball prefer to see, basketball is basketball. The Orlando Magic Pro Summer league will be held at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL this weekend. Here are a few notable reasons to look forward to the Magic Summer League.

 

5. Frank Ntilikina vs Dennis Smith Jr

In a showdown of top 10 picks, this match-up will feature two of the NBA’s anointed next era point guards. Frank Ntilikina, was drafted at eight by the New York Knicks under the direction of former team president Phil Jackson.

Dennis Smith Jr was drafted one pick later at nine by the Dallas Mavericks in what many thought was a draft day slide for the former North Carolina State standout. Prior to the draft, he received interest from teams like the Lakers, Kings, and Magic. Some experts believed he was a better selection at eight for the Knicks.

This showdown will give us a glimpse into what these two could do for their respective teams. Expect to see fireworks on day one.

4. Malik Monk

Charlotte Hornets rookie guard Malik Monk makes his professional debut as the Hornets attempt to create a dynamic backcourt.

Monk was labeled as the best scorer in the past draft class. Standing 6’3 190, Monk was viewed as a bit undersized at the two guard position. As a result, he saw his stock drop a bit more than his talent level indicated. Expect Monk to come out with guns a blazing to prove the doubters wrong and make teams regret passing him up.

3.  Competition & Unknowns

Every year, the NBA summer league’s are filled with guys who are attempting to make an NBA roster. Some guys are college standouts who failed to get drafted, overseas studs, or guys who simply have been stuck in the G-league system. Regardless of how they arrived, they bring a tough competitive spirit and that generates NBA buzz. In recent years, this is where players generate their first round of hype. Last year, Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson was the highlight of the league with his strong shooting display which landed him a starting spot last season.

Expect to see one or two off the radar players, generate enough buzz to warrant camp invites. A few key players to watch will be Orlando Magic’s second rounder Wesley Iwundu , second year big man Stephen Zimmerman of the Orlando Magic, and Washington Wizards invite Devin Robinson out of the University of Florida.

2. Experiments and Visibility

The summer league gives NBA teams a chance to analyze how they believe their young additions can be used for the regular season. Players may be asked to do things they normally would not be asked during the regular season. This is the time for teams to experiment if certain players can play out of position or if players can be effective in other roles.

With six lottery selected players participating in the Orlando summer league, expect the league to generate a lot of interest as executives and team management are in attendance to see their guys first professional action. A few lottery players will be handed the opportunity to do things not on their college resumes.

1. Jonathan Issac

The main draw of the Orlando Summer League will be Magic rookie Jonathan Issac. Issac was the mystery of the draft as a 6’10 forward who plays like a guard. Issac is already drawing ceiling comparisons to players like Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Magic selected Issac under the impression that he will be a project player, but indications from Issac are that he will be able to contribute to the Magic starting day one. Issac is very undersized for his size and knows he must add more strength in the future. It would an encouraging sign to team and fan base if Issac displays a strong showing. Expect opposing players to immediately test him.

Every year, one rookie has a target on them and this year Issac is the guy.

Rookie Power: Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger can’t stop destroying baseballs

Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger are giving baseball its luster again with remarkable hitting feats.

Every so often Major League Baseball is blessed with players that come into the league and set remarkable records as rookies. This year will more than likely be one of those years.

In 1936, Joe DiMaggio debuted for the New York Yankees. He ended the season with a .323 average, 206 hits, 44 doubles, 15 triples, 29 home runs and 125 RBI’s. His 132 runs scored is an American League rookie record to this day.

In 1964, Tony Oliva had one of the greatest rookie seasons ever. Playing for the Minnesota Twins, he lead the American League in hits with 217, 43 doubles, 109 runs and batting average of .323. He became the first rookie to ever win the league batting crown. He won Rookie of the Year and almost became the first rookie to win the rookie of the year and the MVP awards in his first season.

11 years later, In 1975, Red Sox rookie Fred Lynn become the first player to win the Rookie of the Year and the American League MVP. He batted .331 and had 105 RBI’s and led the league in runs with 103, 47 doubles and ended with a .566 slugging percentage. He helped the Red Sox win the pennant that year as well.

While other rookies have come in to the league and had excellent years, practically none have accomplished what Ichiro Suzuki has.

In 2001, Ichiro Suzuki moved from Japan to play with the Seattle Mariners. He led the American League with 242 hits, 56 stolen bases and a .350 batting average. He became the first rookie to win a batting title, Rookie of the Year and the MVP awards in his first season. His 242 hits in his rookie season still is a MLB record.

And now we have two rookies hitting home runs at an incredible pace in Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger.

The current record of 49 was set by slugger Mark McGwire and the next closest number being set by Frank Robinson in 1956 at 38. He is the only rookie to have more than 40 home runs in a single year.

As of late, these two rookies are topping each other night in and night out. This could be the year we witness two rookies exceed the 40 home run mark.

Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger are adding a bit of excitement back to baseball midway through the 2017 MLB season. Fans are definitely getting their money worth.

 

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Major League Baseball snubs Pete Rose yet again

Major league baseball has not been kind to the legend, Pete Rose. Rose has been eligible for the hall of fame since 1992 but off the field issues have prevented his induction. Will Pete Rose ever make it to Cooperstown?

Another baseball hall of fame ballot has passed and another year Pete Rose has remained off the official ballot.

Once again, baseball politicians have left the world disappointed or at least wondering when Pete Rose will be recognized. At-least his baseball achievements and not his off field actions.

The point that needs to be made is other players have disgraced the game of baseball and current players continue to do so. The difference is at some point, those players will have an opportunity to be voted into baseballs hall of fame. It’s almost as if baseball wants to single out one the greatest players to take the diamond and reject his career stats which are undeniably deserving of a hall of fame spot.

The Case:

Pete Rose’s 24 year career achievements are as follows:

1963 Rookie of the Year

2x NL Gold Glove Winner (1969,1970)

17x NL All-star (1965,1967-71,1973-82,1985)

1981 NL Silver Slugger

3x Batting Champion (1968,1969,1973)

3x World Series Champion

1973 NL MVP

1975 World Series MVP

The Probable:

Rose did admit to betting on his team to win games but how can the baseball Veteran’s Committee continue to punish those staggering numbers? It’s understood that the rules are the rules but baseball continues to allow illegal substance users to escape permanent ineligibility and are voted in to the Hall of Fame.

Notable players like Roger Clemons with 300 career wins as a starting pitcher, Mark McGwire  70 home-runs in a single season, and Barry Bonds a career record of 756 home runs will or have had their names included on the hall of fame ballots, but yet Rose has not.

At a minimum, the committee needs to give the public and hall of fame voters the chance to place Pete Rose where he rightfully belongs. In 2016, the Cincinnati Reds honored Rose by retiring his number and establishing him in the Reds hall of fame. So again, why is the MLB committee continuing to punish one player for his guilt when we consistently turn the cheek to others players who are destroying the game of baseball with performance enhancing drugs.

The Twist:

Yes Pete Rose was wrong. Yes, Rose admitted that he was wrong in gambling on his team to win games. He also has paid his dues and served his punishment. Compared to the amount of players who are consistently testing positive for PED’s and only receiving lifetime bans after the third infraction. It’s only fair that Pete Rose is given another opportunity. 10 years and counting is long enough. Its time to place Pete Rose where he rightfully belongs – in Cooperstown, New York and that should come as early as next year.

Could Conor McGregor actually beat Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match, It looks as if we are about to find out

The stage is set. Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. The date is set. August 26th, 2017. The fighting style is set. Boxing. Every scenario favors Floyd Mayweather to add another win to his 49-0 professional boxing record. But what if Mayweather loses his mega fight against UFC lightweight champion, Conor McGregor?

 

Las Vegas has the odds set at -800 in favor of Floyd Mayweather. A gambling man should take whatever money they could scramble together and bet it all on Mayweather to do what he is known to do — win.

But what if Conor McGregor actually pulled off one of the largest upsets in sports history. While no one outside of the McGregor camp and Fox Sports’ anchor Skip Bayless gives McGregor any chance to actually win this bout. Check his series of tweets a few days ago:

While not convinced McGregor will actually win this bout, Bayless made a couple of valid points.

The Case:

McGregor has the ability to fight ambidextrous. This overlooked ability could be a deciding point if used correctly. Floyd has faced some great opponents in his career but none like McGregor who can switch fighting styles at will. The basis of winning a boxing match is to out-maneuver your opponent and land punches. Expect McGregor to use every bit of this strategy against the defensive specialist Floyd to keep him guessing.

The second point Bayless pointed out was Mayweather getting called out of retirement to prove a point. While no one cam be exactly sure what Floyd did during his retirement, he will need to get in shape pretty quick. If Floyd comes out too cocky, it could land him in big trouble. While videos have surfaced recently of McGregor sparring against a professional boxer and getting handled, McGregor is still capable of taunting Floyd into one big punch and one big punch is all a fighter needs to turn the odds in their favor.

The Probable:

No one should be looking for this fight to be a one-sided Mayweather scorecard victory. Instead this will be a competitive bout. Rounds one through four will probably display and aggressive McGregor chasing Mayweather as he attempts to display his textbook defense. Rounds five and six are about as close to even as it will get as Mayweather figures out what McGregor is doing on offense and switching his fighting styles. Rounds six though 12, will end up being text-book Mayweather rounds. Solid defense, counter punching, and quick combination flurries to seal another Mayweather win.

The Twist:

Round six ends with an illegal blow by McGregor and he manages to capitalize and put Mayweather on the floor for the first time in his career. Mayweather still escapes with a win but a questionable split one. After all, Las Vegas is not going to allow their man lose at home.

Drafting Dennis Smith Jr Makes Sense For the Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic need roster rehabilitation. It’s a bit difficult to be excited about a team who regressed in nearly every statistical NBA category available including the win column. At some point the bleeding has to stop. The Magic need to dress their wounds and get serious about turning the franchise around into a winning team.

The Orlando Magic will select at number six in the 2017 NBA draft– a place they have never selected before. Luckily for the Magic, they will be able to find value at that selection. The 2017 draft is a very deep draft.

The team has many decisions to make regarding the roster this off-season. The one thing that needs to happen is drafting NBA prospect Dennis Smith Jr if the opportunity becomes available.

NBA Draft prospect Dennis Smith Jr at North Carolina State

It’s clear the Orlando Magic need to find a future fixture at the small forward position.

Unfortunately, the top two prospects at that position in Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum may not be available when the Magic are on the clock. And that may actually benefit the Magic.

The position that should be filled immediately is a combo guard spot.

And that’s where Dennis Smith Jr becomes the best available player. The Magic’s new general manager, John Hammond, has spoken vastly about drafting the best player available.

At selection six, if Smith is available, he will be the best player available and the Orlando Magic should be ready to take him.

The Case:
The Eastern Conference 

The Eastern Conference proved a strong backcourt is key to making the postseason – the Orlando Magic’s current goal. The top four teams of the eastern conference possess the strongest rated backcourts of the conference.

Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Isaiah Thomas, and Kyle Lowry all belong in the annul all-star conversation. Each player comes along with the playmaker and scorer labels.

The Orlando Magic know what they have in guard Elfrid Payton and now it’s time to bring in an explosive guard who can complement Payton. They need to create a more dynamic backcourt. This move should not be a replacement move but more of a team cohesiveness move.

Payton has displayed he is capable of running an NBA offense and getting players in their spots. Smith should be able to show he is capable of being a leading scorer in that offense.


Scoring Threat

Whether Dennis Smith Jr can become an all-star is undetermined at the moment. What is clear is he is a capable scorer and can make plays on offense, which is what the Magic desperately need. Taking a look at Smith Jr’s body of work in his lone season at NC State, indications are he will be a triple threat scorer.

Just behind fellow classmate Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith Jr is ranked as the second best isolation scoring guard available this draft and number three overall behind Fultz, and forward Jayson Tatum.

Smith has been able to demonstrate his three-point range last season as he converted at a rate of 38 percent.

Putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim will be his niche. He will be able to keep defenses honest and make them guard him if they choose to go under screens.

Team Fit

The signals from the Magic are to find players who are versatile and of high character. But at some point, team needs have to be taken into account.

Breaking down this team, the Magic struggle significantly with point guards D.J. Augustine and C.J. Watson running the floor. By drafting Smith Jr, the Magic instantly have an upgrade over both veterans. Smith Jr can spark the second unit and take pressure off the starters. While doing so, the Magic get another year to analyze starter Payton’s value and growth. If they become unsatisfied with his play, they will have a replacement player in the system. If they remain confident in Payton, then Smith remains the backup threat and occasionally spells the two guard role.

With his ability to score, he could take over as the starting shooting guard should Orlando choose to move on from guard Evan Fournier or not resign shooting guard Jodie Meeks. This move essentially gives the Magic options they currently don’t have.

 

The Probable:

As the NBA draft approaches, Dennis Smith Jr is the only prospect who has met with the Orlando Magic on two occasions. Usually that is a great sign that a team is interested in a prospect. With a flurry of pre-draft trades throughout the NBA, it’s possible Smith Jr, is high on other teams list and could be taken as early as pick five, to the Sacramento Kings. If Smith Jr, becomes available at pick six, the Orlando Magic will more than likely draft him. If he is not available expect the team to quickly shift focus to prospect F Jonathan Issac out of Florida State. The objective is to keep position versatility going forward and to keep pushing all the current players to continue to progress.

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The Twist:

The Orlando Magic have been quiet on the NBA trade winds but expect they are listening to calls from other teams. Come draft day, the Magic will make a draft day trade with the Sacramento Kings for the 10th pick in this years draft centered around Nikola Vucevic and the 25th pick.

Orlando Magic Draft: Lonzo Ball

The Orlando Magic are on pace towards another year of a top five lottery pick. Over the next few weeks, we will analyze prospects the team could potentially draft. Next up, Lonzo Ball.

Name: Lonzo Ball

Height: 6’6

Weight:190

Team: UCLA Bruins

Current Position: Point Guard

Expected NBA Position: Combo Guard

Age: 19 years old

Stat Line: 15.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 7.6 apg, 1.9  spg, 0.8 bpg, 55.5  FG %, 43.3 3PT %,  67.9FT%

Pro Comparison: Jason Kidd

Lonzo Ball entered the college preseason in the mix for the number one prospect title. Ball is one of the safest picks in the upcoming draft.


Strengths

Ball is one of the best overall guards available this upcoming draft. If you listen to his father tell the story, he is so far ahead that he is already a better player than Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry.

“I have the utmost confidence in what my boy is doing. He’s better than Steph Curry to me. Put Steph Curry on UCLA’s team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens”. – LaVar Ball

Lonzo has remained quiet amid his father’s claims and that may very well speak about how his character really is. Ball has a high basketball IQ and it is on full display when he is on the court for the UCLA Bruins.

Ball is very capable of exceling at being a floor general of an NBA team and among the league leaders in assists on an annual basis if he falls into the right situation.

What truly separates Ball from all other point guard candidates is his size and ability to pass the ball to teammates wide open or in traffic. He can see the floor over smaller defenders.

In the early stages of his career, Ball will have to rely on his calling card to be a guard who can keep an offense flowing with ball movement. While passing will be his niche, he is more than capable of being a scorer. Currently scoring nearly 16 points a game, Ball finds most of his success scoring in transition, although he can score the three-point shot. He can use his dribble to get to the rim or to create his own shot at will but he will need to continue to work on his shot selection at the next level to be successful.

Ball could meet his Kidd comparisons if he remains active on the defensive end. At 6’6, he is a very tough defender when engaged. His 6.1 rebounds per game show that he is capable of crashing the glass and willing to do the “dirty work” down in the paint. While not as strong as the NBA will demand him to be, he can defend quite well due to his size and length.

With his all around game, Ball should be considered a triple-double type of player.

 


Weaknesses

Ball will be one of the better playmaker in the upcoming draft but he will come with a few red flags.

As an expected highlight assist guy, Ball will make the flashy play occasionally but that type of play will lead to sloppy and unnecessary turnovers at times. He will need to play with a bit more discipline at the NBA level to avoid becoming a turnover machine and  adjust to making the simple play.

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He also been known for his bad shot selection. While he shoots the three ball above 40 percent this year at UCLA, he can forget he is playing with a team and hoist up deep, contested threes early in the shot clock.

From a potential top three pick, you love the effort to try to take over a game but he will have to be smart about how he does it. As competition stiffens against him, he has the tendency to relax from penetrating to the rim and settling for an inconsistent, wild jump shots.

In terms of his shooting ability, Ball has a glaring issue, his release is to the left of his body and not at its high point as he tends to release below his head. NBA defenders will be able to contest his shot fairly easily if he does not correct his mechanics with a higher release point.

Like other top five prospects, Fultz and Jackson, Ball really struggles from the free throw line. Shooting just 68 percent, teams will not hesitate to foul him and make him earn his way at the charity stripe. This will be a major area of concern when it comes down to late game play. He simply must improve in this area.


Prediction

Ball will be in the mix to go as the number one overall selection based on his UCLA game play this year. He has made it known he will enter the NBA draft this year. While not being the most athletic player, he does bring an all around game that simply can not be passed up by teams looking for a playmaker and potential star.

*Some videos used are the property of Mike Schultz for Draft Express.

What Will Terrence Ross Bring To The Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic made a trade to send free agent to be forward Serge Ibaka  to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for combo wing Terrence Ross and a 2017 first round pick.

Terrence Ross is the newest member of the Orlando Magic. Ross was selected eighth in the 2012 NBA draft. At the time, Ross was known to be near the top of the athleticism charts coming into the league and has continued to develop into a complete player over the last five years. On paper, Ross looks to be the player that Hennigan was seeking to compliment the young player rebuild—a wing player who can score from all areas of the floor. Lets look at what Terrence Ross will bring to the Orlando Magic.


Scoring

Ross comes to the Magic, averaging a pedestrian 10 points per game. On the stat sheet, that number won’t jump out at you but he did so playing 22 minutes and attempting just under nine shots per game. Even more so, Ross was never more than the fourth or fifth scoring option with the Toronto Raptors.

In Orlando, Ross will be used very differently.

The Magic are starving for a go to scorer and after trading away Ibaka, the Magic should attempt to make Ross that guy. Capable of scoring from all areas on the court, Ross should instantly feed off of the play of Magic guard Elfrid Payton. Payton’s ability to penetrate the paint and draw double teams, should leave Ross with plenty of opportunities to convert on open threes and cuts to the rim.

Ross current stats:

10.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 44.1 FG%, 37.5 3PT%, 82.0 FT%

Ross projected PER 36 Stats:

16.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.6 spg, 44.1 FG%, 37.5 3PT%, 82.0 FT%

53% of Ross’ shot attempts come from three-point land. 16% come between 16 feet to the three-point line, and 12% come at the rim.

What Frank Vogel should incorporate into the game plan is reducing the amount of long two-point shots and increase the amount of attempts at the rim. Ross will still take a hefty amount of threes per game but by reducing the amount of high risk, low reward shot attempts, he should be able to increase his scoring into the 20 point per game range.

The hole in Ross’ offensive arsenal is his ability to draw fouls. He must develop the ability to draw contact, something that will happen as he gets the rim more often. Currently he averages less than one attempt per game. For a player who converts at an 82% rate, the Magic will need to take advantage of and tap into his full  scoring potential.


Finishing Ability

The Magic have finally found themselves a guy who can finish through players as opposed to changing to a tough lay-up or floater. Ross has the ability to go through, around, over, under, and however else is possible to score a bucket. Just take a look at what he is capable of doing.

And here is a another look at his finishing ability.

Ross will become one of the best finishers on the Orlando Magic from day one.


Defense

While not known to have elite defense, that doesn’t mean Ross is not one the better defenders at his position. He is capable of defending the perimeter and the paint. Of the 21 fouls per game committed by the Toronto Raptors, Ross accounted for one foul per game. That’s right. One. For a player who is playing roughly two full quarters per game, he rarely fouls his opponent. The Magic on the other hand are already near the league best in 19 fouls per game (league best is 17 per game with the Charlotte Hornets). Adding a player like Ross who barely fouls, should help boost them into the top five of this category and decrease the freebies other teams get against the Magic.

Ross was one of the better defenders in Toronto and should fit adjust well into Frank Vogel’s game plan.

Ross wasnt able to suit up in his first capable game with the Orlando Magic due to NBA trade protocol, but when he does get the opportunity to play he should instantly find success. The Aaron Gordon at small forward project should be nearing an end and Terrence Ross should eventually take over that starting wing position. Vogel has longed for a replica of current Indiana Pacers forward Paul George for the Orlando Magic and he may have just landed one in Terrence Ross.

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