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After a long season that saw them lose 59 games, the Orlando Magic had a 46.9 percent chance of nabbing a top-three pick heading into the lottery on Tuesday night. But, as it turned out, luck wasn’t on their side. Not only did they miss out on taking home the top prize, they fell lower than expected, putting them out of the Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid sweepstakes.
It’s not like the Magic were entirely unlucky, however. Remember, no one was expecting them to nab a second lottery pick in the 2014 draft. The pick was originally projected to be in the 20s. But thanks to the Dwight Howard trade and the collective misfortunes of the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks this season, that pick flirted with being in the top 10.
So really, it isn’t all doom and gloom. At the end of the day, the Magic pocketed a pair of lottery picks – 4th and 12th — in one of the more loaded drafts in recent memory and while they are relying on its depth to bring in a top-tier talent, they are still in a great position to build on their current roster.
There’s also a slight possibility that two of those three — most likely Parker and Embiid — slip to the fourth pick. The general consensus is the Wiggins-Embiid-Parker trio will, in no particular order, go 1-2-3, thereby giving the Magic dibs on drafting the Aussie sensation, Dante Exum.
However, Exum — a man still unknown to many — could go higher based on how he performs in workouts between now and the draft. General managers are drooling over his upside as a 6-foot-6 combo guard, and if he can shake off any concerns teams may have, the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, or Philadelphia 76ers may take a chance on him.
There are also concerns about Embiid’s back — he was sidelined for the last six games of the season for Kansas because of a back injury that has since raised some red flags. Not only that, the Bucks (Larry Sanders) and 76ers (Nerlens Noel) already have their big men locked up for the near future. If the Cavaliers pass up on him, he could, potentially, fall into the Magic’s lap.
Yet even if everything plays out as expected (that being, Embiid, Parker, and Wiggins round out the top three), there are still plenty of fish in the sea. Other than Exum, the Magic could acquire a bully-ball four in Julius Randle, a super athletic, high-energy forward in Aaron Gordon, or a scoring point guard in Marcus Smart. They may not have the same star power as Embiid, Parker, or Wiggins, but they still have the potential to give the Magic what they need — talent.
If you’re a believer in fate, here’s some food for thought: Back in 2007, the Oklahoma City Thunder found their franchise player with the 2nd overall pick (Kevin Durant) and gave him a running mate a year later with the 4th overall pick (Russell Westbrook). Seeing as the Magic’s general manager, Rob Hennigan, is a product of the Thunder’s franchise, it’s only fitting that they are in a similar position.
If you’ll remember, in return for Howard, Hennigan stockpiled draft picks and young, promising talent in the hope of replicating the Thunder’s build-from-the-ground-up model. Initially, it appeared as though the Magic had given up their franchise player for some loose change when, in reality, it was quite the opposite. It wasn’t meant to turn the franchise around in a hurry.
Instead, the hope was to build a sound foundation for which a solid structure could be built. The Magic have done a great job up until now of putting the right pieces in place – namely, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Kyle O’Quinn — and the hope is that two more draft picks will begin the ascent back upward towards winning.
But even if you’re not a believer in fate, it’s hard not to like the Magic’s odds. They’re a young team with tremendous upside, and unlike the Bucks, 76ers and Cavaliers, they have a sense of direction. They’ve got tools in place to be something special in the future and two more young players could be what tips the scale.
With the 4th and 12th picks, there’s no reason why the Magic can’t find the players to do that.