- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “One of the downsides of being an elite NBA team is a poor position for the NBA Draft, but Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith is still confident that the team can improve itself from near the bottom of the first round Thursday night. The Magic select 29th overall or next-to-last in the first round by virtue of their 59-23 record this past season. Orlando had the NBA’s second-best record, trailing only the Cleveland Cavaliers and their 61-21 mark. Smith is confident that the Magic can fill a need even though they will be picking so low in the draft and basically at the mercy of the 28 teams in front of them. A few teams, such as the San Antonio Spurs, have seemed to have mastered the art of finding hidden talent with low picks and Smith is hoping to repeat that feat on Thursday.”
- With general manager Otis Smith, expect the unexpected.
- Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus for Luol Deng? Say it ain’t so.
- Jordan Crawford, draft sleeper according to Matt Moore of ProBasketballTalk: “Forget the dunked-on-LeBron biz. This kid averaged 29 points per game in three contests in the NCAA tournament, and comes from pure scorer blood. He’s got good athleticism, and all of his faults are things that can be corrected with coaching and development. Crawford is a guy who if you watch him slip by you’re going to ask ‘How did we not see that kid coming?’ ”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post lambasts the rumored Gilbert Arenas/Vince Carter swap: “According to ShamSports, Arenas is owed roughly $80 million over the next four seasons. And while the Magic, in win-now mode, are willing to take on salary, they won’t do it for a player of Arenas’ caliber. Yes, Arenas is a three-time All-Star who scored 22.6 points per game last season prior to his suspension for gunplay, but he’s also inefficient, yet to prove himself fully healthy after knee surgery three years ago, and as big a defensive liability as there is in this league. Absolutely too much risk for Orlando to take on, and for a middling reward.”
- In SB Nation’s Mock Draft, the Magic select Greivis Vasquez: “Essentially, Vasquez fits the Magic’s biggest positional need–Jameer Nelson is the only point guard the Magic have under contract for next season–and has the skills to be a good fit. Sure, there are red flags, such as the turnovers, lackluster individual defense, and prior track record of tall point guards in the NBA. However, Vasquez’s ability to run an offense seems genuine, and interesting. Additionally, his willingness to take big shots could be a plus, especially with an expert coach like Stan Van Gundy on hand to help his at-times iffy shot-selection in those situations. Though I prefer Quincy Pondexter in this spot, he’s off the board. Yet Vasquez is not a terrible consolation prize. He has a chance to make a solid, immediate contribution to the Magic.”
- Doug Gotlieb of ESPN Insider guides general managers on what NOT to do on draft night: “Do not try to change a player’s position when there are far more refined prospects at the same spot. Pass on Damion James and take Quincy Pondexter. Pass on Xavier Henry and take James Anderson. Pass on Lance Stephenson and Willie Warren and take Terrico White. James is not close to being a perimeter player, Pondexter always has been. Henry is more of a shooting 3 who needs to learn guard skills, skills that Anderson already has. Stephenson and Warren are scoring combos who lack burst and shooting (Stephenson) and size and attitude (Warren), while White has played point and is a far better scoring one than the two bigger names.”
- Jordan Crawford is one of the major story lines heading into the 2010 NBA Draft: “Jordan Crawford will probably end up going late in the first round, but his name rings out like no one’s in the draft, save for Wall’s. In fact, it did before most people had ever seen Crawford play basketball. And in this business, especially when you’re trying to get noticed as a borderline prospect, and then find your way into the first round, branding is everything. The Xavier guard earned instant notoriety when he dunked on LeBron James during a pick-up game at Bron’s summer camp in 2009. Nike, or James’s people, or maybe the CIA, attempted to confiscate all recordings of this unthinkable event. The story went nuts on the internet, and was easily the greatest marketing campaign Nike never dreamt up.”
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images
Here’s another installment of the Magic Basketball Mailbag.
Do you think the Magic will try to move Gortat?
The answer to the question is speculative, at best, but it should provide some insight on Marcin Gortat‘s future with the Orlando Magic.
Will Gortat be traded? It seems like everyone expects it to happen sooner rather than later, but it would have to be a move that makes sense for the Magic. Yes, Gortat’s contract will continue to escalate year-by-year but Orlando’s ownership has made it clear that they’re willing to pay the luxury tax for the foreseeable future, so money isn’t necessarily an issue in this particular case. It all depends on what’s out there on the trade block and if general manager Otis Smith is better off keeping Gortat, moving him in a packaged deal in hopes of acquiring a superstar, or trading him simply to fill a need elsewhere on the roster. With Smith, it’s tough to predict what he’ll do because he likes to play things close to the vest.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The [Orlando] Magic‘s roster indeed needs some filling out, especially at point guard. Jameer Nelson‘s backups, Jason Williams and Anthony Johnson, are aging free agents. Williams hasn’t ruled out returning even as the third point guard/mentor, but the Magic need to get younger and, ahem, taller. [Otis] Smith isn’t committed to drafting a trainee, adding, “I think you always take the best guy available. I don’t think you can go in saying ‘point guard’ and pass on a better guy.” Interestingly, of the six players who worked out for the Magic on Monday, only Greivis Vasquez, 6 feet 6, formerly of Maryland, is a true point guard. Vasquez has size, but isn’t a great on-the-ball defender, which is what the Magic desperately need. That doesn’t mean Smith hasn’t had his eye on, say, point guards Terrico White and Mikhail Torrance, both 6-5.”
- George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Magic can’t snag much help with the 29th overall selection. But there are other options. Do they make a run at point guard Chris Paul? What about beefing up the power forward slot with Carlos Boozer? Is anyone out there willing to take on Vince Carter‘s $17.3 million contract for a year? All these shifting variables will determine where the Magic stand a year from now, and whether they are strong enough to stop the three-peat run by the Los Angeles Lakers. The most important time of the year is now. It’s all about the ingredients in the kitchen, and what you can brew up to win an NBA championship. The Magic are in a tough spot because that 4-1 offense with Dwight Howard inside and four guys on the perimeter has combined to win 118 regular-season games over the last two seasons. But it also matches up poorly against teams with bigger lineups, as playoff losses to the Lakers in ’09 and the Boston Celtics this season proved. Going to a more conventional lineup is a huge philosophical shift for this team. But assuming that’s the plan, who do you roll with at the power forward slot? Boozer and David Lee of the New York Knicks are the two most coveted ‘gets’ on the Magic fans wish list but there’s also the thought that the Magic already have a big man who can fit the bill — Brandon Bass. All of us get to play amateur GMs, but only Smith has the power to make a deal.”
- George Shinn, owner of the New Orleans Hornets, wants to build around Chris Paul.
- CP3 is open to a trade, however, as long as he gets a chance to win: “My first choice is to be in New Orleans. I just want to make sure we’re committed to winning. If we’re not committed to winning and trying to get better so we can contend with the Lakers, the Celtics and all these other top teams, then I’m open to being traded. [...] I’m fine with staying in New Orleans, but I want to make sure we’re committed to winning. I don’t want to rebuild. I want to win now. It’s nothing personal against the city. I love that city. But my biggest thing is winning.”
- Rashard Lewis is down with OPP.
- Devin Ebanks and Andy Rautins, two draft prospects that worked out with the Orlando Magic earlier in the week, are considered “hidden gems” according to Ryen Russillo of ESPN Insider. Here’s what Russillo had to say about Rautins: “[He] is one of the few pure shooters in this draft. He is great off the catch, uses screens well to get an open look and has a quick release. Rautins will have a defined role from day one in the NBA: come off the bench and hit shots. At 6-5, he is big and athletic enough to play shooting guard. His handle is good, and he already has NBA range. Rautins will have to understand a good shot in the pros versus a good shot in college. If he goes undrafted, I’ll be shocked.”
- Jordan Schultz of NBA FanHouse writes an excellent story on Quincy Pondexter, a possible Magic draftee: “Defensively, I think he may be the best wing defender on the West Coast, in that he uses his length very well both on the ball, when he harasses the opposition, as well as in the passing lanes, where many of his open-court steals lead to easy baskets. His ability to guard up to three NBA positions boosts his value. It is a rare blend of tools for a 6-7 wing laterally fluid enough to guard twos and threes, yet strong and athletic enough to defend fours. It is perhaps even more relevant than his improved offensive repertoire. [...] He hasn’t developed the range on his NBA three yet, but given his vast mid-range improvements since his freshman season, teams should see he is willing to put in the work. At this juncture, his scoring prowess (19.3 points) is best served from the 18-foot mark and in, where he mixes his pull-ups with dribble-drive and posting.”
- Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference takes a look at how draft choices perform by pick number.
- Sam Amick of NBA FanHouse: “It’s no surprise the Orlando Magic are looking to upgrade their roster. Center Dwight Howard is the type of dynamic, unique talent that sparks championship visions, yet the group that won the Eastern Conference championship in 2009 watched the NBA Finals from home this time around after being beaten by Boston in six games for the latest Eastern Conference crown. And if their latest trade inquiry is any indication, Orlando is looking to upgrade its point guard position. According to a league source, the Magic are among the teams that recently inquired about New Orleans point guard Chris Paul. While it’s not known what the Magic would be willing to offer, the mere inquiry is a reflection of the organizational thinking as they move forward with Howard as the centerpiece and Jameer Nelson running the show.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Orlando Magic General Manager Otis Smith said this afternoon that the Magic have not inquired about Chris Paul’s availability in a potential trade with the New Orleans Hornets. Early Tuesday, the website FanHouse, citing an unnamed league source, reported that the Magic were among a group of teams that had asked about Paul. Asked minutes ago by the Orlando Sentinel whether the Magic made such an inquiry, Smith answered flatly, ‘Nope.’ ”
- Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse: “The Orlando Magic’s preliminary inquiry into the availability of point guard Chris Paul involved a discussion that included a trade of both starting guards Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson to New Orleans. The Magic, as part of the early discussion, would receive both Paul and small forward James Posey, according to a second NBA source that confirmed the original FanHouse story by Sam Amick involving the two teams. Although Paul clearly is the best player in the talks, the Hornets are interested in reducing future salary obligations. The team is in the midst of an ownership sale/transfer that has been stalled by the debt obligations that the new owner would incur. [...] Although Carter is past his prime, he is attractive because he has only one year remaining on his contract, worth $17.7 million. It would allow the Hornets to drop below the salary cap next summer. Nelson, an All-Star point guard two seasons ago, has three years remaining at $6.7, $7.3 and $7.8 million, making less than half of Paul’s salary.”
- To clarify, the three previous links are in chronological order.
- Is the Jameer Nelson debate worth discussing?
- Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: “It’s hard to imagine the Hornets agreeing to move their franchise star for much, if anything, short of an All-Star, a starter and a high draft pick.”
- On the other hand, Gilbert Arenas would be a poor fit for the Orlando Magic according to George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Beyond money matters, there are other issues to consider that would make me very, very hesitant to pull off this deal. Arenas isn’t a true off-guard. There are a lot of good things to like about him: He can create shots, is a sound perimeter threat, and can drive to the basket. But he needs the ball in his hands to create shots. It would be impossible for him to co-exist with Jameer Nelson. And ditching Nelson would be a one heck of a risky makeover for a team that has been in the Final Four mix the last two NBA seasons. So why does some speculation persist? Smith and Arenas go back to their days at Golden State in the early 2000s. Smith worked in the Warriors’ front office as executive director of basketball operations and Arenas was the team’s second-round pick. When Arenas was arrested on a gun felony charge earlier this season, Smith reached out to offer guidance.”
- Eric Freeman of The Baseline projects that the Magic will select Armon Johnson, a point guard from Nevada, with the No. 29 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. It doesn’t appear, however, that Johnson would be a good fit, given that he shot 23.9 percent from three-point range this season.
- Tzvi Twersky of SLAM ONLINE with a must-read profile on Jason Williams: “In one of the most memorable crosses ever, Williams, a rookie, went between his legs and followed it with a swift switching of the ball from left to right near the three-point line, losing Gary “The Glove” Payton, arguably the best defensive guard in the League at the time, before finishing high off the glass over a 6-9 Detlef Schrempf. Dwight Howard was 12 years old when Williams, his current teammate, was selected seventh overall in the ’98 Draft, and just 13 when Jason shook Payton. [...] Webber played with a 23-year-old Williams. Howard plays with the 34-year-old version. Hubie Brown coached him in between, when Williams was in his late 20s. Over the course of their time together with the Grizzlies, Brown came to understand his point guard in a way few others did. Where most saw “White Chocolate,” a dazzling dribbler and passer, the coach saw a cerebral player who simply loved the game.”
- J.J. Redick is ranked 20th on Chris Mannix’s free agent list at Sports Illustrated.
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk provides his thoughts on the Chris Paul-to-Orlando rumor: “This shows Orlando is thinking the Jameer Nelson/Dwight Howard combo many not be the answer, and if they have to make changes it is not Howard that has to go. Point guard was actually the weakest position statistically on the Magic last year, for example look at PER generated and PER against (not a perfect measure, but one that gives you some idea). Jason Williams coming off the bench was part of that issue, but it was also with Nelson. Nelson was just a +1.5 per 48 minutes on the court this season, a number well below Howard (+10.8) or even Vince Carter (+6.9). Simply, the Magic were not that much better than their opponents with the shoot-first point guard Nelson at the helm. [...] This may have been just a one-time shot in the dark to ask about Paul. Or, it may be part of a plan we see unfold over the summer.”
- Would Greivis Vasquez be a worthy first round draft pick for the Magic? Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post thinks so: “Vasquez would indeed be a risky pick, especially considering the dubious history of just about every tall point guard to enter the league since Johnson; the closest anyone’s come to succeeding is Shaun Livingston, who’s had to reinvent himself as a floor-bound distributor after a horrific knee injury robbed him of his athleticism and set him back three years. Incidentally, Livingston will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and might be worth a look. In any case, this closer look at Vasquez has certainly piqued me interest, and he might make sense for the Magic if he’s around when they’re on the clock, and depending on who else is available. By the looks of things, the Magic are strongly leaning toward drafting a wing player instead. But if they go with a point guard so late in the first round, they could do far worse than to select Vasquez, whose offensive strengths blend nicely with the Magic’s.”
- Chad Ford of ESPN Insider thinks Orlando could select Darington Hobson in the draft: “The Magic haven’t worked out many players. Each year they pick a small handful of prospects they like and then grab from there. Of the group they’ve had in, Crawford and Ebanks are off the board. Of the group left, Hobson makes a lot of sense. His playmaking ability and versatility remind some scouts of Turkoglu. The Magic missed that this season.”
- Fran Fraschilla of ESPN Insider categorizes a number of prospects that can fill niches in the NBA — shooters, energy guys, and big men. For example, Quincy Pondexter is an energy guy: “This is another one of those guys without a true NBA position, but he does enough of the little things well that he’ll have a steady job in the league for a while. He gets offensive rebounds at a high rate, gets himself to the foul line often and plays mistake-free basketball. He’ll be a nice fit for a playoff-level team at the bottom of the first round.”
- Mark Schlueb of the Orlando Sentinel: “Though some commissioners predicted it would discourage people from visiting downtown Orlando, a split City Council voted today to double to $20 the parking rate for Orlando Magic games, concerts and other events at the two garages closest to the new publicly funded Amway Center. It’s the second time in less than two years the council has doubled the “event rate.” Last time, the city raised the cost of parking in most of its garages from $5 to $10 during special events. This time, the increase affects only the two garages that are most convenient to the new Amway Center: the new South Street Garage, which is connected to the arena by a pedestrian bridge, and the Church Street Garage across the street. They’ll both cost $20 when the arena opens in October. Other garages and surface lots that are farther away but still within walking distance — including lots underneath I-4 overpasses — will remain at $10 during Magic games and other events.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel catches up with Ryan Blake, scouting director for the NBA, and asks him about Jordan Crawford: “The guy’s a great athlete. He’s an explosive jumper and finisher. He needed to improve his shooting ability and he did that. Once he transferred from Indiana, he had that year off. I know he got a lot of pub from the dunk over LeBron; that just doesn’t mean anything, because you’ve got to know how to play the game. But when you’re at 20 points, five rebounds and three assists and you improve to around 40 percent from beyond the arc, you can’t ignore that.”
- Six draft prospects worked out for the Orlando Magic earlier today, including Crawford, Devin Ebanks, Darington Hobson, Quincy Pondexter, Andy Rautins, and Greivis Vasquez.
- George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel, after writing a similar article last week, insists the Magic can’t win a championship with Rashard Lewis at power forward.
- Grant Hill, starting small forward of Dime Magazine’s ‘All-Coulda Been’ Team: “Another legit superstar who had his best years stolen by injuries. In the season before his ankle began to betray him, Hill put up 25 points, six boards and five assists per game for the Pistons and was a nightly triple-double threat. He was going to battle Kobe Bryant as the heir to Michael Jordan’s throne. Ten years later, Hill is (albeit a solid starter in the League) just making it out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time while Kobe is being fitted for his fifth championship ring.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post takes a look at the latest mock drafts for the Magic.
- In a 30-draftee survey compiled by ESPN the Magazine, 35 percent of the players voted Dwight Howard as the player they’d want to dunk on the most.
- If it were up to Jameer Nelson, he’d pick Dominique Jones with the 29th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft: “You always want guys with a knack for filling up the basket, and that’s something Jones [11 25-point outings last season] can do. I’m sure we’ll be put over the edge by our pick. Once he learns the pro game, DJ is a guy who could help keep us there.”
- Dennis Tarwood of SLAM ONLINE likes Vasquez, however: “Vasquez is the most ready to play on a big stage, having been the star of the top team of the ACC and shown an ability to hit shots close-and-late. He creates his own shots and can hit from the new three-point stripe at Amway Center. He can drive and dish in a pick-and-roll offense. At 6-5, he can stand up to point guards and tangle with shooting guards. Unfortunately, this means he can easily give up shots to both groups equally well, but this is the 2010 NBA Draft. If you’re that caught up on defense from your backup from Maryland, DJ Strawberry’s available to a good home. (Which would be a first for him, sadly.)”