With the 2014 NBA Draft just three months away, and the NBA season ending for most teams within the next month or two, most teams are beginning to start to plan the future of their franchise.
The Orlando Magic have been hanging around the bottom of the standings in the Eastern Conference ever since Dwight Howard left the franchise for Los Angeles in 2012. At 19-47 this season, it’s safe to say that this year was not Orlando’s year.
And maybe it won’t be their year next year either, depending on how they handle the future of the franchise.
Despite their record, the Magic have some young talent that they can seriously build around, like standout rookie guard Victor Oladipo, athletic forward Tobias Harris, and rebounding machine Nikola Vucevic at center. Added to all of this, the Magic currently are in position for the No. 3 pick in this year’s loaded draft, and general manager Rob Hennigan and the rest of the Orlando Magic front office have many different directions they could go with the pick, and with a little more than three months until draft day, there’s no better time to start analyzing their choices than now.
Option 1: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
If there’s one name that has been at the top of most draft boards for the past year and a half, it’s the talented forward Andrew Wiggins, who despite some excellent play this season, has fallen out of that #1 pick spot due to the heightened play of Duke’s Jabari Parker and Wiggins’ teammate at Kansas, Joel Embiid. Basically, the Magic would be thrilled to see Wiggins fall to them at #3.
I don’t think there’s a need to go through his college stats, as they don’t necessarily translate to NBA success, but Wiggins does have very similar size to current superstar forwards like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James (6’8”, 200 pounds, with room to grow).
Wiggins is the type of player that projects to be a legitimate superstar in the NBA, something the Orlando Magic desperately need to lead their franchise back so success. Pairing Wiggins with Victor Oladipo would be an intense, fast paced duo that would be around for years. You could even play Oladipo at point guard, although it would be a stretch, play Tobias Harris at shooting guard, and have Wiggins at small forward, playing off the ball, or even running isolation like some of the other elite small forwards in the NBA.
Wiggins could easily take over scoring for the Magic, and could be the type of player to not only be the face of their franchise, but the face of the NBA. If Wiggins were to fall to the Magic at No. 3, he would be a perfect fit for Orlando to pick up.
Option 2: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
A freshman 7-footer with an impressive scoring and rebounding arsenal? It’s hard to find any team in the NBA who wouldn’t want Kansas’ Joel Embiid on their roster.
Not every team is going to have the chance to draft him, but the Magic are positioned to be one of them. At one point in the season, Embiid was looking more and more like the consensus No. 1 overall pick, as he put up impressive numbers night in and night out playing for the Jayhawks. However, as the season has progressed, Joel has been hampered by lingering back problems, something that usually comes up as a red flag, especially for big men like Embiid.
Although it shouldn’t hurt his draft stock too much, it might be able to knock him free from the No. 1 pick spot and see him drop to Orlando at No. 3.
Pairing Joel Embiid and Nikola Vucevic down in the paint for Orlando would give them one of the most dominating big men pair in the game, and both at such a young age with room to improve. Vucevic could be moved to play the power forward spot, with Embiid taking center. That suffocating pair of big men would make it almost impossible for the elite guards of the East to score on the inside.
Having two dominant big men allows the Magic’s guards, like Oladipo, Afflalo, and Harris to play off the pick and roll and blow past screens set by Vucevic and Embiid, setting up an instant offensive revival in the warm Orlando sun.
Adding Embiid gives the Magic a legitimate big man duo, something that has been proven to be necessary to compete in today’s NBA.
Option 3: Dante Exum, G, Australia
Dante Exum, or as I like to call him, the top prospect that no one is talking about. But to be fair, that will most likely happen when you’re playing basketball on the other side of the Earth.
Dante Exum is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s elite draft. His name hasn’t been thrown around with the Parkers and the Embiids, but he may be one of the most athletic and dynamic players to look for come June. At 6’6” and 188 lbs., Exum looks to play that combo guard role, much like Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and has the speed to guard the guards currently balling in the league. Exum has elite ball handling, shooting, and speed, all things vital to being a successful combo guard.
But what makes him perfect for the Orlando Magic? He is the perfect type of athletic guard to pair with rookie Victor Oladipo. The veteran point guard Jameer Nelson has been playing point guard for the Magic for years now, but he’s an aging player on a rebuilding team, and with his contract expiring soon, it may be time to look in a different direction.
And that direction is Melbourne, Australia.
Oladipo and Exum would have years to grow and develop together into one of the nest offensive/defensive guard pairings in the league, with Tobias Harris playing the small forward and Nikola Vucevic doing his business in the post.
Although Exum still appears as an “unknown commodity,” as the draft approaches and more and more scouts get a chance to look at him, Exum would be a safe pick at No. 3 to the Magic.
Shawn McFarland covers the New Orleans Pelicans, the Boston Celtics, and the Orlando Magic for HoopsHabit.com, make sure to follow him on Twitter at @McFarland_Shawn