The Orlando Magic continued their rebuild under a new front office last offseason. Will their master plan include drafting Wendell Carter Jr.?
For the Orlando Magic, this summer is another opportunity to continue building toward a brighter future.
Last season’s 25-57 finish was not a pretty one, but it also makes it easier to forget about the positive foundations that were put down by the team. They added a capable veteran in Marreese Speights, who wanted to be there, as well as a player in Jonathon Simmons who was recruited by LeBron James himself.
On top of that, they selected forward Jonathan Isaac with the sixth pick in the draft, a move that was widely applauded at the time and despite an injury-plagued rookie season still looks a promising one.
Now that the Magic have the sixth pick for the second season in a row, are they going to continue on the trajectory they appear to be on by taking Wendell Carter Jr.?
We need to begin by mentioning that there’s much to like about Carter’s game, and that includes his ceiling, which is perhaps not getting the recognition it deserves at the moment.
Carter may not have even been the most talked about player on the Duke team he spent his lone college season with, but that doesn’t mean the Magic don’t see him as a valuable contributor right away.
Although the forward/center position may look a bit crowded right now (more on that in a minute) it is clear the current front office has a kind of player it likes.
Carter appears to tick many boxes too. He has similarities to Isaac without creating an overlap of talent, and it would be interesting to see the two share the court together in Magic uniforms.
Not only does a lineup featuring Carter and Isaac sound promising, it has the potential to push the team into being a top-10 organization defensively. We also know that the team have some interest in the player too, they brought him in for a workout last week.
While the Magic could do with a floor general for the future, they never did properly replace Jameer Nelson. Trae Young looks like the pick by the time the Magic are on the board, but if he’s not there at No. 6, then what?
On top of that, the guard position is as saturated as it has ever been in the NBA. Should the Magic not draft one this summer, they will undoubtedly pick one up in the market this offseason.
As it is, the depth of guard talent in this year’s draft appears to be lacking when compared to previous years. But what about the logjam at the forward/center position?
We are grouping these three spots together because the NBA is moving towards a more position-less way of playing. At least the good teams are, anyway.
Traditional centers are not the sought after individuals they once were, and this is why a player like Bismack Biyombo is hard to play against many teams.
As it is, the team already has two players in Aaron Gordon and Isaac who should be given as many minutes as possible to grow in the frontcourt.
Gordon is also a restricted free agent this summer, although you have to feel the team will bring him back whether or not another organization sends an offer sheet his way.
But we’ve also seen under previous head coach Frank Vogel that playing Gordon as a small forward had mostly negative results. He looked far more comfortable as a 4.
So too does Isaac, and with his blend of frame, defensive ability and shooting (which will come in time) it is hard to see him play in any position but the 4 or the 5 so as to stretch the court for the Magic.
Combine the fact that Bismack Biyombo is essentially unable to be moved, and that Nikola Vucevic is still on this roster as well, and Carter’s path to consistent minutes is blocked.
Even if Vucevic is traded before the season starts as many expect, Khem Birch had a quietly impressive season last year and he will get game time as well. That being said, the front office made a commitment last offseason to modernizing what had been a rigid roster with the addition of Isaac.
It is conceivable they want to repeat the trick this summer by adding Carter and figuring the rest out as they grow.
There’s no pressure on the team to win now so why not take Carter, continuing the trend of drafting the kind of players that can bring versatility, and work through the growing pains once the season begins?
A much more radical notion would be dealing Gordon in some sort of sign-and-trade, building around Isaac, Carter, whatever they could get for Gordon and a capable point guard.
Vucevic is entering the last season of his deal, and the Magic can cut ties with Biyombo the season after that, so they will be gone from the roster in time.
More than that though, this just feels like the kind of move the front office would want to make, taking a big who can do a lot on both ends and who saw his stock rise late in the year.
This was the case with Isaac, who started his college campaign at Florida State out of the draft lottery picture before some strong play saw him work his way in.
Could we be witnessing the same thing happening with Wendell Carter Jr. and will the Magic take a chance on a player like this once again?
Don’t be surprised if it does happen, with Carter likely the best player left on the board by the time the Magic are on the clock if someone’s already scooped up Trae Young.