The Orlando Magic may not have a lottery pick this season, but they can still find exactly what they’re looking for outside of it in guard Tyler Herro.
For the last two NBA Drafts, the Orlando Magic have followed the same blueprint. Use the sixth pick to draft a long and athletic big man with the potential to be elite defensively, while also keeping opponents honest with their 3-point shooting.
First came Jonathan Isaac in 2017, and despite an injury-plagued rookie year — he appeared in only 27 games — he was much improved last season and began to show flashes of his exciting potential. With no clear young player as the cornerstone at this point, Isaac put himself forward to take that mantle in the near future.
2018 saw the Magic select Mohamed Bamba, a player with a similar body type to that of Isaac. Slim, skinny and in need of bulking up, with the only real difference being that Bamba looked like he was going to be the center of the future for the team. Isaac, on the other hand, appeared more comfortable as a stretch four, capable of playing alongside Bamba and Aaron Gordon.
Heading into next week’s draft, the organization doesn’t have a lottery pick for the first time in six years. However, this may not stop the front office from selecting another long and versatile player, making the Magic difficult to play against should all of these picks pan out. They would be wise to deviate from their selection pattern this time though and save taking a frontcourt player for the second round.
The Magic are building a defensive identity that is already bordering on elite — their defensive rating of 107.5 was eighth in the league last year — after only one season under head coach Steve Clifford, so they need to look at improving in other areas. Offensively they struggled during the regular season, and even more so throughout their brief playoff run against the Toronto Raptors.
They ranked 22nd in the league in offensive rating (108.1) and outside of All-Star Nikola Vucevic struggled to get it going some nights, which usually resulted in a disappointing loss to an inferior opponent. This is why they should be looking for more firepower throughout their rotation for next season, and one guy who could certainly help with that is Tyler Herro.
A guard out of Kentucky, Herro is projected by most draft boards to still be available by the time the Magic are on the clock and is exactly the kind of player they are crying out for at this stage of their development. The comparisons to former fan favorite J.J. Redick are lazy, but there is no question that additional shooting is what this team needs.
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They ranked a surprising 11th in 3-point shooting percentage last season (35.6 percent), but that was off the back of some strong shooting performances from D.J. Augustin (42.1 percent) and Terrence Ross (38.3 percent). Even Vucevic chipped in from deep, as he shot 36.4 percent.
That won’t happen again though, with the potential for one or both of Vucevic and Ross to be playing elsewhere next season. Augustin won’t shoot it as well as that for the rest of his career either, and at 31 as an undersized point guard, it wouldn’t be surprising if he regressed quickly going forward.
Which makes selecting a guy like Herro even more important. 3-point shooting in college does not translate seamlessly to the NBA. Jayson Tatum was not thought of as a sniper from distance in college, and yet shot 43.1 percent from deep during his rookie season, but it is clear Herro has a smooth stroke and an ability to knock down shots from deep.
It is not hard to get excited by the prospect of Herro coming off a screen set by one of Isaac or Bamba and having an open look at the basket. The versatility of those big guys adds to the potential for offensive expansion though, if Herro gave the ball back to one of them they too could shoot from deep or roll to the basket.
Herro appears to fit nicely with the makeup of the Magic’s roster as it is currently constructed, initially off the bench with the hopes of being a starter quality player in a couple of years. Looking at the bigger picture for the organization, and Herro makes even more sense with where they’re hoping to go.
A playoff appearance last season proved they are going in the right direction, but they are still a couple of years away from seeing what the ceiling of their young core can be. Herro would have a chance to grow at his own pace alongside Isaac, Bamba, Gordon and Markelle Fultz. Even if the Magic can convince a free agent to sign this summer, Herro looks to be the kind of guy who can play off the ball and still be effective on a nightly basis.
Perhaps more importantly, he could one day take over from Evan Fournier, who has two years and $34 million remaining on his current contract. Fournier is a divisive figure among Magic fans, although there is no doubt that he is one of the few players on the roster who can create their own shot on a consistent basis.
The money he is owed going forward isn’t ludicrous, but it is stopping the Magic from making significant moves to their team. Organizations are as shrewd as ever with their cap space and flexibility, and the Magic would likely have to give up a pick or two in order to move Fournier’s deal should they want to get out from under it before then.
The most likely scenario is that Fournier stays for the next two years, and helps the Magic to go as far as they can. It would be ideal to have somebody who could take over from Fournier and who is familiar with the team already in place. Even better would be if they were on a cheap rookie deal. Herro ticks all of those boxes, which is why the Magic should be looking to draft him this week.
He may not be the kind of player the front office has looked towards much since taking over the Orlando Magic, but the time to expand on what is already in place is now. Tyler Herro is the scorer they need to continue building, and he should be available when it is their turn to pick. All they have to do is take him.