Orlando Magic Roundtable #3: Draft and Free Agency Reactions

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With the 2017 NBA Draft over and done with and free agency drawing to a close, it’s time to review and reflect.

A team flying under the radar is the Orlando Magic, who have enjoyed a fairly sturdy off-season thus far. Writers James Cragg, James Plumb, and Zach McElroy sit down to discuss.

Orlando Magic Roundtable #3: Draft and Free Agency Reaction

Starting with free agency, what is your favorite move made by Orlando this summer?

James P: Without a doubt, Jonathon Simmons has been the steal of free agency, in my opinion. He’s a versatile wing with plenty of upside, and he showed huge promise last season. I think he is a great addition and can play anywhere from power forward to point guard if needed. Alongside either Aaron Gordon or Jonathan Isaac on the wing, Simmons seems to have filled a gaping hole on the Magic roster. His contract is also a bargain.

Zach: I would say it’s a tie between Simmons and Shelvin Mack. Statistically, they are pretty much the same player. Mack tends to shoot a little more while Simmons gets to the line more, but at the end of the day, they are statistically very similar. I believe they can come onto this team and become leaders right away. In Orlando, they will get better opportunities to shine.

James C: I would also have to side with either the signing of Simmons or Marreese Speights. Simmons, rather obviously, was a bargain, and offers a huge degree of potential and versatility which is a massive pro for this team. The Magic roster is now full of versatile, position-less players. Speights offers the crucial ability to stretch the floor as a big, which can cause several issues for defenses if utilized correctly.

Moving on to the draft, did you support the Magic’s decision to trade the 25th and 35th overall picks?

James P: This is a difficult question because my opinion on it has changed since the draft. When the news first came out that the picks were being traded, I didn’t see much sense in it. However, having watched the moves that Orlando has made in free agency, trading the picks seems to make sense. The team didn’t have much cap room and the front office clearly knew which players they wanted to draft, so I suppose that I now support the decision, having seen the off-season progress.

Zach: Do I support their decision to trade their picks? Yes, definitely. Do I support what they got back for the picks? Yes and no. First off, Orlando is already a very young team. Adding four rookies to the already young core could be very problematic, especially for a coach like Frank Vogel. Don’t get me wrong; he is a great coach, just not with young talent. Just take a look at Gordon and Mario Hezonja. Last year, he played Gordon at small forward for most of the year and didn’t give Hezonja as many minutes as he should have, which has stunted both players’ growth.

But I digress, trading those picks for future assets in a deep draft meant that they could have gotten some good deals on those picks, and this is where I have the problem. Trading the 35th pick for a 2019 Nets second-round pick was a seemingly average trade, especially if they use the acquired pick as a throw-in for a better trade down the line. I didn’t like trading the 25th pick for New York’s protected 2020 selection, since the Magic could potentially not receive a pick until 2022, and it would be a second-rounder. I would have kept Anzejs Pasecniks and seen how he develops alongside Isaac and Wesley Iwundu.

James C: I, for one, was not in favor of Orlando trading these two picks at the time, but now I can start to see sense in it. Having four rookies on the roster wouldn’t be helpful, especially seeing as the Magic only needed two, at most. So, in hindsight, trading the 35th pick was the right choice. However, shipping the 25th pick for so little in return irked me; I would have much preferred the team kept that pick.

The Magic selected Jonathan Isaac with the 6th overall pick of the draft. Do you believe that Isaac has what it takes to develop into a future All-Star and lead the team onward and upward?

James P: Absolutely. I’m a huge fan of Isaac and what he can bring to the Magic. I said before the draft that he has the most potential of any player in the class, and I stand by that. His physicality is a concern right now, but that is certainly possible to work on and improve. Isaac has a great balance of offensive and defensive skill; we saw a preview of that in Summer League play. Let’s hope that Isaac carries this into the regular season; I’m expecting big things from him.

Zach: This question is interesting for me because we were teammates in high school for two years (I’m two years older than Isaac, so I graduated when he was a sophomore). 2013 was the last time I saw him play in person, but I would watch a game here and there when he was at Florida State University. The craziest thing to me is that when I played with him, he was about 6’2″. Now, he is 6’11”. I believe that he has massive potential to develop into an All-Star. He has the same DNA and Basketball IQ as players such as Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s partly the Magic’s job to push him to get to that level.

James C: Isaac’s defensive upside and length are exciting. The fact that he has the quickness and the height to defend positions one through four leaves me with nothing but eager anticipation for his rookie year. His offensive game, on the other hand, worries me a touch. His streaky shooting in college may continue in the NBA, where defenses are far tougher and more organized. If he can fine tune his offensive skill set and become a capable scoring option, I don’t see why he can’t go on to become one of the best players in this draft class.

Finally, are you happy with the Magic’s off-season overall?

James P: As I previously said, Simmons is the steal of the summer. The front office has done a fantastic job by bringing in a solid group of players with the limited cap room Orlando had, most of which seem to have filled the needs on the roster. I think the moves that the Magic have made so far set the team up nicely for this coming season. Despite that, I still feel that a trade is coming and wouldn’t be surprised if either Nikola Vucevic or Evan Fournier are moved before the season begins.

ZachJeff Weltman and John Hammond have done a great job overall this summer. From the draft picks to the free agency signings, making deals with companies like Disney, and keeping the fans’ hopes alive, I applaud what they have done with what they inherited. I am glad that they’re working in the team’s front office and I hope that they can keep up the great work.

James C: In one off-season, the front office has done what Rob Hennigan failed to do in his many years – give Orlando a real direction. They brought in players on bargain contracts, filling several needs, despite having limited cap space with which to work. Optimism is back at the Amway Center, cautious though it may be.

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