It looks like Orlando Magic has finally figured it out. Ever since Dwight Howard left in the most clumsy possibly in 2012, the franchise sank into mediocrity. They were the child on the poster of the terrible purgatory in the NBA. After leaving Howard, they qualified for the playoffs twice, losing both times in the first round in five games.
But things in Orlando are starting to change. From Nicholas Vucevic traded in the 2020-21 season, the team finally seems to be in the draft. First, Orlando built a nucleus consisting of the Wagner brothers, Moe and Franz, Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, and Wendell Carter Jr. Not only was the overcoming of the risk huge Vučević, but also Aaron Gordon in subsequent deals. But this was necessary after the nucleus they surrounded Vučević, the double All-Star and the double double machine failed to become a threat in the Eastern Conference.
They also managed to cut five lottery kicks with a sixth or better choice. They chose Victor Oladipo (№ 2) in 2013, Gordon (№ 4) in 2014, Mario Hezonya (№ 5) in 2015, Jonathan Isaac (№ 6) in 2017 and Mo Bamba (№ 6). ) in 2018. Today, none of these elections is a major contribution. Only Bamba and Isaac are still with the team, but neither of them is expected to be part of the core that is moving forward.
The young players they are targeting are solid two-way players, all under the age of 25. What is missing is a bona fide first option. Auburn’s Jabbari Smith has the highest floor among players expected to be in this year’s lottery. So it is difficult to understand a situation in which Smith is a failure. He is a very elite shooter, athletically untrained and ready to fail in the NBA. With Orlando, he will give them the closest thing to a reliable number one option they have had since Vučević.
But what about fit? Orlando is deep in the perimeter, with a three-headed guard that includes the 15 best players Sugs and Anthony, as well as former number one Markel Fultz, who has been on a recovery tour since joining Magic. In addition, the Wagner brothers occupy the guard and the small depth chart forward, providing strength and sand around the perimeter. Carter Jr. arrived from Chicago Vučević trade, and the former lottery pick has provided 15 and 10 since he arrived.
Smith will join as a center for the small ball if Bamba leaves the free agency or the four to Carter Jr. in the front field. While Carter Jr. has yet to find his hit consistently in the NBA, he would provide a great male duet with Smith who can stretch the floor and make the break. In addition, both greats are great defenders and would provide nightmares for matches with their ability to rotate switches and keep multiple positions.
Most of all, Smith would give Orlando a primary scoring option with a ceiling unseen after Howard. While Smith doesn’t have the abstract ceiling of Chet Holmgren or Jaden Ivy, he’s like an oversized version of the coveted trio, and defensive teams are struggling to recharge.
Where Smith needs to improve is his game out of dribble. While in Auburn, he dominated his pure athleticism and sweet outdoor shooting. In the NBA, opposing teams will stick to his lack of a handle and create a ball, giving him a place in the midfield and making him pull the dribble. Excessive reliance on his right arm will also be an easy marker of protection. There are many things that Smith needs to work on to take his game to the next level as a professional. The offensive skill sets he can learn, but his anemic rebound is more a reflection of his toughness.
His 6.2 board game in college will make it difficult for Orlando to play with him as a five with a small ball. However, if he manages to build muscle between now and training camp while cleaning his handle, he should be able to take the starting position, although it is certain that the Wagner brothers will give him hell in practice, forcing him to win his minutes. Nevertheless, this is a pretty great situation for Smith. The depth chart in front of Orlando is full of grit, the perfect conditions for Smith to improve his game and harden. Everything you get will surely be won in this team under the leadership of the head coach and former assistant of Dallas MaverickJamal Mosley.
Under Mosley’s leadership, the Magic became known for their clumsy defense, slipping out of the top 10 allowed points and winning 19th place in the defense rankings this season. Smith’s versatility in defense will only add to this figure, immediately becoming the best athlete on the list. Not to mention the best shooter.
Smith comes from an NBA lineage, as his father, Smith Sr., was selected in the second round in 2000 by the Sacramento Kings. He is a gold medalist with Team USA Select from the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in 2019. He was the number four player in high school and was the highest-rated rookie to ever commit to Auburn. The summary is impressive and full of potential. For the first time in more than a decade, Orlando is positioning itself as a franchise, ready to develop such talent to reach its full potential.