With the NBA draft rapidly approaching, the Orlando Magic will soon be on the clock with the second-overall pick. Although there has been speculation that the team is looking to trade the pick, let's assume that does not happen.
While positional value is important, it's imperative for the Magic to take the best player left on the board when it's their turn to pick. Superior talent wins more often than not in the NBA, and a top-five selection is a sure-fire way to acquire a skilled young cornerstone.
With such a good pick, the goal should be to get a player that can change the trajectory of the franchise. While this year's draft may not feature any sure-fire All-Stars, there are still a few high-quality players.
General manager Rob Hennigan had a successful first season, even if Orlando did finish the season with the league's worst record. The Magics' ineptitude was by design though, as the front office decided to bottom out in order to secure multiple top-five picks.
Whether it was the Dwight Howard or J.J. Reddick trade, Hennigan has already proven that he plans ahead before making important decisions. The same could be said of this year's draft.
Trey Burke was named the Naismith Collegiate Player of the Year last season, as the Michigan point guard averaged 16.9 points and 5.7 assists per game during his two years at Ann Arbor.
While drafting Burke in the latter end of the top 10 could make sense, if the Magic keep the second pick, the choice has to be Ben McLemore.
At 6'5", McLemore has the size to be a dominant shooting guard. Last season, as a member of the Kansas Jayhawks, McLemore averaged 15.9 points and 5.2 rebounds, while shooting 42 percent from behind the arc.
Due to his excellent jump shot and athletic ability, McLemore has the potential to develop into an All-Star quality shooting guard. Despite only playing at Kansas for one season, he was the best player on a stacked roster that was loaded with seniors.
The Kansas product is an efficient shooter from all areas, as his shooting splits were 43/55/88 last season playing collegiate ball.
While McLemore has been criticized for not dominating the game more, that could be because he is an unselfish shooting guard—a relative rarity in today's NBA. As he continues to mature, the Kansas product will feel more comfortable taking over when the situation calls for it.
According to HoopsVision.com, McLemore has been most aggressive when it matters most—at the end of games. Players who can take their game to another level when it's all on the line are invaluable, and the Magic don't currently employ anyone who fits the description.
That being said, McLemore's willingness to defer to teammates showed his dedication to his older teammates, and his desire to win above all else. The Magic could use another player willing to do whatever it takes to earn victories, as wins will be hard to come by in the near future.
Throughout the draft process, McLemore has drawn comparisons to Ray Allen—the league's all-time leading three-point shooter. When a prospect is being compared to the most lethal sharpshooter in history, it means that player deserves a fair share of hype and further examination.
With a solid trio of young frontcourt players (Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson), adding a guard like McLemore makes a world of sense. Even though Orlando will struggle next season, their core of young players will see plenty of court time together in order to improve chemistry.
According to Josh Robbins of OrlandoSentinel.com, McLemore clearly wants to call Central Florida home: "The Orlando Magic, I think that's a great program. I think I could fit perfectly in that system and that organization and help that team in different kinds of ways."
Considering that just about every NBA expert is predicting the Magic to be horrendous again next season, McLemore's comments hint that he's ready to aid in their rebuilding process.
While McLemore may take time to develop into a game-changer, the Magic can afford to wait. The franchise is at least one year away from contending for a postseason berth, so why not bring in the talented shooting guard and allow him to go through some growing pains on one of the league's worst teams?
Even if he struggles mightily during his first season, McLemore would be aiding in Hennigan's plan to acquire another high-lottery selection.
Drafting McLemore would also give Hennigan more freedom when it comes to trading Arron Afflalo.
While Afflalo is still a quality player, he would fare better as a third option on a better team. When asked to carry the load for the Magic, Afflalo saw his offensive efficiency fall. The added responsibility also hurt his performance on the defensive end of the court.
Moving Afflalo would also create more cap room for next summer, when Orlando might decide to be an active participant in free agency.
According to Chris Mannix of SI.com, the Magic and Los Angeles Clippers have been in contact about a potential trade. If Hennigan is able to pull off a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Bledsoe by throwing Afflalo into the deal, then the rebuilding process would potentially be accelerated.
While drafting Victor Oladipo would generate the same opportunity when it comes to moving Afflalo, he doesn't possess the offensive prowess of McLemore. Although Oladipo may be more stout defensively, scoring is imperative in winning basketball games.
For a Magic team that finished last season ranked 24th in scoring, a young talented scorer is exactly what the doctor ordered.
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