10 College Basketball Stars the Orlando Magic Must Keep an Eye on

Zach Gilliland@@ZachGilliland93Featured ColumnistMarch 26, 2014

10 College Basketball Stars the Orlando Magic Must Keep an Eye on

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    The 2014 NBA draft has the potential of yielding the best prospects in recent memory. There are three or four guys near the top that are almost certain to produce immediately, but there are also some very talented guys that round out the top 10. For Orlando, drafting well is a priority because the team has two picks in the first round.

    Its first pick will be a lottery pick, likely in the top three. Per Chad Ford of ESPN, the Magic have a 15.6 percent chance of receiving the No. 1 overall pick.

    Getting rid of Dwight Howard may have been a very smart move for Orlando because they will have another pick in the middle part of the first round. Orlando will receive a first-round pick from either the Knicks or Nuggets, whichever team finishes with a better record.

    I have put together a list of 10 guys that the Magic should keep a close watch on. The first half of the list contains guys that could be selected with that second pick. The last half of the spots on the list are guys that will be in contention for Orlando’s No. 1 selection.

    Team needs were loosely considered in this big board, but one has to think that if Orlando is in the top three, it becomes a situation where it takes the best available player.

Honorable Mention: Dante Exum, PG Australia

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    Dante Exum, the 18-year-old from Australia, is an honorable mention on this list because he is not an NCAA athlete. He is very much a possibility for Orlando’s first pick, though, because of the need for a scoring point guard.

    The Magic could either attempt to trade Jameer Nelson or keep him around for veteran leadership, but with him getting older, they need to look for a younger, more athletic point guard.

    Exum could provide Orlando with a scoring threat, and he could really get the offense going. The Magic have a few different options for finding Nelson’s replacement, and drafting Exum is probably the best one.

Aaron Gordon, PF Arizona

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    Size: 6’9”, 225 pounds

    Stat Line: 12.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG

    The Skinny: There’s a good chance Orlando will want to draft a power forward with the middle-round pick. Tobias Harris has played well, but he could also play small forward. The Magic would be smart to go with more size and defense at the four position, but if they draft Gordon, they will be in the same situation. He is smaller than Harris but could contribute as a small forward. I think it’s unlikely that the Magic go in this direction, but depending on who is available, he is worth keeping an eye on.

Tyler Ennis, PG Syracuse

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    Size: 6’2”, 180 pounds

    Stat Line: 12.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.5 APG

    The Skinny: Orlando has a couple of options for drafting a point guard. It can select Exum or Marcus Smart with the first pick or wait until their next pick to select one. If the Magic elect to wait, Ennis would be an ideal pick. He can score and could develop as a point guard defensively, especially if Nelson is still around to mentor him.

Doug McDermott, SF Creighton

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    Size: 6’8”, 225 pounds

    Stat Line: 26.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG

    The Skinny: McDermott had an excellent career at Creighton, finishing fifth in NCAA history in points scored. Point blank, the guy can flat-out shoot. He would provide Orlando with a solid scoring option and could make an excellent duo with Maurice Harkless, who is known for his defense.

Rodney Hood, SG Duke

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    Size: 6’8”, 215 pounds

    Stat Line: 16.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG

    The Skinny: At 215 pounds, it’s hard to tell if Hood would play shooting guard or small forward, but he would be a solid player to mix into the rotation at either position. He can get down the court in transition, get to the basket and score. Hood is very athletic and has long arms, so he has the potential to become a solid defender.

Noah Vonleh, PF Indiana

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    Size: 6’10”, 240 pounds

    Stat Line: 11.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG

    The Skinny: Vonleh isn’t the scorer that Julius Randle is, but he is a solid defender. He could make an instant impact at power forward with his defense, and with Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic in the rotation he wouldn’t be pressured to score a lot. Orlando will likely select someone with the first pick that can be an elite scorer like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, so drafting a big man that can score isn’t a necessity. Getting a solid defender and rebounder would be much more helpful to Orlando.

Julius Randle, PF Kentucky

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    Size: 6’9”, 250 pounds

    Stat Line: 15.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG

    The Skinny: Randle is an absolute beast in the paint. He has the toughness and intensity you love to see in power forwards. Averaging 10.6 rebounds per game this season, he is a solid rebounder and could get Orlando points in the paint.

    The Kentucky star will likely go near the top of the draft, so one has to think Orlando would be forced to select him with its first pick. While I do think Randle will develop into a great NBA player, Orlando needs to go a different route with the first pick. There is some top talent near the front of the draft, and the Magic can’t give up the opportunity to draft one of those guys. If Orlando was to end up with the fifth or sixth pick, though, drafting Randle might become a possibility. It just all depends on what number pick the Magic has.

Marcus Smart, PG Oklahoma State

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    Size: 6’4”, 220 pounds

    Stat Line: 18.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.8 APG

    The Skinny: Orlando has two choices at point guard if that’s the direction it chooses to go. It can either draft Exum or Marcus Smart, as both should be available when the team selects. Depending on where the Magic’s pick is, one of these guys could be off the board. If Exum had already been chosen, Orlando could help itself by drafting Smart to re-energize the point guard position.

    At 6’4”, he has great size and can attack the basket. Averaging 4.8 assists per game this season, he’s not the typical point guard, but he can score very well. While he may not be as quick to the basket as Exum, he is the better defender of the two.

Jabari Parker, SF Duke

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    Size: 6’8”, 235 pounds

    Stat Line: 19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG

    The Skinny: At times this season Parker looked unstoppable, but at other times he was inconsistent in scoring. He didn’t have a good showing in the NCAA tournament, and it’s not set in stone that he leaves school.

    Assuming he does, though, Parker could bring a ton of excitement to Orlando fans. He is a solid rebounder and can score from multiple spots on the court. Drafting the Duke star would put a few guys into the rotation at small forward. Harkless would likely come off the bench for defense, and Arron Afflalo would likely play shooting guard.

    If Orlando drafts Parker, it may want to be open to the possibility of trading Afflalo. Victor Oladipo has played great this season and has the potential to be the full-time starter next year at shooting guard. Parker has the potential to be a star in the league, and Orlando needs to make sure it evaluates him fully before basing a decision off team needs.

Andrew Wiggins, SG Kansas

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    Size: 6’8”, 200 pounds

    Stat Line: 17.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG

    The Skinny: The situation with Wiggins is similar to Parker’s. Drafting him would leave Orlando with some personnel decisions that would have to be made. Moving Oladipo to point guard and putting Afflalo at small forward is an option, and that would give the Magic a great backcourt in terms of defense. Wiggins could also be a potential star, and if he is available, the Magic should strongly consider drafting him.

Joel Embiid, C Kansas

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    Size: 7’0”, 250 pounds

    Stat Line: 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG

    The Skinny: Orlando already has Nik Vucevic at center, and he has been impressive this season. Drafting Embiid would leave them with two quality centers, and decisions would need to be made. There’s the possibility of playing big at times and having one of them at power forward, but it would be tough to rotate and give both quality playing time.

    The only reason the Magic need to draft Embiid is if they think he is too good to pass on. Filling other positions in the backcourt or at power forward would be smarter options with this pick, but if Embiid is too good to pass on, then that’s just the way it goes.

    He has already drawn some big comparisons from Kansas head coach Bill Self. Per Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star, Self said Embiid reminded him of “Olajuwon early in his career.” They could always attempt to trade Vucevic, but then there’s the risk that Embiid is a bust. If the Kansas center is still available when Orlando is on the clock, there will be some big decisions to make.