Earlier this month, I was again asked to make an Orlando lottery pick in SB Nation’s annual Bloggers Mock Draft. The only difference this time was that the process started with the Orlando Pinstripe Post, as this week the Orlando Magic are due to make the first overall pick in the NBA draft for the fourth time in franchise history.
Given the current anticipation and the general excitement around the Magic and what they would end up doing on draft night (June 23), naturally I was more than happy to be part of the fun. When the tryout started last week, I was actually at SeaWorld Orlando with my family (weird coincidence, but last year when I made two picks for Orlando in the SB Nation Blogger tryout, I was with my family at Universal Studios). Don’t worry, yours truly was far from the “splash zone” at the killer whale encounter, so I was able to do a few tasks on a very warm Central Florida summer day.
Before I get into my pick for Orlando, I thought I’d give some context. Trades weren’t allowed in this exercise, and I’m mentioning this because if they were allowed… well, then I’d probably try to make some kind of trade to move down a position or two.
To be completely honest, I’m completely indifferent when it comes to the supposed top three picks in this year’s draft class: Paolo Bankero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr. upside down. If I were a Wizard, I would get a fair amount of confidence and comfort with any of the three of them.
So my thought process would be: “Let’s see if Oklahoma City (second draft) or Houston (third draft) are interested in parting with an asset or two in an attempt to advance in the draft.” Alas, such a scenario, understandably, was not considered for me during the dummy draft, so I had to go all out and make this choice with my chest.
1st overall pick in SB Nation NBA Blogger Trial Draft:
Jabari Smith Jr, forward (Auburn)
As I said above, despite the fact that the team gets the opportunity to control the draft from pole position, I would at least explore all the possibilities to go to the choice of second or third (if the trade was allowed). . Some combination of future picks and/or young players in exchange for a first overall pick would probably be enough for me to lead some sort of pick swap (assuming one of the top three prospects in that class was still available).
I don’t envy the decision they have in front of the Orlando office, it was not an easy task. I looked at all three top big men (Smith, Holmgren and Bunchero). If I were running the Magic, I think I’d be leaning towards taking Banchero with that pick, but I wanted to make it as realistic as possible (and I’m not sure Orlando is seriously considering it). I chose Smith because I think his combination of elite shooting and defensive edge plays in this league on any team/any ecosystem. I’m not bothered by his handle and limited ability to create space in one-on-one situations (or his finishing ability). He just turned 19 and I think his pluses are as strong as anyone else in this class.
Orlando Pinstripe Scout Report Post-Draft 2022: Jabari Smith Jr.
Smith is about as deadly a shot-shooter as the league has been in recent times. The fact that the South Atlanta native is 6-10 makes his shooting prowess all the more impressive (and tantalizing) given the ease with which he can hit smaller defenders. The Auburn freshmen were “hard throwers” last season as freshmen, knocking down spots, mid-range round jumps, breaking off screens and even pulling up on one-two dribbles.
In the 2021–2022 season, the five-star one-day collegiate phenom from behind the arc scored 42 percent from 188 attempts. Smith did at least three Last season, he made 14 three-point field goals (just under 45% of his field goals came from behind the arc). The gravity of his shot, and the pressure Smith is likely to put on the opposition’s defense, could potentially add a lot of distance for the likes of Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Markell Fultz and Wendell Carter Jr.
The son of a former NBA player, Smith Jr. is also positioned as the next level guard. The long and lanky big guy plays with incredible energy. His ability to switch, assist, communicate, slide his feet, stand in front of opponents, and use his long arms to wreak havoc (without fouling) suggests that the 19-year-old may perhaps develop into a defensive player over time. the leader of whatever team that ultimately chooses him. Auburn’s freshman isn’t a physically imposing specimen like Banchero, nor is he an elite shot blocker like Holmgren. Smith’s defensive contributions stem from his uncanny instincts, super-competitiveness, and positional versatility.
Sandwiched for a long time between Wagner and Carter Jr., Smith Jr. could help the Magic build one of the most versatile and successful young frontcourts in the league.
Like every other promising teenager who has ever made it to the NBA, Smith’s game is far from perfect. At 6-10, Smith got into trouble at times last season when he tried to create too much/too often with live dribbling. He’s more than capable of taking his team out of dribble, but it’s usually just a couple of pull-up dribbles (at least that’s what he showed last season at Auburn). Can he ever turn into a guy who can create a gap and space for himself by dribbling at the next level?
And when he gets to the basket, can he develop enough touch (and power) to finish at the ring with a higher lead than the walking 65 percent he achieved in the 2021-22 season as a freshman (Smith’s 2PT FG% was modest 43.5%)?
After all, if I were the Magic, I would bet that Smith Jr would fully develop (if not exceed) his perceived ceiling as a player.
As I wrote in my scouting report on Smith Jr., I think the Georgia native is unfairly labeled as a prospect with a “3-and-D role player” ceiling because he already excels in two areas of the game (shooting, defense), where many role players in the league also benefit:
Ultimately, I think Smith is being unfairly called a prospect with only role player potential because some of the things he does best on the floor, namely three-ball shooting and defensive play, also have the same skills. that many successful players do. and-D’ has the elite role players in the NBA. Yes, Smith’s game and his overall toughness in the shaded area is part of his game where he has to excel to justify being near (or at the top of) this draft. But again, you have to remember that the young man just turned 19. He is one of the youngest prospects in this class, and it’s probably not the safest bet to assume that he will never get better. Just because his gender fits the profile of a highly successful NBA role player doesn’t mean that’s all Smith will ever do in that league. Even while “beating” some rather boring defenders at the Auburn last season, Smith teased how powerful an offensive weapon he can be as a spacer.
Jonathan Givoni of ESPN had this to say about Smith Jr. ahead of the start of the NCAA Tournament in March:
“Smith has become one of the most dynamic shooters in college, hitting 43% of three-pointers despite being 6’10”. Running behind screens, pulling up transitions, stepping back jumps, and doing incredible fadewaves from the stand – it would seem that nothing is difficult for an 18-year-old teenager thanks to his high release point and soft touch. Smith is also a very versatile defender who plays with outstanding intensity, switching all over the court with quick feet and impressive energy.
He was just as effective against elite-level competition as he was at the beginning of the season as his confidence grew and the difficulty level of attempts increased with a slight decrease. NBA scouts have questions about Smith’s ability to create offense for himself and others and be effective inside the arc. He lacks power and explosive power, only shooting 44% from two-point range. And he averages as many turnovers as he does assists, making it difficult for him to appear in the late game, which has sometimes hampered Auburn with his inconsistent defensive play.”
So for a team that has really struggled to create space and shoot from the perimeter in the recent past, Smith Jr makes a lot of sense as another piece of what the organization has already put together (Wagner, Suggs, Fultz). , Anthony, Carter Jr., etc.). But if Magic eventually makes the same choice, I don’t think it will. simply because Smith Jr. can throw the ball with great accuracy.
This will happen because Orlando believes in his overall game, in his huge potential and in the idea that Smith Jr fits the bill as the best prospect in this class. And if that’s the case, then I have to go ahead and agree.
So, Magic fans, how are we doing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.