|With the 12th pick in the 1998
Usenet Mock Draft, the Orlando Magic select
Jason Williams, PG, 6-1, Florida
Orlando's GM's are:
Uncle Vasya and Tom McGuigan
I. Team Needs/History
The 1997-98 season was a very painful one for the Orlando Magic. The team entered the season with high expectations. Chuck Daly brought not only Hall of Fame credentials, but also a reputation for being able to get the most out of his players. Penny Hardaway told us he was healthy and ready to give us a whole season of the type of play we saw when he carried the Magic to back-to-back victories over Miami in the playoffs. The acquisitions of Bo Outlaw, Mark Price, and Derek Harper gave us our deepest and most experienced bench ever. 82 games later, the Magic were back in the lottery for the first time in five seasons. What happened?
Two primary problems: First: injuries. Magic players missed over 270 player-games due to injury. Penny Hardaway led the way with 63. We lost count of how many starting line-ups Daly juggled - the short answer is too many. Only one player - Bo Outlaw - played in all 82 games. Second: scoring, or rather the lack thereof. Orlando finished as one of the worst offensive teams in the league, averaging only 90 points per game on 43% shooting, and they did it when a record number of teams finished with fewer than 20 victories over the season. Even with all the injuries, Orlando managed to craft a 41-41 season. With better offensive focus we could have made the post season. Both problems will need to be addressed in the off season.
Not all was bad news however. Bo Outlaw proved to be one of the best FA signings of last season, and Nick Anderson finally refound the form that made him one of the better SG's in the league. In addition, this was Orlando's finest defensive season, a turnaround for a club that previously showed defensive intensity only in very brief spurts. Finally, team chemistry (other than Rony Seikaly) was very strong all season long. If Daly can bring next season's team to the same level of cohesion, the news next year should be a lot better.
CENTER: Center is clearly the biggest hole Orlando has to fill this summer. The Magic began the year with Rony Seikaly as their starter. Unfortunately, he made his biggest impact on the team this season when he refused to report to Utah after being traded (and are the Jazz ever glad). His balk resulted in the trade being voided, and instead of getting Greg Foster and Chris Morris, the Magic ended up with a #15 pick (and Danny Schayes as their starter for the last third of the season). The current players:
Danny Schayes ($690,000): Schayes surprised almost everyone with the level of his play after the Seikaly trade. He finished the season averaging 5.6 ppg and 3.3 rpg. More importantly, his outside skills made it possible for Daly to install a high post offense, opening room underneath for Nick Anderson (and next season, Penny Hardaway). In addition he plays solid, if unspectacular position defense. In short, he's a valuable role player. But, at 39 he is nobody's starting center. Schayes is a free agent, but it's not likely that any other team will be willing to pay him what the Magic would have to in order to retain him (the minimum 20% raise over his current salary). The Magic would like to re-sign him, but not at the expense of being outbid for a quality free agent. At best, he will play one more season, though, so now is not too early to begin planning for his replacement.
Jason Lawson ($242,500): The biggest indicator of Lawson's future in Orlando was his role after the Seikaly trade. The Magic front office might say they like his work ethic, but let's look at the game time he earned. Despite the fact that our only other legitimate center was Danny Schayes, Lawson could only manage to get garbage time, and only in a few games. To me this indicates that (unless a miracle occurs) he is at least two more seasons away from being able to command anything more than minimal back-up minutes. He finished the season averaging 1.4 ppg and 1.6 rpg, and is a free agent. He's gone if the magic need to maximize cap room, otherwise he might be back as practice fodder.
Orlando will bring in at least one, and probably two new 5's over the summer.
POWER FORWARD: Orlando's most solid position. Horace Grant and Derek Strong are one of the strongest PF duos in the NBA (combined 25 pts/16 rbs per game). Both are willing to do the dirty work, both focus on defense, and both are content to get their points in the general flow of the offense (although both forced things this season, shooting career low percentages, in an attempt to ignite the magic's sputtering offense):
Horace Grant ($14,285,714): Grant finally got healthy! He played in 76 games this season, a big improvement over the past two years. And this despite again being asked to play significant minutes at center. This season he (OK, Chuck Daly helped) finally convinced the rest of the team to focus on team defense. He averaged 12.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg, and 2.3 apg. Next season he needs to concentrate on teaching them to hate losing (he and Daly were the only ones to express disappointment at not making the playoffs). He has three years remaining on his contract (the last season at the club's option), which is front loaded.
Derek Strong ($326,700): Despite injuries which cost him 24 games, Strong established career highs in scoring and rebounding. Unfortunately , his career high scoring came at the expense of forcing his offense, so he also established a career low in shooting percentage. He averaged 12.5 ppg and 7.3 rpg. With any luck, next season he can return to a back-up role. He is a free agent. Orlando wants to retain him, but will need to wait to finalize his contract until after they pursue any outside free-agents. We hope Strong is willing to wait.
With Bo Outlaw also able to give the team minutes at PF if needed, this is the one position we don't expect to see augmented this summer.
SMALL FORWARD: At the start of the preseason, this position looked fairly strong. The team expected big things from Johnny Taylor and hoped Gerald Wilkins would repeat his fine play from last season. This would have left Bo Outlaw available to provide an off-the-bench spark at all three frontcourt positions. It didn't happen. Bo Outlaw was pressed into the starter's role. Johnny Taylor spent most of the season on IR, and a parade of bodies provided time at back-up:
Bo Outlaw ($1,000,000): The energizer bunny! He loves defense, lives for floor burns, and thrives on rebounding. And he even proved he could provide some scoring when necessary. Win or lose, his intensity makes him a joy to watch. He averaged 9.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and 2.7 apg. He is signed through 1999.
Johnny Taylor ($901,880): This was a very disappointing season for Taylor. He came to camp unprepared for NBA-level intensity and suffered an early injury. He never caught up. He did manage to use a couple of late season opportunities to show us the physical skills and athletic ability that led Orlando to draft him. In only 12 appearances, he averaged 2.0 ppg and 0.8 rpg. If he decides he is willing to put out the effort it takes to succeed and works hard this summer, he could command a lot of playing time (perhaps even the starting assignment by the end of next season - a la Alan Henderson in Atlanta). The big question is: Is he willing to work? A lock-out this summer won't help matters any, if it comes. He is signed through 2000; it may take that long to find out what kind of player he really is.
Gerald Wilkins ($326,700): With another season like last season, Wilkins would have been in line for a multi-year contract to end his career. Unfortunately he was only able to duplicate last season's play on the defensive end of the court. On offense, he fg% plummeted to 32%, much to low for an offense-starved team. He is a free agent,and likely will finish his career in Europe.
David Benoit ($609,096): Obtained in the Seikaly trade, Benoit played well enough to attract some attention (5.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg), if not from Orlando from someone. We expect the Magic to waive him to free up cap space, but he should catch on somewhere.
Orlando needs more offense from the SF position. In addition they would like to be able use Outlaw as a back-up at PF and possibly even Center if that necessary. Since it would be very optimistic to expect Taylor to be able to step up to that role next year after the season he had, the Magic will also be looking for someone who can give them significant minutes at the 3 spot.
SHOOTING GUARD: After back-to-back 40 point performances against Miami, Penny Hardaway was supposed to move to SG full time this season. Instead, his injury problems forced Chuck Daly to improvise, trying both Gerald Wilkins and Derek Harper without notable success. Finally at mid-season, Nick Anderson persuaded Daly to move him back to the 2 spot. Anderson's play during the remainder of the season settled the issue. Penny will be moving back to PG, moving to the 2 position when Anderson takes a breather. Harper will be retiring and we expect Wilkins, as noted above, to sign with a team in Europe,. so Orlando will be looking for a back-up SG this summer:
Penny Hardaway ($7,580,000): Penny missed 63 games this season with a second knee injury and related calf problem, leading pundits to label him as "injury prone." They forget how durable he was prior to the past two seasons. What he does need to do is work smarter, not harder, in the weight room. It was two summers ago that Penny really started hitting the weights. He added a lot of muscle mass, but it was mostly upper body muscle. The extra weight put more strain on his knees but the lack of lower body work left them unable to cope with that extra strain. Hardaway now knows he has to concentrate on his legs too, and as long as he does, we anticipate a long string of healthy seasons.
We also don't expect any problems with Penny moving back to PG. With a high post center, there should be more enough room for both Hardaway and Anderson in the lane. In addition, Anderson works better in isolation situations than as a slasher, so Penny will have plenty of occasion to move away from the ball while Anderson (and his defender) are isolated. Penny is signed through 2002, but has the option to become a free agent at the end of next season. Note to Penny: We DO appreciate you, teams don't pay $7.5M+ to players they don't appreciate. take a lesson from Jordan - let your game speak for you, and let your teammates know you expect their games to speak for them.
Nick Anderson ($4,000,000): Let's forget the first half of the season. At midseason, Anderson convinced Daly to try him as the starting SG slot. He made the best of his opportunity, showing us an offensive game that matched his still strong defensive skills. He averaged almost 22 points and 6 rebounds per game over the last 41 games, and shot 46%. His FT touch returned too, soaring from 30% to 68%. The big difference - Anderson started posting opposing SG's up on isolation plays and slashing inside instead of forcing up jumpers from near the 3 pt. line. welcome back, Nick! Anderson is signed through 2003, but the team has the option for the last two years.
Kevin Edwards ($2,640,000): We had to take him to make the Seikaly trade work under the cap. He's a free agent and won't be back.
Although Anderson and Hardaway will command most of the minutes Orlando at SG, Orlando does need someone to replace Wilkins.
POINT GUARD: This was a season of point guard by committee. A rash of injuries to both Derek Harper and Mark Price kept either man from being able to take the starting slot on a regular basis. In addition, an torn rotator cuff kept the formerly indestructible Darrell Armstrong (will he now be tagged as Injury prone?) out of 34 games this season:
Darrell Armstrong ($350,000): Until his injury, he was the perfect complement to Bo Outlaw. He plays full tilt all the time, and loves to mix it up on defense. Whenever Armstrong and Outlaw were on the floor together, you could feel the energy crackle. He also gives the Magic a totally different look than Hardaway when he comes in, which makes things tough on the Magic opponents, and is continuing to develop his shooting skills (he shot 41% last season, a career high). He averaged 9.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, and 4.9 apg before he was lost for the season. While there's no telling how the torn rotator cuff will affect him, Armstrong is a gym rat and we expect him to be raring to go and in top shape when camp opens. He is a free agent. As with Derek Strong, the Magic want to retain him, but will need to wait to finalize his contract until after they pursue any outside free-agents. We hope Armstrong too is willing to wait.
Derek Harper ($1,560,000): Harper was a wonderful one-year acquisition for the Magic. Although his statistical contributions were limited by injury (he averaged 8.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg, and 3.5 apg in 66 games), his locker room contributions were invaluable. With Daly, Grant, and Price, he set a tone of professionalism and pride that we hope we see more of next season. Unless he changes his mind, he will retire. Whoever ends up hiring him (he is rumored to be headed to Dallas' front office) will be lucky indeed.
Mark Price ($4,090,920): Although on the downside of his career, Price was a better than average offensive performer for Orlando. Had he not been limited by nagging injuries, he might have done even better (he averaged 9.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg, and 4.7 apg while shooting 43%). Unfortunately, his $4M contract takes up a lot of cap space for a team that wants to be active in the free agent market this summer. Orlando might trade Price, if they can find a team looking for the veteran leadership he can provide. If not, they will exercise their option to buy out the final year of his contract.
Kevin Ollie ($242,250): With Armstrong out for the season, and both Harper and Price fighting recurring injuries, the Magic found themselves in the middle of the season needing PG help. They dipped into the CBA to find Kevin Ollie. He is still raw. He is a fearless penetrator, a pest on defense, and a gym rat who works hard on his game. He needs to work on his shot selection (he shot only 38%) and needs to focus on making better decisions with the ball (he committed 44 turnovers in 35 games). We expect him to mature into a solid NBA back-up. It may take several years for that to happen
Orlando needs back-up for Hardaway and Armstrong. If they don't draft a PG, we look for them to re-sign Kevin Ollie.
COACHING/FRONT OFFICE: The Magic players and front office were brutalized for the way Brian Hill was ousted, but it needed to happen. Hill could not see beyond a low post, center oriented offense. This was terrific for Rony Seikaly, but it was hurting the rest of the team. Chuck Daly saw the need and made the change. Beyond that, he showed us he still knows how to motivate players (the one notable exception being Hardaway - and we think Penny will come around now that he's not distracted by injuries). One problem area - who takes over when Daly steps down? We don't see Orlando giving the job to Brendan Suhr, and Dr. J hasn't shown interest in moving out of the front office. We hope Daly will consider this. Although Suhr is a long time friend and assistant, now might be the time to bring in someone as top assistant/heir apparent. We had concerns about Scott Skiles' ability to motivate players as a coach. those have been answered by his performances in Greece and Phoenix. Bring back Scott Skiles.
SUMMARY: This off-season there will be a lot of changes to the Magic roster. Grant, Hardaway, Anderson, Outlaw, and Taylor will be back, and Orlando hopes to resign Strong, Armstrong, and probably Schayes. The biggest needs are a starting center, a major contributor at SF, and deep-bench back-up help at both guard positions and center. The Magic will have between $5M and $8M to spend in the free-agent market.
III. Our Selection (and an explanation)
Our selection is Jason Williams of Florida.
His reputation as a "wild child" aside, this is one talented ballplayer with an NBA position, the kind you don't mind taking a chance on. Jason is an excellent ballhandler who creates off the dribble, can really pass and shoot from long-range and gets a lot of steals. He has the quickness and size you want in an NBA point and competes fearlessly.
He will need to be more coachable on this level, but Chuck Daly has had a good track record with his type. One hopes his love for the game and the challenge of superior competition will propel his development into a solid NBA starter, and maybe more.
IV. Others Considered
The two center prospects, Doleac and Mohammed, are not particularly impressive #12 picks. Both have weaknesses that are a major concern. Doleac is not a shotblocker, lacks explosiveness and quickness. Mohammed has a tendency to get into foul trouble and lacks a face-up jumper.
V. Who the team will probably take
Orlando historically has drafted based on talent more than positional need. We expect them to do that in this year's draft. The team is rumored to be very interested in Jason Williams who reminds me a lot of a more athletic, more skilled Scott Skiles. Orlando also might select either Bonzi Wells or Michael Dickerson to take Gerald Wilkins' spot on the roster. The initial readings from Well's workout have been particularly strong.
The Magic have already brought in Mike Doleac and Nazr Mohammed for workouts and reactions to both players seemed lukewarm at best. They also have scheduled workouts for Al Harrington and Rashard Lewis. However, Chuck Daly is not a big fan of HS students jumping. So any HS'er good enough to justify taking a risk on in Daly's eyes probably is going to be good enough to go earlier inthe draft.
If Utah leaves the Magic with three picks, we think they will try to package one or more of those picks with a veteran (most likely Mark Price) for a trade. Orlando needs to be able to compete actively in this summer's free agent market (see below). Adding three draftees to their salary load would significantly reduce the money they would have available to attract a major free agent.
VI. Other moves the team should make
As noted above, the Magic's two biggest needs are a starting center and a SF who can give you 20+ min/game. The need at center is the most pronounced - Danny Schayes can't give you major minutes and Bo Outlaw can.
Drafting 12-15, Orlando won't find a starting center in this year's draft. The Magic's two top free agent choices at the moment are Ike Austin and Matt Geiger. However, the team also is very interested in 7'9" Michael Ri, if he can get State Department clearance to play in the NBA (Orlando has written a letter to the State Department supporting Ri's request). If Vander Weide gets signals that the waiver Ri has applied for will be granted, he could leap to the top of Orlando's wish list. We also think that Christian Laettner could be a suprise choice for the job. We believe Daly is the type of coach Laettner would blossom under, and the high post offense suits his game to a T. Jayson Williams, Divac, Smits, and Sabonis are expected to re-sign with their current teams.
The need at SF comes second, unless they can get Scottie Pippen or Tom Gugliotta (and I believe that signing either player is very unlikely). Rumors continue to swirl that Orlando is interested in Joe Smith. Since his value has plummeted, he might be available at a bargain price - if Daly is willing to take on the reclamation project. Cedric Ceballos, Rick Fox, Clarence Weatherspoon, and Laphonso Ellis also can't be ruled out. Tim Povtak, in his Orlando Sentinel column, offers a surprising name - Dennis Scott. Since his "antics" last summer he moved his "rage" to the backburner. More importantly, he has stayed in shape. Finally, his defensive play is underrated by most fans - as long as you're not looking for strong rebounding. The negative is, of all things, his scoring. His fg% last season was just under 40%.
The one other free agent in which the Magic reportedly are interested is Brent Barry, who seems to have ended up in Riley's doghouse. I doubt he'll end up in Orlando,though. I don't know if Miami can afford to let him go (and give up Ike Austin for nothing). If they do, recent interviews indicate the Barry might prefer to return to the less-physical Western conference. Another interesting possibility might be Jerry Stackhouse - again if Daly is willing to undertake the project. Stackhouse seems to be caught between Dumars and Hill in Detroit and could be looking to move.
|Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner|