For five straight years, it’s been Monday in Orlando, Florida. The Magic haven’t been relevant since they dealt Dwight Howard in 2012, and there is no clear-cut path to changing that – unless Dennis Smith Jr. slips to six.
No offense to Howard, Aaron Gordon, or Stuff the Magic Dragon – but the Magic haven’t been real magicians since Rafer Alston stepped up for an injured Jameer Nelson and led Orlando to the 2009 NBA Finals. After Skip 2 My Lou and then eventually Dwight and Jameer moved elsewhere, Elfrid Payton took over as the team’s starting point guard. A competitive defender and triple-double threat that rarely finds the bottom of the net on shots outside of a few feet, Elfrid hasn’t exactly lived up to his lottery selection, instead proving to be a poor fit alongside Air Gordon.
Dennis Smith Jr., the flame-throwing point guard with a quick release who also dunks on dudes, would be just the opposite. Combine Smith’s abilities to use a ball screen, hit pull-up treys, drive, and dish with Gordon’s elite athleticism, and that’s a recipe for a modern spread pick-and-roll NBA offense. The kid has some Damian Lillard in his game.
It’s possible that the Magic could move up a few spots – especially if Philadelphia, Phoenix, or Sacramento isn’t blown away by anyone at their respective positions (and likes whatever Orlando is willing to do to sweeten a deal). But those types of trades are still rare. The most likely way that Dennis lands in Disney is that five guys are picked before him, plain and simple.
What are the odds that Smith is still available by the time Orlando is on the clock?
Well, most folks agree that Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball will be selected by Boston and Los Angeles.
Philadelphia holds the keys to the race car that is the 2017 NBA Draft. Ben Simmons is slated to play point guard, but Smith’s shooting prowess means he can’t be counted out at No. 3.
At No. 4 overall, the Phoenix Suns already have Eric Bledsoe, Tyler Ulis, Brandon Knight, and Devin Booker in the backcourt. Therefore, I’d be quite surprised if they don’t go with a forward (Josh Jackson, Jonathan Isaac, or Jayson Tatum). If the Suns do opt for a guard, they might prefer De’Aaron Fox’s defense to complement their offensive face of the franchise (Booker).
Sacramento is perhaps even more unpredictable than Philly. Their owner believes Buddy Hield is the second coming of Stephen Curry, so maybe he thinks Dennis Smith is Klay Thompson 2.0? Who knows? Smith and Hield projects as a poor defensive pairing, but if the Kings are truly trying to mimic Golden State, that could be the end result. On the other hand, Sacramento has shown a lot of loyalty to Kentucky players over the years, so Fox might be their man. De’Aaron certainly makes more sense on the Kings than with Philly, Phoenix, or Orlando. Oddly enough, Fox’s floor might actually be Elfrid Payton.
Magic head coach Frank Vogel might not love the idea of adding Smith based on his reputation as a defense-first leader and Smith’s casual approach to competing on that end at North Carolina State. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that Orlando is in dire need of Dennis Smith Jr.
TLM’s Ilia Shatashvili has Smith going to Orlando in his latest mock draft. Meanwhile, DraftExpress has the Magic passing on Smith for Malik Monk. I don’t like the fit there since Evan Fournier is one of the team’s top players and, like Monk, occupies the shooting guard spot. “Don’t Google” also accounted for over 18 percent of Orlando’s three-pointers on the year. The Magic need more shooting, but it doesn’t really help as much if it’s an overlapping piece. Fournier is a good playmaker and ball-handler, but I don’t think it’s wise to try to turn him (or Monk) into a full-time point guard. If anyone would do that, it’s Sacramento, right?
Anyways, I’m rambling now, but the Magic have about a 50-50 shot at getting a guy with All-Star potential who also happens to be the best hypothetical fit. A rotation of Smith, Fournier, Terrence Ross, Gordon, and Bismack Biyombo with Payton and Nikola Vucevic coming off the bench would be magical compared to the lineups Orlando has thrown together over the last half decade.
Here’s to hoping the Magic are mundane no more, that Dennis Smith Jr. will be their cure for this wicked case of the Mondays.