The 2012-2013 NBA season doesn’t hold much else for Orlando Magic fanatics, except the promise of a better future. A big part of that promise hangs on the upcoming draft. The draft class isn’t awful or spectacular, but there are a few very intriguing players at the top of the heap. The Magic currently have the third worst record in the league and have the absolute worst record over the last 25 games. So for the sake of this discussion, I’m going to target the top-3 players in the draft: Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, and Shabazz Muhammad.
A freshman center at Kentucky, Nerlens Noel is being heralded as the best big man in the draft, and is rated the number one overall prospect by DraftExpress.com. Noel is 6’11 and has incredible defensive instincts. He needs to fill out a little bit more to be truly effective on the professional level and can be overly aggressive, causing early foul trouble. On offense, he is still pretty raw. He can only effectively score in the paint and he still has a lot of work to do on improving his footwork. His athleticism is out of this world and his potential is unlimited.
NBA COMPARISON: Marcus Camby
A freshman shooting guard at Kansas, Ben McLemore has climbed the draft boards in spectacular fashion. He was ranked out of the top-10 by most people at the start of the season and ranks 2nd only to Nerlens Noel, on most of the major draft analysis sites. He is a very smooth shooting guard with prototypical NBA height. He has a lethal combination of athleticism and skill. He gets great elevation on his jumpshot and his release is beautiful. He is unselfish, almost to a fault. The biggest downside to McLemore is that he hasn’t yet proven that he can breakdown defenders well in isolation play. That being said, his handles are above average and he is an incredibly explosive athlete with unlimited potential.
NBA COMPARISON: Ray Allen
Stats: 16.3ppg/5.5rbs/2ast/1stl/1blk. Shooting 50% from the field, 42% from beyond the arc, and 85% from the FT line.
A freshman shooting guard out of UCLA, Shabazz Muhammad was heralded as the “left-handed Kobe” by some when he was in high school. His freshman campaign got off to a rocky start, with a NCAA suspension during an investigation into financial involvements. He has not lived up to the hype during his freshman campaign, slipping from a top prospect to somewhere between 3rd and 5th on most draft charts. However, as far as long-term potential goes, Shabazz Muhammad has to be one of the greater players in the draft. He has an uncanny knack for scoring in a plethora of ways. He has good range, excellent slashing abilities, and a great feel for the game. He is probably the most deadly pure scorer in the draft.
NBA COMPARISON: James Harden
First, until the trade deadline passes, it is impossible to tell what the Magic’s depth chart will look like. The rumors surround J.J. Redick are numerous and a trade like that could shift the needs of the organization moving forward. So here is my qualifier: If the Magic retain J.J. Redick or receive a shooting guard in any potential trade for him, I would choose Nerlens Noel as the Magic’s best option for this draft. IF, the Magic do not trade J.J. and do not intend to re-sign him this summer, then I would definitely lean towards Ben McLemore as my second pick. It is hard to tell who will turn out better between Muhammad and McLemore, because they both have incredibly high ceilings. At this point, however, McLemore is just a safer bet.