While the devaluing of positions have blurred the lines to wing and post players, there have been two positions that have remained. The first is the center position; someone who can not only rebound and alter shots, but also become a leader on the defensive end. Even as the league moves towards smaller lineups and the era of the four and out, and elaborate spacing, having a six-foot-ten behemoth in the middle to occasionally throw into and score the ball in the post is a great luxury to have.
The other position is the point guard position. Ideally, you want to have multiple passers on the floor, but having a point guard who can orchestrate your offensive sets at the top of the key is vital. San Antonio’s Tony Parker is a great example of this. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard are all good passers (Duncan and Manu are great passers), but Parker is the key to that offensive set, thanks to his ability to set and reset the offense, and run plays for himself, or drive and kick out to an open shooter on the wing.
Over the past five seasons, the point guard position has received a tremendous boost of talent with guys like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall. Some of them don’t offer you the same passing ability like others, but those guards usually thrive on scoring situations. At one point, you could come into the NBA as a point guard and be a below-average defender if you provided solid playmaking ability. Now? You need to offer some defensive ability with your offensive value, or your minutes will be limited. Part of that has to do with the ever-increasing defensive data and ability to pinpoint poor defenders, but most of it has to do with the number of point guards that can take over a game on a nightly basis.
The Orlando Magic are one of the teams that could use a point guard. Just a glance at their passing numbers, Orlando finished 23rd in the league in assists per game (21.0), 22nd in assist/turnover ration (1.41), 20th in assists ration (16.5), 21st in passes per game (286.4), 23rd in points created by assists. The most damning stat of all is that Orlando finished 25th in basketball in secondary assists with 4.9. Victor Oladipo is a good passer, but he’s not a point guard. He held down the position admirably, but Orlando finished 29th in the NBA in offensive efficiency. Drafting another point guard and sliding Oladipo over to his more natural shooting guard position seems like the best move Orlando could make this offseason.
The two names that intrigue Orlando with the fourth pick are Australia’s Dante Exum and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart. Let’s break them down.
Height: 6’ 3.25” Weight: 227 pounds
Measurements: 6’9.25” Wingspan, 36.0 Max Vert, 8’ 3” Standing Reach
Numbers: 32.7 mpg, 18.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, 2.9 spg, 55.2 TS%
When Marcus Smart returned back to Oklahoma State for another season, the Magic were the ones hurting at draft time, as Orlando was reportedly enamored with him. This time around, the Orlando Magic are here at four, Marcus Smart is in the draft, and all could be right in the world. Much like last season, there are a ton of things that make Smart an intriguing prospect.
For starters, the all-around versatility is something to be intrigued about. At a tick under six-foot-four, Smart seems to have the size you want from your point guard, and his 227 pound frame makes him a bowling ball for opponents. It’s one of the reasons why Smart shot 64.9% at the rim and garnered 8.1 free throws a game in his final season at Oklahoma State. Along with his size and craftiness around the rim, Smart is also one of the best defenders in the draft. He’s a bulldog on that end- hounding opposing point guards, and even having the versatility to defend opposing wing players thanks to his 6’9” wingspan.
What will determine Smart’s success is his shooting. During his last season at Oklahoma State, Smart shot 30.7 percent on two-point jumpers and 29.9 percent on three-point attempts. At first glance, his shooting motion doesn’t seem broken, so maybe there’s a chance he could become an average shooter, but nothing more. Smart’s intangibles will also be in question. He’s a notorious flopper at this point in his career, and his run-in with the fan during the Texas Tech game only hurt his reputation. He may just be a hothead, but controlling his emotions is something Smart will have to work on when he makes the NBA.
Height: 6’6” Wight: 196
Measurements: 6’ 9.25” Wingspan, 34.5 Max Vert, 8’7” Standing Reach
Numbers: 18.2 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 44.6% FG, 33.3% 3P, 60.9% FT ( FIBA World Championships 2013)
Exum doubles down as one of the biggest freaks and biggest enigmas in the draft. He’s 6’6” with a 6”9” wingspan, plays like a point guard, and profiles as a combo guard, thanks to his monstrous size and score-first mentality. Offensively, Exum could be unfair. He’ll be able to bully much smaller defenders, and give problems to guards just as tall thanks to his speed. He’ll move the ball around, and find teammates well. He’s fast, really fast, and should be able to run an up-tempo offense with ease. Defensively, Exum has potential to be an excellent defender. His speed translates to his defensive patterns, and his freakishly long arms should allow him to rank among the league leaders in steals per game.
Similar to Smart, Exum isn’t a great shooter. Shooting 33 percent from three, and 60 percent from the free throw line. At just 19 years old, his shooting should improve, but it isn’t great right now. Much like Smart, Exum has a solid shooting motion, and should have no problem improving with the right shooting coach. The combo guard label is a bit of a concern, as Tyreke Evans would suggest. Defensively, he’s still a slight player with his frame, and could use an additional 10-15 pounds to his frame to make him a legitimate threat to wing players on opposing teams.
The Magic are in an excellent position with the fourth pick if a point guard is available. Both Exum and Smart are great talents, and both should form an excellent two-way backcourt with Victor Oladipo. The only question with either of these guys and combination of Oladipo is the shooting. Oladipo wasn’t a great shooter as a rookie, and neither Smart and Exum project to be good shooters to start their careers. A team already lacking shooters with three non-spacers on the floor, Orlando could be desperate for space this season, while offering a potential top tier perimeter defense.
For comparisons, Smart reminds me of Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, but if he can shoot, he could be a poor man’s Kyle Lowry. Other than shooting, Smart has all the tools Lowry possesses, but he’s a bit bigger. He’ll be an aggressive rim attacker, and offer the Magic someone who can dictate and run the offense. If he can’t shoot the ball, then the Magic will really need Oladipo to develop his shooting touch, but Smart will be able to have solid value for most of his career even if he can’t shoot, thanks to his ability to defend multiple positions. Almost Tony Allen-ish in his defensive ability.
As for Dante Exum, I can’t give you a proper comparison, but the comparison I love for him is Manu Ginobili. His shooting guard size combined with his point guard-esque play could create a pretty interesting player for Orlando. The only real issue is, again, Exum can’t shoot. It’s what made Manu a great offensive player, and the reason why Miami is having trouble relegating Dwayne Wade to a potential bench role. If Exum can learn how to shoot, then the league just might be in trouble. He’ll be unstoppable on offense, and suffocating multiple positions on defense. However, if he doesn’t develop into an above-average shooter, Exum could still be a dangerous player, thanks to his athleticism and measurements.
If I was Magic GM Rob Hennigan, I would take Exum. The upside seems too great. However, there was something CBS Sports’ Matt Moore pointed out in his Orlando Magic Draft Options post that I would heed with caution:
“One problem? Exum is represented by Rob Pelinka, Kobe Bryant‘s agent. Exum has a soft spot in his heart for the Lakers. Do you want to draft a guy with that kind of background, after losing two former franchise stars to LA? This is a serious concern for me if I’m the Magic. You effectively don’t have to worry about it for another eight years (no one leaves off their rookie deal who’s a star), but eventually, this could be an issue. It’s something to think about.”
The Joel Embiid injury might’ve shaken up the board to the point that one of these two – Smart, most likely – will be on the board. If both are on the board, The Magic brass and fans will be happy with whichever point guard they select.
Which point guard should the Magic pick at four?
- Dante Exum (78%, 39 Votes)
- Marcus Smart (22%, 11 Votes)
Total Voters: 50