Five of the top six selections in the 2014 NBA Draft lottery landed with teams in the Eastern Conference, including the first four. More specifically the top three, also known as the expected landing spots for Duke's Jabari Parker and the Kansas duo of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.
Overall there will be a lot of talent headed to a conference that outside of the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers received more punchlines than praise over the past couple of seasons. That's also not the same as saying that the East will suddenly be loaded, but a few of the lottery teams could make a playoff push. Which ones and will any of them have enough to pass the Wizards, those are questions we’re looking at, starting with the Cavaliers (Embiid), Bucks (Wiggins) and 76ers (Parker). Now, the Orlando Magic, owners of the fourth and 12th selections.
What's working for them: Considering the Magic inhabit the Southeast division, Washington fans should be happy Orlando didn’t land one of the top three picks, i.e. the chance to nab Embiid, Wiggins or Parker. Not just because of their individual gifts, but because they would have joined the collection of rising talents already on the Magic roster. Former DeMatha product Victor Oladipo finished second in Rookie of the Year voting while Nikola Vucevic averaged a double-double. Arron Afflalo is a sneaky good stud on the wing even if miscast as a leading man. Then there are frontcourt notables Tobias Harris, Moe Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn. Now tack on two first-round selections plus free agents and we’re talking about a team that won’t finish with the NBA’s worst road record again.
What's working against them: Jameer Nelson is at best an average point guard at this stage of his career. That’s why it’s seems unlikely that the Magic pick up the 32-year-old’s $8 million option for next season unless he's desired as a bridge starter while a first-round selection develops. Despite all the aforementioned prospects, there isn’t an obvious go-to option in the bunch.
What they should do at No. 4 and 12: Australian point guard Dante Exum is the mystery man of the draft due to limited exposure since dominating the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit. At 6-foot-6, Exum has tremendous size for either guard slot, with many projecting his skill set worthy of the point role due to his “speed, fluidity and ball-handling ability.” That fits perfectly with an Orlando team looking for a long-term fix at that position whether they keep Nelson or not. Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart is another point guard candidate while Arizona's Aaron Gordon is a freaky athletic power forward. Adding Michigan sharpshooter Nik Stauskas at 12 would provide the Magic with a tremendous 3-point shooter and an exciting three-guard combo going forward.
Could they jump the Wizards? Kind of surprised the Magic weren’t in the playoff chase even a little. With this new blood plus growth from their current crew, Orlando should rectify that scenario next season. That’s not the same as catching the Wizards, but it’s also not an impossibility should the Magic have the more successful off-season. Much hinges on the point guard play.