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Magic position themselves for better look at prospects at NBA draft combine

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Magic position themselves for better look at prospects at NBA draft combine

For the Orlando Magic, the next few days will be a significant step in a month-long process that’ll culminate with the June 23 NBA draft.

The NBA draft combine, which takes place Wednesday through Friday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, offers the Magic their most comprehensive look, up to this point, at the prospects they’re considering selecting in the June 23 draft.

The combine is more than simply physical measurements, medicals, on-court drills and scrimmages — although that information is helpful.

During the season, teams are allowed to scout prospects but aren’t allowed to contact them.

Like most teams that didn’t already start hosting pre-draft workouts, the combine will be the Magic’s first opportunity to interview and have one-on-one interactions with prospects.

It offers them a chance to get to know the prospect as more than just a basketball player.

This can go a long way in determining who gets invited for a workout at the team’s facility or who ends up higher on a team’s draft board.

Teams are allowed to interview a maximum of 20 players at the combine, while each player is allowed to interview with a maximum of 13 teams. Just because the Magic didn’t interview someone at the combine doesn’t mean they’re not interested or won’t pick them in the draft.

Every top prospect — from Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga) and Jabari Smith (Auburn) to Paolo Banchero (Duke) and Jaden Ivey (Purdue) — will be present.

This matters for the Magic, who’ll once again have a top pick in this year’s draft.

While most players who are expected to be taken high in the draft typically don’t participate in all of the drills and will rarely scrimmage, those off-court interactions are part of the intel the Magic will consider leading into the draft.

The Magic also have second-round picks (Nos. 32 and 35).

While Orlando has a tendency of trading its second-round picks under president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, the combine will help the Magic gather the necessary information to see whether one of — or both — of those picks are worth keeping if they find a prospect they like outside of the first round.

There’s also the chance they could try to trade those picks with another team to get into the back end of the first round, among other possibilities.

Tuesday night’s draft lottery helped provide clarity into each team’s situation.

Teams also use this period to gather information on other organizations, such as intel about players they’re interested in acquiring, their own players who they’d trade, how they’re feeling about their lottery position and if they want to move their pick.

These conversations matter for the Magic as they continue to build a foundation with their young core.

The combine, however, isn’t the be-all and end-all.

Predraft workouts and the ensuing interviews allow teams to get a better look at players under their own roofs.

Weltman recalled meeting Wendell Carter Jr. for the first time during the predraft process and left with a strong and favorable first impression. Almost three years after passing on him in the 2018 draft, the Magic traded for him three years later.

Intel continues to be gathered after the initial contact, making the combine a springboard for what’s to come during the next month leading into the draft and beyond.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.

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Sainted & Tainted: Half of my summer is gone because you didn’t yield

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Sainted & Tainted: Half of my summer is gone because you didn’t yield

Tainted & Sainted

Tainted: June 3, between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. at Johnson Parkway and Sixth Street. The male driver in a black pickup didn’t yield to me and crossed into the bike path where I fell under the bike to avoid hitting your truck. All you did was sit in the truck and say you’re sorry. You left as soon as I got off the street. Half of my summer is gone because of this.

Tainted: Whoever designed this bike path. Hardly anyone stops at the stop sign. Just stop at the corner. Many close calls to me and I’ve told all to stop. Maybe put a yield sign or stop signs on the west side of Johnson. They don’t know how to yield.

Sainted: To the one driver who asked if I was OK. Much appreciated. Felt fine at the time but did break my elbow.

Barb Anderson, St. Paul

 

Tainted

I think It would be desirable if those responsible for the St. Paul skyway system could maintain uniform hours for the operation of the system.

They have posted operating hours indicating a close of 11 p.m., but this is contradicted by one posting indicating a 12 p.m. closing. The reality is that neither apply as I discovered this past Saturday when returning to my apartment from a downtown restaurant.

The location in the general vicinity (east) of the Subway operation was closed at 10 p.m. This is not the first time this has happened to me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect uniform operating hours to be observed.

Roger A. Godin, St. Paul

 

Sainted

An incredible Sainted to Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater. I had surgery this past Tuesday and had never been there before. The care I received was phenomenal. The staff was incredible and compassionate.

I was on the first floor and it was like a party when they came in for vitals, etc. Kelly always referred me to as The Boss. Thank you for such kindness and for helping me through such a painful surgery. And an even bigger shout out to my personal paramedics Shawna S. and Mary F.  Thank you both so much for everything. I’d be lost without you.

Laura McGinn, St. Paul

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ASK IRA: Could another Heat run at Kevin Durant be in the cards?

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ASK IRA: Could another Heat run at Kevin Durant be in the cards?

Q: Ira, we’ve been burned by Kevin Durant before. We can’t be fooled into fool’s gold again. – Ian.

A: Look, this whole Brooklyn Nets-will-implode storyline is so bizarre, so speculative, so seemingly preposterous that perspective needs to be toned down all around on the possibilities of both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant departing. But to your question, this also is an opportunity to address the notion of the Heat being “burned” when coming up short in free agency, including when Pat Riley and Micky Arison traveled to the Hamptons in an attempt to woo Kevin Durant during 2016 free agency. It was the same narrative when the Heat “came up short” with Gordon Hayward (and even to a degree the supposed previous “failure” to nab Kyrie). Being mentioned in such speculation means your franchise has earned the respect of players and agents. That is a good thing. The Heat get into the room (unless it’s LeBron’s Las Vegas suite). And if Kevin Durant does attempt to work his way elsewhere, they likely will be back in the room.

Q: Nikola Jovic seems a bit slow footed when I watch his clips. I’d like to see him get serious playing time in Sioux Falls, so he can adjust to the NBA speed. – James.

A: But I’m not sure the G League game, which can be helter skelter at times, is the preferred tempo, either. This could be more along the lines of Omer Yurtseven’s rookie season with the Heat, where it will be mostly developmental, with some as-needed time as warranted/merited. Remember, Nikola Jovic will become the youngest Heat player ever to appear in a game in the franchise’s 35 seasons. That has to be about patience, for more than just foot speed.

Q: Ira, you listed players the Heat passed on to get Nikola Jovic. Who would you have preferred? – Anthony.

A: So basically you’re asking me to trump my preference in the moment at the 2020 draft for Desmond Bane? I’m not sure there is anyone in that category this year. But of those selected after Nikola Jovic (who I think can turn into an inspired choice), I do believe that Patrick Baldwin’s skillset could still yield something special and was curious about E.J. Liddell as a Heat fit. But I don’t believe there is a reason for second guessing when you’re talking about No. 27.

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‘Everything’s gonna get caught’: Orioles outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins share favorite parts of each other’s defense

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‘Everything’s gonna get caught’: Orioles outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins share favorite parts of each other’s defense

Presented the choice between the two highlight defensive plays he made Thursday night — a fourth-inning throw to the plate to prevent a run and his rally-killing diving catch across the right field line in the eighth — Orioles right fielder Austin Hays made his decision based on sound logic.

“I’d probably say the throw because the dive hurt a lot worse,” Hays said with a smile. “It was totally worth it because I caught it. But I’d like to not have to dive on the warning track ever again.”

But speaking as an observer, center fielder Cedric Mullins went the other way.

“The throw, for him, was pretty easy,” Mullins said. “That [dive] definitely crushed some spirits out there.”

The difference of opinion is perhaps one of the few ways Hays and Mullins aren’t in sync when it comes to outfield defense. Having played together since 2017 as minor leaguers, the pair has developed an innate ability to communicate with each other before and during plays.

Thursday, along with Hays’ highlights, Mullins ranged into right-center field for a handful of impressive catches, with Hays also finishing in the vicinity. Add in a well-tracked catch in left from Anthony Santander, and the result is what manager Brandon Hyde said “might have been the best defensive game from an outfield group that I’ve seen in the big leagues.”

“It’s two Gold Glovers,” Hyde said. “You see them doing a lot of nonverbal [communication] while they’re running to the ball. They know each other so well now. When you play next to a guy, you know their mannerisms, you know what balls they can get to and what they can’t, where they’re playing, so there’s some comfort.”

Mullins said with a wave of his hand, he can let Hays know what areas he has covered based on positioning. Both noted that if a ball is hit between them and one can catch it with a dive, it usually means the other can get to it standing up. That cue helps them avoid collisions, with one moving up to make the catch while the other veers deeper into the outfield as backup.

“It’s a really big peace of mind for an outfielder to know that the other guy is always going to be there,” Hays said. “I think we’ve built a lot of trust with one another.”

Hays said that trust is a byproduct of years of games alongside each other, with those instincts becoming second nature “once those plays happen over and over and over and over again.”

That aggregate time together means they have both seen the other blossom into standout defenders in their own way. Hays praised Mullins’ jumps, routes and speed. Mullins is in the 72nd percentile in the majors in outfield jump, 84th percentile in sprint speed, and 91st percentile in outs above average, according to Baseball Savant.

“He’s as good as they come for center fielders,” Hays said.

His favorite play by Mullins happened last year, when the All-Star slid on the warning track in right-center field at Camden Yards to rob Nelson Cruz of extra bases. With experience playing center field in Baltimore, Hays knows the challenge of that play.

“That’s one of the most difficult plays for a center fielder, when you’re running wide open,” he said. “That gap gets small right there before it jets out to where it’s 373 [feet]. I think that’s probably the most impressive one I’ve seen him make. He robbed Gary [Sánchez of a home run] last year, but I still think that the one where he slid on the track up against the wall, that’s just such a difficult play.”

Mullins said picking one of Hays’ best plays is a tough task because “the list keeps piling up.” He settled on the highlight that impressed him most recently: After Mullins lunged at a ball as it caromed off the new left field wall at Camden Yards, Hays chased it down and threw out Jesse Winker at third base as the Seattle Mariners outfielder tried to stretch the hit into a triple.

It’s one of Hays’ six outfield assists, which entered Friday as the second most in the American League and highlighted the arm that most impresses Mullins about Hays’ defensive acumen. Since 2016, Hays is responsible for the Orioles’ five hardest-thrown outfield assists, with the top three coming this year.

“He came behind me, picked it up, threw him out at third while I was just kind of my knees watching because at that point, I’m like, ‘It’s all you, man,’” Mullins said.

Hays’ favorite among Mullins’ plays came June 1, 2021. Mullins’ preference among Hays’ highlights was June 2, 2022. It’s just another example of them in lockstep, working in tandem to secure outs for the Orioles’ pitching staff.

“We just have a lot of faith knowing that everything’s gonna get caught,” Hays said. “If there’s something I feel like is out of reach for me, he’s gonna catch it.”

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