The Orlando Magic have reached a critical point in their preparation for the 2014 NBA Draft: the arrival of Australian guard Dante Exum.
Exum will work out Tuesday at Amway Center.
The importance of the Magic’s pre-draft workouts in Orlando typically is overstated, but Exum’s upcoming workout could be the exception.
Magic executives and scouts probably have seen Exum play in-person fewer times than any other high-level prospect in this year’s draft.
Magic GM Rob Hennigan and probably assistant GM Matt Lloyd saw Exum compete at the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit in Portland, Ore., while Lloyd and perhaps Hennigan saw Exum play in the FIBA Under-19 World Championships last summer in Prague. Marti Artigas, the Magic’s scout based in Europe, probably also attended the Under-19 World Championships.
Although the Magic probably have seen Exum in-person at least as often as any other NBA team, there’s no doubt Magic executives wish they had seen more of the 6-foot-6 Australian prodigy.
The Magic pride themselves on conducting exhaustive draft research.
Lloyd is on the road for most of the season and parts of every summer.
Hennigan and assistant general manager Scott Perry spent less time attending Magic road games in 2013-14 than they did in 2012-13, most likely because they increased their already heavy scouting workloads. And when Hennigan and Perry did attend Magic road games, they often attended practices of nearby college teams.
Just how thorough are the Magic attempting to be in their research? Here’s one example: Marcus Smart’s coach at Oklahoma State said the Magic were one of the first teams to call to ask questions about Smart during Smart’s freshman season.
Which brings us back to Exum.
Because he grew up in Australia and didn’t play college basketball, the Magic and other NBA teams haven’t seen him much.
No one doubts that Exum has talent, but there are fair, and real, questions about how he’ll play against top-level competition night-in and night-out.
Insufficient information invites risk.
The Magic already have seen every other top-level prospect much more often than Exum — if not in-person, then on TV.
This is why I think the importance of most workouts is overstated by the media. Sure, on-court workouts in June show the growth — or lack of growth — in players’ games since the end of the college season. But the Magic (and other teams) already should have an extensive catalog of scouting reports on all the prospects.
The visits are important, however. Magic officials want to spend as much time interviewing prospects as possible. In addition to the interviews, Hennigan often takes top-level prospects to lunch to get to know them better.
Exum’s workout, however, will be one of the few opportunities for Magic executives and coaches to see his skills.
That’s why it’s important — more important than most workouts the team has held this month.
A team with the fourth overall pick must — simply must — take advantage of the opportunity. This is especially true of the Magic, who desperately need to infuse their franchise with high-level talent.
The Magic should know by now what they could expect from prospects like Smart, Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and Tyler Ennis after a year (or more) of scouting them.
On Tuesday, the team will hope to close the information gap on Exum as much as possible.
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at email@example.com and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.