CHICAGO — The 2014 NBA Draft Combine feels anticlimactic.
Although this is the most hyped draft class in over a decade, the consensus top prospects — Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins — are skipping the event. They aren't available to be interviewed by teams, won't receive physicals and won't be anywhere near the gym when on-court drills begin on Thursday.
But the event still is crucial to the Orlando Magic.
Barring a trade, the franchise will have a pair of top-14 picks, and team officials need to learn as much as possible about as many prospects as possible.
"We think the draft's a good draft," Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said. "We feel like we'll be able to find players who can help us where we're selecting, and sometimes you can't say that about a draft. So overall we think it's a good draft."
The Magic can't afford to worry much about the absences of Embiid, Parker and Wiggins.
The Magic face a harsh reality. Even after they finished this past season with the league's third-worst record, the Magic will have just a 47.0 percent chance of winning a top-three pick and a 53.0 percent chance of picking anywhere from fourth through sixth. In other words, there's a real chance that Embiid, Parker and Wiggins already will have been drafted before Orlando makes its first pick.
Orlando's second lottery pick — which will be the less favorable of the Denver Nuggets' pick and the New York Knicks' pick — most likely will be 12th overall.
Magic officials expect to interview 18 players in Chicago this week — the maximum allowed at the combine. Those interviewees likely will include 6-foot-6 Australian point guard Dante Exum, 6-foot-9 Kentucky power forward Julius Randle, 6-foot-4 Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, 6-foot-10 Indiana big man Noah Vonleh and 6-foot-9 Arizona power forward Aaron Gordon.
Hennigan, assistant general managers Scott Perry and Matt Lloyd, director of college scouting Brian Wright, coach Jacque Vaughn and lead assistant coach James Borrego will sit in on the interviews.
Magic scouts and executives have watched Randle, Smart, Vonleh and Gordon extensively, but Exum is more of a mystery because he grew up in Australia and hasn't played college basketball in the U.S.
Most draft experts regard Exum as the best point guard prospect, while Smart is valued primarily because of the intangibles he brings.
Randle is rugged and could become a top rebounder. Vonleh has the potential to stretch the floor with his outside shooting. And Gordon is a superb athlete who has great potential as a defender.
The Magic would like to bring as many draft prospects as possible to Central Florida in the weeks leading up to the draft on June 26.
Whether the players accept those invitations likely will depend on how the Magic fare in the lottery. If the team snags a top-three pick, then Embiid, Parker and Wiggins almost certainly will agree to visit Orlando, take physicals for the Magic and be interviewed by team officials.
But if the Magic don't receive a top-three pick, then Embiid, Parker and Wiggins will have less incentive to travel to Orlando.
That would put the Magic in a bad spot if the team attempts to trade for a top-three pick: Conceivably, the team may not be able to meet with Embiid, Parker and Wiggins before draft night.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun