NEW YORK — Orlando Magic executives and fans dreaded hearing these words from the NBA’s deputy commissioner, Mark Tatum.
“And the fourth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft goes to . . .,” Tatum said, pausing as he opened an envelope.
“The Orlando Magic.”
But Tatum did say those words — and he said them when they mattered most, during Tuesday night’s 2014 NBA Draft Lottery in midtown Manhattan.
What a letdown for the Magic.
Even after a horrid season filled with loss after loss after loss, Orlando probably won’t be in a position to select one of the draft’s three most coveted players: Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins, Duke swingman Jabari Parker or Kansas center Joel Embiid.
“Never a dull moment, that’s for sure,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said after the ceremony ended. “Certainly we would have liked to have seen the highest number possible for us. I think all the teams would. But we like where we’re sitting. We feel like we can get a good player, and we feel like we’ve got our work cut out for us here the next couple of weeks to figure out exactly who that is.”
Most likely, the Magic will have to choose from Australian point guard Dante Exum, Arizona power forward Aaron Gordon, Kentucky power forward Julius Randle, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, Indiana big man Noah Vonleh and Croatian forward Dario Saric.
In addition to the fourth pick, the Magic also received the 12th overall pick, a byproduct of the Aug. 2012 trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Magic may attempt to package their two first-round picks and perhaps a player or two already on their roster for the chance to move into the top three in the upcoming draft.
If Orlando doesn’t make a deal, they’ll be at the mercy of the three other teams slated to pick ahead of them: the Cleveland Cavaliers, who’ll pick first; the Milwaukee Bucks, who’ll pick second; and the Philadelphia 76ers, who’ll pick third.
The Cavaliers held a 1.7 percent chance of winning Tuesday night.
But they still won for the third time in four years.
The announcement prompted the Cavaliers’ new general manager, David Griffin, to clap his hands and pump his fists.
“It was incredible,” Griffin said. “When Cleveland didn’t pop up at nine, I knew obviously we had moved up and I had to gather myself for a second. Just a remarkable feeling.”
Magic front-office executives have to be disappointed. Franchise co-founder Pat Williams, who represented the team on-stage Tuesday night, wore a good-luck mock turtleneck. Magic CEO Alex Martins carried a lucky wooden pig given to him by one of his daughters.
The good-luck charms didn’t work.
“I think everybody in the room wants to get No. 1,” Martins said afterward. “You just watch each one of those logos get opened up in the envelopes and you hope that your name’s not there until No. 1. But the good news is that it wasn’t there at five or six, either. Number 4 will be a very talented player coupled with another very talented player at No. 12.”
Embiid missed the end of Kansas’ season with a back injury, and there are questions about whether he has healed fully. Embiid didn’t attend last week’s draft combine, and, therefore, didn’t undergo any testing on his back.
If teams have concerns about his back as the draft approaches, the top tier of players could shrink from three to two, and Embiid possibly could fall to Orlando at No. 4.
“We’ll have to really understand exactly what all the medical conditions are for these players, and certainly we’ll have to feel comfortable with the medical condition of any player,” Hennigan said.
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.