Putting together my mock big board, which I've been basing more off stats, draft projections, and watching DX videos, I had this pick come around and realize I had one player left on a separate tier from the rest. It was Dario Saric, who I have ranked higher than most people seem to have him.
There comes a certain point where the superstar potential and NBA skills that Saric already has ultimately outweigh the risk that he may not come to the U.S. in the next two years, if not ever. If that weren't a question, he'd be in the discussion for the top 5. But it is, and the weights you assign the risk and reward depend on your situation and your risk appetite.
The Magic are a rebuilding team still and could use more talent. They have a lot of intriguing players already under contract that I'm not sure what to make of. They also have Jason Maxiell, which, lulz.
But maybe more importantly, the franchise has a recent bad experience with drafting an international player only to see him never play in the NBA. With the 11th pick in the 2005 draft, the year after drafting Dwight Howard, the Magic selected a power forward named Fran Vazquez. Vazquez was an athletic forward who many saw as a nice complement to Dwight Howard and was expected to make the NBA leap right away.
DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT
Except he didn't. Not even once. Vazquez never came to the U.S. to play basketball, and Magic fans, nine drafts later, still remember not getting the high draft pick touted to complement their franchise center.
Dario Saric carries that risk, and that risk rightfully will scare away some teams, leaving the potential that the Magic might have another chance to take. Saric is a do-it-all forward, with guard skills in a 6'10" frame. Drawing comparisons to someone like a prime Hedo Turkoglu, and with rich international experience that trumps most college players' experience, he should be NBA-ready now. I would love him for the Sixers, and for a Magic team that could use some playmaking, even with the glut of players at his position, there's a fit. But he has a contract overseas, and a large buyout. Sometimes, you have to take risks.
As we always do with this mock draft, I wanted to consult with a Magic fan for his take. This time, I went to Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) who actually writes for At The Hive. our Charlotte Hornets blog (RIP RUFUS - YOU WILL ALWAYS BE ON FIRE TO ME). Chris is a Magic fan at heart, though, and offered the following his preferences and Saric's (lack of) fit with some of the roster:
The Magic picking at 12 is a weird spot. It's right at that line where many people feel the chances of finding a future all star begin to fall off a cliff compared to the loaded top 10. There's a lot of hype for the super athletic Adreian Payne at this spot and many say Payne is NBA ready. His ability to stretch the floor would work well next to Nikola Vucevic.
However the Magic are already stock full of forwards so this pick would be adding another player to that log jam. There's also James Young out of Kentucky. He's 18 with tons of potential and plays at a wing spot where the Magic could definitely use some improvements. He can play the 3 so the Magic can use him next to Oladipo. Draft Express compares him to Nick Young so he could always be a 6th man.
I also like Nik Stauskas. who already went at #9 and is supposedly the best shooter in the draft. The Magic didn't have a single consistent shooter on the team last season and could definitely use the shooting but I'm not sure he can play next to Oladipo. But again, there's always the 6th man role.
As far as the Saric pick...I have so many bad memories of Fran Vazquez who is STILL in Europe. Of course, Rob Hennigan is drafting this time (and not Otis Smith!) so one has to be a little more confident. He could be stashed over in Europe which would work out well while the Magic figure out what players they're keeping long term and which ones they aren't. However, I think they'd rather have a player that they can see play in the NBA right now vs one they have to wait on.
Thanks to Chris for his take. For what it's worth, my choice came down to Saric and Payne. As mentioned above, read Chris's Hornets work over on At The Hive, and get your Magic fix at Orlando Pinstriped Post.
Sohil has the Timberwolves pick tomorrow.