For Jason McIntyre
FOX Sports Betting Analyst
The orlando magic earned first pick in 2022 NBA Draft, and if you’re betting on who the player will be, the only word to remember is length.
And that brings me to Jabari Smith Jr., my best bet for the first overall pick in the draft.
Let’s discuss why. Under general manager John Hammond, the Magic have prioritized length. In 2017, he surprised draft bettors by choosing FSU’s Jonathan Isaac, the 6-foot-10 power forward whose wingspan measured seven feet. Hammond chose Issac over much more successful college talents like Lauri Markkanen, Donovan Mitchell (13) and Bam Adebayo (14).
The book is still out for Issac as injuries have derailed Isaac’s career. He has missed the past two seasons and has appeared in just 136 games in a Magic uniform. Still, most would consider overlooking Mitchell and Adebayo as big misses.
A year later, the Magic drafted another “long player” sixth overall in center Mo Bamba from Texas. This time again manhandling Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who were selected eighth and ninth, respectively.
What happened the following year? You guessed it. The trend continued.
In 2019, Orlando drafted Chuma Okeke from Auburn. He was coming off injury, but he fit the long-wing profile that the Magic like. In that draft, Brandon Clarke was ranked 21st. NBA fans will recognize Clarke’s name as a high-impact player during the Grizzlies’ playoff run this year. Grant Williams, also known as Boston’s Game 7 hero, was ranked 22nd.
The Magic haven’t won a playoff series since 2010. Are they close? Probably not, so I’d rule out Paolo Banchero, the most NBA-ready player in the draft. The Magic have invested in Wendell Carter at the center spot, and Mo Bamba may have another year to prove his worth. So the pick is probably not Chet Holmgren.
This brings me to my bet. Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. is the type of player the Magic are looking for. He is a good shot, roomy, standing at 6 feet 10 inches with a wingspan of 7 feet 1 inch. Smith Jr. plans to emulate the mold of Chris Bosh. He turned 19 this May, so I expect his first year to be a tough one as he tries to help right the ship in Isaac’s absence.
But, by the third or fourth year, if Smith Jr. can reach his potential, he can buck Orlando’s tendency to pick underperforming long players and turn the Magic into a playoff team again.
While everyone is opting for Holmgren or Banchero, give me Smith Jr. as the first pick in the next draft.
CHOOSE: Jabari Smith Jr. (+100 on FOX Bet) will be the first overall pick in the NBA Draft
Jason McIntyre is a betting analyst for FOX Sports who also writes about the NFL and NBA draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing NFL, college football and NBA betting content for FOX Sports. He had a betting podcast for FOX, “Coming Up Winners,” in 2018 and 2019. Before coming to FOX, he created The Big Lead website, which he sold in 2010.
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