ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orlando Magic will have a chance to make their first lottery pick in seven years Thursday night, though general manager Rob Hennigan said it is far from certain they will use their No. 2 overall pick.
The Magic have interviewed most of the players expected to go in this lottery, including injured big men Nerlens Noel and Anthony Bennett, and guards Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore, the players most often projected to land in Orlando. Hennigan called it a "wide-open draft" and indicated the Magic have reduced their choice to "a handful of players" if they do exercise the pick.
After five straight winning seasons and a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009, the Magic fell to a league-worst 20-62 last season and came out of the lottery with the No. 2 selection. This will be only the fourth time the Magic have had a pick as high as second, and the first time they have drafted in the top 10 since 2004, when they won the lottery and selected Dwight Howard. Their highest pick in the last nine drafts has been 11th.
But Hennigan, overseeing his second draft with Orlando, is not convinced that exercising the second pick this year is the best way to start turning around the franchise.
"There've been some tempting deals so it's our job to figure out what to do," he said. "If we don't find a deal we like, then we'll keep the pick. I'd say at least a half dozen or so (teams) have called us with legitimate ideas to consider, and of those half dozen, there's at least three or four that we're considering pretty sincerely."
The fact that the Magic have checked out so many top prospects -- and brought some in for second interviews -- indicates that they might want to trade down a few spots, perhaps draft a less expensive player and get a future pick thrown in. Hennigan acknowledged, however, that executing such a trade can be difficult, especially with other teams wanting to implement a similar strategy.
"It's always a challenge to make trades as it is, and I think when you're talking about trades this high in the draft, a lot of thought and creativity has to go into that." he said.
Hennigan emphatically denied a rumored trade which would send veteran swingman Arron Afflalo to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for point guard Eric Bledsoe.
"We have had talks with several teams over the past few weeks, which is customary at this time of year," he said. "I would categorize all of our talks as exploratory at this point. To be honest with you, we haven't had a drop or an ounce of communication with the Clippers for almost three weeks. So if we're about to make a trade with them, I guess I missed that memo."