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Why Chuma Okeke Makes Sense in the Long Run
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Why Chuma Okeke Makes Sense in the Long Run

Why Chuma Okeke Makes Sense in the Long Run
Photo Credit: Gary Bassing/NBAE/Getty Images
ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 21: 2019 NBA Draftee Chuma Okeke speaks with the meda during a press conference on June 21, 2019 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images)

Why Chuma Okeke Makes Sense in the Long Run

Since the Dwight Howard trade, I’ve been paying more attention to the NBA Draft. I look at the new batch of talent with child-like optimism, thinking the lottery pick would be the piece we need to get back into the playoffs. However, this year was different. The Magic didn’t have a lottery pick, so I had no idea what to expect. Could this guy be a key role player, or would we get the rare mid-draft superstar. They had a bevy of choices — from Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker to Virginia’s Ty Jerome to UNC’s Nassir Little. As Commissioner Adam Silver walks to the podium, I’m flip-flopping my choices. I want NAW...no wait. Jerome? No. Maybe we’ll get Nassir. No, it’s NAW. Here comes Commissioner Adam Silver who said...

 

“With the 16th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic select…

 

CHUMA OKEKE!” 

 

……

 

…...

 

… wait, what? 

 

Many Magic fans, including myself, were baffled by the Orlando Magic’s pick. It was a pick that had more questions than answers. Why didn’t they trade down to get this guy? Why draft someone that has a torn ACL? Why him over Nickiel, Nassir, or Ty? I felt like a New York Giants fan after Daniel Jones got drafted. It was a twist that not even M. Night Shyamalan could write. 

 

I sat on this for a while, questioning the decision of General Manager John Hammond and President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman, but after some thought, it makes a lot of sense. If you play fantasy football, you occasionally draft players who are already hurt or suspended in later rounds. Yeah, you won’t get results week 1, but they’ll come through in week 6, 7, or 8. Or, if you play in a keeper league, you play the long game — like drafting Julian Edelman with the last pick in 2017 after he tore his ACL and keeping him so you have a great wide receiver in the 22nd round in 2018.

 

I’m not saying Chuma Okeke is going to be the basketball equivalent to Julian Edelman. In fact, I think one of Okeke’s arms is taller than Edelman. I’m saying that Hammond and Weltman are thinking long term with Okeke. We saw them do the same thing with the Markelle Fultz trade: spend minimal to get an injured player who could greatly impact your franchise in the long run. In this case, spend a mid-round pick and take a chance on someone who would have been easily a top 10 player if it hadn’t been for his torn ACL during the NCAA Tournament. He has a 7 foot wingspan, he’s a great defender, he shoots the 3-ball fairly well, and he’s an unselfish player.

 

Also, let’s not forget that our General Manager and President of Basketball Operations have a combined 50+ years of experience in the NBA. You can call them many things, but “inexperienced” is not one of them. They drafted a solid pick in Jonathon Isaac, Mo Bamba showed promise before his injury, somehow got rid of the Biyombo contract, brought in Steve Clifford who helped create an all-star (and a snubbed all-star), and traded for the 2017 1st overall pick without giving up anything. And, you know, it’s not like they traded Tobias Harris for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova. Or traded away their future superstar for the expiring contract of Serge Ibaka. Or posted a photo of a player signing a contract while showing a whiteboard full of players they’re going after. Pretty much, they’re not Rob Hennigan.

 

I’m not going to say I’m a draft expert, but sometimes we need to have faith in the current administration when it comes to drafting. After all, let’s not forget the last time we got upset over a draft pick… when Aaron Gordon was drafted over Dante Exum in 2014.

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