The Orlando Magic continued their steadied, methodical march towards the top of the NBA ranks with an interesting pick in Thursday nights NBA draft. Orlando Selected Auburn forward Chuma Okeke with the 16th pick.
Okeke averaged 12 points, 6.8 rebounds per game while at Auburn and average 38.7% from 3-point range.
Here’s the rub. Okeke tore his ACL in the NCAA tournament and may not be able to help the magic this season. Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman says it’s not an issue. They like not only the player, they like the man.
“He was someone we had been targeting for quite a while and we felt he was an under-the-radar player.” Weltman said. “When he did suffer his injury in the tournament, obviously that’s going to have an impact on anyone’s draft status, but we’ve done all of our research and we are comfortable. We feel this is just going to be a bump in the road for him and he’s going to be an excellent player for us for several years.’’
Chuma, who’s father is from Nigeria, came to Auburn from the Atlanta area as a 4-star prospect at 6’7”, 225 pounds and won Mr. Basketball in the state of Georgia his senior season. . Chuma spent his freshmen season at Auburn as the team’s 6th man, playing in all 34 games. He averaged 7.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and was a 39.1% 3-point shooter (34-87).
He moved to a starting role in his sophomore year, where he started every game until his injury in the Sweet 16.
He is two months into his rehab after his surgery and his doctors are please with his progress so far. He is working on leg strength and the Magic have no problem being patient with him.
“Unfortunately that injury happened in the tournament, but he’s certainly a player whose best days are in front of him. We feel fortunate to be able to draft him,’’ Weltman said. “It was an ACL and obviously we were comfortable with it. We’ll have to go through that (recovery) process with him and we’ll get into the timetables more once he gets here and we speak to the doctors and talk to him. But (everyone) knows the timetable of ACLs. We expect him to be back some time during the season and we’ll let that kind of, as we always say, happen as it happens. There’s no rush, there’s no rush whatsoever. We are drafting him to be a long-term player for the Orlando Magic.’’
For the Magic, it’s on to get ready for the NBA free agency where key players Nikole Vucevic and Terrance Ross will be testing the free agent market. Both have said that they would love to return to Orlando, but there are going to let the process take its course.