Magic pick Auburn’s Chuma Okeke No. 16 overall in NBA draft

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Orlando Magic have selected Auburn forward Chuma Okeke with the 16th pick of the NBA draft, adding a player they hope will bolster the team’s frontcourt depth.

The Magic are coming off a 42-40 finish, the team’s first playoff berth in seven years and drafted outside that lottery for the first time since 2012.

They selected sixth or higher in five of the previous six previous drafts, although only three of those picks — Aaron Gordon (2014), Jonathan Isaac (2017) and Mo Bamba (2018) remain on the current roster.

In Okeke, the Magic believe they acquired someone who has a chance to develop into a productive player but not necessarily contribute a lot as a rookie.

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A knee injury sidelined the 6-foot-8 forward during Auburn’s run to the Final Four last season.

Okeke, 20, averaged 12 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore for the Tigers.

“I don’t think we would look at drafting a rookie and expecting that he would make a huge dent on our team, first year,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said earlier this week.

“You always hope that would be the case but you can never plan for that, especially the way the draft is trending with players coming out earlier,” Weltman added. “We’re fine with being patient, with developing a young player and sticking with him.”

The Magic averaged 26 wins per season during its six-year playoff drought, so winning 42 games and earning the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference in their first season under coach Steve Clifford was a significant step forward.

Weltman’s top offseason priorities are trying to re-sign center Nikola Vucevic and sixth-man Terrence Ross, as the well as the progress of Bamba (left tibia fracture) and guard Markelle Fultz (thoracic outlet syndrome) who are recovering from injuries.

Bamba was the sixth overall pick last June and Fultz, selected No. 1 overall by Philadelphia in 2017, was acquired in a February trade.

Both players are just 21 years old and could be part of a solid foundation moving forward.

This is the third draft in Orlando for Weltman, who spent four years with the Toronto Raptors, including one season as general manager, before joining the Magic in March 2017.

The Raptors, who eliminated Orlando in the first round of the playoffs, won this year’s NBA title without a lottery pick on their roster.

“The guys that are drafted outside the lottery and become superstars, you never expect that the day you draft them. You just want to draft the best player you can and coach him up,” Weltman said.

“Those guys are self-made players to an extent,” Weltman added. “They’re such incredibly hard workers, and we’re always looking for those guys, the guys that are going to outperform their draft slot.”

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