Q&A: Magic GM John Hammond

Courtesy of Josh Robbins

Orlando Sentinel: What will be theteam’s approach to picking sixth? Will the team go for the best player available or will the team attempt to fill a positional need?

John Hammond: I think that our mindset today is fairly clear and definitive. We are going to be looking to draft the best player on the board with the sixth pick.

OS: What’s the rationale there? Is it an attempt to find a player you can build around?

Hammond: Especially when you get this high into the draft, I think very few teams are thinking, ‘We’re going to fill a need.’ The standard thought process going into something like this is to always look for the best player on the board.

OS: How does this draft compare to other drafts? Do you agree that this draft is deeper than most?

Hammond: I do think it’s a deep draft. Time will tell, but I think as we’re looking at it today, there may not be that transcendent player. There may not be that Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James or Patrick Ewing type of player that when you draft that player, you know that player has that ability to turn your team into basically a championship-caliber team in a matter of a few years.

But I think that there are players in this draft, especially in the top of this draft, that have a chance to be All-Stars in this league and maybe multiple-time All-Stars in this league. And if you’re drafting a player like that, he could be a building-block piece to your team.

OS: Is the number-six player on the Magic’s board a potential All-Star?

Hammond: We think so, yes. We definitely think so. With that being said, the drafts are what they are today. As we’re talking about, and going through, the top six, eight or 10 players in this draft, if you look at the ages of probably the majority of those players, those players are 19 years old or maybe 20 years old. So they’re extremely young coming into the league. That’s been the history of the past five or 10 years of the draft, and this year is going to be no different. So we’re more than likely going to be drafting a younger player. We think that player has that potential ability to be an All-Star player, but it’s going to take work on his part and work on our part to get him there.

OS: You have a reputation for drafting players who have length and have significant defensive versatility: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker and John Henson among them. Some of the picks Jeff has been involved with during his prior stops have similar qualities. Is that the goal with the Magic?

Hammond: Jeff’s philosophy, and my philosophy in the past, has been that. We love length. We love athleticism. But a critical part of the game today is: Can a player stretch the floor and shoot the 3-point shot? So if you can get a combination of something like that — a player who can play multiple positions, a player who has length, a player who has some athleticism, a player that can eventually step on the floor and stretch the floor — in this day and age in this league, those are potential All-Star players.

OS: Will the Magic consider selecting a draft-and-stash player at No. 25 in order to preserve some cap space for free agency this July?

Hammond: Potentially we could. But we also have that ability with the 33rd and 35th picks. I think we’ll keep all those options open.

OS: How big is the gap between the fifth player and the sixth player on the Magic’s board?

Hammond: We don’t feel like there is a gap. And we feel confident with the sixth pick.

OS: How hectic have these last few weeks been for you and for Jeff just to get prepared with a new team — not just for the draft but also free agency and everything else?

Hammond: There are so many things on the board in a short amount of time. But we signed up for this responsibility and could not be more excited to be working at it.

OS: Do you have enough hours in the day?

Hammond: You make it work. That’s something that neither one of us and our entire staff are afraid of. We’re not afraid of working. We’ll put in the necessary hours to do so.

OS: How have Jeff and you attempted to get to know, and start to build relationships with, the players on the current roster?

Hammond: We’re doing that slowly but surely. There have been some players who have been here in Orlando. We’ve had a chance to visit with them and connect with them. With other players, we’ve been doing it by phone or text. That’s a work in progress as well.

OS: The Raptors and the Bucks haven’t played in the Orlando Pro Summer League — at least not recently. Do Jeff and you intend to continue to operate the league here?

Hammond: I think that is the plan moving forward. When I was with Detroit, we came to the Orlando summer league. That was quite a few years ago, and at that time, it wasn’t even played at this facility. So I’ve been a part of the Orlando summer league, although it was many years ago. I think it’s a great league. It’s a great opportunity for our organization to host it. It’s a great opportunity to get NBA people into our city for a more-extended period of time. It’s great to have players in our facilities and in our city.

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