The Magic need a bit of everything right now. So they will be looking, most likely, for the best player available in the draft. And there are a lot of players from all positions that could be available at 19.
Of the centers that figure to be available, Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie might be the most game-ready at this point. He is a senior and has three years of high-level college basketball under his belt. In those three years -- two of them at UTEP and last year at Mississippi State -- Moultrie proved that he could score in the post and battle on the boards.
In other words, he can do all the things you expect from a post player. And he had to do a good chunk of that sharing the pivot with Renardo Sydney. That forced Moultrie to develop a bit of a jumper and a way to spread the floor.
Surely that experience playing with another big would be helpful if Dwight Howard stays (feels like a bigger if). Moultrie though will be a good power forward to have around. He has great size at 6-foot-11, 249 pounds to play that position. He was a member of the Conference USA all-freshman team in 2009 after averaging nearly nine points and eight rebounds per game.
He improved his scoring and rebounding pretty much every year of his three year college career, culminating in a stellar season last year where he averaged 16.4 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game while shooting 54.9 percent from the floor and even 8 for 18 from beyond the arc. Those are stats better than Anthony Davis actually. In the same conference. Just food for thought.
The Good: Those stats from his junior year are pretty impressive and, like many graduates, you like seeing the gradual improvement in his game. And Moultrie certainly is there.
He is extremely athletic and has good instincts on both ends of the floor. He jumps high and is aggressive on both ends of the floor. Best of all, it looks like he is comfortable with his size and length, something that is not always true with young big men. Moultrie has a lot of tools and knows how to use them, doing a great job being a dominant post stopper at the college level.
Look at what he did against Anthony Davis -- 16 points, 11 rebounds, 6-for-10 shooting in 39 minutes of the Bulldogs' 73-64 loss in February.
He showed a lot of improvement from his first two years at UTEP to last year at Mississippi State and so you hope that the improvement is not over. I, mean, he looks a whole lot bigger than most of the post players that play at the college level. And he started out as a wing player, so he has some guard skills to add to his pretty developed post game. If Moultrie is at 19 -- and it is starting to look like he will go decently well before that -- he will be a pretty ready player to take.
The Bad: Moultrie is still learning how to play in the post though. He was simply bigger and quicker than a lot of the players he went up against and was able to use some of his wing skills in the post to get baskets. Watching him sometimes, you kind of get the feeling that he uses his athleticism to overpower a lot of players he faces rather than any technical skill. That will come with time and development.
Still, you wonder if he is a power forward or a center. If he is a power forward, can he develop his jumper and step out of the paint? How will he do against bigger, stronger post players as a center? Positional questions always are a problem with these players, am I right?
Moultrie still has a lot of developing to do and it would have been nice to see him get another solid year under his belt and further solidify his position in the Draft. He like to face up a lot offensively, showing that proclivity toward being a wing player. That is not what he will be in the pros. He will have to improve his back-to-the-basket game at the next level.
Is Moultrie going to be a superstar at the NBA level? No, probably not. This means he is going to have to find a way to contribute with his defense and rebounding more than his scoring ability. This is always a difficult thing for young players to do. For a guy like Moultrie it will be absolutely key. That means he will have to put on some muscle to his strong frame to enter those battles.
Draft Sites Say:
NBADraft.net: "High-level athlete combo forward with excellent size and length. Versatile offensive skill set to score inside/outside (16.5 PPG). Could be seen as being big enough to play center in today's NBA. He possesses rare agility at 6'11" in tandem with a hunger for activity and relentless motor. Runs the court like a guard, with a fluid gait and long, easy strides. . . . Moultrie seems to have transitioned from a SF to PF this season, sacrificing continued perimeter development in the process. Being that he's not a true post option, he’ll likely see time at both spots on the next level. He's caught somewhere in between, which can actually be viewed as a strength and serves to illustrate his versatility."
Joe Treutlein, DraftExpress: "Not much has changed from a physical perspective for Moultrie since the last time we saw him play. He's still a very good athlete with all the running and leaping ability a big man prospect could need, while possessing excellent size and length at 6'11. He still needs to continue to get stronger, but has the frame needed to do so as he matures physically over the next few years."
Ed Isaacson, NBA Draft Blog: "Moultrie has shown some improvement playing in the post, but he still has a lot of work to do to be able to function there at the NBA level. It starts with trying to establish position on the blocks. When he first looks to get position, he does a good job sealing off the defender, though he could use his lower body a bit more to create some space. However, once the defender starts getting physical, he gives up the spot too quickly. He needs to make sure he fights for that space."
Evan Dunlap, Orlando Pinstriped Post: "Arnett Moultrie is an interesting prospect: a combo forward for much of his college career, he has the body of an NBA power forward or center. Moultrie dominated the SEC as a senior, ranking second in the conference in scoring (16.4 per game) and first in rebounding (10.5). In addition, he shot 54.9 percent from the floor and an impressive 78 percent from the foul line."
Sam Amick, Sports Illustrated: "Moultrie told reporters in Chicago that he expected to be taken anywhere from No. 7 to No. 17, but he'd be a terrific match with the Magic. The possibility that Dwight Howard could be traded is back in play and Orlando has room for improvement anyway in a frontcourt that includes Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis. Moultrie averaged 16.4 points (on 54.9 percent shooting) and 10.5 rebounds last season."
Final Word: Moultrie has a ton of talent and a ton of potential. He is athletic and comfortable in his body and with what he can do. The question is can he improve and develop into a more solid player in the post and around the basket. Will he get the technical skills and succeed without being the best athlete on the floor. It certainly is possible.
He has a lot of refinement to go through, but he knows what to do when he gets around the basket and will play aggressively. He is climbing draft boards right now it seems, but, if he is available at 19, he is a player the Magic should pounce on to develop.