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Orlando Magic still evaluating all options with No. 1 pick in NBA draft

College basketball season ended almost three months ago, the NBA draft lottery was more than a month ago and the draft itself is later this week.

Seems like the process should be winding down.

Orlando Magic president Jeff Weltman sees it differently.

“I tell you, it’s still early in the process,” Weltman stated Monday.

Translated: The Magic haven’t decided yet what they’ll do on Thursday night when the draft rolls around and they have the No. 1 pick. Other teams have called to gauge what the asking price would be if they want to trade for that selection, and the Magic have evaluated all the top candidates.

But Weltman sees no reason to decide anything before it’s absolutely necessary, especially given the opportunity that Orlando has by holding this No. 1 pick.

“Dialogue is always ongoing,” Weltman said. “But most importantly, we get to do what we want. That’s the real benefit of having the No. 1 pick.”

The top candidates for the pick are well-known: Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. worked out for Orlando earlier this month, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren met with the Magic for multiple days last week and Duke’s Paolo Banchero has been working out with former Magic guard Mike Miller.

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Holmgren stated he came away convinced that “great people” are leading the Magic.

“They’ve got a vision for what they’re trying to put together in Orlando,” Holmgren said.

Weltman wouldn’t say that those are the only three candidates Orlando would consider at No. 1.

“It’s confirmed that there are a lot of talented players at the top of this draft, that’s for sure,” Weltman said.

This is the fourth time that Orlando will be making the No. 1 pick. The Magic took Shaquille O’Neal with the top selection in 1992. Chris Webber was the No. 1 pick by Orlando in 1993, and he got traded that same night for Penny Hardaway and a package of future picks that were eventually turned into Vince Carter and, later, Miller. And in 2004, the Magic selected Dwight Howard with the first pick.

The No. 1 pick on Thursday will join a young core in Orlando that already involves 2017 top pick Markelle Fultz, a pair of top-eight picks from the 2021 draft in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, and Cole Anthony — the No. 15 pick in the 2020 draft.

Orlando also has the No. 6 picks from the 2017 and 2018 draft, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. It’s possible that when next season starts Orlando could have as many as six lottery picks, nine top-16 selections and 12 first-rounders on its roster.

This is all part of the challenge for the Magic — who also have the No. 32 and No. 35 picks this year — going into Thursday: Finding more youth that fits with the current core, finding ways to be better next season and sustainably better for years to come.

“We do want to get better, but not at the expense of rushing back to mediocrity,” Weltman said.

“And we do want to have something sustainable. But you have to elevate the standard to do that. You can’t just stay at the basement level, you know, interminably. So those are conversations that we’re having, which players do that for us.”

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Cleveland Indians send RHP Triston McKenzie back to minors after wild outing

The Indians hope another trip to the minors helps Triston McKenzie eventually stick in the majors.

Cleveland optioned McKenzie to Triple-A Columbus for the fourth time this season on Sunday after the right-hander failed to get out of the first inning against Seattle a day earlier.

President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona met with McKenzie on Sunday morning.

“Like any player, we want to make sure we understand what’s going through their mind and what’s getting in their way of having the results they want,” Antonetti stated.

McKenzie had been called up from Columbus before the match. He issued four walks, including one with the bases loaded, and retired two of the six batters he faced.

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McKenzie, who started the season in the rotation, leads the AL with 39 walks.

He struck out 10 in 5⅓ innings versus the Chicago White Sox, including a club record eight in a row, on May 31 but followed that with Saturday’s short outing.

“We’ve seen he’s capable of pitching really successfully up here, so we know it’s possible,” Antonetti said.

McKenzie, 23, is 1-3 with a 6.38 ERA in 11 games and has struck out 59 in 42⅓ innings. He was a first-round selection in the 2015 draft and pitched in eight games for the Indians last season.

Cleveland used seven relievers Saturday and rallied for a 5-4 win in 10 innings.

The Indians’ rotation has struggled behind Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale. Zach Plesac broke his right thumb when he angrily pulled off his shirt after a poor outing last month. He started playing catch last week, but there’s no timetable for his return.

McKenzie, Logan Allen, J.C. Mejia, Sam Hentges, Cal Quantrill and Eli Morgan have been used as starters, but no one has pitched well enough to secure a rotation spot. Mejia and Quantrill will start the first two games in Cleveland’s upcoming series versus Baltimore. The starter for Thursday is undetermined.

“I don’t think we have any other choice but to look at it creatively,” Antonetti said. “We know we’re going to have to rely on a number of different players. It’s not gonna be able to just, ‘Hey, we’re gonna run the same five guys out there every five days.'”

Infielder Ernie Clement was called up from Columbus.

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