The Orlando Magic have greatly benefited from having their G League affiliate located within driving distance of the Amway Center, the parent club’s home arena and where they practice.
Current Magic players such as Jonathan Isaac, Wes Iwundu, Khem Birch and Amile Jefferson have all spent time in Lakeland at various points of their young careers, all improving in one way or another through their G League experiences.
Add Melvin Frazier Jr., Orlando’s second round draft pick in 2018, to that list. While Orlando has been on its longest road trip of the season, the 23-year-old has been in Polk County sharpening his skills and gaining more confidence.
“It’s helping me,” the native of New Orleans said. “I’m not getting much playing time up there (with Orlando) so they sent me down just to get some runs in, keep me going, keep me flowing. I come down here and just do what I can to help myself and help the team too.”
In the four games he has appeared in with Lakeland during this time, Frazier has averaged 17.5 points on 47.5 percent shooting from the floor. Even more noticeable, though, is what he’s been able to show on the defensive end. Not only is he averaging three steals per game during this stretch, Frazier has made it awfully difficult for opponents to get clean shots off because of his length and versatility.
In Lakeland’s most recent game – a 104-98 victory over the Windy City Bulls at RP Funding Center – Frazier came up huge down the stretch on both sides of the ball. On offense, his dunk with 4:16 remaining put Lakeland in the lead. A couple minutes later, with the Magic ahead by three, the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder blocked a shot taken by Milton Doyle, Windy City’s top scorer.
One of Frazier’s attributes that made him such an intriguing prospect coming out of Tulane was his nearly 7-foot-2 wingspan, unique for someone who plays his position. With his hard work and determination, his game has evolved and he’s confident it won’t be much longer before it translates into success at the higher level.
“I’m shooting the ball pretty well. My vision of the game. Everything is slowing down to me. Making plays for others and myself. Overall everything,” he said about where his game has grown since his rookie season.
Especially with one of its two-way contract players, B.J. Johnson, with the parent club on the West Coast, Lakeland has relied on Frazier in key moments in these last few games. The lineup on the floor to close out the win over the Bulls included him and Vic Law, who was recently promoted to a two-way player for his strong play thus far this season.
Lakeland Head Coach Stan Heath has been impressed with what he has seen from Frazier – not just based on what he has done on the court but his positive demeanor as well.
“His attitude has been fantastic and that’s the most important thing because you’re living a different life when you come to the G League,” Heath said. “I think this is really healthy for him. Part of development is not just getting shots up, working out in the gym. It’s playing in real games. That’s good for Melvin to be able to play in real games.”