Tag Archives: Aaron Gordon

The Worse Draft Picks & Draft Night Moves In Magic History

The NBA Draft is a time of hope for struggling franchises and their fans bases.

The hope is that with one pick, or many, fortunes will change and fans can expect their team to be one of the sixteen competing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy next spring.

The Orlando Magic has had impressive luck in the lottery in terms of getting the top pick (1992, 1993, 2004). Those picks allowed them to draft Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber and flip him for Penny Hardaway as well as three first round picks, and Dwight Howard.

Those players have defined the Magic franchise in their 28-year history. But outside of those three, they haven’t been nearly as magical with their other picks.

With the draft finally here, I looked back at the worse picks and draft night moves in franchise history …

MARIO HEZONJA (SF), 5th PICK IN 2015

You can’t call Hezonja a bust, yet. So I’m not saying he’s a bad pick like the others on this list. Orlando drafted him because they believe he can be a knock down shooter with the versatility to play three positions. Draft experts said he’s the one guy in the class that could win a dunk contest and the 3-point shootout. In his two-year career he’s only averaging 16.5 minutes player per game. As far as his shooting, he was eleventh on the team in 3-point percentage (.29%) in 2016-2017.

Hezonja hasn’t lived up to being a top 6 overall draft pick. Photo Credit: ESPN.com

What hurts Hezonja is he went one pick after Kristaps Porzingis. Boy, if only the New York Knicks and Phil Jackson would’ve made skipping him one of their many mistakes. But, what also hurts the Magic is Devin Booker went 13th to the Phoenix Suns after he openly campaigned to be selected by the Magic. Booker looks primed to be an All-Star after ascending to be the Suns best player in only his second season.

I get that the Magic already had Victor Oladipo at shooting-guard, but considering the ill-advised move to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it would’ve lessened the blow if Booker was on the roster. Orlando SORELY needs Booker’s shooting ability.

AARON GORDON (SF/PF), 4th PICK IN 2014

Double-0 AG has shown flashes in his time in central Florida. He’s also a fan favorite for his dunking exploits. The upcoming 2017-18 season is going to be a make or break for him. I think it’s a bad pick because who was selected after him. Zach Levine went number 13 to the Minnesota T-Wolves. Dario Saric, who Orlando selected with their second pick (14th overall) before trading him to Philadelphia for Elfrid Payton, is a combo SF/PF and a better shooter than Gordon. He is also more athletic than some “experts” thought entering the draft process. Saric is a key cog in the 76ers “process” and likely could be the 2016-2017 NBA Rookie of the Year.

DANIEL ORTON (C), 29th PICK IN 2010

Orton, a 6’10” center out of Kentucky, played in sixteen games in his one season with the Magic. He only lasted three seasons in the Association. Much like Gordon, the selection of Orton is a bad move because who Orlando could have selected.

Hassan Whiteside went four picks later (33rd overall) to the Sacramento Kings. Coming into the draft, Whiteside was said to be immature, which led to him being bounced around and out of the league before catching on with the Miami Heat. Of course Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat were still on the roster, but Whiteside would’ve benefit from playing for Stan Van Gundy and a team fresh off of back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances and an NBA Final.

Clearly depth at that position was a focus, this would’ve solidified that need, especially when you look at how they moved Gortat later that year.

On the other hand they could have selected a playmaking wing. Lance Stephenson should have been considered, especially with the loss of Hedu Turkoglu to free agency the previous summer. The Indiana Pacers drafted Stephenson with the fortieth pick.

FRAN VAZQUEZ (PF/C), 11th PICK IN 2005.

This may be the worse overall pick in team history. There’s not much to say about him since he never played an NBA game. The power forward/center combo choose the Spanish league over playing in the Association.

Danny Granger went six picks later to the Indiana Pacers. He became an All-Star.  If you wanted a post player, you could have chosen David Lee, out of the University of Florida. Lee went thirtieth to the New York. He also became an All-Star and NBA Champion.

JERYL SASSER (SG), 22nd PICK IN 2001

Sasser, a 6’6″ shooting-guard from SMU, played eighty-two games in his two-year NBA career. Orlando desperately needed backcourt help at both positions. Darrell Armstrong, Dee Brown and Jaren Jackson, in their seventh and eleventh seasons respectively, were their key rotational players. Six picks after the Magic selected Sasser, the San Antonio Spurs drafted Tony Parker, three picks after that, the Golden State Warriors picked Gilbert Arenas.

CURTIS BORCHARDT (C), 18th PICK IN 2002.

Who? Exactly!

The seven-foot center was traded to the Utah Jazz for power forward Ryan Humphrey out of Notre Dame. Humphrey played thirty-five games for Orlando before he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies along with Mike Miller. He was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies along with Mike Miller after only playing thirty-five games. Giving up Miller was a terrible move by itself, especially since he just won Rookie of the Year in 2001. In return the Magic received Drew Gooden and Gordon Giricek. Orlando also gave Memphis a 2003 first round pick, and a second round rick in 2004.

As with most of these draft mistakes, it’s amplified by whom they could have drafted. Tayshaun Prince went twenty-third to the Detroit Pistons. Carlos Boozer went in the second round with the thirty-fifth pick. Both became All-Stars, either of those would have improved the Magic drastically.

KEON CLARK (C), 13th PICK IN 1998

The Magic won’t get killed for this pick because the LA Clippers selected Michael Olawakandi first overall. Many call him the biggest number one overall bust in league history.

Nevertheless, Orlando still blew this pick. Nazr Mohammed would have been a better choice. He went 29th overall to the Utah Jazz.

Orlando should’ve selected two power forwards who eventually spent significant time in a Magic uniform in Pat Garrity (19th overall) and Rashard Lewis (32nd overall). Al Harrington, the prep star out of St. Patrick’s high school in New Jersey, was also available. Harrington went twenty-fifth to the Indiana Pacers and played in 981 games in his sixteen-year career.

JOHNNY TAYLOR (SG), 17th PICK IN 1997

Taylor played only seventeen games with the Magic. He was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 1999, and back to Orlando in 2000.

STANLEY ROBERTS (C), 23rd PICK IN 1991

Roberts was the man in the middle before Shaq came along the following draft. Roberts played only one of his eight seasons in central Florida, appearing in only fifty-five games. However his and the team’s overall poor play is how the franchise ended up with enough Ping-Pong balls to win the draft lottery and select Shaq the following draft.

So as you can see, Magic management has been consistent at one thing, getting this draft thing wrong. Hopefully new General Manager John Hammond and President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman can bring some of the fortune they’ve had in their others stops to the 407.

Remember, as important as it is whom you pick, it’s going to be exacerbated by whom you could’ve or didn’t select.

 

 

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What. Is. Orlando. Doing?

That’s the question many NBA insiders and fans around the Nation as well as in central Florida are asking.

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The Magic have quickly gone from a rebuild with young talent, to a jump start with seasoned Vets. Photo Credit: Kyle Jones

Now that the moratorium is lifted and the deals are official, I’ll tell you what they’re doing. What teams in the Midwest and the heartland of America far from the glitz and glamour of the East and West coast have to do. Build a team that is a reflection of the region, city and its residents. Orlando is a young, up and coming transplant city. Meaning many of the people who call it home didn’t grow up in the area, and have migrated here searching for new opportunity and a more laid back life, but still with plenty of variety to suit their many tastes.

That’s what I see in this newly constructed roster. Variety, or in this case versatility, and low key. No All-Stars. No reality TV Stars. No TMZ. Just a bunch of guys who want the opportunity to play ball and be successful at it.

General Manager Rob Hennigan and new head coach Frank Vogel are wise to not waste more time throwing flimsy pipe dreams into the sky hoping they’ll bring back top tier All-Stars in free agency. Nope. Almost three decades of Magic Basketball in central Florida have proven that no amount of talk about no state income tax, great tropical weather, beaches, and family atmosphere pitches are going to sway the premier athletes to come this way. Sure Tracy McGrady did, but remember he was from nearby Auburndale in Polk County down Interstate Four. Yes, perennial All-Star Grant Hill did it in his prime, yet injured when he signed. But, wasn’t his wife, Grammy Nominated Singer Tamia, just as much influential of that decision for her career too? Yes, Rashard Lewis and even Horace Grant made their way to the Magic’s Kingdom, but they came to play Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal, respectively.

The goal is for one of your core young guys to breakout and be the All-Star. Nik Vucevic is a candidate. The high-flying Aaron Gordon is a candidate. 2015 5th overall pick Mario Hezonja is a candidate. And Serge Ibaka, who will turn 27 years old during the season, is a candidate. This is how you attract key free agents, by having a guy already in place that they want to play with.

You also don’t turn things around by holding on to every single draft pick you’ve made. At some point you have to use their value to flip it for something else you value more. Like defensive shot blocking, rebounding and veterans with significant playoff experience. Otherwise you become what the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers are. Floundering in obscurity and futility.

What Hennigan has done with this roster retooling, is send a message to his young guys to step up or sit down.

Did you notice that the three key free agent signees play the same position as the guys that are perceived to be cornerstone pieces? Nik Vucevic is the best offensive player on the team, but with serious defensive flaws. So, they gave Bismack Biyombo 70 plus million dollars, just in case Vucevic doesn’t step up his defense. Aaron Gordon is the preferred starter at small forward, but they signed Jeff Green to a one-year $15 million contract, just in case Gordon doesn’t capitalize on his breakout second half of the 2015-16 season in the aftermath of his Dunk Contest fame. Elfrid Payton is the guy Scott Skiles and Hennigan reportedly didn’t see eye-to-eye on as a true NBA starting point guard—which ultimately led to the blessing in disguise of his resignation—yet Hennigan still signed 8-year pro D.J. Augustine. Of course this jump-start happened by shipping the face of the franchise (albeit a short run) in Victor Oladipo out of town for Ibaka. The young core of guys better get the message, and quick.

But on another note. What if, the Magic got Victor Oladipo to come back as a free agent when he’s available? Looks sort of promising now that the Oklahoma City Thunder won’t be what we thought they would be when he was traded there on draft night. It’s just a thought, but if the Magic get into the playoffs quickly, like say this coming season, why wouldn’t a talent like Oladipo want to come back and join the uprising? Hmmm.

’15-’16 Magic: Promising Start, Ugly Middle, Hopeful Finish

How does the saying go?  Take one step forward, then two steps backwards? Yeah, that’s the story of the 2015-2016 Orlando Magic.

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The Magic took a big step forward in 2015-2016, but are still a long way from where they should be. Photo Credit: Magic.com

Year four of the Magic rebuilding plan looked headed toward a date in the postseason, early on. They reached as high as the 5th seed in the standings in late December, and were the 6th seed in the eastern conference with a 19-14 record on New Year’s Day. But that was short lived.

A horrific 2-12 month of January started a dismal second half of the season that had them looking like a team headed back to the top three of the draft lottery. The team finished with a second half record of 15-26.

Orlando was supposed to be this season’s version of the 2014-2015 Milwaukee Bucks. Get in the playoffs, then either win a series or push a team to 6 or 7 games. Instead they went down quicker than the Titanic or the Hindenburg.

Sure there have been some positives. This team won 35 games, 10 more than last season, and the most since the abbreviated 2011-2012 season when they won 37 of 66 games in Dwight Howard’s last season in central Florida. They also finished strong, going 6-4 in their last 10, with three of the teams they beat in that stretch playoff bound.

Aaron “Air” Gordon’s aerial assault in the Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star weekend in Toronto and in the games to follow finally brought some positive attention to the franchise on the court. He’s enjoying a Vince Carter-like boost into the National spotlight without having even winning the contest.

Gordon is by far the most improved player on the Magic this season as he constantly improved each game with more and more playing time. Something I started begging for in the first month of the season.

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Gordon is a corner stone piece for the Magic’s return to the postseason. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

With this being his de facto rookie campaign since an injury limited him to 36 games in his true first season in the Association, Gordon looks to have the makings of being a franchise cornerstone piece along with Nik Vucevic and Victor Oladipo. Outside of those three, the rest of the roster is expendable. Which is why Orlando should be a major player in free agency.

Last summer the Magic tried to address their obvious needs for an All-Star veteran with significant playoff experience. There was a strong flirtation with Atlanta’s Paul Millsap when they offered him a 4 year/$80 million contract that he seriously considered. This summer they’ll have some very good options, and cap room to spend.

Lake Howell Grad and former Florida Gator Chandler Parsons will be a free agent, as well as Atlanta Hawk power forward and 2-time National Champion Florida Gator Al Horford. Both would provide the veteran leadership this team DESPERATELY needs. Parson has only played in 13 playoff games in three of his first four seasons in the NBA, but averaged 18.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game.

Horford has played in 64 playoff games averaging 12.9 points and 8.7 rebounds a game while shooting 49%. The 4-time All-Star in 9 seasons, has led the Hawks to the playoffs 8 times. Something that was unfathomable for that franchise when the Hawks drafted him 3rd overall in 2007. He’s a high character guy, that provides steady leadership and toughness.

Another Florida connection that should be on the Magic’s radar is Horford’s 2006-2007 National Champion teammate Joakim Noah. Noah is coming off a season where he missed 53 games with a shoulder injury, but from a defensive and leadership standpoint, the former 2014 Defensive Player of the Year has EXACTLY what Orlando’s young nucleus needs. Neither he or Horford are long-term options, but this team needs to get to the playoffs and for a 3-year plan, adding one or two of the three would go a loooong way in achieving that goal.

As far as the rumors of a Dwight Howard remarriage, I’m not onboard, and true Magic fans shouldn’t be either. That cut is too deep. Dwight’s indecision was worse than LeBron’s Decision.

But if D12 wants to reclaim his throne in the Magic Kingdom and Magic Management are seriously interested in signing him, he needs to realize he won’t be the number one post option on offense. That’s Vucevic. Sure Dwight should get more than the 4-8 shots a game he seems to average with Houston, but he’s not the same player that bolted for L.A. in 2012. At this point in his career, Dwight’s best bet is to mold his career into that of one time Magic player, and Detroit Piston defensive great Ben Wallace.

However, Howard’s defense and rebounding are a fit for Orlando. At 30 years old Dwight can still protect the rim at a high level. The Magic were 11th worse in the NBA in opponents field goal percentage at 46%, 13th in opponents points per game at 103.7, 15th in points in blocks (5.1 ppg), 13th in points allowed in the paint (43.5 per game). Dwight’s presence in the paint could be enough to steer those numbers in the favor of Orlando.

Maybe one of the guys I named could do for this unit what Horace Grant did for the Shaq-Penny teams of the 90’s. This Magic team has potential, and with the right veteran or two, this team should be in the 2016-2017 playoffs. They must. They have to make the playoffs next season. The rebuilding can’t continue any longer or everyone must go.

5 takeaways From the Magic’s 1st Win of ’15

A matchup of 0-3 teams is not usually tantalizing to hoop fans, but the game between the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans was. With New Orleans, you have a top three player in the Association in Anthony Davis who is making his case to be number one. For Orlando, a stable of young, athletic talent looking to take the next step in their development and earn a playoff spot for the first time in three seasons. The Magic got the better of it, with a 103-94 win for their first W of 2015.

Here are 5 key takeaways from Tuesday night’s victory:

1. The Magic can dominate the paint, even when they’re playing against one of the league’s best big men.

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Orlando averaged 48 points a game inside. Against New Orleans, they got 56, 10 of those on fast breaks, created by 14 Pelican turnovers. Nikola Vucevic got the better of the big man matchup with Davis (14 its, 9 rebs.) He scored 22 points on 10/21 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds for his 2nd consecutive double-double.

2. The Magic have several scoring options.

Fournier scored a career high 30 points vs. New Orleans. Photo Credit: @OrlandoMagic/Twitter.com

 They’ve had 3 different leading scorers in their 4 games. Victor Oladipo had 17 game one against the Washington Wizards, Tobias Harris with 30 in the game two double overtime thriller versus the OKC Thunder, and Evan Fournier has led the team twice. 19 against the Chicago Bulls and a career high 30 on 12/20 shooting, 4/9 from 3 point land versus the Pelicans.Head coach Scott Skiles’ squad also produced 22 points off the bench. That helped them hit their season average of 103 points per game.

3. They still commit too many turnovers.

The Magic handed New Orleans the ball 18 times on the night, 12 times in the first half alone. On the season they’re averaging 17 a game. But, I guess that’s to be expected from a young team. The positive is that they cut out those mistakes in the second half, allowing them to escape the 504 with the W.

4. Dwayne Dedmon and Aaron Gordon need more playing time.

The Magic were +10 in the 12 minutes he played. Against New Orleans he had 6 points, 4 rebounds, a block and changed several other shots at the rim. I sincerely believe Dedmon can be groomed into a Tyson Chandler/DeAndre Jordan type of player. A hustle & heart player who can clean the offensive and defensive glass, hold his ground in the post on defense, block and change shots and get easy dunks on the offensive end. Let me make this clear, he’s nowhere near that yet. But, remember what they were at this stage of their career.

Orlando was also +3 in Gordon’s 4:28 minutes of action. In the first two games of the season he was seeing key minutes and was very active on both the offensive and defensive backboards, while contributing effectively on the offensive end. On the season he’s averaging 10.3 ppg and grabbing 5.7 rpg in 19.7 minutes.

5. The Magic have had double-digit leads in three of their first four games.

On Tuesday, Orlando led by as many as 18 points, and 17 at the half. But, they allowed New Orleans to cut it to 6 midway through the 3rd, and led by only 9 going into the fourth.

The positive, unlike against Washington and OKC, every time the Pelicans cut the lead to single digits, the Magic pushed the lead back to double digits before winning by 9. They’ve clearly learned from the mistakes made in those first two games.

Next up for Orlando, James Harden, former Magic superstar Dwight Howard and the 1-3 Houston Rockets, Wednesday night in Southeast Texas.