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.
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.
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.