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Draft Day Expectations: A Historical Look at Magic Draft Success /Revised Edition/

2012 June 16
by Brian Serra

*This is an updated post that was originally published on June 22, 2010.*

Ask any Magic fan about the NBA draft and you’ll likely get a negative response.  “Fran Vazquez! Fran Vazquez!“, the villagers yell.  Fair or not, the Magic certainly haven’t had the consistent success that fans beg for. However when you look closer, the overall team’s draft history in relation to the league average, is about par for the course.

Pat Williams and his amazing lottery luck, is where Orlando has been the most successful. The ping-pong balls have fallen the team’s way three times during the franchise’s history.  While winning the lottery is definitely a noteworthy feat, having the number one overall pick isn’t always a guarantee of success.  Since the Magic joined the NBA in 1989, only 8-9 of the number one overall draft picks have achieved superstar level status.  The magic have had the number one overall pick three times, and they turned that into Shaq, Penny (via draft day swap), and Dwight Howard.  All have been franchise changers in a GOOD way, not in a Kwame Brown way.  Those three players have formed the cornerstone of the franchise for the majority of its existence and were the key to both Finals trips. When the picks have mattered the most, they’ve made them count.

After the jump, we’ll take a closer look at the Magic draft success and what your expectations should be.

While the Magic have been more than lucky with their number one overall picks, they have not achieved the same level of success for the rest of their first-rounders.  At the beginning of the franchise, the Magic went on a solid streak of selecting players that would go on to have legitimate NBA careers (which is all you can really ask for outside of the top 10). The first six first-round picks should all be considered solid to great draft picks; Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott, Brian Williams, Stanley Roberts, Shaquille O’Neal and the Chris Webber pick which turned into Penny Hardaway.

The next five first-round picks the Magic made were just plain awful.  Geert Hammink, Brooks Thompson, David Vaughn, Brian Evans and Johnny Taylor.  A depressing draft era that would be temporarily put on hold from 1998-2000 with the selections of Heart and Hustle staples Michael Doleac, Matt Harpring, and then Mike Miller in 2000.  2001-2003 would bring a return of the draft dark ages with the picks of Steven Hunter, Jeryl Sasser, Ryan Humphrey (Orlando picked Curtis Borchardt but traded him to Utah for Humphrey) and Reece Gaines.

Then in 2004 the team finally went away from its cyclical draft sequences with the pick of Dwight Howard and, besides one very poor selection, has seen relatively strong success on draft night ever since.  In ’04 they drafted Dwight number one overall and then traded a future pick to Denver for the rights to Jameer Nelson.  2005 would bring possibly the most embarrassing move the franchise has ever made, the selection of Fran Vazquez, but the Magic were able to regroup in ’06 with the selection of J.J. Redick.  Then in 2007, the Magic traded their pick to Detroit as they underwent the Darko experiment.  Detroit parlayed our pick into Rodney Stuckey while Darko left in a huff.  Let’s call that one a fail.  2008 brought Courtney Lee who quickly became a fan favorite and was a starter on a team that went to the Finals.  Certainly a success that many Magic fans (including Dwight Howard) wish was never included in the Rafer Alston trade along with the 2009 first round pick.

Come 2010, Otis Smith rolled the dice with a Kentucky experiment in Daniel Orton that he had little-to-no knowledge of (rumor mill was that a friend of a friend vouched for him on draft night). Flash forward two years later and  Daniel’s 3rd year rookie option wasn’t picked up and he is now an unrestricted free agent.  That pick resulted in a total 16 games played and 45 points in 187 minutes played. In 2011, the Magic did not have a 1st round pick but both of their 2nd round picks, Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins, would make the roster. Neither got any meaningful run in their rookie seasons.

The Magic have had 23 first round picks that suited up for the team and 24 that wore the draft cap if you count Vazquez who never came over.  Of those 23 players, 12 would go on to have legitimate NBA careers and play longer than their standard rookie contracts.  I would consider 5 of those players “impact players.”  I describe an “impact player” as someone who played at an all-star type level for several years, was a major contributor on a championship contending team, made an all-star team, or some other completely subjective measure that I can’t really describe.  Those players would be Shaq, Penny, Mike Miller (for winning Rookie of the Year), Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson.

To see how that compares to the rest of the league, I took a look at all first-round draft picks from 2000-2009 (further breakdown at bottom of page):

  • 295 players chosen in the first round from 2000-2009.  10 for the Magic.
  • 67 impact players.  3 for the Magic. (2010 draft has 7-8  potential adds to this list and 2011 has 7-11 potentials - None are included in this number as it unfairly skews the results. All listed at the bottom)
  • 36 players that became all-stars.  2 for the Magic.
  • 23% became impact players.  30% of Orlando’s 1st-rounder’s became impact players.
  • 12% made an all-star team.  20% of Orlando’s 1st-rounder’s made an all-star team.

Twelve percent of the players that Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas and Chad Ford have been drooling over during the last 9-11 drafts made the all-star team at some point.  As the players drafted in the last few years have time to further develop and fully impact the league these numbers will skew slightly, but I feel like a rough estimate of 10-12% is realistic if these numbers were revisited down the road.  The success that the Magic have had by comparison to league standards is slightly above average, but the difference is minimal.

Still, the main point here is that this draft stuff is no science.  It’s a guess.  A gamble.  You do your research, you study and you make the best educated guess that you can make.  For every Dwight Howard there is a Fran Vazquez, for every Geert Hammink there is a Nick Anderson.

The Magic will head into the draft this year with a new regime at the helm. Their 19th overall draft pick will give the team their first chance to land an impact pick since Courtney Lee was selected in 2008. Will they capitalize in a loaded draft?  The chances are slim. Like 23% kinds of slim.

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Impact First Round Players Drafted Since 2000

2000: Kenyon Martin (1x all-star), Mike Miller (ROTY), Jamal Crawford, Hedo Turkoglu, Jamaal Magloire (1x all-star).  5 impact, 29 picks.  18%

2001: Pau Gasol (4x all-star), Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Joe Johnson (6x all-star), Richard Jefferson, Zach Randolph (1x all-star), Gerald Wallace (1x all-star), Tony Parker (4x all-star).  8 impact, 28 picks.  29%

2002: Yao Ming (7x all-star), Amare Stoudemire (6x all-star), Caron Butler (2x all-star), Tayshaun Prince.  4 impact, 28 picks.  15%

2003: Lebron James (8x all-star), Carmelo Anthony (5x all-star), Chris Bosh (7x all-star), Dwyane Wade (8x all-star), David West (2x all-star), Kendrick Perkins, Josh Howard (1x all-star).  7 impact, 29 picks.  25%

2004: Dwight Howard (6x all-star), Emeka Okafor (ROTY), Ben Gordon, Devin Harris (1x all-star), Luol Deng (1x all-star), Andre Iguodala (1x all-star), Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, Jameer Nelson (1x all-star), Kevin Martin.  10 impact, 30 picks.  34%

2005: Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams (3x all-star), Chris Paul (5x all-star), Andrew Bynum (1x all-star), Danny Granger (1x all-star), David Lee (1x all-star).  6 impact, 30 picks.  20%

2006: Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge (1x all-star), Brandon Roy (3x all-star), Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo (3x all-star), Kyle Lowry.  6 impact, 30 picks.  20%

2007: Kevin Durant (3x all-star), Al Horford, (2x all-star), Joakim Noah, Mike Conley, Thaddeus Young, Wilson Chandler. 6 impact, 30 picks.  20%

2008: Derrick Rose (3x all-star), Russell Westbrook (2x all-star), Kevin Love (2x all-star), Danilo Gallinari, Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert (1x all-star), Ryan Anderson, Serge Ibaka.  9 impact, 30 picks.  30%

2009: Blake Griffin (2x all-star), James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings.  6 impact, 30 picks.  20%

2010: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Paul George. 4 impact, 30 picks. 13.3% (Potential future additions: Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Avery Bradley)

2011: Kyrie Irving, Kenneth Faried. 2 impact, 30 picks. 6.6% (Potential future additions: Derrick Williams, Tristan Thompson, Jonas Valanciunas, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert, MarShon Brooks)