Ask any Magic fan about the NBA draft and you generally get quite polarizing opinions on the subject. The Magic faithful either love it or hate it. And while the Magic have had some success stories recently, the overall team’s draft history in relation to success has been up and down.
The NBA lottery has been very kind to Orlando, with the ping pong balls falling our way three times during the franchise’s brief history. While winning the lottery is definitely a noteworthy feat, having the number one overall pick is not always a guarantee of success. Since the Magic joined the NBA in 1989, only 7-8 of the number one overall draft picks have achieved superstar level status. The Magic are responsible for three of those picks with Shaq, Penny 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 trips to the Finals. 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 our 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 begining of the franchise, the team 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 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 wish was never included in the Rafer Alston trade along with the 2009 first round pick.
The Magic have had 22 first round picks that suited up for the team and 23 that wore the draft cap if you count Vazquez who never came over. Of those 22 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 that 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 since 2000. The following numbers are the result of this hard-hitting analysis (further breakdown at bottom of page):
- 294 players chosen in the first round. 22 for the Magic.
- 59 impact players. 5 for the Magic.
- 27 players that became all stars. 4 for the Magic.
- 20% became impact players. 23% for the Magic.
- 10% became all-stars. 18% for the Magic.
Ten percent of the players that Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas and Chad Ford have been drooling over during the last ten 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. Where the Magic have seen the most success, is capitalizing on their number one picks and helping those players become superstars. Overall, you have to say that the Magic have been successful when it comes to the draft. They have surpassed the league averages and picked the best players when the selections were most needed.
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. With the 29th pick on Thursday night, hopefully the Magic can strike gold once again and find an impact player but I’ll settle for bronze. A solid player that can shore up the bench and help make the team even more versatile and dangerous.
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 (3x all-star), Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Joe Johnson (4x all-star), Richard Jefferson, Zach Randolph (1x all-star), Gerald Wallace (1x all-star), Tony Parker (3x all-star). 8 impact, 28 picks. 29%
2002: Yao Ming (7x all-star), Amare Stoudemire (5x all-star), Caron Butler (2x all-star), Tayshaun Prince. 4 impact, 28 picks. 15%
2003: Lebron James (6x all-star), Carmelo Anthony (3x all-star), Chris Bosh (5x all-star), Dwyane Wade (6x all-star), David West (2x all-star), Kendrick Perkins, Josh Howard (1x all-star). 7 impact, 29 picks. 25%
2004: Dwight Howard (4x all-star), Emeka Okafor (ROTY), Ben Gordon, Devin Harris (1x all-star), Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, Jameer Nelson (1x all-star), Kevin Martin. 10 impact, 30 picks. 34%
2005: Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams (1x all-star), Chris Paul (3x all-star), Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger (1x all-star), David Lee (1x all-star). 6 impact, 30 picks. 20%
2006: Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy (3x all-star), Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo. 5 impact, 30 picks. 17%
2007: Kevin Durant (1x all-star), Al Horford, (1x all-star), Joakim Noah, Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Brooks. 5 impact, 30 picks. 17%
2008: Derrick Rose (1x all-star), OJ Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez. 5 impact, 30 picks. 17%
2009: Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Darren Collison. 4 impact, 30 picks. 14%