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Best and Worst of Magic Draft Past

June 28, 2010

With the 2010 draft now behind us and speculative trade and free-agent rumors running rampant, I thought we would take a break from trying to figure out the future and take a look at the past.  I recently chronicled the team’s historical draft success and below I take a look at some of the best and worst of Magic draft past.

Best All-Time Draft Pick: Shaquille O’Neal.  When Shaq bolted from Orlando in the summer of 1996, his name become somewhat of a sullied word around the city.  It wasn’t until Dwight Howard emerged on draft night in 2004 that the City Beautiful fully began to move past its deep seated hatred for Shaq and the way he up and ran to Hollywood.  So why not Dwight Howard as the best all-time draft pick? It’s quite simple actually.  As amazing as Dwight has been, Shaq put the Orlando Magic on the basketball map.  When Shaq was drafted in 1992, the Magic had played three pitiful seasons since the team’s inception in 1989 and had a combined team record of 70-176 (29% win percentage).  In the next three seasons, with Shaq now on board, the team record was 148-98 (61% win percentage).  That is a pretty substantial jump.  Granted Shaq had the privilege of playing with Penny Hardaway, you still can’t deny the impact a young Shaq had on the franchise.  He gave the team credibility within the league, but most importantly within the Central Florida community.

Other Contenders:  Dwight Howard, Nick Anderson, Penny Hardaway

Read the rest after the jump.

Worst All-Time Draft Pick: Fran Vazquez.  This was not an easy selection.  My first thought was to give this to Reece Gaines, the 6’6” PG from Louisville who was drafted 15th by Orlando in 2003.  Although Gaines only played one season with the Magic, he was seen as a great pick at the time and had high expectations in Orlando.  He was traded to Houston with T-Mac and his NBA career lasted an entire 71 games.  As bad as Gaines was, the Fran Vazquez pick still has ripple effects to this day.  Drafted 11th overall in 2005, Fran has thus far played ZERO minutes for the Magic.  His projected minutes played for Orlando for his career? Zero.  When the Magic used their lottery selection to draft Vazquez in 2005, they forgot to secure his assurance that he’d be willing to move to a foreign country to play basketball.  Turns out, Fran loved his girlfriend, loved Spain, and did not love the United States.  Vazquez now plays alongside Ricky Rubio for one of the top club teams in Spain, FC Barcelona, and helped lead them to a Euroleague title this year.

Other Contenders:  Reece Gaines, Ryan Humphrey, Johnny Taylor, Jeryl Sasser

Best All-Time Value Draft Pick: Marcin Gortat.  While Marcin was not a direct pick by the Magic, he was acquired on draft night and has spent his entire career thus far with the Magic.  Gortat was drafted 57th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2005 draft and was then traded to Orlando for “future considerations”.  Gortat didn’t join Orlando until March of 2008 and didn’t firmly establish himself until late in the 2009 season.  After getting a substantial pay raise in the Summer of 2009 (thanks to Mark Cuban’s undeniable love for overpaying for pivot men ) Gortat played an integral role as Dwight’s backup during the 2010 season and is seen as a key trade asset as the team moves forward.  From tattoo-gate to team inspired dances based on his nickname (Polish Hammertime), you would be very hard pressed to find better value from a late second round draft pick.

Other Contenders:  Jameer Nelson, Courtney Lee,  Zaza Pachulia

Polish Hammertime!!

Most Bizarre Story Related to a Draft Pick: Brian Williams.  Brian Williams was drafted 10th overall by the Magic in 1991 and played with the team for two seasons.  Most NBA fans are more likely to recall him as Bison Dele, the name which he switched to in 1998 to honor his Native American and African heritage.  Always known for being eccentric and just plain strange, Bison Dele walked away from the remaining $36million due to him on his contract and retired.  Two years later while sailing in Tahiti with his girlfriend, he was murdered by his brother while at sea.

Other Contenders:   David Vaughn

Have any other best or worst of Magic draft past? Disagree with my list? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

This post is also posted at Howard the Dunk.

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