As NBA drafts come and go, teams and fans get excited about the potential of their new draft picks.
For teams rebuilding, it could be the star they’ve desperately been searching for. For a team in the middle of the pack, it could be someone who boosts them up to the next level of contention. Contending teams are looking for guys who could be depth, or maybe find a diamond in the rough and someone who could contribute in an unexpected way.
As those players come into the league and we learn more about them, everyone likes to grade the picks, and then as time wears on, look back and wonder “what if?” What if this team had taken this player instead, could they be a contender now? What if this player went where he should’ve been drafted and didn’t slip?
The lists of “what ifs” can go on for days for draft picks.
As part of SB Nation NBA’s “What if?” week, we did redrafts of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 drafts. There were no trades to be made, but if a trade had happened with that pick, it was in the hands of the team who acquired that pick.
Making picks for the Orlando Magic then meant I had three picks total: fourth and 10th in 2014, and fifth in 2015. The Magic’s pick in 2016 was famously traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the deal that brought Serge Ibaka to Orlando.
At the top of the 2014 redraft, we saw Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Marcus Smart go before I was up with the Magic. I had my choice of guys, from Aaron Gordon to Spencer Dinwiddie, to Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins. I was in a good spot, and felt as though I could get a solid player.
I ended up, like the Magic did, taking Gordon.
While LaVine has shown a prowess as an outside shooter and scorer, and Dinwiddie has dazzled in Brooklyn. I felt as though taking Gordon made the most sense. The Magic still had both Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier at the time, and taking another guard would’ve muddled up the backcourt rotation even more.
I also felt like Gordon fit better with the core of Oladipo, Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic that the Magic had at the time.
Coming back around at the 10th pick, I had fewer ideal options, but ones that would’ve made some sense for the Magic. I could’ve taken Garry Harris and given the Magic a shooting and slashing threat off the bench with Fournier, or even Bogdan Bogdanovic to add another ball handler to the mix.
Instead, I took Andrew Wiggins.
Yes, the former number one pick and highly touted prospect fell all the way to 10. It felt like a dream scenario. Adding Wiggins to that aforementioned core just bolsters what the Magic could throw at teams any given night, and would give them someone who could create their own shot on the perimeter some.
It felt like a no-brainer to take Wiggins at 10.
Onto 2015, we saw Karl Anthony-Towns hold down the first spot in the draft, begin things began to change. His Kentucky teammate, and good friend, Devin Booker went second, followed by Kristaps Porzingis, and Myles Turner.
Things were setting up really nicely again, and gave me an opportunity to avenge the Magic’s selection of Mario Hezonja at five.
With a glaring need at point guard, there were really two options here: D’Angelo Russell, and Terry Rozier. Thanks to his better shooting from log distance, and theoretical fit with Oladipo, Wiggins, Fournier, Harris, Gordon and Vucevic, I took Russell.
I finally got the Magic the point guard they were so desperately looking for ever since the departure of Jameer Nelson. I found a guy who could come in and create for others, push the pace — which would suit this team extremely well — and could knock down the outside shot when needed.
Knowing what we do now, that core likely would have it’s shortcomings, like the Magic’s core did. Still, despite that fact, the Magic would’ve been able to roll out a core with three players who became All-Star level players, a solid combo forward scorer in Harris, a strong slasher, and someone who could heat up on any given night in Wiggins, and someone who isn’t afraid to back down from a defensive challenge in Gordon.
It would’ve been the perfect storm for the Magic, and one that very well might’ve shot them straight up the rankings in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.