NBA Draft: Magic don't have a good average, but they've hit some home runs
There are two ways of measuring success in the NBA draft: the batting average method (where you compare the hits with the misses) and the home run method (where it doesn’t matter how many times you whiffed; you’re only judged by your best draft picks). By the batting average method, the Magic don’t fare so well over the last decade — that shouldn’t be a surprise to any Magic fan. Of 12 first-round picks since 1998, only Dwight Howard, Courtney Lee and Mike Miller contributed significant minutes to an NBA team this season. The Magic selected 24 total players over that span, with only those three (in addition to Jameer Nelson, acquired via trade in 2004) making a noteworthy contribution to the Orlando Magic. But over that same span, the Magic cracked a few home runs. The Magic hit it out of the park with the selection of Howard and the trade for Nelson in 2004. And depending on Lee’s development, the 2008 draft could be the same. The Magic don’t hit for a very good average in the NBA Draft, but they’ve hit a few home runs —that’s all that matters. All of the failures aren’t important in the long run. In the NBA, you’re only as good as your strongest link. With free agency, trades, and numerous teams looking to slash salary, teams can build outside of the draft. The key is to find a few stars, whether through the draft or free agency, and build around them. How you find those stars doesn’t really matter. So, that begs the question — how important is the draft? This year’s NBA champion, the L.A. Lakers, drafted five out of their 14 players, while acquiring Kobe Bryant in a draft-day trade in 1996. Three of those drat picks were Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar and Sun Yue, who played little to no role in the team’s championship. Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom were all acquired via trade, and Derek Fisher came via free agency. In 2008, homegrown Paul Pierce was the Celtics’ best player, but the other primary pieces to the championship (Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) were acquired via trade. This year’s Orlando Magic, in their marvelous run to the NBA Finals, did so with only two draft picks (Howard and Lee) in the primary rotation. Four of the team’s top six players came to the Magic in free agency or trades. When the Magic inevitably deal for a second-round pick tonight, we’re all going to get excited and analyze every move this kid has ever made. We’re going to talk about size, upside, defense, potential, shooting, grades, attitude and basketball IQ. Let’s hope it’s a home run.