Denton: If 2003 NBA Draft Was Redone

By John Denton
June 12, 2013

ORLANDO – In the days, weeks, months and years following the June 27th NBA Draft, the players selected will become subject to revisionist history. Not only will that draft class be forever linked, but those players will also be compared against one another every time they face off.

Because the impact of a high draft pick can be so great – or disastrous, for that matter – there will be much attention paid to the order that players are selected in the NBA Draft later this month. The Orlando Magic have the second pick, just behind the Cleveland Cavaliers at the top of the draft order. Washington, Charlotte and Phoenix round out the top five picks.

The Magic have a long history of getting it right when they select in the top five of the NBA Draft, picking Dennis Scott (1990), Shaquille O’Neal (1992), Chris Webber (who was traded for Penny Hardaway in 1993), Mike Miller (2000) and Dwight Howard (2004). O’Neal, Hardaway and Scott formed the foundation on Orlando’s 1995 team that reached the NBA Finals, while Howard led the 2009 Magic to the NBA Finals. And Miller emerged from a weak draft class in 2000 as the Rookie of the Year.

The course of history in the NBA could have been dramatically different had players been properly evaluated and drafted accordingly. While some picks were dead on, most GMs would like a do-over with the benefit of history to make their picks.

Imagine if any of three Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley or John Stockton had gone No. 2 overall to Portland instead of Sam Bowie in 1984. What if Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade or Chis Bosh had been taken by the Detroit Pistons in 2003 instead of wasting that pick on Darko Milicic? And what if Portland, and not Oklahoma City, had grabbed Kevin Durant with the top pick in 2007?

As the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20, so with the benefit of history before us let’s look back at the past 10 years of NBA Drafts and pick how those draft nights should have unfolded. There have been draft night home runs and minor misses in recent years, so let’s pinpoint how the top five picks (plus the Magic’s picks) of those drafts should have played out.

To start, we’re going to break down the 2003 NBA Draft – a draft that can rival the 1984 NBA Draft (Olajuwon, Jordan, Barkley and Stocton) because of the incredible talent at the top. But it is also quite memorable because of the Milicic gaffe with the No. 2 pick. Here’s how that draft might unfold today if NBA GMs were given a do over:


1 Cavaliers LeBron James LeBron James


REVIEW: James was a native of nearby Akron, Ohio, and was seen as a savior for the woeful Cavaliers franchise. James entered the NBA with loads of hype and he remarkably lived up to every ounce of it. He is now on the verge of possibly winning a second NBA title – just none of them with the Cavs.


2 Pistons Darko Milicic Dwyane Wade


REVIEW: In defense of Pistons GM, Detroit had yet to trade for Rasheed Wallace and they already had Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince in the backcourt. If the Pistons had selected Wade, they most likely would have won more than one NBA title.


3 Nuggets Carmelo Anthony Carmelo Anthony


REVIEW: Anthony made the All-NBA Third team three times in Denver where he averaged 24.8 points per game over his first eight seasons. But he won just two playoff series in Denver (both in 2009) and forced his way to New York in 2011.


4 Raptors Chris Bosh Chris Bosh


REVIEW: If the Raptors knew what they know now, they would have taken Wade with the No. 4 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Watching Bosh and Wade team up in Miami has to be doubly painful for the Raptors. Bosh averaged at least 22 points each of his last five years in Toronto, but he never had much help around him. He bolted for Miami in the summer of 2010 along with James to join Wade with the Heat.


5 Heat Dwyane Wade David West


REVIEW: A case could be made here for Kirk Hinrich or Nick Collison, but West has turned out to be the more productive player. Imagine how the Heat would have been dramatically different with those players instead of Wade?


15 Magic Reece Gaines Boris Diaw


REVIEW: Forced to face big guards Jason Kidd, Baron Davis and Sam Cassell in the East in the early 2000s, the Magic went for a big guard in Jeryl Sasser (82 career games with Magic) in 2001 and passed on Tony Parker. They went for another bigger guard in 2003 in Gaines (38 career games with the Magic) and whiffed again. Several other players such as West, Diaw, Carlos Delfino, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard, Zaza Pachulia (a Magic second-round pick), Steve Blake, Matt Bonner and Mo Williams would have made more sense at No. 15.


Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.





Follow John Denton on Twitter here