Denton: If 2004 NBA Draft Was Redone

By John Denton
June 13, 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.

Today, we’re going to break down the 2004 NBA Draft – a draft that is still quite memorable to Magic fans because of Orlando’s picking of Howard first overall. Emeka Okafor, the player some locals initially thought should have been the first pick because of his strong collegiate pedigree, never panned out as a dominant force and has become a journeyman center.


  Here’s how the 2004 NBA Draft might unfold today if GMs were given a do over:


1 Magic Dwight Howard Dwight Howard



REVIEW: Things ended poorly in Orlando for Howard, but still he had eight great seasons with the Magic. He helped the franchise win its first playoff series in 12 years in 2008, get to the NBA Finals in 2009 and the East Finals in 2010. Howard is Orlando’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots. He was absolutely the right pick by then GM John Weisbrod and assistant GM Otis Smith.


2 Bobcats Emeka Okafor Josh Smith



REVIEW: On draft night in 2004, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said: ``The Orlando Magic will rue the day that they didn’t draft Mister Okafor.’’ Uhhh, Dickie V probably wants a do-over for that ludicrous statement. Okafor won the Rookie of the Year award, but otherwise flopped and still doesn’t have a post move. Smith, Howard’s childhood buddy in Atlanta, would have been the more productive pick – even with the headaches he regularly causes.


3 Bulls Ben Gordon Luol Deng



REVIEW: Gordon, a college star at UConn, had a good start to his NBA career despite his size issues, but he has faded badly the last three years. Meanwhile, Deng has become an elite defender and a solid scorer for the Bulls. Chicago acquired him on draft night when Phoenix gave him away because of luxury tax concerns. The Suns’ squandering of several solid picks led to the drought they are in now.


4 Clippers Shaun Livingston Andre Iguodala



REVIEW: How good Livingston could have been had he not gone through a series of gruesome knee injuries is one of the all-time draft mysteries. At 6-7 he was projected to be a superstar point guard a la Penny Hardaway. Instead, he’s been a journeyman who never had the same explosion because of his knee troubles.


5 Mavericks Devin Harris Jameer Nelson



REVIEW: Dallas traded up with Washington to acquire Harris, but they would have been better off with Nelson, the 2004 NCAA Player of the Year. Nelson plummeted to No. 20 where the Magic traded with Denver to get him. Other duds such as Rafael Araujo (No. 8 by Toronto), Luke Jackson (No. 10 to Cleveland), Robert Swift (No. 12 to Seattle), Sebastian Telfair (No. 13 to Portland), Kirk Snyder (No. 16 to Utah) and Dorrell Wright (No. 19 to Miami) went before the gritty Nelson.


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.





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