Denton: If 2008 NBA Draft Was Redone

By John Denton
June 17, 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 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 rather than the brittle Greg Oden?

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 major 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 2008 NBA Draft – a draft that was notable for the Chicago Bulls pulling off the second-greatest lottery upset only to the Orlando Magic in 1993 to win the top pick. When the Bulls won the No. 1 selection with just a 1.5 percent chance, it allowed them to grab hometown hero Derrick Rose.

Miami flopped with No. 2 pick Michael Beasely, but the Heat were ultimately able to unload him on Minnesota to clear cap room for the acquisitions of LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Oklahoma City (Russell Westbrook) and Minnesota (Kevin Love) were able to snag future all-stars in the Top 5, while the Nets (Brook Lopez at No. 10) and the Pacers (Roy Hibbert at No. 17) picked up all-star centers later in the first round.

Orlando got a hidden gem late in the first round when it picked Western Kentucky guard Courtney Lee with the No. 22 pick. Lee was a starter on the Magic team that made a run to the 2009 NBA Finals, but he will be remembered more in Orlando for the missed alley-oop at the end of Game 2 that could have potentially evened the series at 1-all.

Here’s how the 2008 NBA Draft might unfold today if GMs were given a do over:


1 Bulls Derrick Rose Derrick Rose


REVIEW: Despite the criticism of Rose this spring when he refused to return for the playoffs with a surgically repaired knee, the Bulls hit a home run with the selection of this franchise point guard and MVP winner. Because the Bulls were never going to win a title this season, Rose was right to stay out until his knee is fully sound. When he returns, he’ll show the Bulls and the rest of the Eastern Conference the kind of difference-making superstar player that he is when fully healthy.


2 Heat Michael Beasley Russell Westbrook


REVIEW: Beasley was a spectacular scorer at Kansas State (26.2 ppg.), lending to comparisons to fellow Washington, D.C. native Kevin Durant. But that’s where the comparisons ended because of Beasely’s numerous off-court red flags and sloppiness as a player. Beasley was long gone by the time Miami assembled its ``Big Three,’’ but just imagine if the Heat had picked Westbrook instead and he was there to pair with those superstar players.


3 Wolves O.J. Mayo Kevin Love


REVIEW: The Timberwolves wisely pulled off an eight-player trade on draft night that centered around acquiring Love and getting rid of Mayo. Before his injury troubles this past season, Love evolved into one of the game’s most impactful power forwards what with his ability to rebound and shoot threes. He won the league’s Most Improved Player award in 2011 and he was an Olympic gold medalist in 2012. But the T-Wolves low-balled him on his last contract and he could be soon looking to escape the cold and losing of the Timberwolves.


4 Sonics Russell Westbrook Brook Lopez


REVIEW: As if Seattle couldn’t feel any worse about losing a Sonics team that ultimately became a NBA powerhouse in Oklahoma City, its final two first-round picks were Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka – genius selections that turned into great finds. Westbrook competed in his first Summer League in Orlando wearing a jersey with no team logo or franchise affiliation because the Sonics were in the process of moving from Seattle to OKC. Kevin Durant and Westbrook have since formed one of the best duos in the NBA, and Westbrook’s knee injury might have been the only thing that kept the Thunder from getting a shot at revenge against the Heat in these Finals.


5 Grizzlies Kevin Love Roy Hibbert


REVIEW: The Grizzlies would have been much better suited hanging onto Love instead of trading him for Mayo, a player they eventually let walk away for nothing in return. But that draft-night trade did allow them to shed Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins to have salary room to build their current powerhouse team. And if they had ended up with Hibbert here it might have prevented them from picking Hasheem Thabeet with the No. 2 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Thabeet, who started just 13 games with the Grizzlies in two awful seasons, should go down as one of the worst No. 2 picks in NBA history.


22 Magic Courtney Lee George Hill


REVIEW: When Ryan Anderson was selected No. 21 by the Nets, the Magic altered course and grabbed Lee, a mature and talented guard. While Lee was a solid pick, grabbing Hill would have fortified the point guard position behind Jameer Nelson even more. When Nelson went down that January, the Magic would have Hill to insert instead of trading for Rafer Alston. One can only wonder how Magic history might have been different had the draft night gone differently in 2008.


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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