22 May 2007

Portland is the new Orlando: Thoughts on the Lottery and its Ramifications for the Magic

Earlier tonight, when NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver revealed that the Portland Trail Blazers won the NBA's draft lottery, I immediately flashed back to my elementary school days in the early-to-mid 1990s, better known to Magic fans the Shaq and Penny era. Why?

With the top pick in the draft, the Trail Blazers will likely select Ohio State center Greg Oden, who many experts have touted as the next Patrick Ewing. The ESPN broadcast of the lottery this evening said as much, which means that Oden is regarded even higher than Shaquille O'Neal was.

So Oden is Portland's Shaq. Who's their Penny? Look no further than Brandon Roy, Portland's representative at the lottery and this season's Rookie of the Year, who shares Penny Hardaway's skills as a good shooter and ballhandler. It's not farfetched to imagine Oden and Roy combining to make Portland an exciting and dynamic team next season in the same manner that Shaq and Penny did so in the 1990s. You can be sure that I'll pay close attention to the Blazers as those two electrifying young players develop. It'll be like a trip through the Wayback Machine.

Sadly, this lottery means very little to today's Magic team, at least for the moment; qualifying for the playoffs eliminated the Magic from lottery contention, and their pick this season goes to Detroit as part of the Darko Milicic/Carlos Arroyo trade in 2006. Seeing as how this draft class is the deepest in many years, I'd like to see the Magic make a move to pick somewhere in the top 15. What are their options?

The possibility that immediately jumps out is trading Jameer Nelson and one of three second-round selections to the Atlanta Hawks for the 11th overall pick. While the Hawks would certainly hate to part with the 11th pick, making this trade would give them the young starting point guard they so desperately need. They also would keep the 3rd overall pick, which they could then use to draft a center or power forward, perhaps Yi Jianlian or Brandan Wright. Meanwhile, with the 11th pick, the Magic could draft a better point guard, such as Mike Conley Junior, Javaris Crittenton, or Acie Law IV. Trading a fourth-year point guard for a rookie one seems risky at first, but Conley, Crittenton, and Law each have more potential than Nelson does.

If the Hawks aren't interested in Nelson, the Philadelphia 76ers might be. Nelson played his college ball at nearby Saint Joseph's University, and the 76ers are also in need of a point guard. They acquired Andre Miller from Denver in the Allen Iverson trade, but rumor has it that Miller might be traded himself for the right price. Nelson would give the 76ers a younger, quicker point guard to play alongside franchise cornerstone Andre Iguodala. The 76ers pick 12th, so the Magic would only lose one pick if they make this deal as opposed to the Atlanta one. However, it's unlikely that Philadelphia would trade its highest first-round pick for a fourth-year point guard, so the Magic might have to include cash or future considerations to get the deal through.

The possibility of trading for a draft pick adds another item to Magic GM Otis Smith's "To-Consider" list. As if that weren't long enough already.

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