5 worst Orlando Magic starters of the Tracy McGrady era
Steven Hunter (2002-04)
49 starts, 3.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG
What is the best way for a cash-strapped team to stay relevant and add talent? How does a team in the middle of the league jump into the upper reaches of the league? How does a team that cannot win free agents keep replenishing their talent?
The answer should be the NBA Draft.
It is now pretty clear how critical the draft is to building a team. Unless a team is a free-agent destination, the draft is an essential tool to add talent to any roster. And when a team gets the draft wrong, it sets them back and only makes it harder to remain competitive.
That was unfortunately the Magic throughout the Tracy McGrady era.
Yes, there was Mike Miller as the fifth pick in the 2000 Draft (completing the Chris Webber-Anfernee Hardaway trade from 1993). Miller won Rookie of the Year and was a close friend and solid running mate for Tracy McGrady.
But after that? There were some real duds.
It started with the 2001 Draft. That was a complete disaster considering the team had two first-round picks.
Orlando selected Steven Hunter, a shot-blocking center from DePaul, with the 15th pick and followed that up with SMU big point guard Jeryl Sasser. Both of them were clear busts.
Hunter played three seasons in Orlando and was never more than just a potential shot-blocker. He had no offensive game to speak of and never found his place in the league.
Sasser might have been even worse. He played 82 games (four starts) in two seasons before washing out of the NBA, averaging 2.5 points per game.
The following season, the Magic would swap center Curtis Borchardt at the No. 18 pick for power forward Ryan Humphrey (the No. 19 pick). Humphrey played 35 games with the Magic (one start), averaging 1.8 points per game before he was included in the Mike Miller-Drew Gooden trade.
Orlando tried again for another tall point guard, drafting Louisville guard Reece Gaines with the 15th pick in 2003. He lasted only season (38 games and one start) and averaged 1.8 points per game. He was traded with McGrady to the Houston Rockets.
At least the Magic drafted Zaza Pachulia in the second round that season. But he too lasted only one year in Orlando, with the Charlotte Bobcats taking him in the expansion draft.
The players the Magic passed on from the first round those years? Zach Randolph, Brendan Haywood, Gerald Wallace and Tony Parker in 2001. Tayshaun Prince in 2002 and Carlos Boozer in the second round. And David West, Boris Diaw and Josh Howard in that landmark 2003 Draft.
The Draft is always hit or miss and a little bit of guessing. But Orlando continually guessed very wrong at a moment when the team needed the influx of talent.