Myles Turner wasn’t helping Orlando Magic’s rebuild

Myles Turner revealed he believed the Orlando Magic were set to take him fifth overall in the 2015 Draft. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Myles Turner revealed he believed the Orlando Magic were set to take him fifth overall in the 2015 Draft. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports /

The draft process in any sport is weird, but especially in the NBA where one player taken at the right spot can absolutely change a team’s fortunes. There is a lot of pressure to get things right and a lot of gambling on how 18- and 19-year-olds will grow and develop.

In no sport is that more apparent than basketball where rookies regularly play meaningful minutes. Neither is the kind of misinformation that goes around at the Draft either. The NBA transaction periods are always a bit more hectic too. Nobody really knows what is going on.

It has to be crazy for draft prospects who get their crash course to the NBA and its misinformation on draft night. There are always stories about players who were so sure they were going in the top 10 only to drop prodigiously in the green room.

The Orlando Magic were involved in their own intrigue just last year when they stunned everyone by picking Paolo Banchero with the first overall pick. There are always surprises on draft night in the NBA.

The NBA Draft is full of sliding doors and missed opportunities. Myles Turner opened up his own door saying he believed the Orlando Magic would take him fifth, a claim we are skeptical was more than misinformation.

There are indeed a lot of stories like the one Myles Turner told to Tidal League’s Run Your Own Race Podcast. Myles Turner shared he truly believed he was going to be the fifth pick in the 2015 Draft when the Magic took Mario Hezonja instead.

The sound bite is certainly not as salacious as the caption in the tweet sounds.

And Turner is right more than anything else that situation matters a ton for rookies. If Myles Turner had been drafted to Orlando and their unstable environment — he would have played behind or alongside Nikola Vucevic and for notably harsh-on-rookies Scott Skiles, who also would end up leaving the team after one season — who knows how his career would have panned out?

Things worked out for him in the end.

And there is no doubt looking back at things, Turner is a better player than Hezonja.

Turner is one of the best defensive bigs in the league right now. He averaged 18.0 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game and 2.3 blocks per game for the Indiana Pacers last year. He is still a center the team is very comfortable building around — and several teams are still intrigued with trading for to complete their lineups.

Orlando struggled defensively with Nikola Vucevic as its center throughout the early run of those rebuild teams. And clearly, the Magic were not overly committed to him with the team trading for Serge Ibaka and signing Bismack Biyombo a year later.

But that is part of the problem with this conversation, isn’t it? Using hindsight, it is clear the Magic whiffed on Hezonja. What is maybe not clear sitting here is whether Turner was the right choice for the Magic.

Hezonja struggled in his rookie year and was out of the league after five seasons. He did not even get the final year of his rookie contract with the Magic. The Magic — and former general manager Rob Hennigan — likely regrets this pick. Then again, organizationally, the Magic were such a mess it was hard to see anyone developing successfully.

Undoubtedly, there was logic in drafting Hezonja. The Magic had a backcourt with Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo and desperately needed shooting. Evan Fournier had not quite evolved into a reliable scorer yet — he and Victor Oladipo ended up battling for guard minutes.

They already had Tobias Harris and Aaron Gordon battling for attention and minutes at the forward spots too. The Magic were really too loaded with young players and no clear direction. They just knew they needed some scoring.

They needed talent and so they banked on Hezonja’s scoring upside.

The idea of drafting Hezonja was to bring in a quality shooter who could also run in transition and finish at the rim.

Hezonja was indeed a bit of an unknown when the Magic took him with the fifth pick. But he was also one of the more talented offensive players for a team that desperately needed shooting.

As we wrote in our prospect profile of him:

"“Hezonja though has something very different than many of his European forebearers. He has swagger and confidence. That has been both one of the things that has separated him from his European predecessors and also one of his greatest detractions and weaknesses. Teams wonder if he can focus in and be successful in the NBA, particularly on the defensive end.”"

There were certainly concerns. But the offensive potential was tough for the Magic to pass up.

In fact, the Magic were widely praised for their selection of Hezonja. And Hezonja, for his part, also claimed he felt very good at the prospect of the Magic taking him in that draft with the fifth overall pick.

Hezonja was a prospect that a lot of draft people and NBA people missed. Orlando certainly did not appear to act irrationally in buying into him.

That does not make anybody feel good in hindsight of course. Especially considering players like Myles Turner (11th overall), Terry Rozier (16th overall) or, more painfully, Devin Booker (13th overall) were available later on. Then again, very few people had those players going as high as No. 5.

Orlando was also connected to Justise Winslow, who went 10th in the draft, as another defensive-minded, non-shooting wing.

This turned out not to be the strongest draft. In our final mock draft, we had the Magic taking Kristaps Porzingis — the real prize the Magic were after that draft who went one pick earlier at No. 4 to the New York Knicks.

Honestly, this is the biggest sliding door of the draft. The Magic were all in on Porzingis only to miss out on him by one pick.

So what about Myles Turner? He certainly could have been an option at No. 5, but his general range was where he was drafted — we had him going No. 10 to the Miami Heat in our final mock draft that year.

Related Story. Dereck Lively shares intriguing list of teams that could have drafted him. light

What was the problem with Turner?

There were some injury concerns with him. And while he was a solid shot-blocker, the perception was that he was too thin to play in the NBA and would float on the perimeter too much. There was concern that he would struggle with the physicality of the NBA.

Turner seems to have gotten some bad information or perhaps there was a plan from the Magic to trade down from five to select him that never came to pass.

We will never know the what-if of the Magic taking Turner. There are always these kinds of sliding doors in every draft situation. It is rare to get a draft perfect and drafting is an inexact science.

Dredging this up seems pretty irrelevant. The Hezonja pick was probably not going to save the Magic’s rebuild even if they selected Turner. There is no guarantee Turner even has the career he has if he ends up in Orlando with the instability in that franchise — and the desperation that was coming just a year later in 2016.

Rob Hennigan was fired after the 2017 season. Jeff Weltman replaced him and the rest feels like history with now the Magic and the Pacers among the young teams on the rise in the 2023 Eastern Conference.

Next. 5 worst starters of the Orlando Magic's Shaquille O'Neal era. dark

Orlando certainly missed on this draft. But Turner was not likely saving the franchise either. And his career was likely rescued by avoiding the mess going on in Orlando.