So You Think You Can Draft? Part II: Otis Smith and the Orlando Magic

Brett BynumContributor IIIJune 25, 2011

So You Think You Can Draft? Part II: Otis Smith and the Orlando Magic

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    In my second look at the draft performance of each current NBA general manager, I examine the Orlando Magic’s Otis Smith.

    Smith faces an upcoming season of angst as his homegrown superstar, Dwight Howard, will test the free agent market, thereby putting his franchise in jeopardy. Lest the readership feel sorry for Smith, rest assured that he has had a firm hand in making this bed through his trade missteps and poor use of his draft selections.

    As we covered in the introduction to the Ainge piece, when assessing each draft, I took a quantitative initial approach and looked at each drafted player’s average annual “Win Shares (Bill James)” over the course of his career and compared it to those of his draft peers.

    I did not factor in team positional needs or relative luck with the injury bug, so this analysis is by no means perfect. It is simply an attempt to estimate the value—determined by the career contributions of each player—that each general manager gets out of his draft picks given draft position. 

    With our disclaimer out of the way, a look at Smith’s draft history, year by year.

2006 Draft

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    1. No. 11 J.J. Redick  (B+)

    2. No. 41 James Augustine (C-)

    A valuable member of Orlando’s rotation, Redick provided good value at the No. 11 pick, as his 3.1 average annual Win Share contribution outpaces that of six of the ten players selected before him, while only three of the 49 chosen later have thus far exceeded his production.

    Preventing an “A” grade is the fact that those three players—Ronnie Brewer, Rajon Rondo, and Paul Millsap—have demonstrated much more value than has Redick.

    As an aside, Utah hit this draft out of the park getting great value at No. 14 with Brewer and at No. 47 with Millsap. Boston also proved a winner, drafting Rondo at 21 and Leon Powe with the 49th pick.

    James Augustine was out of the league within two seasons, which is somewhat expected of a second-round pick. Still at No. 41, one would hope to draft a player who can remain on a roster longer than two years.

    Overall Grade: B

    Redick’s very good value is tempered slightly by getting no value from the No. 41 selection.

    Overall, a decent draft.

2007 Draft

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    1. No. 60 Milovan Rakovic (D)

    Smith gets a “D” not for the fact that Rakovic has yet to play in the NBA, but rather because he traded the better No. 44 pick to Dallas for the No. 60 selection and cash considerations.

    Although Dallas did little with the pick by choosing Reyshawn Terry, the fact remains that three very good future NBA players were drafted after this 44th selection. Marc Gasol, Aaron Gray, and Ramon Sessions were all available.

    Smith is not penalized in this analysis for the lack of a first round pick, as the trade that sent the No. 15 pick in the 2007 draft (Rodney Stuckey) to the Detroit Pistons for Darko Milicic and Carlos Arroyo occurred before Smith officially assumed general manager duties.

    Overall Grade: D

2008 Draft

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    1. 22 Courtney Lee (B)

    Lacking a second-round pick, Orlando received good value with the 22nd overall pick.

    Courtney Lee has enjoyed a more productive career than 11 of the 21 players chosen before him to this point in their respective careers. Meanwhile, only four players selected after Lee—Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, Mario Chalmers, and Luc Mbah a Moute—have given more to their teams.

    Preventing a “B+” is the fact that the difference in production between Lee and some of the higher picks is nominal while Ibaka, Batum, and Mbah a Moute clearly outclass Lee.

    Overall: B-

    The lack of a second round selection brings down the cumulative grade a bit.

2009 Draft

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    Selections: None

    Orlando went silent in 2009, having traded its second-round pick to Seattle for Rashard Lewis (good) and its first-round pick for Rafer Alston (bad, very, very bad).

    Although Memphis did little with the first-round selection (Demarre Carroll), plenty of good players were still available. Surely Toney Douglas, Sam young, DeJuan Blair, Jonas Jerebko, Marcus Thornton, or Chase Budinger could be helpful to the cause.

    Overall Grade: D

    It is very difficult to build around a superstar by giving draft picks away for marginal veterans. Taking the long view would have benefit the Magic even if this draft was not among the decade’s strongest.

2010 Draft

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     1. No. 29 Daniel Orton (Inc.)

    2. No. 59 Stanley Robinson {C}

    Bitten by the injury bug and questionable conditioning, Orton did not produce much his rookie season. Stanley Robinson met expectations for the No. 59 pick by spending the season in the Development League and failing to make Orlando’s roster.

    Overall Grade: Incomplete-plus

    Orlando receives what will likely be the only “Incomplete-plus” grade as I give an incomplete because I do not believe in judging injured rookies. The additional bump is attributed to the fact that it is nice to see Orlando keep its picks for a change.

2011 Draft

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    1. No. 32 Justin Harpe

    2. No. 54 Deandre Liggins


    Magic fans should be cautiously optimistic that Harper succeeds as a useful NBA player. On the rare occasion that Smith has selected in the NBA draft, he has obtained decent value for his selections.

    Because the focus of this article is on the ability of the general manager to assess talent properly in the draft, and not overall ability, I will not grade Smith for the trade that sent Marcin Gortat and the 2011 first-round pick to Phoenix this past year.

    But I must mention that it is the latest example of Smith focusing short-term and thinking small, undervaluing the draft in general.

Overall Grade

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    Overall Grade for 2006-2011: D+

    While Smith has drafted fairly well with the picks he has kept, he has also given up many opportunities to draft effective players.

    Much like Cleveland did in the last years with LeBron, Orlando has emptied the cupboard with Smith at the helm in an attempt to “win now,” eschewing draft picks in favor of only somewhat-useful veterans, and in one case selling its selection.

    Smith has burdened the franchise with many untenable, immovable contracts while somehow losing draft picks in the process (see the Oklahoma City and Cleveland franchises for examples of organizations gaining draft picks for taking on long money).

    Orlando fans must hope that Orlando trades Howard during the season, as there is little reason for Howard to remain with a rudderless franchise with no immediate hope of contention and no compelling vision for the future. Smith has left Howard little choice, having provided him with little help.