Marc Daniels: Did Lottery Luck (Or Lack Of) Cost The Magic Trae Young?


Atlanta Hawks v New York Knicks - Game One

April 11, 2018 the Orlando Magic beat the Washington Wizards 101-92 on the final day of the regular season. That win dropped the Magic from a tie for the 3rd worst record in the NBA to the 5th worst record. While the odds to get the number one pick in the 2018 NBA Draft were not that different because of that win, it did drop a little. But if the lottery held form based on records, the Magic would have been no worse than 5th.

Then came the lottery and the Sacramento Kings, who tied for the 6th worst record, screwed everything up for the Magic. The Kings moved up to the 2nd overall selection and the Magic slid down to the 6th spot. Would one spot be that big of a deal?

The Suns took Deandre Ayton with the number one pick and the Kings chose Marvin Bagley III. Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas were picks 3-5. Atlanta took Luka Donic and Memphis took Jaren Jackson. The Mavericks took Trae Young and then made the trade with Dallas. The Mavs sent Young and 2019 1st round pick to Dallas for Donic. 

The Donic/Young comparisons have been one-sided for the last two-plus seasons with many believing the Mavericks won the deal. Donic has quickly become one of the NBA's better players and he led the Mavs into the playoffs for a second straight season. In his rookie season, Donic led the Mavs to 33 wins, nine more than the previous season. Young saw the Hawks win 29, five more than his arrival.

Last night's Hawks win over the Knicks should make people pause and think again about who won the trade. The answer should/might be both. Young was incredible in his playoff debut and scored 32, including the game winner with 0.9 seconds left. He has become the face of the franchise and makes everyone around him better. Both, Donic and Young, will be stars for a long time and their teams are likely playoff teams for years to come. Time will tell if either can lead their team to a title but they are stars that fans want to watch.

Then there is the Magic. With the Kings getting the second pick in the 2018 Draft, Orlando fell to sixth and selected.......Mo Bamba. How is that comparison with Donic and Young? In 2015, the Magic selected Mario Herzonja right after the Knicks took Kristaps Porzingis. In 2014, they selected Aaron Gordon right after the Sixers took Joel Embiid.

What if the Kings got slotted into the 6th spot in that 2018 Draft, what would have happened? The Suns still would have drafted Ayton. But that's where things would have gotten interesting. Would Atlanta have taken Marvin Bagley III? If they took Donic, would the Grizzlies have taken Trae Young and if they did, they likely would not have been in a position to draft Ja Morant in 2019. The Magic may have ended up not getting Young and might have had a choice of Marvin Bagley III or Jaren Jackson.

What if Sacramento was 6th and the Hawks took Donic or Young at two and the Grizzlies and Mavs chose Bagley III and Jaren Jackson? What if the Magic landed Young at six?

I went back and looked at 10 mock drafts for 2018 and you know how many had Trae Young in the top 5? None. In fact, of those ten, four had the Magic selecting Young at six. Hardly anyone thought Young was worthy of a top 5 pick that year. In those 10 mock drafts, Mo Bamba was a projected top 10 pick by all.

No one knows what might have been but three years later, Donic is a star and Young is not far behind. As for Mo Bamba, who knows. But he remains a project and may blossom with the new look Magic. But the resume on Bamba right now is not that of a star.

Here comes the 2021 NBA Draft where the Magic may have two top-10 picks. Perhaps this is the one where the face of the franchise awaits because if anyone needs a break in the lottery, it's the Orlando Magic.

Final thought: The official name of Scotch Tape is Scotch Magic Tape. Invented in 1961, became the first tape you can write on.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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