It's Milicic time
By Steve Kerr, Yahoo Sports
February 15, 2006
The Orlando Magic will undoubtedly give the young center a legitimate chance to play, which is all he has hoped since the Detroit Pistons chose him second overall in the 2003 draft. Playing on a championship team with skilled, veteran big men left Milicic in the background, and his frustration grew, first under Larry Brown and then this season under Flip Saunders.
Without a realistic chance of cracking the rotation for many years, Milicic was desperate to move to a new team where he could develop his game. Orlando will provide him that opportunity.
With their future built around second-year power forward Dwight Howard, the Magic hope Milicic can play alongside him and become a star in his own right. To get Darko, Orlando gave up Kelvin Cato and a first-round pick in 2007. The selection is protected through the first five spots, meaning if the Magic have one of the top five selections in '07, they will hold onto it. Orlando would then give the Pistons its first pick in the 2008 draft unconditionally.
Playing next to Howard would appear to be a good fit for Milicic. In theory, Howard should draw the toughest assignment at both ends of the floor, freeing up Milicic to play against weaker opponents. The Magic are going nowhere this season, so if they don't throw the big man onto the floor for 35 minutes for the rest of the season, then something is wrong. Remember, Milicic is just 20 years old, and his potential is still vast and untapped.
Milicic wowed scouts in pre-draft workouts with his 7-foot frame, his ability to run like a deer and his deft shooting touch. The fact that he didn't work out for the Pistons proves two things: 1) Even the best GMs make mistakes – Dumars has done just about everything else right in building the Pistons – and 2) that the draft is an inexact science.
Pick any draft in the history of the NBA, and you'll be able to find plenty of mistakes. (Anyone remember Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan?). Granted, Milicic's selection was one of the bigger errors ever, but it's one that will not haunt Dumars or the Pistons, given the success they have had and will continue to have.
In the next two seasons, Dumars will likely re-sign Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups to extensions after shedding Milicic's contract – along with Carlos Arroyo's – to give Detroit more financial flexibility. (Cato's contract runs out this summer.) On top of that, the Pistons may have a very high draft pick in what is projected to be a very deep 2007 draft.
All in all, this is a trade that makes sense for both sides, but the big winner is Milicic. He needs to play, and he's finally going to get his chance. Let's hope he earns a new, more flattering nickname.
Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send Steve a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Thursday, Feb 16, 2006 5:00 am, EST