Actual selection: Victor Oladipo, PG, Indiana
The Orlando Magic had just finished Year 1 A.D. (After Dwight) and struggled to a 20-62 record under first-year head coach Jacque Vaughn, with 22-year-old Nikola Vucevic — acquired in the massive four-team swap that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers — starting 77 games at center and averaging a double-double at 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds.
Oladipo did not have a bad rookie season by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t until after he left the Magic Kingdom that he really blossomed into a star.
Traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with the rights to Domantas Sabonis on draft night in 2016 for the short-lived Serge Ibaka experience in Orlando, Oladipo became an All-Star, All-NBA player, All-Defensive pick and Most Improved Player after going to the Indiana Pacers in the Paul George trade a year later.
Gobert was 21 years old at the time he was drafted — his birthday had been the day before the draft — after playing three seasons with Cholet Basket in France’s top pro league. He had averaged 8.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21.4 minutes per game in 2012-13, shooting 72.5 percent from the floor and 0-for-3 from 3-point range. Yes, he was extremely raw.
But he would have been the logical next step as a dominant defensive center for the Magic after Howard’s run of five All-Defensive selections and three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
As a rookie, Gobert played in only 45 games, averaging 2.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 9.6 minutes per game and shot just 48.6 percent, while playing eight games in what was then known as the D League, averaging 13.9 points and 11.4 boards in 27.0 minutes a night.
Now he’s got two Defensive Player of the Year awards of his own and is a three-time All-Defensive pick. Also, it’s probably important to note this is based on his play throughout his career, not necessarily for his decision-making during pandemics.