Magic meeting shines another light on Golden State Warriors' draft miss

Orlando Magic v Golden State Warriors
Orlando Magic v Golden State Warriors / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

The Golden State Warriors are set to host the young but impressive Orlando Magic on Tuesday night, with the visitors entering on the back of a 19-13 record that sits them equal-fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Orlando have been one of the surprises in the league this season, utilizing their length and athleticism to form the NBA's fifth-ranked defense that's provided the backbone to their strong start.

Tuesday night's matchup will be another glaring reminder of a draft miss that's come to haunt the Golden State Warriors

Key to the Magic's rise has been the individual improvement in 22-year-old Franz Wagner. The versatile forward has lifted his numbers across the board this season, averaging 21.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in just over 34 minutes per game.

While the Warriors plan to combat the likes of Wagner and former number one overall pick Paolo Banchero, it's easy to forget that the former could have easily been a part of the Golden State setup instead.

Golden State entered the 2021 NBA Draft armed with the seventh overall pick -- they took the high upside prospect in Jonathan Kuminga, allowing Orlando to pounce on Wagner with the following selection.

Adam Silver, Jonathan Kuminga
The Golden State Warriors drafted Jonathan Kuminga seventh overall in 2021 / Arturo Holmes/GettyImages

In fairness, Kuminga is far from a bust. When the teams take to the floor at Chase Center on Tuesday night, the 21-year-old will be a starter and crucial piece to the Warriors' chances of victory.

However, for the strides that Kuminga has taken this season and the future potential he still holds, passing on Wagner is a miss Golden State have come to regret. For a team lacking a consistent second scorer next to Stephen Curry, the mere thought of having Wagner is a major sore point.

He would be a perfect fit on this current iteration of the team -- Wagner could be the second guy next to Curry while being the small-forward that prevents Steve Kerr from going to his often-frustrating small-ball lineups with three guards.

Would Wagner be the same player in the Warrior system as opposed to the opportunity he's had in Orlando? Probably not. Yet in saying that, Brandin Podziemski has proven this season that high IQ, versatile young players can earn Kerr's trust and play big minutes.

For now, Golden State needs to hope Kuminga can continue his ascent this season and beyond, starting with a matchup against Wagner and a team that are now far from easy-beats.