The Lottery of the NBA Draft
Every year as the NBA regular season comes to a close, the teams who, to put in a nice way, underperform can take solace in the fact that while they may not be competing for a title, they will be competing for a top lottery pick at the NBA draft. But is having the number one or number two pick always a good thing?
Sure you could get a superstar like LeBron James or Kevin Durant who will give your team a valuable boost and help turn your franchise around. Or, you could get stuck with Greg Oden or Darko Milicic who just plain don’t work out. Well that’s not fair to say because Greg Oden still has a little gas left in the tank, if he can stay healthy.
As much as teams covet those first few picks, if you look back over the last decade, one of those players isn’t going to work out. Sometimes neither of them do. Obviously there’s no such thing as a sure thing, but you would guess that once in a while two teams would make the right picks. Now some of the mistakes could fall on teams that decided to go for players that fit in their roster rather than the best overall players (I’ll explain later). Others they pick a player who was a star in college, but never really amount to anything in the NBA.
Looking at this year’s draft, you have two college teammates, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Davis was a lock at the number one spot as he was clearly above everyone else this past season and the Hornets are hoping that will translate into the NBA. For Kidd-Gilchrist, his stock has been rising since his tremendous postseason play. He has a versatile game that looks like it’s just beginning to be tapped.
Out of the two, obviously Davis is the favorite for the Rookie of the Year award but is Kidd-Gilchrist going to be that far behind him. He may actually fit in perfectly in Mike Dunlaps’ style of play. If the summer league’s any indication, then Kidd-Gilchrist was the better choice over Thomas Robinson. Robinson, who many thought would go number two, flat out didn’t get it done and looked nothing like the player he was at Kansas last year.
For now, it looks like as if New Orleans and Charlotte made the right choices. I can’t say the same about any drafts before this though.
Before I show you the draft classes of the 00’s let’s take a look at arguably the top two draft classes of all time. 1984’s draft class was stacked and produced four hall of famers. The Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon as the first pick. Two championships later, it’s obvious this was a great pick at number one. I can’t say about the Portland Trail Blazers for the next pick. Cue announcer voice… “The number two pick in 1984 draft, chosen over “His Royal Airness”… SAM BOWIE!” That is certainly not a household name. Why? Because he was a bust, perhaps the biggest of all time.
Forget Ryan Leaf, forget Oden, this guy went ahead of the Michael Jordan, considered the best basketball player ever. Granted we didn’t know that at the time. Bowie became the prime example of a player who’s college game never translated to the pros.
Moving ahead to the ’96 draft, which by all accounts was more loaded than a sausage from a street vendor outside of Fenway Park. With the likes of Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash and more, the ’96ers made a huge impact into the league and some still are today. With Iverson going first to Philadelphia the Toronto Raptors had a list of people they could choose from. However, they decided to go with the center who helped take a little known UMass team to the Final Four (later vacated by the NCAA), Marcus Camby.
By all accounts Camby has had a solid career as a rebounder and shot blocker, but if you try and tell me that this wasn’t a bust of a big compared to who they could have gotten then you must be out of your mind. Camby may be number 40 and number 12 on NBA’s all-time rebounding and blocks list respectively, if you take another glance at that list Ben Wallace, who went undrafted that year, is ahead of him in rebounds and right behind him in blocks.
If you’re a second pick and you went ahead of the all-time three point leader and perhaps one of the top 10 greatest players of all time then to be considered a good pick you have to do a little something better than that.
So without further adieu, let’s check out some of the more recent drafts and draft busts:
’01 Draft: 1. Kwame Brown, Washington Wizards-Fail
2. Tyson Chandler, Los Angeles Clippers
Look up the word bust in the dictionary and it will say see Kwame Brown for full definition. As for Tyson Chandler, his playing style is similar to Camby’s except he’s got a ring and every team he plays for he is THE focal point on defense. Just ask the Knicks, virtually going from last to 11th in overall defense in one year.
’02 draft: 1. Yao Ming, Houston Rockets-Failish
2. Jay Williams, Chicago Bulls-Fail
Well… As far as long-term success goes I’d say both failed. Ming was just another 7’6 guy that didn’t work out in the league. However, he opened the door for Asian players in the NBA and had several successful seasons in Houston. He even looked like he was going to be a legitimate center before his career was cut short due to injury. Speaking of cut short, Williams career was over before it really started thanks to a motorcycle accident.
’03 draft: 1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Darko Milicic, Detroit Pistons-Double fail
I already mentioned this earlier and to beat a dead horse one more time, Melo, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were all available for the picking in that draft, but hey that’s all hindsight now right?
’05 draft: 1. Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks-Fail-ish
2. Marvin Williams, Atlanta Hawks-Fail
Again you can make an argument in this draft that neither player really has worked out. Bogut has been the most efficient of the two, but his scoring has never gone higher than 16 points a game and he’s injury prone, having only played one full season since being drafted. Marvin Williams, a freshman standout on the ’05 UNC championship team, probably should have stayed a little longer. Sure the draw of being a lottery pick is tempting, but so is being a star in this league, which he is not. Neither of these players should have been drafted this high considering Chris Paul and Deron Williams were in the same draft.
’07 draft: 1.Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers-Fail
2. Kevin Durant, Seattle SuperSonics
Depending on how many championships KD gets (Yes he will get a few even with the Heat around), this could go down as one of the worst draft picks in history. Bowie played 10 seasons, Milicic is coming up on his 10th season, but Oden, he’s barely even stepped on the court. He looks like an old man and unfortunately his knees are even older than that. This pick can be explained by the Trail Blazers picking on their roster needs not on who’s the best player. Oden averaged almost 16 and 9, but that was no where near Durant’s numbers. However, the Blazers needed a center and already had some good wings. Unfortunately for them, it all went downhill from here.
’08 draft: 1. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
2. Michael Beasley, Miami Heat-Fail
Beasley could have been easily one of the best college players ever, but Rose could do almost everything at the PG position (Except make free throws at the time). This two players looked poised to both take the NBA by storm. In an interview with Slam Magazine, Beasley said he wanted to be one of the best of all time. No knock against that because that should be every players mentality coming in to the league. However, he only came complete with an offensive game. He has yet to bring the rest of the intangibles that could make him a good player. Considering another explosive PG named Russell Westbrook and big man Kevin Love were also in the draft, Beasley was certainly not the best pick. But hey, if they got either of those two players maybe they couldn’t have gotten LeBron or Bosh when the time came.
’09 draft: 1. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
2. Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis Grizzlies-Fail
Griffin was certainly a no brainer and having CP3 sign here and the Clippers step out of the Lakers shadow proves it. Thabeet on the other hand has become an absolute bust. The only reason we’re not talking about this more is because Tyreke Evans has flattened out since his rookie campaign, James Harden is just establishing himself as a great player and this draft really didn’t have anyone else to pick from.
’11 draft: 1. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves
Irving was by far the best rookie, that was no surprise. He was light years ahead of any other rookie and a lock for the ROY award. Williams on the other hand struggled.The former Arizona Wildcat is an undersized forward who created a huge buzz in the NCAA tournament that boosted his draft status tremendously. Unfortunately, his rookie campaign was no where near the word tremendous. But you can’t fault the Timberwolves for drafting him, because there’s just no one else to pick from in this draft. Most of these lottery picks all vanished once the season started. You can’t put Williams as a fail yet because it’s only been one year, he still has plenty of time to develop.
This year’s draft was definitely deeper than any draft we’ve seen for a few years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the talent is there. Regardless, it looks like these two players may actually beat the odds and prove that the first two picks can both bring success to the teams who pick them.
**** ’04 draft: 1. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
2. Emeka Okafor, Charlotte Bobcats
’06 draft: 1. Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
2. LeMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
’10 draft: 1. John Wall, Washington Wizards
2. Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers
****These three draft classes are pretty much the exception to the rule. While the only legitimate stars are Howard, Wall and Alridge, when he’s not hurt, these class just don’t have any other players that have outperformed these guys to prove that they weren’t the right picks for 1 and 2. Especially the ’10 draft, there just isn’t really anyone there that the 76ers could have even considered. It was a lock that it was going Wall and Turner.