21st Century Drafts: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly
With the 2008 NBA Draft rapidly approaching, fans throughout the world are trying to figure out what their favorite teams will do and where their favorite players will end up. But getting drafted is just half the battle; you’ve got to be successful once you get there. And in the history of the NBA Draft Lottery, it’s proven to be just that with no guarantee coming with each pick. So, if you go from one to fourteen in each year from 2000 to 2006, who’s been the best and worst at each selection? Here’s one attempt to make some sense of it all. (2007 wasn’t included since it’s tough to judge players on one season.)
Good: LeBron James (2003; Cleveland)
2007-08 averages: 30.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.2 apg
King James has been as good as advertised heading into the 2003 Draft, maybe even exceeding what was expected of him. A standout in more ways than one on draft night (the white suit), LeBron was able to drag a slumping franchise to the NBA Finals in 2007. But the race is on in Cleveland: can the Cavs get him enough help to keep him around once his contract is up in 2010?
Bad: Kwame Brown (2001; Washington)
2007-08 averages: 4.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg
Yeah, this one was also easy as Brown had done practically nothing throughout his six seasons in the NBA. How the Lakers were able to pawn him off on the Grizzlies for Pau Gasol may be one of the greatest heists in NBA history, even if his contract may be expiring this season. The work ethic hasn’t been there, yet someone with the willingness to pay him millions has.
Good: LaMarcus Aldridge (2006; Portland)
2007-08 averages: 17.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg
The first of two excellent picks by the Blazers in this draft, Aldridge actually had his draft rights swapped for those of Tyrus Thomas, sending Thomas to Chicago. As well as LaMarcus played in his second season in the league, wait until a healthy Greg Oden joins up next season. Aldridge has the potential to be one of the NBA’s best power forwards in the next few years.
Bad: Darko Milicic (2003; Detroit)
2007-08 averages: 7.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg
Well, the project who was plastered to the Pistons bench for most of his time in the Motor City has gotten better, but that’s still no excuse for his being selected ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. He went from Detroit to Orlando, who eventually gave up on the project themselves and sending Darko to Memphis. He did start sixty-four games this season however; and at least he isn’t Sam Bowie (taken ahead of you-know-who in 1984).
Good: Carmelo Anthony (2003; Denver)
2007-08 averages: 25.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.4 apg
Anthony, the cornerstone of the Nuggets franchise since he was selected back in 2003, has done well numbers-wise but hasn’t had the success translate into a prolonged playoff run. And some of the off-court issues have left tarnish on his accomplishments of late. Now he’s got to deal with trade rumors; but take heart in the fact that the same talk swirled around Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce heading into this season and all they did was get to the NBA Finals.
Bad: Darius Miles (2000; LA Clippers)
2007-08 averages: did not play
Miles’ career may be over, with a serious knee injury robbing him of the past two seasons. But he wasn’t very consistent during his time in the league, alternating moments of brilliance with puzzling (and sometimes infuriating) displays of basketball. However, he does have a movie credit to his name, acting in the movie “Perfect Score”. For the third pick in the draft, you’d better hope to have an on-court claim to fame.
Good: Chris Paul (2005; New Orleans)
2007-08 averages: 21.1 ppg, 11.6 apg, 2.7 spg
Paul has been one of the most electrifying players in the NBA since his arrival, rejuvenating a once-moribund franchise while giving the Crescent City something to smile about. Within three years Paul went from the point guard of the future to almost winning the league’s MVP award. As he gains even more experience and the Hornets add more pieces around him, look for Paul to eventually win an NBA title.
Bad: Marcus Fizer (2000; Chicago)
2007-08 averages: 11.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg (Euroleague stats with Maccabi Tel Aviv)
This pick may have been one of the signs that the end was near for then-Bulls GM Jerry Krause. While Fizer was an outstanding player at Iowa State, some felt that he was too small to make an impact in the NBA. And history did prove them to be correct as he found his way out of the NBA by 2006, venturing to Puerto Rico then Europe to continue his career. And his claim to fame may be his body art, with the count stopping at 31…and he may have more in the two years since.
Good: Dwyane Wade (2003; Miami)
2007-08 averages: 24.6 ppg, 6.9 apg, 4.2 rpg
Of the “big three” to come out of the 2003 draft class, Wade was the overlooked member of that group. But while LeBron and Carmelo got the hype, D-Wade was the first to get the ring, winning the NBA title in 2006. But he has had a tendency to get banged up, missing time (missed thirty-one games this season) due to the various injuries picked up primarily on drives to the basket. His “get knocked down seven times and get up eight” commercials for Converse were quite popular, but the Heat may be hoping that he isn’t so injury-prone in the future.
Bad: Nikoloz Tskitishvili (2002; Denver)
2007-08 averages: 10.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg (Siviglia Wear Teramo, Italy)
“Skita” may have been one of the biggest busts in the NBA Draft this decade. A player thought to have upside when selected by Denver back in 2002, Tskitishvili was out of the NBA by 2006. The worst part of this may have been a rant by Dick Vitale about how teams select unproven Europeans over three- and four-year collegians…and pronouncing his last name “Schizovili”. Not a good way to make a lasting impression on the league.
Good: Brandon Roy (2006; Portland)
2007-08 averages: 19.1 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.7 rpg
Good things come to those who wait, and Roy is a prime example of that adage. Had he actually entered the draft out of high school, he could have either developed into the player his is today…or ended up out of the NBA. But thanks to four years of seasoning at Washington, Roy was able to make an impact to the tune of league Rookie of the Year. Not to mention being the Blazers’ good luck charm the next year at the draft lottery, where they won the right to select Greg Oden.
Bad: DerMarr Johnson (2000; Atlanta)
2007-08 averages: 3.2 ppg, 0.2 rpg
Johnson looked to be headed in the right direction early in his career, only to have a serious car accident that nearly took his life sent it all spiraling downward. The good news is that he survived to tell the tale, and he played in five games with the Spurs this season. While he’ll never reach the levels that many would expect from a number six pick, the mere fact that he’s still here after such a horrific event is an achievement upon itself.
Good: Luol Deng (2004; Chicago)
2007-08 averages: 17.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg
In the midst of all the “Kobe to Chicago” trade talks, there was one man the Bulls were unwilling to give up: Deng. That just goes to show you how much they think of him in the Chicago front office, as his versatility has made him one of the league’s bright up and coming stars. And he’s only going to get better, assuming the Bulls get some more help for Deng.
Bad: Eddie Griffin (2001; New Jersey)
Deceased, August 17, 2007
Griffin unfortunately became a cautionary tale on what can happen when a person in desperate need of help doesn’t receive such treatment. His career began with a moment that could place enormous pressure on any youngster, with Houston trading its entire draft to New Jersey to acquire his services. Moments of excellence were lost amidst bizarre behavior off the court and an aloof nature on it. Griffin’s life ended in Houston, when he ignored a railroad warning and was subsequently hit by a train. He was twenty-five years old.
Good: Rudy Gay (2006; Houston)
2007-08 averages: 20.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg
After just two years in the NBA, Gay is showing why the Grizzlies sent Shane Battier to Houston in order to acquire his draft rights in 2006. The swingman who played two years at Connecticut is one of the game’s best leapers and as he further develops expect his skill set to expand even more. The only bad thing is that he’s stuck with a dreadful franchise, meaning that his name isn’t mentioned as much as some of the other elite young players in the league.
Bad: Rafael Araujo (2004; Toronto)
2007-08 averages: unknown (played for Spartak St. Petersburg in the Russian Basketball Super League)
This selection clearly didn’t work out for the Raptors or Araujo, who found himself out of the NBA by the end of his first contract. While he was a solid big man in college at BYU, he had serious issues adjusting to the speed of the NBA game at both ends of the floor. And moving from a rebuilding situation in Toronto to Utah for his third season didn’t help matters either, eventually leading him to Russia this past season.
Good: Amare Stoudemire (2002; Phoenix)
2007-08 averages: 23.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg
As he’s gotten older Amare’s gotten better on the offensive end of the floor. Once limited to dunking the basketball, “STAT” can now step out to as far as fifteen feet and consistently knock down shots. While he’s still a work in progress on the defensive end, at least Shaquille O’Neal is in town to take away the pressure of being an undersized center. Now he can play the four, as he should, and be the Suns’ primary offensive option when the ball goes inside.
Bad: Rodney White (2001; Detroit)
2007-08 averages: 19.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg for the Arecibo Capitanes of the BSN in Puerto Rico
Not sure who was in charge of the Pistons back in 2001, but I’m willing to bet that whoever made this selection knows that it was a mistake. White was certainly talented coming out of Charlotte, where he played one year of college basketball, but there’s no way a player as raw as he was should have been taken this high. But that’s the legacy of the lottery, as it really is a toss-up as to what kind of player you’ll get once he steps on the floor.
Good: Joe Johnson (2001; Boston)
2007-08 averages: 21.7 ppg, 5.7 apg, 4.5 rpg
Joe was widely panned for his request to leave Phoenix in search of a starring role a few seasons ago, especially when he landed in Atlanta. “You’d really leave a winning team in order to start on a losing outfit?” was the question being asked. But Johnson has been a star in Atlanta since his arrival, and his faith was rewarded with a trip to the playoffs this season. Of course, they only won thirty-seven games and fell to Boston in the first round. But this is a young franchise seemingly on its way to good things with Johnson running the show.
Bad: Luke Jackson (2004; Cleveland)
2007-08 averages: 5.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg
Like many, I was excited about what he could add to the Cavaliers when drafted in 2004. LeBron needed a sidekick who could knock down outside shots and many thought that Luke was that man. But due to injury, and once he got onto the floor inept play, he was the wrong answer to that question. In his third season in the league he played in fourteen games for the Heat, so it will be interesting to see just where he lands next season.
Good: Jared Jeffries (2002; Washington)
2007-08 averages: 3.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg
This selection should tell you just how slim the pickings were at pick eleven. Originally thought to have the ability and size to be a defensive stopper, Jared actually acquitted himself quite well in Washington. But a funny thing happens when Isiah Thomas overpays free agents to play for the Knicks (just take a look at Jerome James for a prime example of this). His crowning achievement in New York may have been his crazed run after Carmelo Anthony during that wild melee a couple of years ago in The Garden. But at least he still in the NBA, unlike…
Bad: Jerome Moiso (2000; Boston)
2007-08 averages: 11.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg for DKV Joventut in Spain
Another UCLA player from the early 2000’s who clearly overestimated his value…but it’s not his fault the Celtics took the bait. Moiso did last four years in the NBA, and has been plying his trade in Europe since leaving Cleveland in 2005. But despite his height (6-11), Moiso had a tough time inside due to his slender (some might even say weak) frame. He was also once of the league’s top shot blockers of DKV Joventut this year, something the Celtics were hoping to benefit from when they selected him.
Good: Nick Collison (2003; Seattle)
2007-08 averages: 9.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg
Even though he missed his first season due to surgery on both shoulders, Collison has been one of the few bright spots for the Sonics the last few seasons. A solid post player who understands his role and is willing to do the dirty work, Collison will be right there with Kevin Durant as the franchise continues to rebuild, almost like a personal protector in some respects. Will he ever be an all-star? Probably not, but players like him you need on successful teams.
Bad: Yaroslav Korolev (2005; LA Clippers)
2007-08 averages: unknown (plays for Dynamo Moscow in the Russian Super League)
This selection clearly didn’t work out for Elgin Baylor and the rest of the Clippers brass, for Korolev was out of the league and back in Russia by the end of the 2006-07 season. Yes, he made appearances in three of their preseason games, but anyone with a decent pair of eyes could tell that Yaroslav was in way over his head. He should be fine in Russia, but he wasn’t drafted to be a good player in Russia.
Good: Richard Jefferson (2001; Houston)
2007-08 averages: 22.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.1 apg
Just one part of an entire draft the Rockets shipped to New Jersey in exchange for the late Eddie Griffin, Jefferson has expanded his game from simply being a high-flyer to being one of the best small forwards in the NBA. With Jason Kidd now gone, the time may be here for RJ to become the face of that franchise, whether they stay in New Jersey or the much-discussed arena in Brooklyn is ever finished. Expect to see him at a couple of All-Star games before his career ends as well.
Bad: Marcus Haislip (2002; Milwaukee)
2007-08 averages: 12.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.97 bpg for Unicaja in Spain
The Bucks drafted Haislip hoping that the raw big man from Tennessee would provide some shot blocking and man the middle for years to come. To say the least that didn’t happen. And after just three years in the NBA, Haislip made his way over to Europe where he has played ever since. The Bucks didn’t get the return on their investment that they were hoping for, but as many teams have learned, drafting a guy based on upside can get you burned.
Fourteenth Pick (became a lottery selection when Charlotte joined in 2004)
Good: Troy Murphy (2001; Golden State)
2007-08 averages: 12.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.0 apg
Murphy hasn’t been asked by either Golden State or Indiana to be the primary offensive option like he was during his time at Notre Dame. But he’s a heady basketball player with a jumpshot that can draw interior defenders away from the basket, opening things up for his teammates. I think he’s destined to be a solid role player who averages 10-12 points per game for the remainder of his career.
Bad: Mateen Cleaves (2000; Detroit)
2007-08 averages: 19.0 ppg, 10.3 apg, 5.3 rpg for the Bakersfield Jam of the NBDL
Although he was an All-American and national champion at Michigan State, Cleaves is the perfect example of the disparity between the college and pro game. While he’s stuck around for this long in the NBA and now the D-League, Mateen hasn’t been able to snag a consistent spot in any rotation since entering with the Pistons in 2000. Whenever someone needs a backup point guard, his name usually comes up, so it’s good to see him doing so well in Bakersfield. Expect to see him on someone’s summer league roster in July.