Drafts From the Past: 2003-2007 Review
How does the 2008 Draft stack up against the last 10 drafts? The answer of course is that there’s no way to tell yet. As always, it usually takes a couple years to fully analyze a draft class, especially in the NBA, where so many young players enter their names. But here’s a look at the drafts from 1998 – 2007, including biggest surprises, biggest busts, and deepest class. How will 2008 stack up? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Previously: Drafts From the Past Part One: 1998 to 2002
Best player: LeBron James (#1 – Cleveland)
Biggest lottery bust: Darko Milicic (#2 – Detroit)
Best 2nd round pick: Mo Williams (#47 – Utah)
Easily one of the best draft classes in recent memory, thanks to the star power of James, Carmelo Anthony (3), Chris Bosh (4), and Dwyane Wade (5). All four are undeniable superstars who will be the face of the NBA for the next 10 seasons. In addition to them, the first round also produced Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, TJ Ford, Nick Collison, David West, Sasha Pavlovic, Boris Diaw, Travis Outlaw, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa and Josh Howard, while the second round produced Jason Kapono, Luke Walton, Steve Blake, Willie Green, Mo Williams and Kyle Korver. Even undrafted players Matt Carroll, Marquis Daniels, and Quinton Ross have carved out nice roles for themselves. The draft included very few busts after Darko, as even players like Jarvis Hayes, Mickeal Pietrus and Luke Ridnour have all shown flashes during their career. But there’s no doubt that this class is being judged primarily on four players, two of whom already have been to the NBA Finals, with Wade owning a ring from 2006. The sky is the limit for this class, as one day it may be mentioned in the same breath as the legendary 1984 class that featured Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton.
Best player: Dwight Howard (#1 – Orlando)
Biggest lottery bust: Rafeal Araujo (#8 – Toronto)
Best 2nd round pick: Anderson Varejao (#30 – Orlando)
While this class has produced only one certified superstar to this point in Howard, the depth of the first round was very good, and there are some likely future All-Stars in there. In addition to Howard, the lottery included Emeka Okafor (2), Ben Gordon (3), Devin Harris (5), Josh Childress (6), Luol Deng (7), Andre Iguodala (9) and Andris Biedrins (11). The rest of the first round gave us Al Jefferson, JR Smith, Josh Smith, Jameer Nelson, Delonte West, Tony Allen and Kevin Martin. Jefferson, Iguodala, and Martin are on the verge on being All-Stars, while the Smiths have as much potential as any young players in the league if they harness it. The second round wasn’t great, but did produce Varejao, Chris Duhon, Royal Ivey and Trevor Ariza, all solid players in the league. Plus, this doesn’t even take into account Shaun Livingston (4), who has a chance to be really special if he proves he can come back from a horrific knee injury. Overall, the class looks pretty good, and will only get better. Howard has become an absolute beast down low, and you can pencil him in for 25-10 for the next 10 season, while the other lottery picks have shown flashes of greatness. They’re not at the level of the 2003 class, but the 2004 draftees are definitely going to be heard from for a long time.
Best player: Chris Paul (#4 – New Orleans)
Biggest lottery bust: Fran Vasquez (#11 – Orlando)
Best 2nd round pick: Monta Ellis (#40 – Golden State)
Now is when it starts getting a little tougher to judge classes, because these guys are wrapping up only their third years in the league. However, it’s easy to see the potential of the class, led by two superstar point guards in Deron Williams (3) and Paul. Paul has shown he’ll be an MVP candidate for the next 10-12 seasons, while Williams is right on his heels as the best young point guard in the league. The lottery also included Andrew Bogut (1), Marvin Williams (2), Charlie Villanueva (7), and Andrew Bynum (10), players who have teased us so far with their potential, and may be on the verge of big things. The rest of the first round has proved to be good as well, led by Danny Granger, Hakim Warrick, Jarrett Jack, Luther Head, Jason Maxiell, Linas Kleiza, and David Lee. The second round has also proved surprisingly fruitful, led by Ellis, who is an All-Star in the making. In addition to Ellis, the second round included Salim Stoudamire, Brandon Bass, CJ Miles. Ronny Turiaf, Louis Williams, Andray Blatche, Ryan Gomes, and Amir Johnson. The undrafted players list in also fairly impressive, led by Kelenna Azubuike, Chuck Hayes and Shavlik Randolph. There’s no question that this class has the chance to be special, but guys like Marvin Williams, Villanueva, and Bynum need to reach their full potential for that to happen.
Best player: Brandon Roy (#6 – Minnesota)
Biggest lottery bust: Patrick O’Bryant (#9 – Golden State)
Best 2nd round pick: Daniel Gibson (#42 – Cleveland)
The best way to grade this class right now is “incomplete”. With only two years under their belts, it’s hard to really judge who will be a bust, who will stick around for a while, and who will become a star. Roy became the leader of the Portland locker room immediately following a draft day trade, and he has the makings of a superstar with his versatility. Fellow lottery picks LaMarcus Aldridge (2) and Rudy Gay (8) broke out this year, and they’ll only get better, while Andrea Bargnani (1), Tyrus Thomas (4), Randy Foye (7) and Thabo Sefolosha (13) have the potential to be great players for many years. The rest of the first round produced Renaldo Balkman, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowery, and Jordan Farmar, young players who are coming into their own (especially Rondo, now that’s he surrounded by three All-Stars). Even just two years, out, the second round is littered with players no longer in the league. However, Gibson, Paul Millsap, and Leon Powe are here to stay, as all three are playing big roles for teams with their sights set in championships. It’ll take a few more years before we’re able to really judge this class, but the potential is there, led by Roy, Aldridge and Gay.
Best player: Kevin Durant (#2 – Seattle)
Biggest lottery bust: Corey Brewer (#7 – Minnesota)
Best 2nd round pick: Carl Landry (#31 – Seattle)
Before we start, I realize it’s unfair to call anyone a bust after one year in the league, especially someone playing on a team as bad as Minnesota. But I figured, as probably did many people, that someone with Brewer’s length and skill set could put up more than 5.8 points per game, even on a bad team. But like with 2006, the potential of this class is still unrealized, yet the future looks bright. Durant was up and down at times, but there’s no doubt he’ll be among the league’s leading scorers sooner rather than later. Al Horford (3), also showed he’s going to be a force in the middle for a long time, while Joakim Noah (9), Thaddeus Young (12), Julian Wright (13) and Al Thornton (14) all came on stronger as the year progressed. Of course, top pick Greg Oden sat out the year due to injury, but he should be able to step in an anchor the Portland front line for the next 12 seasons if he’s healthy. The rest of the first round gave us Rodney Stuckey, Nick Young, Sean Williams and Jared Dudley…players who saw ups and downs in their rookie year but could be solid rotation guys next season. The second round also produced some gems, with Landry, Glen Davis and Ramon Sessions (who dropped 24 assists in a game late in the season). Obviously, it’s way to soon to judge this class, since their rookie season just wrapped up. But if Oden comes back healthy, and Durant and Horford continue to develop, this class could be special.
So how will 2008 stack up? Beasley and Rose have All-Star potential, as do Mayo, Gordon, Bayless, Darrell Arthur and Brook Lopez. However, the bust potential is also high for these young players, who have the skills but who are also still developing. How will they adjust to the physical nature of the NBA? Can they handle not being The Man and getting shots whenever they want? Many of them will probably spend more time on the bench in their first season than they have in their high school and college careers combined – how do they handle that?
Only time will tell. With so many freshmen expected to stay in the draft, it will likely take a few years for many of these guys to fully develop, so we should expect a steep learning curve. But there’s no doubt that the 2008 class could be great, led by those same freshmen who made college basketball so special this season.