By the time you read this, the 2013 NBA draft will have already occurred. Before any draft, there is a great deal of optimism about the players and this draft is no different. But even the players at the top of most draft boards have plenty of question marks. Whether these ifs and buts turn into candy and nuts (and maybe it will be Christmas every day) is another question. Because I don’t think much of this draft class, I thought it would be interesting to look at five previous drafts that did not offer much help to NBA teams.
Almost every draft has its gems and the 1997 draft produced Tim Duncan off the top, so it certainly can’t be rated as one of the worst. The draft also had Chauncey Billups and Tracy McGrady as well as Stephen Jackson as a second rounder. However, the lottery and the rest of the first round were littered with busts. Antonio Daniels, the fourth pick of the then Vancouver Grizzlies, never averaged more than 11.2 points in a season. Tony Battie, the fifth pick was known as “El Busto” by Nuggets’ GM Dan Issel and finished with career averages of 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds. Other forgettable names from the lottery included Ron Mercer, Tim Thomas (one of my least favorite players ever), Adonal Foyle, Danny Fortson, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, and Austin Croshere.
The 2013 draft is most often compared to the 2000 draft. Like 2013, the top prospect – Kenyon Martin – came into the league off of a leg injury. Martin recovered from his broken leg to have a nice career. He is a player that I think has been underrated because he was always willing to mix it up. Maybe not a great first pick, but he was better than what followed: Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, Mike Miller, DerMarr Johnson, and Chris Mihm. Oof. Miller has had a functional NBA career and is now a two-time champion, but the rest of the picks were out and out busts. The best pick of the draft may have been Michael Redd in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks. Later first round picks Jamaal Magloire and Hedo Turkoglu also had decent NBA careers, but that was about it for 2000.
When talking about the worst drafts, the 2002 draft is not always mentioned. Yao Ming, the top pick, was a good player until injuries undid him. The same could possibly said for Amar’e Stoudemire, although he is still getting paid by the Knicks. Carlos Boozer may be one of the best second round picks ever. Now the downside: picks 2-6 did not work out. The list includes Jay Williams (injury), Mike Dunleavy Jr. (who has become a decent bench player), Drew Gooden, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, and DeJuan Wagner. That’s a bad run for the top of the lottery. The 13th pick, Marcus Haislip, was one of the reasons I will never take the draft combine seriously. The now-forgotten Haislip was a physical specimen who could jump and lift incredible amounts of weight. Sadly, he could not really play basketball.
Sandwiched around the incredible 2003 draft, the 2002 and 2004 drafts had a few hits but plenty of misses. It is hard to argue with the Magic did with the first pick, Dwight Howard. Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, and Al Jefferson have become good players as well. There were plenty of busts as well. The 2-4 players were Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, and Shaun Livingston. All three players are still in the league, but the former UConn Huskies are mainly mentioned for their contract status these days. Players like Rafael Araujo (eighth pick to the Raptors), Luke Jackson (10th to the Cavaliers), and Robert Swift (12th to the Supersonics) never made an impact on the league.
Maybe the one-and-done rule has worked in that there have not been drafts filled with busts since the rule was implemented for the 2006 draft. Or it may not be enough time for the busts to emerge from more recent drafts (although things are not looking good for the second picks from 2009 to 2011 – Hasheem Thabeet, Evan Turner, and Derrick Williams). The extra year to watch players did not help general managers in the 2006. There were some fine players taken, including LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, and Rajon Rondo (at the 21st pick). The Raptors opened the draft by selecting Andrea Bargnani. The 3-5 picks were Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas and Shelden Williams. If that weren’t bad enough there was a run of failed big men in the late lottery that included Patrick O’Bryant, Mouhamed Sene, and Hilton Armstrong.