Last week we released our all-time NBA Draft franchise rankings, a ranking of which franchises consistently made the correct choices on draft night over the past couple of decades. Now we’re going to take a peak at the five biggest steals during this period of the draft. These GMs earned their keep with these picks.
5) San Antonio – 1999 (+52)
GM: Gregg Popovich
Pick: Manu Ginobili (Win Share Rank: 5, Draft at Pick # 57)
You generally don’t get a two-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA performer with the second to last pick in a NBA Draft (you’re lucky if you even get a guy who actually plays any minutes for you that late in the draft), but Gregg Popovich and the Spurs struck gold in 1999 with the selection of Manu Ginobili. And, considering Ginobili has played around 300 games fewer than many of the other players in his draft class due to staying in Europe until 2002, his Win Share ranking could have been even higher.
3) (tied) Utah – 2006 (+57)
GM: Kevin O’Connor
Utah got a diamond in the rough with the selection of Paul Millsap out of Louisiana Tech in the second round of 2006. That school has been very good to the team over the years – that’s where that Mailman guy, Karl Malone went. They actually ended up with two starters from this draft, grabbing Ronnie Brewer with the last pick of the lottery.
3) (tied) Sacramento – 1994 (+57)
GM: Geoff Petrie
Picks: Brian Grant (WS: 6, Pick #8), Michael Smith (WS: 14, Pick #35), Lawrence Funderburke (WS: 17, Pick #51)
Sacramento started to change their reputation from “Queens” to Kings with the hiring of Geoff Petrie in 1994, who kicked things off with very solid picks at the 1994 NBA Draft. By 1995/96, the Kings were making their first playoff appearance in a decade, with 1994 draft picks Brian Grant and Michael Smith playing big minutes for them.
2) Indiana – 1990 (+61)
GM: Donnie Walsh
Picks: Antonio Davis (WS: 5, Pick #45), Kenny Williams (WS: 25, Pick #46)
With back-to-back picks in the second round of the 1990 NBA Draft, Donnie Walsh grabbed two players who ended up carving out NBA careers. The jewel of the Pacers’ class was of course Antonio Davis, who formed a rugged frontline with the other Pacer Davis, Dale. Walsh made a great move to get the draft pick he used on Antonio Davis – he traded Herb Williams to Dallas for Detlef Schrempf. Walsh then made a boo-boo by trading Antonio to the Raptors for Jonathan Bender. Ouch.
1) San Antonio – 2002 (+75)
GM: Gregg Popovich
Picks: John Salmons (WS: 9, Pick #26), Luis Scola (WS: 10, Pick # 55), Randy Holcomb (WS: 44, Pick #56)
The NBA draft is set up to create parity in the league – the worst teams get the best picks, so therefore they should get the best players in order to catch up to the current powerhouse teams in the league. However, the San Antonio Spurs haved thumbed their noses at parity by consistently finding quality players with late first round picks and/or second round picks. Unfortunately for them, none of the players from their 2002 draft haul ended up suiting up for the team.