The NBA Draft is Thursday, and this year’s draft, which many are already calling the weakest in recent memory, is as unpredictable as any I can remember. After Blake Griffin, everything is a toss up.
There are a ton of question marks. And you just know at least half of the kids taken in the first round are going to blow.
How bad they’ll be is still anyone’s guess, but there will be plenty of duds. That’s part of any professional draft’s history. In preparation for this year’s event, we bring you some of the best and worst picks of the NBA Draft over the last decade.
Jonathan Bender, 5th (Indiana Pacers)
The Pacers took the Mississippi high schooler with hopes of a Kevin Garnett-type payoff. Any Pacers fan will tell you Bender was on the path to a promising career and his athleticism was something like Stretch Armstrong’s. However, Bender wasn’t made of an elastic granular solid. He was made of glass. He had the knees of a 65-year old. Was forced into retirement in 2006.
Aleksander Radojevic, 12th (Toronto Raptors)
It was just their fifth draft in franchise history. They were new at it. And it showed. Ever heard of this guy? Neither has anyone else. He was a 7’3″ center out of Barton County Community College. He was then paid to move to Ohio State University, which led to coach Jim O’Brien’s firing. So instead he entered the draft.
Frederic Weis, 15th (New York Knicks)
When your crowning achievement in life is having Vince Carter ferociously dip his balls in your mouth – and it wasn’t even in the NBA – then you know it’s not going to be promising. The 7’2 center out of France never actually played for the Knickerbockers. Local kid, Ron Artest went one pick later to Chicago. Ouch.
Cal Bowdler, 17th (Atlanta Hawks)
A “Who?” when he was drafted. And a “Who?” now. A 6’10 forward out of Old Dominion, he played just three years for the Hawks before shipping overseas.
Ron Artest, 16th (Chicago Bulls)
Sure he’s nuts. But he’s a ferocious defender and a tenacious one-on-one offensive player. He has a tendency to jack up needless 3-pointers and ruin seasons, but he’s still a top talent. Plus, he works out at my local Jewish Community Center.
Can I pick the whole draft? Where do you start? Stromile Swift at No. 2 was awful. The only thing Darius Miles should be third in is a dunk contest or bong ripping contest. Marcus Fizer at No. 4? Ugh. Chris Mihm (7th) certainly blew. Wait, he’s still in the league? OK, well then he still blows. Oh, and UCLA, thanks for Jerome Moiso (11th to Boston). And come on, this is the round that gave us Jake Tsakalidis (25th to Phoenix).
Hedo Turkoglu, 16th (Sacramento Kings)
The first foreigner off the board, Turkoglu certainly made himself a quite a bit of money during the Magic’s run to the 2009 NBA Finals. He can handle the ball and is a versatile weapon who is definitely unfazed with last shot duties.
Kwame Brown, 1st (Washington Wizards)
Sorry, MJ. You’re the best player I ever saw. But as a team president and decision-maker, you make Isiah Thomas look credible. I mean, I can talk about how bad Eddy Curry (4th to Chicago) is, but when Kwame Brown goes first, you start and end with that. Kwame is still in the league, he’s currently the Pistons’ problem.
Tony Parker, 28th (San Antonio Spurs)
He’s easy to hate because he’s French and gets to go to home to this every night (Longoria). But there’s no denying he’s one of the best – if not the best – point guards in the league. Parker has arguably surpassed Tim Duncan as the Spurs’ best and go-to option.
Jay Williams, 2nd (Chicago Bulls)
Certainly one happy to hear Geico offers motorcycle insurance these days, Williams, who will always hold a soft spot in my heart for missing a last-second free throw against Indiana in the 2002 Sweet Sixteen, deep-sixed his NBA career doing Crazy Eights on his motorbike. Most recently, he’s done work for ESPN as a commentator.
Nikoloz Tskitishvili, 5th (Denver Nuggets)
I was a Nuggets fan when Denver took this tough to pronounce string bean from Georgia. The Republic, not the University. You just knew this kid was going to blow. And sure enough, he did. Some of the sting is reduced however because the Nuggets were able to swindle Nene from the Knicks (who took the Brazilian at No. 7) on a draft day deal. Tskitishvili was last seen getting waived by the Knicks in 2006.
Dajuan Wagner, 6th (Cleveland Cavaliers)
The next Allen Iverson was nothing of the sort. In 2005 he was hospitalized for ulcerative colitis, which wasn’t amenable to medication. After consulting with Knicks’ coach Larry Brown, the venerable coach referred him to a New York medical expert. On October 25, 2005 Wagner underwent surgery to remove his entire colon. Yeesh. He last played in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors in 2006.
Caron Butler, 10th (Miami Heat)
He’s one of the most well-rounded small forwards in the league. Butler can do a little bit of everything. He’s averaged 20 points, six rebounds and nearly five assists per game over the last two seasons. Draft day skeptics were worried about his maturity. Missed on this one.
John Salmons, 26th (San Antonio Spurs)
A versatile guard, Salmons never played with the Spurs. Instead, he cut his teeth with Philadelphia and then Sacramento before becoming a Bulls’ fan favorite last season. He averaged 18 points a contest last season and was a nice complement to Chicago’s other two-guard Ben Gordon, who might bolt in free agency, giving Salmons more playing time.
Darko Milicic, 2nd (Detroit Pistons)
I hate to admit it, but as a Nuggets fan at the time, I had talked myself into the fact that Darko not only could be good, but would be. Why? Because LeBron was headed to Cleveland, and I figured Detroit would take Carmelo Anthony at No. 2, leaving Darko to my Nuggets. Luckily, Joe Dumars is a dumb ass.
Leandro Barbosa, 28th (San Antonio Spurs)
Apparently the Spurs know what they’re doing with late round picks on guards. First it was Parker, then Salmons and now Barbosa. Sure Salmons and Barbosa’s greatest contributions have come elsewhere, but the Spurs brass certainly has an eye for talent. That certainly bodes well for last year’s No. 26 pick George Hill from tiny IUPUI. And when I say tiny, I mean tiny. The school’s gym shares a building with a world class natatorium and is smaller than my high school gym.
David West, 18th (New Orleans Hornets)
If his basketball career didn’t work out, West could’ve perhaps fallen back on a Secret Service career. Luckily for West’s bank account, he can hoop. He’s averaged at least 20 points and eight rebounds a game over the past two seasons.
Josh Howard, 29th (Dallas Mavericks)
The Mavericks certainly showed they are a different and much better team when Howard plays. The last pick of the first round, Howard has averaged at least 18 points in each of the last three campaigns.
Shaun Livingston, 4th (L.A. Clippers)
It’s pretty bad when I don’t even know what team this kid is on anymore. The former prep star played in just 12 games last season, split between Miami and Oklahoma City. Injuries have all but killed this kid’s chances.
Rafael Araujo, 8th (Toronto Raptors)
Counting Canada, Araujo has played in four different countries since the Raptors made him the eighth overall selection. A former ‘roid head, Araujo’s big body was an impressive sight. However, he was softer than Cinemax late night simulated sex. After a stint in Utah, Araujo played in Russia for a season and now suits up for a Brazilian team.
Robert Swift, 12th (Seattle SuperSonics)
I will never pass on the opportunity of showing everyone some good old Robert Swift action shots. I mean, this is what happens to people from Bakersfield.
Kevin Martin, 26th (Sacramento Kings)
A small-school standout at Western Carolina, Martin can flat out score. He’s increased his scoring average each season he’s been in the league and finished last year averaging 24.6 points a contest.
Raymond Felton, 5th (Charlotte Bobcats)
When fellow point guards Deron Williams and Chris Paul go third and fourth right in front of you, you’re going to be compared to them. Fair or unfair, it’s just how it is. Felton had a decent rookie season, but it’s never a good sign when your club picks another point guard in the top-10 three drafts later (D.J. Augustin, 9th; 2008).
Yaroslav Korolev, 12th (L.A. Clippers)
Doesn’t he play for the Red Wings? He played with the Clippers from 2005-07 and got into just 34 games. He has a career points per game average of 1.1. Awesome.
Danny Granger, 17th (Indiana Pacers)
After a breakout season in 2007-08, Granger took the next step toward becoming a franchise player this season. The 2008-09 NBA’s Most Improved Player, Granger averaged 25.8 points a game last season (fifth best in the league) and was named to his first All-Star team. He’s a stat sheet stuffer and probably bought Larry Bird’s job a few more seasons than deserved.
David Lee, 30th (New York Knicks)
A rebounding machine, Lee thrived in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system with the Knicks. He finished last season second in total rebounds and third in rebounds per game (11.7). He’s a gifted passer for a big man and has a knack for getting steals (he had 80 last year). He’s a restricted free agent and if the Knicks want to keep him, it’s going to cost them.
Adam Morrison, 3rd (Charlotte Bobcats)
MJ strikes again. Though to his credit, Morrison won an NBA championship ring – by doing absolutely nothing.
Shelden Williams, 5th (Atlanta Hawks)
It’s never a good sign when your wife is better at hoops than you are. Though nothing disparaging I say is going to get Shelden upset. I can tell him he looks like an undeveloped fetus (which he does) or that he was a complete waste of a top-five pick (which he was). He’s got a lot of money and a hot wife. Damn him.
Patrick O’Bryant, 9th (Golden State Warriors)
What happens when a mid-major big man has a huge NCAA Tournament and leads his team on a Cinderella run? He leaves early and gets paid before people realize why he was at a mid-major in the first place (my regards to Central Michigan’s Chris Kaman).
Renaldo Balkman, 20th (New York Knicks)
If Knicks fans didn’t know Isiah Thomas had shit for brains before Balkman’s selection, the drafting of a guy many thought was a rookie free agent candidate at No. 20 certainly was a harbinger of things to come. I can still hear Stephen A. Smith and Jay Bilas still blasting the pick.
Rajon Rondo, 21st (Phoenix Suns)
So what if he can’t shoot. He’s certainly shown his value this season for the Celtics. He’s proving to be one of the better young point guards in the league. His shooting woes prevent him from being in the class of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, but his ability to rebound and defend for a point guard are almost unmatched.
Brandon Roy, 6th (Portland Trailblazers)
The Blazers might have fudged the No. 1 pick in 2007, but they definitely got this pick right. Roy, a Northwest native, is not only the face of the franchise, he is the franchise. He’s cold-blooded and can pretty much do everything on the court. The NBA’s Greatest Player took Adam Morrison instead of this guy? Stick to stogies and golf, Your Airness.
Greg Oden, 1st (Portland Trailblazers)
Granted it’s early and he’s been injured, but this has more to do with what the Blazers passed up in Kevin Durant than it is an indictment of Oden. Don’t get me wrong, Greg Oden has shown no reason why he should have been taken No. 1. He’s injury prone and as Bill Simmons perfectly penned, he’s Benjamin Button – a 60-year old stuck in a 21-year old’s body. Oden can still be a solid NBA player, but the Bill Russell-type comparisons certainly seem foolish right now. Foolish being a nice way to put it. He could still prove us wrong in the end, but right now it doesn’t look good.
Corey Brewer, 7th (Minnesota Timberwolves)
I won two NCAA titles on a really good team with really good teammates. Oh, and I’m 175 lbs. Yeah. Good luck with that. Do you hear that Stephen Curry?
Aaron Brooks, 26th (Houston Rockets)
Before Rafer Alston was helping the Magic in their playoff run, he was the Rockets starting point guard. “Was” being the operative word. The pint-sized Brooks made Alston surplus to requirements, so he was shipped out. During Houston’s playoff run, Brooks showed a national audience what Rockets fans already knew – this kid is good. He’s a very gifted offensive player and can flat out fill it up.
Frankly it’s too early to tell who the busts and booms were from the 2008 class. So they’re off the hook – for now.