The big focus this past weekend was obviously on the NFL Draft, but it also marked the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft. With more and more players tossing their names into the ring, this draft has the potential, at least on paper, to be very deep. There are near-sure things like Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose, who should be All-Stars sooner rather than later. There are plenty of high-risk, high-reward players, like Donte Green and DeAndre Jordan. There are a few upperclassmen who should make a nice living in the league, like Roy Hibbert, DJ White, Jason Thompson and Courtney Lee. And finally, there are plenty of other freshmen who should make early impacts, like Kevin Love, OJ Mayo, Eric Gordon and Jerryd Bayless,
All in all – the draft looks to be solid. But how does it 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.
Best player: Dirk Nowitzki (#9 – Milwaukee)
Biggest bust: Michael Olowokandi (#1-LA Clippers)
Best 2nd round pick: Rashard Lewis (#32- Seattle)
The first post-MJ Draft produced a solid number of legitimate players, as well as five legitimate superstars in Mike Bibby (2), Antawn Jamison (4), Vince Carter (5), Dirk Nowitzki (9), and Paul Pierce (10). However, the lottery that year also included busts like Michael Olowokandi (1), Robert Traylor (8), and Michael Dickerson (13), none of whom lived up to expectations. But the depth of the class was solid, with the first round producing Larry Hughes, Bonzi Wells, Jason Williams, Matt Harpring, Raef LaFrentz, Ricky Davis, Al Harrington, Rasho Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed. The second round proved to be solid also, as Rashard Lewis, Rafer Alston, Cuttino Mobley and Greg Buckner were all selected. Among undrafted players, Brad Miller is a two-time All-Star, while Mike James, Anthony Carter and Earl Boykins also found their niche in the league. Overall, the 1998 draft was solid, although some would point out that none of the superstars have produced a championship yet. But while not all of the lottery picks turned into stars, there were few flat-out busts, and the class had solid depth. Better yet, the NBA found some marketing stars in the post-Jordan era, with Vince’s hops and Dirk’s ridiculous combination of size and ball skills ushering in a new era.
Best player: Elton Brand (#1 – Chicago)
Biggest bust: Jonathan Bender (#5-Toronto)
Best 2nd round pick: Manu Ginobili (#57- San Antonio)
Like the 1998 class, the 1999 draft produced a number of superstar-quality players, like Elton Brand (1), Steve Francis (2), Baron Davis (4), Rip Hamilton (7), Andre Miller (8), Shawn Marion (9), Ron Artest (16), Andrei Kirilenko (24) and Manu Ginolbil (57). As usually, there were a few busts, like Jonathan Bender, William Avery, Trajan Langdon and someone named Aleksander Radojevic. But the depth of the class proved solid again, as Lamar Odom, Wally Szczerbiak, Corey Maggette, Jason Terry, James Posey and Devean George were first-round picks. However, the second-round of the draft produced almost nothing of substance outside of Ginobili, with Francisco Elson, Todd MacCulloch, and Gordan Giricek the only names worth recognizing. The draft does score points however with a couple of undrafted players who have made a name for themselves in one way or another, with Raja Bell and Chris “Birdman”Andersen. Overall, this draft probably trumps the 1998 draft because of more depth in the first round, plus championship rings for Hamilton, Ginobili, George and Posey don’t hurt either. Besides, any class that gives us the Artest and the Birdman is going to be tough to beat…
Best player: Kenyon Martin (#1 – New Jersey)
Biggest lottery bust: Stromile Swift (#2 – Vancouver)
Best 2nd round pick: Michael Redd (#43-Milwaukee)
Yikes. Not much to work with here. I guess it’s never a good sign when you have multiple options for the “Biggest bust” award. I went with Swift, who has shown he can do little else but dunk for losing teams in his career, but I just as easily could have gone with Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, Dermarr Johnson, Jerome Moiso, Mateen Cleaves or Courtney Alexander. Number one overall Kenyon Martin has had a solid career, slowed a little by injuries and being a knucklehead, while lottery picks Mike Miller (5), Chris Mihm (7), Jamal Crawford (8), Joel Przybilla (9) and Keyon Dooling (10) have been solid, but not spectacular. The rest of the first round produced some quality players, like Hedo Turkoglu, Desmond Mason, Quentin Richardson, Jamaal Magloire, Morris Peterson and DeShawn Stevenson, but out of them, only Magloire has been an All-Star. The second round proved to be dreadful again, with Redd, Eduardo Najera and Eddie House the only names who stand out. Even the undrafted players list is unimpressive, with Ime Udoka and Malik Allen leading the way. On the plus side, this class did give us the head-tapping move from Richardson and Miles, the “I can’t feel my face” move from Stevenson, and dancing from Mark Madsen, so I guess it wasn’t a total waste. But I was always told that if I have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all…so we’ll just leave it at that.
Best player: Gilbert Arenas (#31 – Golden State)
Biggest lottery bust: Kwame Brown (#1 – Washington)
Best 2nd round pick: Gilbert Arenas (#31- Golden State)
This is more like it. The 2001 class has four legit stars in Pau Gasol (4), Joe Johnson (10), Tony Parker (28) and Arenas. The class also had very solid depth, with Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Vladamir Radmanovich, Richard Jefferson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Samuel Dalmbert and Brendan Haywood all going in the first round. Outside of Arenas and Mehmet Okur, the second-round didn’t produce much, but Trenton Hassell, Earl Watson and Bobby Simmons have all made a solid living in the league. Amongst undrafted players, Carlos Arroy, Charlie Bell and Jamario Moon have had the most success. But overall, this class has proved to be very good. Chandler is on the verge-of becoming an All-Star, while Jefferson, Richardson, Curry and Randolph all have the potential to be if the chips fall right. Gasol is looking to start a new dynasty with Kobe in LA, while Parker is coming off a season in which he was the NBA Finals MVP. Johnson and Arenas are tow of the most talented players in the league, and leaders of young squads with plenty of playoff runs left in them. Kwame, Rodney White and Kedrick Brown drag the class down a little, but overall, 2001 was a good year for the NBA.
Best player: Amare Stoudemire (#9 – Phoenix)
Biggest lottery bust: Nikoloz Tskitishvili (#5 – Denver)
Best 2nd round pick: Carlos Boozer (#34 – Cleveland)
This class takes the prize for the most “what-ifs”. What if Jay Williams, a lightning quick scoring point guard, hadn’t injured himself in a motorcycle wreck? What if scoring machine Dajuan Wagner hadn’t had to undergo colon surgery? What if top pick Yao Ming could stay healthy for an entire season? Regardless, the class still looks pretty good, led by Yao, Stoudemire, Caron Butler (10) and Boozer. The first round produced some standout players who will be contributing for years to come, such as Mike Dunleavy (3), Drew Gooden (4), Chris Wilcox (8), Jared Jeffries (11) and Tayshaun Prince (23). In addition to Boozer, the second round produced Roger Mason, Flip Murray, Darius Songalia, Matt Barnes and Luis Scola, while the undrafted players list includes Udonis Haslem, Reggie Evans, Devin Brown and Jannero Pargo. Yao, Stoudemire, Butler and Boozer are all legitimate stars with plenty of good years left, while Prince, Haslem and Brown all have championship rings. However, you can’t help but wonder how good Williams and Wagner might have been under different circumstances, as well as what Yao could do if he were able to remain fully healthy. It’s still a very very good class, but not quite what it could have been.
Check back tomorrow for the 2003-2007 Drafts!