Before I begin I’d like to send my thoughts and prayers to everyone in Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City area. Be sure to go give blood or do whatever else it is you can do to help, even if it’s just a prayer. They need it.
No easy transition… But here we go…
First, some brief history. The NBA Draft Lottery in it’s current weighted form has been around since 1990. After the Orlando Magic won the Lottery in ’93(second consecutive year) despite having the best record of non-playoff teams, the system was tweaked once again to give the team with the worst record better odds. Despite the change, only three teams with the worst record have gotten the Number 1 pick. So for the sake of this article only Lottery picks Post-1993 Draft are eligible for this list.
Now here’s my list of the best and worst lottery picks 14-1. Please note that the lottery, under current rules, technically only refer to picks one through three. Doesn’t make sense but whatever. Also, because of expansion the lottery, too, hasn’t always been 14 teams. So here we go!
Best pick at Number 14:
Peja Stojaković/1996, Sacramento Kings
To be honest, there wasn’t much here that qualified for “best” but Peja is completely deserving. The only player picked at 14 to make an All-Star team, 3 in fact. An NBA Champion with Dallas. A career 17ppg average and 40.1% 3pt shooting. And a guy, who at his best, was one of the most feared shooters in the game.
Worst pick at 14:
Yinka Dare/1994, New Jersey Nets
“Who?” Yeah, I asked that too. Probably best known for holding the record for most games played in a season without an assist, 58 games. He recorded 72 turnovers that year. With career averages of 2.1ppg and 2.6rpg, and at a pick littered with guys who couldn’t cut it, Dare was probably the worst of the worst. Dare unfortunately passed away at age 31 due to a heart attack, I don’t mean any disrespect, just giving an opinion.
Best Pick at 13:
Kobe Bryant/1996, Charlotte Hornets
The easiest pick on the board. If he was the Number 1 pick it’d likely still be easy. But fortunately for me he was 13th so I don’t have to make that choice. We all know the numbers but here’s some anyways: 5x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, MVP(2008), 15x NBA All-Star, 4x All-Star Game MVP, 10x All-NBA First Team… Should I continue? Nah… You guys got the point.
Worst pick at 13:
Courtney Alexander/2000, Orlando Magic
Now to be fair, Courtney was 2nd team All-Rookie after his first season. The problem, it was the worst rookie class in NBA History according to most. The argument could be made that others fit here but I couldn’t think of a single impactful thing Courtney Alexander did in his time in the league. Great college player, led the nation in scoring. But pro, not so much. This one is debatable, but when in doubt I refer to the 2000 NBA Draft for my worst, it’s actually where I started my search for all my worst lol.
Best pick at 12:
Nick Collison/2003, Seattle Supersonics
Unfortunately I had to pick one. Leaving off number 12 would have been a bad look on my part. Not that Collison is a bad player. I just don’t think you’d call him best at anything. He’s had a long solid career carving out a niche for himself as a quality back-up big, hard worker, and great teammate. And… Look… The 12th pick in the NBA Draft appears to be the worst pick to end up with, but it’s early in the list… No hard feelings hopefully from Nick Collison.
Worst pick at 12:
Robert Swift/2004, Seattle Supersonics
So the Sonics got the best and worst of the Number 12 pick! I know there are other guys at this pick who equally deserve to be mentioned here but this one is personal. Spending most of my childhood summers in Bakersfield and playing pick-up ball at local parks, gyms, and rec centers I came across Swift a few times. To this day, I still cannot begin to imagine what NBA scouts seen in him to have him as NBA Draft pick. Yet alone lottery pick. He dominated marginal competition in Bakersfield but even struggled back then when 6’3″ and 6’4″ would be physical with him. Swift did show promise in 2nd season averaging 6.4ppg, 5.6rpg, and 1.2bpg in just 21 minutes a night, but struggled with consistency and legal issues the rest of his brief career.
Best pick at 11:
Klay Thompson/2011, Golden State Warriors
This one was tough. I feel like I must mention Bonzi Wells, 1998, Detroit Pistons. I remember when that guy was a thorn in my Lakers side in Portland. But this guy, one half of the Splash brothers, may have the most textbook and pure stroke in the game. There are guys who are as good or better shooters but none with a shot as technically beautiful as Thompson’s. With that said, his body of work is minimal with only one full year as a starter. Which speaks loudly to the weakness of the 11th overall NBA Pick.
Worst pick at 11:
Todd Fuller/1996, Golden State Warriors
This one was tough. Number 11 was filled with busts. But most of them weren’t as good as Fuller was in college(20.1ppg and 9.9rpg in his final season at NC State) and none of them were taken ahead of arguably the greatest lottery pick ever in Kobe Bryant. Fuller averaged just 3pts and 3reb in his short NBA career, a huge drop from his numbers his final season at NC State. Fuller is consider one of the biggest busts in league history. But he’s also a good example of being a star in life. Look him up, Todd Fuller seems to be a really good person who does a lot to help others. So it pains me to say this, but he was a bust. A pretty big one.
Best pick at 10:
Paul Pierce/1998, Boston Celtics
One of the more difficult picks to choose just one best. 10, so far, is the most consistently successful picks in the draft. Filled with All-Stars, NBA Champs, and All-NBA performers. Choosing Pierce over the likes of Joe Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bynum, and others was difficult. Pierce gets the spot for his longitivtiy and the fact that he’s been a go-to scorer on a championship team. Skill and talent wise each of the other players are better but none can say that. But watch out for Paul George, another couple years like his past season and this spot will be all his.
Worst pick at 10:
Saer Senae/2006, Seattle Supersonics
The Sonics are making their second appearance on the “worst” portion of this list. It’s not just because Sene was bad, but it’s not really close with the other guys at the bottom of this spot like Eric Dampier and Danny Fortson. They had impact at times during their careers. Dampier contributed to a Championship winning team. But Sene was bad, averaging a minuscule 5.5 minutes per game in just 47 career games in 4 NBA seasons.
Best pick at 9:
Amare Stoudemire/2002, Phoenix Suns
Dirk Nowitzki/1998, Milwaukee Bucks
Tracy McGrady/1997, Toronto Raptors
I truly could not pick between these 3 players. Each completely unique in their own right. Stoudemire had the most immediate success. Bursting on to the scene nationally with one of the best dunks you’ll ever see in December of his rookie season. Was a multiple time All-Star, All-NBA performer, and helped revive the New York Knicks. Dirk has had the more successful and graceful end of his career. After getting off to a slow start in his career he found his game and confidence a few yrs in. Winning an MVP Award and a Championship. But also the leader of a team with two of the biggest choke jobs in NBA history in the ’06 NBA Finals and First Round of the NBA Playoffs in 2007. Tracy McGrady had a rough start and worst end to his career. But everything in the middle was absolutely spectacular! One of the most naturally gifted offensive players in my generation, probably any generation. He had unlimited range and could store 10pts in the blink of an eye, ask the Spurs. A multiple time NBA All-Star, All-NBA Performer, and scoring champ, he deserves this spot as much as the other 2. Can you choose?
Worst pick at 9:
Ed O’Bannon/1995, New Jersey Nets
The Nets making their second “worst” appearance. Let’s forget the fact that O’Bannon’s antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, EA Sports and others, though legitimate, helped kill college basketball video games and threaten to destroy the NCAA as a whole. He was one of the worst picks in NBA history, period. After getting “homesick” after 2 years in New Jersey he was out of the NBA… I don’t know if I buy the “homesick” excuse though(and it’s a bad excuse) because he then left to play in Italy in 97-98, Spain in 98-99, Greece and Argentina in 99-2000, and Poland from 01-04… All those places are a long way from home. It’s more likely that because at 6’8″ he couldn’t guard NBA power forwards and was too slow to guard NBA wings and thus, couldn’t get a job. One of the most decorated players in the history of NCAA hoops, but awful pick at number 9.
Best pick at 8:
Andre Miller/1999, Cleveland Cavaliers
I know most would probably go Rudy Gay here but don’t sleep on the original “Old Man Game”. He’s as solid an NBA career as most point guards in NBA history. A solid argument could be made for him being a hall-of-famer when he’s done playing. He ranks tenth all-time in career assists with 7,856, 41st in career steals with 1,464, and a career average of 13.8ppg, 7.1ast, and 1.3spg. If you can get a player at any pick who gives this much consistency it’s a quality pick. But there are no true stars at number 8.
Worst pick at 8:
Joe Alexander/2008, Milwaukee Bucks
Not very much to say here. I’m going to let the number speak. 67 career NBA games. 11.1 minutes per game. 41% field goal shooting, 4.2 points per game, and 1.8 rebounds. All of that for the number 8 pick. You guys going to make me say more? Didn’t think so…
Best pick at 7:
Stephen Curry/2009, Golden State Warriors
The baby-faced assassin and other half of the Splash Brothers. This is pretty simple. At number 7 the Warriors got a franchise cornerstone and if you’re paying attention, those are hard to come by so far in the lottery surprisingly. Rip Hamilton was also the 7th overall pick. While solid, never was the game changer Stephen Curry is proving to be. There is a big question with Steph though, his ankles. His rise to stardom is reminiscent to that of Brandon Roy’s. You just hope his fall from grace isn’t as quick.
Worst pick at 7:
Chris Mihm/2000, Chicago Bulls
Chris Mihm, I have fond memories of watching you pick up fouls at alarming rates and being consistently dunked on as a Laker. I was at the game when Steve Francis posterized you. I could see it coming clearly from my decent seats, but you really thought you had a chance at it… It was always “well he’s serviceable” with Mihm. But when I found out he was the Number 7 overall pick he no longer got that benefit. Another product of the 2000 Draft Class. Mihm had some decent seasons averaging career best 10.2ppg in 2005-06 and 6.7rpg in 2004-O5 but never played more than 26.1 minutes a game at any point during his career. If he was a mid-late 1st round guy, he’d still be below average in my books.
Best pick at 6:
Damian Lillard/2012, Portland Trailblazers
Lillard has only played one NBA season but the guy is clearly special. In his lone season Damian won Western Conference Rookie of the Month every month in 2012-13, won the NBA Skills Challenge, set a new NBA rookie record for 3pt shots made with 185, and became just the 4th player to be a unanimous choice for NBA Rookie of the Year. Joining Blake Griffin, David Robinson, and Ralph Sampson. Obviously he still has a lot of basketball he needs to play to justify this pick but I’m banking on this guy. Ironically, the Blazers had another young, poise, rookie guard taken at number 6 in Brandon Roy. But this one will end better I hope.
Worst pick at 6:
Dejauan Wagner/2002, Cleveland Cavaliers
There were only 2 possible choices here: Wagner or Demarr Johnson. Both of whom had careers cut short and limited by ultimately career ending injuries. So I’m not certain calling either a bust is 100% fair. Jan Vessly might ultimately be that guy here. But Wagner was one of those amazingly gifted scorers in high school and college. Regarded by many as the best high school basketball player in New Jersey history, Wagner averaged 42.5ppg his senior year. After one year of college he was forced to leave Memphis by Head Coach John Calipari who revoked his scholarship after one season. Coach Cal didn’t think Wagner should pass up the millions of the NBA. After a somewhat successful rookie season averaging 13.4ppg but on only 36% shooting, Wagner was hit hard with injuries and health issues and never really was able to make a full comeback. All the signs say that with health, Wagner was going to be a solid player. One in the Allen Iverson or Monta Ellis mold. But he wasn’t fortunate enough to have health, so he ends up here on this list.
Best pick at 5:
Kevin Garnett/1995, Minnesota Timberwolves
At one of the more consistently successful picks in the draft, this was rather easy. Being a top 15 player of all time, arguably, KG was the logical choice over the likes of Ray Allen, Vince Carter, or Dwyane Wade. The Big Ticket was the first player in what we now see as a normal. A 6’11” player who can handle the rock, shoot the ball from 20ft consistently, defend 1 through 5, and be a true leader. I don’t think I have to defend this with numbers but here’s some anyways: 2008 NBA Champion, 2004 NBA MVP, 15x NBA All-Star, 2008 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 9x NBA All-Defensive First Team… I’ll stop there.
Worst pick at 5:
Nikoloz Tskitishvili/2002, Denver Nuggets
I completely forgot about this guy. Did not know he was a 5th pick. I’ll just let the numbers speak: 117 career games played, 11.3 minutes per game, career 30.4% field goal shooting, 23.4% 3pt field goal shooting, 2.9ppg, and 1.8rpg. Number 5 for that? My explanation was about as brief as a career… Ha!
Best pick at 4:
Chris Paul/2005, New Orleans Hornets
Analytically speaking, CP3 may be the greatest point guard to ever play the game. I guess I’m old school and still value winning at a high level and don’t put Paul quite that high, but to each his own I suppose. A 6x NBA All-Star, 4x All-NBA performer, and 3x NBA All-Defensive First Team selection; Paul is about as good as you can get at any pick. Arguably a Top 5 point guard of all time at number 4? That’s good value.
Worst pick at 4:
Marcus Fizer/2000, Chicago Bulls
Marcus Fizer appeared in 289 career NBA games, making 35 starts and averaging 9.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 1.2 apg, shooting .435 from the floor and .691 from the free throw line in 20.9 mpg, and scored 20+ points 17 times, with 10+ rebounds on 22 occasions in his four-year NBA career. If you were to tell me Marcus Fizer was a late-1st Round pick it would have been a solid pick but at 4, a huge bust.
Best pick at 3:
Pau Gasol/2001, Atlanta Hawks
No Carmelo here for me. I know all you Knicks and Melo fans probably just stopped reading but here’s my reasoning. On a world stage, NBA included, there are few athletes in any sport as decorated as Pau Gasol. A true international superstar and a winner in every sense of the word. I’m going to list all of Gasol’s many accomplishments. I think we take for granted how great his career has been, myself included. But check this out:
2x NBA Champion
4x NBA All-Star
3x All-NBA Selection
2012 NBA Citizenship Award Winner
2x FIBA Europe Player of the Year
2x Mister Europa Player of the Year
3x Euroscar Player of the Year
2x All-Europeans Player of the Year
2006 FIBA World Cup MVP
2009 FIBA Eurobasket MVP
2001 Spanish King’s Cup MVP
2001 Spanish League MVP
2x Olympic Silver Medalist
2006 FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist
2x Gold and 2x Silver FIBA Eurobasket Medalist
Tell me you wouldn’t take all that at number 3?
Worst pick at 3:
Adam Morrison/2006, Charlotte Bobcats
I really wanted to pick Darius Miles here but I have good memories of watching him with that fun-loving group of Clippers back in the day. Morrison, in his one full season of healthy play was average at best with averages of 11.8ppg, 2.9rpg, and 2.1apg on below average shooting percentages. Morrison’s greatest strength was supposed to be his shooting but he has career averages of just 37.3% field goal shooting, 33.1% 3pt shooting, and 71% freethrow shooting. Along with being a career 7.4ppg scorer Morrison was one of the bigger bust NBA History.
Best pick at 2:
Jason Kidd/1994, Dallas Mavericks
I know, I know… “What about Durant?” If this was in the last 6 or 7yrs it would be Durant. But it’s since 1994. And in his prime, there are few players at any position who were as good as J-Kidd. Kidd was one of the few true NBA Superstars in the last 20yrs. That word gets tossed around so loosely these days but there only a dozen or so of those players. I’ll list them at a later date. A 10x NBA All-Star, 6x All-NBA Selection, 9x All-NBA Defensive Selection, 2x Olympic Gold Medalist, 3x FIBA Americas Gold Medalist. 3rd all time in 3pt shots made. 2nd all time in steals. 2nd all time in assist. And 50th all time in rebounds, 1st all time amongst all guards. All that being the long way of saying J-Kidd was a BEAST!
Worst pick at 2:
Darko Milicic/2003, Detroit Pistons
There were many options here for the worst pick at 2. Hasheem Thabeet, Stromile Swift, Marvin Williams, Jay Williams and others. But each of those guys had a legitimate claim to the number 2 spot based on what the projections and they had already accomplished collegiately. Darko, on the other hand, was an unknown. Perhaps even worse than Darko just being bust, is the success of the 4 players taken immediately after him. Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Kaman, all being an NBA All-Star at least once. Detroit did go on to win a championship after drafting Darko, with little contribution from Darko. But did get help from another rookie taken later in the draft, Tayshaun Prince.
Best pick at 1:
Tim Duncan/1997, San Antonio Spurs
A strong and accurate case can be made for LeBron James and Allen Iverson. And if you made it, I wouldn’t argue with you. But Tim, the Big Fundamental, is the epitome of your hopes and dreams when you pick number 1. A great talent, a hard worker, and a good person. A player who will be the face of your franchise for the entirety of his career, make a few all star teams, win an MVP or two, and if you’re really lucky win a championship. Duncan delivered on all of that, and some. And made the City of San Antonio and the Spurs household names throughout the world. Duncan, with little debate(though a strong and compelling case can be made for Garnett), is the greatest power forward of all time. Here’s a few of the reasons why: 4x NBA Champion, 3x Finals MVP, 2x NBA MVP, 14x NBA All-Star, 13x All-NBA Selection, 14x NBA All-Defensive Team Selection, 22nd all time in points scored, 13th all time in rebounding, and 8th all time in blocked shots. Simply put, he embodied everything a GM dreams of when picking number 1, and some.
Worst pick at 1:
Greg Oden/2007, Portland Trailblazers
If Tim Duncan was every GM’s dream at number 1; Greg Oden is every GM’s nightmare at 1. Playing in just 82 career games and making 60 career starts he’s the poster boy for the unknown factor of health. Oden showed great promise in his second season averaging 11.1ppg, 8.5rpg, and 2.3bpg in just 23 minutes a night but only played 21 games before the knee injury happened. The fact that the player picked behind him has blossomed into one of the best scorers we’ve ever seen only makes this pick look worse. His career numbers of about 8pts and 6rebs are comparable to those of Kwame Brown who is often cast as the biggest bust. The difference for me being that Kwame has player 607 career games and made 281 career starts. Sorry Greg, you’re the worst number 1 pick in the last 20yrs.
By far this was the most time and research I’ve put into any article. I learned a lot and have a couple of follow up post in the works! Look for my next post, likely tomorrow, NBA Draft Lottery: Potential vs Production. You may be surprised at I found.
Thank you for reading Life of A Basketball Addict! Be sure to like, share, comment, and follow, I appreciate it all greatly. And a huge shout out to Hoopsworld.com, helped me out a lot here. Give them a visit. Hope to see you back here soon! Take care!