10 NBA Players Who Should Have Gotten a Better Chance
In this picture is the No. 10 overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, Luke Jackson. When you pick a top 10 player, you assure this player playing time. But sometimes that doesn't happen. And you end up with the Luke Jacksons of the NBA Draft.
So from 1998-2008, we take a trip through the NBA draft. We find 10 players, top 20 picks only, except for one, who despite their high pick, ended up with a journeyman career or worse.
We open the countdown with...
10: Marcus Williams
Marcus Williams, PG, UConn, 6'3", 210 lbs; selected 22nd overall by the New Jersey Nets.
This draft proved more than any that Isiah Thomas' eye for talent rivals only the talent possessed by the Indians scouts in the "Major League" movies.
As Williams slipped further and further in the draft, Knicks fans grew excited. Sure, Williams, who played just up the road at UConn, was going to put on that No. 1 jersey.
The air went out of Madison Square Garden when Thomas chose, in wrestling parlance, jobber Renaldo Balkman instead of Williams, and the booing could probably be heard way in Storrs. Williams went with the very next pick, and the booing got louder, if possible.
But New Jersey, with a rapidly aging Jason Kidd on board, completely mishandled Williams, first not playing him, and then dumping him on Golden State once they acquired Devin Harris. Jeers to the Nets, by the way, for not taking the opportunity to show up Thomas, but in their defense, Thomas did it to himself.
9: Adam Morrison
Adam Morrison, G/F, Gonzaga, 6'8", 205 lbs.; selected third overall by Charlotte Bobcats, 2006 NBA Draft.
The 2006 NBA Draft was one that saw breathtaking stupidity in the first eight picks alone.
First, the Chicago Bulls ignored the fact that they needed an inside presence who actually could, you know, play, and traded the demonically hard-working LaMarcus Aldridge for the useless Tyrus Thomas.
Then the Timberwolves traded future NBA All-Star, Brandon Roy, for undersized Randy Foye. But the dumbest move of all involved putting Adam Morrison on a collision course with Bernie Bickerstaff, a rather hard-nosed coach who was unimpressed with Morrison and for some reason couldn't understand that streak shooters need comfort and reliability, not being benched when they miss.
Morrison currently warms the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers, and one can't help but wonder what might have been had he gone to a team that appreciated what he is instead of hounding him for what he isn't.
8: DaJuan Wagner
DaJuan Wagner, G, Memphis, 6'2", 200 lbs.; selected sixth overall by Cleveland Cavaliers.
Wagner had the makeup of an Allen Iverson-type superstar. He drove to the basket, took a lot of shots, and had a noticeable disdain for practice.
Wagner once scored 100 points in a high school game and over 3,000 points throughout his exploits in high school.
He played one year at Memphis before handing the reins over to his successors and was picked by the Cleveland Cavs before anyone there even knew LeBron James existed.
Wagner is the only entry on this list who didn't receive the shot he so richly deserved only because his body broke completely down on him, cutting short what should have been an epic NBA career, but opening the door to LeBron James' arrival two years later.
7: Rodney White
Rodney White, G/F, UNC-Charlotte, 6'9", 240 lbs.; selected ninth overall in 2001 by Detroit Pistons.
Selecting a player ninth overall usually means you're willing to commit to a player whose talent is obvious.
With White, it was clear from the ire of defensive-minded martinet Rick Carlisle that White's talent didn't include the ability to play defense. Despite White's attempt to become a latter day George Gervin, he wore out his welcome with Detroit, and his main contribution to the Denver Nuggets was that he helped them bag Carmelo Anthony.
White is a prime example of someone who never understood that Brobdinagian talent on one side of the ball doesn't mean much when you're Herman Munster on the other side.
A Brief Respite
And now, for absolutely no reason, a look at a Wrestling God flanked by peons.
6: DerMarr Johnson
DerMarr Johnson, G/F, Cincinnatti, 6'9", 210 lbs.; selected sixth overall in the 2000 NBA Draft by Atlanta Hawks.
I hated the University of Cincinnatti. I disliked Kenyon Martin (and still do, by the way). I hated Pete Mickeal, and don't get me started on Kenny Satterfield. But I liked Johnson; he would have been a great addition to a Chicago Bulls team that wasted its fourth overall pick on Marcus Fizer when they already had Elton Brand, a prime example of Jerry Krause out-thinking himself.
Johnson had a great start, but then decimated his career with a horrific car accident that broke his neck and nearly paralyzed him. One can be forgiven for not expecting Johnson to come back, but the NBA is a fast-moving league, and people are forgotten quickly if they're not playing.
5: Joe Alexander
Joe Alexander, SF, West Virginia, 6'8", 230 lbs.; selected eighth overall in 2008 NBA draft by Milwaukee Bucks.
It may seem too early for Alexander to be on this list. After all, this is only his second season. But the Milwaukee Bucks are run on the court by a dictator who believes that if you don't work in his system, you don't work, period.
Alexander and Hakim Warrick were recently acquired by the Chicago Bulls for John Salmons, so the story still has an unwritten ending. But giving Richard Jefferson away and then STILL not allowing Alexander to play qualifies him for this list.
4: Sebastian Telfair
Sebastian Telfair, PG, Lincoln High School, 6'0, 175 lbs.; selected 13th overall by Portland Trail Blazers in 2004 NBA Draft.
For every LeBron James, there's a Sebastian Telfair.
Telfair's is a sad story, complete with wasted talent, an inability to get along with coaches, and off-court issues. The image above is a prime example of what the NBA truly is: a place where you don't survive if you don't drive.
Telfair has been in the NBA for five years. Yet he's already been with five teams.
In a way, his might be the worst story of all. Telfair should have been better, a true legend who cut a blazing path through the NBA. Instead, his will be remembered as a cautionary story, and one reason why the NBA cracked down on players jumping directly to the league from high school.
And really, when your cousin is Steph Marbury, well...
3: Luke Jackson
Luke Jackson, G/F, Oregon, 6'7", 215 lbs.; selected by Cleveland Cavaliers with 10th overall pick of 2004 NBA Draft.
I confess that I have a soft spot for Luke Jackson. Jackson was one of my favorite players to watch when he and Luke Ridnour put the Oregon Ducks back on the basketball map. He was the player on this list I wanted to see play the most.
He could drive, shoot, play defense, and all that good stuff. But Cleveland had a great player starting at his best position, so he had to play SG—when he played at all, that is.
Playing 46 games over two seasons is a really good idea, especially when you've wasted the 10th overall pick on a guy you're not going to play.
Jackson could have had a real NBA career, more than anyone else on this list, and it's one reason why I look at the Cleveland front office and just shake my head.
Jackson deserved so much better.
Before the final 2
A picture of my favorite wrestler, the guy that more than any made me into a heel.
2: Gerald Green
Gerald Green, G/F, 6'6", 210 lbs.; Gulf Shores Academy, drafted 18th overall by Boston Celtics in 2005 NBA Draft.
Had Gerald Green actually received playing time and game development, things might have turned out differently, and those draft-time comparisons to Tracy McGrady might have come true.
Green, however, did something appallingly stupid: he only did his draft workouts for teams with the first six picks in the draft. This was a big mistake, and teams rarely forget draft night mistakes.
The Celtics didn't seem to need him, despite his amazing potential, and they left him on the bench at times for Wally Szczerbiak. It was the revenge of guys named Wally: Wally Pipp sat out a game and ended up handing his starting job over to Lou Gehrig.
Green is one of those players who had insane talent and ended up where he is now: playing overseas because he never got the chance to develop his game.
Although some of the blame is his, in the end, it shows yet again that the NBA is a fast moving place.
And Now, a Public Service Announcment from The Undertaker
I don't believe this man wants to buy cookies or crack. And if you were smart, you wouldn't offer him any.
So We've Come to No. 1
The No. 1 player on this list is one I'm sure you're all familiar with.
At this particular moment, you know him not for anything he did on the court, but something he did off it that decimated both him and the fortunes of his franchise, a franchise that had envisioned him as their starting point guard for the next 10 years.
This player did one of the stupidest things in basketball history, and despite his greatness, will always be remembered for it.
I can't watch him doing analysis on ESPN without my eyeballs turning red with fury. More than any other, this player symbolizes to me what missed potential the Chicago Bulls had in the early part of the previous decade.
And now that I've given you a bunch of clues, it's time to unveil the No. 1 entry on this list.
Jay Williams, PG, Duke, 6'2", 195 lbs.; selected second overall in 2002 NBA Draft by Chicago Bulls.
To watch Jay Williams on my TV screen in a shirt and tie instead of a basketball uniform makes me alternately angry and sad.
Now, of course, I'm happy to have Derrick Rose, and I wouldn't trade him for all the tea in China (unless the Cavs offer LeBron James). But at the time, I thought the Jamal Crawford pick was a bad idea because Williams could handle things.
Until his motorcycle accident which nearly killed him, Williams was a safe bet to be a very good player and lead the Bulls out of the doldrums.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Williams is a barely mentioned ghost among Bulls fans. Not because they can't remember him, but because they choose not to and don't want to jinx Derrick. And frankly, I kind of agree.
In the end, Williams cost himself much more than a simple NBA career. He cost himself an opportunity that can never be re-offered.
Take Us Home, John.
Is this Basic Thuganomics?