NBA executives aren't perfect individuals, but us sports fans expect them to be. Sports fans have been known to hold grudges, and many fans will never forgive errant draft selections. The focus of this entry will be the 5 worst draft picks from 2002-2006.
( A slight editorial note I'm operating from the '02 draft to the '06 draft. We haven't seen enough from the 2007, 2008, and 2009 drafts to judge those guys. Judging players who have been in the NBA for four years is surely fair game right?) My goal is to focus on how each pick affected the organization's growth and development, in the short and long term.
5. 2005: Atlanta- Marvin Williams
Who are Deron Williams and Chris Paul? Two guys the Hawks should have seriously considered picking in '05. With Tyronn Lue and Royal Ivey running the point, Atlanta was desperate for a playmaking, floor general. Williams has been a solid contributer, and a part-time 4-year starter, but he is nowhere near the kind of talent that Chris Paul and Deron Williams are. The Hawks were impressed by his versatility and upside, but he has not produced like a No. 2 pick should in my opinion. In the short term Mike Bibby is a solid option for the Hawks, but with Bibby aging into his 30's the Hawks will wish they had a star PG for the future.
4. 2002: Golden State- Mike Dunleavy, Jr.
Dunleavy was the golden boy for the Duke Blue Devils during his 3 year career in Durham. He won a national title and was a First Team All-American at Duke. Hyped as the most versatile player in the NBA Draft, it's too bad he didn't have the same impact for the Golden State Warriors. Dunleavy provided some solid contributions for the Warriors, but never lived up to his hype or "potential" in his 4 years there. With Caron Butler being the next best Small Forward in the draft, the Warriors wish they could have this pick back. With a scorer and star like Butler on the team, Golden State could've expected a much more stable franchise.
3. 2006: Charlotte- Adam Morrison
Another player hyped up because of a fantastic final college season (Co-Player of the Year) and "versatile" basketball skills. Not to knock Morrison, but his play has severely diminished since his rookie season. Injuries have kept him from producing at a solid level since his 11.8 PPG rookie campaign. With the Bobcats passing on Brandon Roy, they passed on a perennial All-Star with elite scoring capabilities. The Bobcats' front office certainly has to wish that they could have this pick back, as Morrison is no longer with the team. Roy would be the centerpiece of a team that cannot seem to set anything in stone.
2. 2002: Denver- Nikoloz Tskitishvili
The classic case of an athletic big man with a good body and a good jump shot. The Nuggets bit on his versatility and "upside potential" when picking Tskitishvili. With the chance to pick up a much more sure thing in Nene or Chris Wilcox, the Nuggets truly messed up. (Thankfully for the Nuggets they ended up with Nene eventually.) If they had gone for the best available player, but taken a flyer on potential "maturity issues" in Amare Stoudamire, they would have hit a home run. He would have been an instant success in the Nuggets system, and he has already established himself as one of the League's most dominant big men. This is a classic case of taking a chance on something with the potential to be great and passing on something that already is.
1. 2003: Detroit- Darko Milicic
This is another case of the skilled, athletic, and versatile Euro big man being overvalued. Darko was viewed as a player for the future on an already stacked team. The first thought is "Why did they not draft Carmello Anthony or Dwyane Wade?", but truth be told, they would not have fit the Pistons need system at that time. The Pistons needed a solid big man who could produce down low, not a perimeter scorer. Taking Chris Bosh, a perennial All-Star, would have solidified the Pistons' front court and added a great shot blocker and rebounder. They also could have opted to draft Anthony or Wade and used them as trade bait. Even though the Pistons went on to win an NBA Title the following year, Bosh would have further solidified an already solid team, and set them on a steady course for the future. By drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid, the Pistons have left themselves with a struggling franchise. This pick combined with the aging and departure of their core players, has left Detroit scattering to put together a solid team for the future.
To Sum It All Up
In short, many teams have bit on the bait of taking tall "skilled" and "versatile" players with "high upside", instead of going for consistent contributers.
You can follow Joe Eberhardt on twitter at @IndyHoopsBlog.
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