Draft Do-Over: The 1998 NBA Draft.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
Actual Pick: Michael Olowakandi, C. Pacific.
Let’s start our 1998 list with a concept that everyone is familiar with– The Clippers failing miserably. Olowokandi was hyped as the next great big man coming out of Pacific, but his game turned out to be more Erick Montross than Shaq Daddy.
His offensive game was particularly ugly, but it was his lethargic demeanor that would ultimately disappoint fans. The guy was a stiff, end of story.
After playing out his rookie contract with the Clippers, Olowokandi would wind up in Minnesota- which is ironic since he was basically the bizarro-world Kevin Garnett– before a mid-season trade in 2006 brought him to Boston. Plagued by injuries by this point, and flat-out terrible to boot, Olowokandi would play only 24 games the following year before calling it quits.
An urban legend even states that if an NBA coach says the name “Kandi Man” three times into a mirror, Olowokandi will suddenly appear in the team’s starting line-up the following game. Terrifying.
Who it Should have been: Dirk Nowitzki (ninth overall to Dallas)
It was a close race between Dirk and Paul Pierce since the two have comparable career numbers, but it was Nowitzki’s 2007 MVP award that ultimately got him the new number one spot.
A relative unknown when he was plucked from a small German club in 1998, Dirk has changed the NBA landscape in a way that no one could have predicted (except maybe Don Nelson, who boldly claimed that Nowitzki would win the Rookie of the Year award on draft night. He was wrong, by the way).
Dirk has helped transform the role of big men in the league with his ability to play on the perimeter while helping to kick-start the European infusion that we’ve all witnessed in recent years.
That’s right Denver fans, Nikoloz Tskitishvili was actually Dirk’s fault.
2. Vancouver Grizzlies.
Actual Pick: Mike Bibby, G. Arizona.
Clearly not impressed with the play of Antonio Daniels, who the Grizzlies drafted fourth overall the previous season, Vancouver opted for another point guard in 1998 and selected Bibby with the second pick of the draft. Bibby’s enjoyed a much better career than Daniels, and was one of the lone bright spots in Vancity, so we won’t criticize this selection too much at all. The Grizzlies might have actually gotten something right.
Of course, this opened the door for Daniels to be traded to San Antonio, a deal that saw the Grizz receive the following players in return:
Drum roll please….
Carl Herrera and Felipe Lopez!
Looks like the good decision streak ends at one.
Wait, why don’t they have a team in Vancouver anymore?
Who it Should have been: Paul Pierce (tenth overall to Boston)
Pierce has endured plenty of up and down’s during his career, both of the personal and basketball-related nature, but he’s had more of an impact than anyone else from this draft with the exception of Nowitzki.
After enduring the Rick Pitino era in Beantown and a night club assault that saw him stabbed 11 times in 2000, Pierce has placed himself amongst the NBA elite with a series of impressive seasons and the validation of a championship ring this past season. In fact Pierce captured the Finals MVP award after a string of heroic performances in the playoff’s later rounds.
Pierce was originally slated to go much higher than tenth in 1998, but saw his stock drop on draft night as NBA execs continuously picked potential and upside over the college-tested Pierce.
All he’s done since then to prove them since then is make six all-star games, three all-NBA teams, and a points per game average that places him No. 21 all-time.
3. Denver Nuggets.
Actual Pick:Raef Lafrentz, F. Kansas.
Something that you’ll realize through these Draft Do-Over’s is that the Denver Nuggets were pretty bad at the whole “scouting” thing that you always hear people talk about.
Lafrentzwas a six foot 11 inch forward who had legitimate NBA range but hasn’t stayed healthy or consistent enough to live up to his selection.
He’s missed 55 and and 43 games respectively during the last two seasons – both spent with the Trail Blazers - and it was recently reported that shoulder surgery will keep him out of the line-up indefinitely to start this year as well.
Even when healthy, the results for Lafrentz have been lukewarm (10 points and six rebounds for career averages), and who likes cheering for big awkward white guys anyway?
Who it Should have been: Mike Bibby (second overall to Vancouver)
Bibby drops one spot from his original selection and lands in the three hole.
Bibby’s golden years in the league have been sandwiched by two stints with miserable teams. He played his first three seasons in Vancouver for an atrocious Grizzlies squad before being traded to Sacramento prior to the 2001 season. The Kings could never seem to get over the hump in the Western Conference, but that was no fault of Bibby’s.
When Chris Webber began his patented “Shrink in Big Games” routine, Bibby was the one guy on the Kings who was constantly stepping up and making big plays.
As the team disbanded and began to rebuild, Bibby toiled in California before eventually being traded to Atlanta this past season.
He averaged 14.1 ppg and 6.5 apgin 33 starts with the Hawks last year, numbers that should go up as he has a full year to adjust and a plethora of athletic finishers surrounding him.
4. Golden State Warriors
Actual Pick: Antawn Jamison, F. North Carolina
The first of back-to-back UNC picks in 1998, Jamison was actually drafted by the Raptors with the fourth pick and then sent to Golden State for Vince Carter and cash.
Jamison has been one of the leagues more steady contributors since landing in Washington (19.6 ppg and 7.9 rpg) and although he’s often ranked as the third option out of the Wizard’s notorious trio, he’s provenhimself to be the most durable out of the three. In fact, since missing roughly half of his second season due to injury, Jamison has missed only 27 contests over the past eight years – averaging 20 points and eight rebounds per contest during that time span.
Who it Should have been: Antawn Jamison (fourth overall to Golden State)
Looking back, I’d say the Warriors got this one right.
At one point it appeared that the Warriors got royally fleeced in the draft day trade with the Raptors, but that opinion has quieted considerably in recent years.
5. Toronto Raptors
Actual Pick: Vince Carter, G. North Carolina.
There was a time when Vince Carter arguably would have topped this list, but there’s just something about tanking it for the better part of two seasons that seems to have a negative effect on your career.
Admittedly, Vince is still one of the more dangerous scorers in the association, but questions about his toughness are no longer up in the air – they are practically facts at this point. At any given time you can flip to a Nets game and catch VCrolling around the floor like he’s just been zapped with a police tazer.
Who it Should have been: Rashard Lewis (No. 32 overall to Seattle)
Everyone remembers Lewis being the last player picked in the green room in 1998, sitting through 31 other picks looking like a guy who had just gotten dumped by his fiancée the night before his wedding. He probably regretted not going to college at that point, and after averaging meager numbers during his first two seasons in Seattle, the Sonics were probably thinking that school might have been a better option for Lewis as well.
But since his third season with the now-defunct Seattle franchise, he’s shown the polished inside-out game that has made him one of the league’s more versatile (and well-paid) players. Lewis made the All-Star game in 2005, a season that saw him average over 20 points and five rebounds per contest.
Maybe Lewis isn’t worth the 118 million that Orlando decided to pay him last summer, but he’s definitely good enough for the numero cinco spot on our list.
6. Milwaukee Bucks
Actual Pick:Robert Traylor, F. Michigan.
Bucks fans, avert your eyes.
Milwaukee opted for burly forward Robert ‘Tractor’ Traylor at the number six spot before trading him to Dallas later in the night for Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity. It ranks high when talking about the worst trades in recent NBA history, and that case has only gotten stronger now that Traylor’s NBA career appears to be over. Nowitzki has become an international superstar, a perennial all-star and an MVP winner. Traylor? Well he’s probably working at a Sizzler right now. Or at the very least, eating at one.
The Tractor was last seen suiting up for the Cavs2008 summer league squad with minimal success, so a comeback does not seem to be on the horizon. He hasn’t played since 2005, and with pedestrian career averages of 4.8 ppg and 3.7 rpg, it’s not like the NBA is really missing him either.
Never draft anyone who’s named after farming equipment– that’s the lesson here.
Who it Should have been: Vince Carter (fifth overall to Toronto)
Bedgrudgingly, I put Vince here.
As a Raptors fan, I’ll never be able to forgive VC for holding our team hostage for a year and forcing a trade out of town. Which is sort of a shame since Vince was probably the most entertaining player in the world during his first three seasons in the T-Dot, producing enough highlight footage to warrant his own cable channel.
He’s a 23-5-4 player for his career– stats that trump some of the players on this list ranked higher – but he’s become one of the more fragile commodities in the league and a questionable competitor. I couldn’t be happier!
7. Sacramento Kings
Actual Pick: Jason Williams, G. Florida.
Kicked out of Florida for a fourth drug violation during his first and only season in Gainesville, J-Will was a high risk-high reward (pun intended) pick in 1998 for the Kings. Looking back, I’d say it turned out pretty well.
Williams took a Kings team that featured Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic and made them relevant in the Western conference for the first time in years. He also became one of the league’s more popular figures, drawing comparisons to the late Pete Maravich with his ball-handling wizardry.
His game matured considerably once hooking up with Hubie Brown in Memphis, and Williams would later help the Miami Heat win a championship– silencing a lot of his longtime critics who swore that he’d never be able to help a team win.
Who it Should have been: Al Harrington (No. 25 overall to Indiana)
One of two high school players chosen in1998, Harrington has enjoyed a solid if not spectacular career after collecting dust on the bench for his first three years in Indiana.
He was featured in a sixth-man role in Indiana before getting the opportunity in Atlanta to play a much bigger role. Harrington's stats rose across the board, but the bad news is that he was playing for the Hawks.
Harrington continues to do his thing in Golden State, and considering that he's two to three years younger than a lot of the players from this draft, his career is far from over just yet.
8. Philadelphia 76ers
Actual Pick: Larry Hughes, G. St. Louis.
Oh Larry, what to make of you.
Hughes started his career in Philly, showing promise when presented the opportunity. Playing behind Allen Iverson in his prime means a couple of things however– not much playing time, even less shots for you, and about a 30 percent chance that you could get stabbed at anytime during practice.
Traded to Golden State halfway through his second year, LH blew up. His scoring average leapt from 10.0 in Philadelphia to 22.7 in the Bay. And it wasn’t even a contract year!
Splitting time with the Warriors and the Wizards over the next 5 years, Hughes’ production would fluctuate considerably. In 2004-05 however, Hughes seemed to put all of his talents together for a full 82 game season, putting up averages of 22 points, five rebounds, five assists and nearly three steals. This was a contract year!
Cleveland gave Hughes the money that summer, signing him to a max-deal. Expected to be a Pippen-like player to Lebron’s nightly Michael Jordan performances, Hughes struggled. He was shipped to Chicago this past season in the Ben Wallace deal, where he’s currently leading the NBA in tattoos.
Who it Should have been: Jason Williams (seventh overall to Sacramento)
Little known fact here - Jason Williams is the only player in league history to lead the NBA in jersey sales AND be suspended for smoking weed within the same calendar year. The man was a trendsetter.
The Jason Williams chapter appears to be over however. J-Will signed with the Clippers this off-season before declaring his retirement a few weeks later. Pass the rolling papers.
9. Dallas Mavericks
Actual Pick:Dirk Nowitzki, F. DJK Wurzburg.
Dirk’s already nabbed the number one spot on our 1998 list, so needless to say this was a pretty good pick by the Mavericks.
Who it Should have been: Larry Hughes (eighth overall to Sacramento)
Hughes still finds himself in the top 10 despite the inconsistency that has hindered his career. He’s not worth the huge amounts of money he’s being paid, but he’s still put up decent numbers over his 10 seasons.
10. Boston Celtics
Actual Pick: Paul Pierce, F. Kansas.
When Pierce landed in the Celtics lap at the 10 spot, the team was ecstatic– and for good reason. Routinely discussed as a top three pick leading into the draft, Pierce fell and fell with no real reason as to why. Pierce vowed to prove a point to all the teams who had skipped over him, and I think he’s done a pretty good job since then.
There’s been some dark seasons in Beantown since Pierce’s arrival, but he’s played hard despite having some miserable teams surrounding him. I guess that whole “good things come to those wait” thing isn’t such a pile of BS after all. Unless your team just signed Darko or something. Then you’re basically screwed.
Who it Should have been:Cuttino Mobley (No. 41 overall to Houston)
Mobley shoots up all the way from No. 41 overall to finish out our top 10, beating out Bonzi Wells (No. 11 pick), Ricky Davis (No. 21 pick) and Rafer Alston (No. 39 pick) for the honor. Mobley is a career 15.6 scorer, and was once part of one of the better offensive backcourtsin the league when he partnered with Steve Francis in Houston.
Currently playing for the Clippers, Mobley’s stats have begun to slide a bit but he’s still one of the league’s better outside shooters and a threat to score on any given night.
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