I decided to look at the last 36 years of sixth picks and divide the players selected into six categories based on the performance and longevity of the player. The categories are labeled with Tequila brands in honor of Cinco de Mayo since we are still in the month of May; the better the Tequila, the better the category of player.
The top eschelon category has been broken down into individual player slides, where as all the other slides contain three players in them. The top category goes in order of skill right up to the very best No. 6 draft pick. Who will claim the prize?
Each player will be accompanied by a small bio including his height, seasons played, number of teams played for, career points per game and best year as a pro. There will also be a few notes about his career.
With regards to their ranking on the list, many players were moved into higher categories based on their longevity in the league. Simply put, there are players with better stats in the lower categories than those in higher categories mainly because they fizzled out of the league so fast.
The first slide will provide some statistics based on my research of the sixth pick and will include a few observations. In case you were wondering Wizards fans, for all their drafting ineptitude, the Wizards/Bullets have done fairly well with the sixth pick. I am looking for that success to continue.
Six is an odd number. It never reached the popularity of five but still achieved notoriety in popular culture with the six-pack, The Sixth Sense movie and the Six Degrees of Separation game. It has also been spurned due to terms such as “Deep Sixed,” The Six Million Dollar Man TV series and the poorly run Six Flags amusement park.
Conversely, six has a rich history of ups and downs in the NBA draft as well. Here are a few stats that will paint a little better picture of the sixth draft pick before you look at the list:
Years Researched: (1976-2010)
Players Researched: 36
Career Average Points Per Game: 10.8
Average Height: 6’8”
Average Career Length (Based on players who haven’t retired yet): nine years
Average Number of Teams Played for (Based on players who haven’t retired yet): four teams
Tallest Player Selected: five tied at 7’0”
Shortest Player Selected: Jonny Flynn at 6’0”
Longest Career: 15 years (Adrian Dantley and Joe Kleine)
Shortest Career: one year (Russell Cross)
Year when most players have their best performance: third year (rookie year was runner-up)
Number of All-Stars: nine (25 percent chance of No. 6 draft pick being an All-Star in his career)
Number of Hall of Famers: two (five percent chance of No. 6 draft pick making it to the Hall of Fame)
Rookie of the Year: three (8.4 percent chance of No. 6 draft pick being named Rookie of the Year)
Best Nicknames: Bryant Reeves-Big Country, Tom Gugliotta-Googs, Robert ‘Tractor’ Traylor,‘Dinner Bell’ Mel Turpin aka, The Mealman, The Hick from French Lick
Team with most sixth picks: Minnesota Timberwolves (four)
Worst draft-day trade: Robert Traylor for Dirk Nowitzki (others involved)
Just Missed, Great #7 Picks: Rip Hamilton (1999), Damon Stoudamire (1995), Kevin Johnson (1987), Bernard King (1977).
Most Memorable Style: Orlando Woolridge Goggles
Average years played for team that drafted them before leaving: Just under four years.
Legend for List:
ROY=Rookie of the Year
MVP=Most Valuable Player
HOF=Hall of Fame
PPG=Points per game
RPG=Rebounds per game
APG=Assists per game
SPG=Steals per game
BPG=Blocks per game
FG%=Field Goal Percentage
3P%=Three-Point Field Goal Percentage
FTA=Free-Throw Attempts per game
MPG=Minutes Per Game
1984 Mel Turpin, Kentucky, 6’11”, five seasons, three teams
Dinner Bell Mel couldn’t control his weight and was too unhealthy to have any sort of prolonged success in the league. His production on the other hand was as lean as anyone. Did start off relatively strong as a rookie averaging 10.6 ppg.
Career PPG: 8.5
Best Year: ’85-’86. 13.7 ppg.
1983 Russell Cross, Purdue, 6’10”, one season, one team
This is as bad as it gets for a No. 6 pick. Cross (not Crowe) only played one year in the league, most of it injured, and then mysteriously disappeared.
Career PPG: 3.7
Best Year: Rookie. ‘83-’84. 3.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg, .571 fg%, 7.9 mpg
2002 Dajuan Wagner, Memphis, 6’2”, four seasons, two teams
Could score but only when heaving up a ton of shots. Never rebounded much or dished off assists. Terrible ft%. Health issues forced him out of the league quickly.
Career PPG: 9.6
Best Year: Rookie.’02-‘03’. 13.4 ppg.
1994 Sharone Wright, Clemson, 6’11”, four seasons, two teams
With a name that at first glance looks like Sharon and sounds like Sharon being said with a French accent, you better be able to play. Wright could, averaging around 11 points for his first two years in the league. Unfortunately, injuries befell him, and it was happy trails. Au revoir.
Career PPG: 9.7
Best Year: ’95-’96. 11.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 79 games
1998 Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Michigan, 6’8”, seven seasons, five teams
Another large man with little output, Traylor couldn’t score, and he couldn’t rebound; a perfect recipe for the end of the bench. He had the vertical leap of a man in flippers. Never outdid his rookie season, which isn’t saying much. Had a big heart though and will be missed.
Career PPG: 4.8
Best Year:’98-’99, 5.3 ppg, .537 fg%
1986 William Bedford, College, 7’0”, six seasons, three teams
With a name fit for an historian, Bedford made history for one of the worst field goal percentages of any seven- footer. One could call Bedford’s 1986-87 season a standout rookie year but only in comparison to his other five dreadful years.
Career PPG: 4.1
Best Year: ’86-’87. 6.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg
2000 Dermarr Johnson, Cincinnati, 6’9”, seven seasons, four teams
All sizzle and no steak would be a good way to describe Johnson on the court. He miraculously overcame a terrible leg injury to come back and play for the Nuggets late in his career. Considering he couldn’t rebound or pass, it was a miracle that this underachieving swing man made it that far in the league to begin with.
Career PPG: 6.2
Best Year: ’01-’02. 8.4 ppg, .810 ft%.
2010 Ekpe Udoh, Baylor, 6’10”, one season, one team *Active
The only reason that he is not sitting in the total busts list is that he has only played one season; one injury-filled, bench-riding season. All Udoh has going for him now is his ability to block shots, but there’s only one catch; you have to play to block them! Great pick Golden State.
Career PPG: 4.1
Best Year: ’10-’11. 4.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg
1980 Mike O’Koren, UNC, 6’7”, eight seasons, two teams
Started off with promise in his rookie year and fulfilled it in his second year in the league as well. Suffered serious statistical slide from then on. Never started full-time and was only ever a bench player. He must have must have liked the bench because he's still there, only now as an assistant coach. All the stats in his year below are career highs.
Career PPG: 8.2
Best Year: ’80-’81. 11 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 31.3 mpg
1989 Stacey King, Oklahoma, 6’11”, eight seasons, five teams
Recently had his jersey retired at Oklahoma where he was a first team All-American his senior year. College achievements never really translated into professional success. Was in the right place at the right time and caught a few championships with the Bulls off the bench. Radio analyst now.
Career PPG: 6.4
Best Year: ’89-’90. 8.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, .505 fg%, 21 mpg
1979 James Bailey, Rutgers, 6’9”, nine seasons, six teams.
Always an accurate shooter, Bailey followed in the footsteps of O’Koren by exhausting his skills early in his career. Never a full time starter, Bailey’s second season was his best when he scored and rebounded better than any other year. Scored in double figures in three out of nine years.
Career PPG: 8.8
Best Year: ’80-’81. 14.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 31.0 mpg
1991 Doug Smith, Missouri, 6’10”, five seasons, two teams
Smith is the owner of a very forgettable NBA career. He topped out in his second year, but his incredibly low fg% for a big man, was only overshadowed by his ability to foul (4.6 fouls per game one year). Fell out of the rotation after three years.
Career PPG: 8.0
Best Year: ’92-’93. 10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg
1995 Bryant Reeves, 7’0”, six seasons, one team
Reeves, aka Big Country, was shipped out of the country to Canada which is fitting because it’s a bigger country in terms of size than America anyhow. Bigger but not better describes Reeves as well. Size mattered, but only in the sense that it induced years of back pain for Reeves which eventually forced him out of the league after only six years. The original face of the Vancouver Grizzlies franchise never lived up to his promise. Solid second and third seasons.
Career PPG: 12.5
Best Year: ’97-’98. 16.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, .523 fg%
1980 Trent Tucker, Minnesota, 6’5”, 11 seasons, three teams
Tucker spent most of his career in New York and even has a rule named after him; how many players can say that? He made a shot with 0.1 seconds left on the shot clock, and after that, officials ruled that there must be at least 0.3 seconds left to get a shot off. Tucker was a three-point specialist reserve who started a lot his rookie year but faded out of the rotation after that.
Career PPG: 8.2
Best Year: ’86-’87. 11.4 ppg, 24.2 mpg
2005 Martell Webster, High School, 6’7”, six seasons, two teams *Active
Plagued by injuries, missed an entire season and half of last season (’10-’11) due to them. Was notoriously the first lottery pick to be sent to the D-League; no street-cred there. His best season came as a starter, but he doesn’t rebound and shoots poorly, so he is destined to be a reserve for the remainder of his career.
Career PPG: 8.6
Best Year: ’07-’08. 10.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, .422 fg%
1985 Joe Kleine, Arkansas, 6’11”, 15 seasons, seven teams
Another center who climbed the list because his career was as long as he was. Kleine made a living off giving better players a breather in the game. The hard-fouling Kleine finally picked up a championship 13 years later with the Bulls. Never averaged double digits in ppg, but his best year was his third year when he started. Your prototypical hardworking, corn-bread fed, white men can’t jump, back to the basket center.
Career PPG: 4.8
Best Year: 9.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg. .814 ft%
1990 Felton Spencer, Louisville, 7’0”, 12 seasons, six teams
Spencer made it out of the bottom categories due to his length of service in the league. Speaking of length, this center provided a valuable none-scoring threat during the Malone-Stockton era. Sort of the poor-man’s Bill Cartwright without the hardware. A real half-the-game player, not exactly the trading card that kids were clamoring over.
Career PPG: 5.2
Best Year: ’93-’94. 8.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg, .505 fg%
2007 Yi Jianlian, China, 7’0”, four seasons, three teams *Active
Not good when you have almost played for as many different teams as years you have spent in the league. I see no reason for the Wizards keeping this guy on another year. He is a spot up shooter who can’t shoot, can’t rebound and has no inside game. Does no favors for the "soft as white rice" image of Chinese players. His third season was his best, but he regressed in his fourth.
Career PPG: 8.5
Best Year: ’09-’10. 12.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg
2004 Josh Childress, Stanford, 6’8”, five seasons, two teams *Active
Owner of an Afro that would make the Jackson 5 stop singing and turn around to stare. Childress decided to take himself and his hair over to Europe for two years right in the height of his career; not exactly Jim Brown leaving in his prime. I am sure that the Hawks missed his defense but easily replaced his 10 points per game offense. Maybe he couldn’t get used to those small European portions, but whatever the reason Childress has now returned and plays (injured) for the Phoenix Suns.
Career PPG: 10.1
Best Year: ’06-’07. 13.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 36.8 mpg.
1997 Ron Mercer, Kentucky, 6’7”, eight seasons, seven teams
Inconsistent, an inept rebounder, and an overall "score-first, do everything else later if at all" kind of player. Mercer had his best year as rookie when he played 80 games but never played close to a full season again due to injuries. Did average 19.7 per game in ’00-’01 but almost missed over 20 games that year. May be most remembered for getting his lay-up pinned against the backboard by Old Man Jordan, making it one of Jordan’s few memorable moments from his time with the Wizards. Always owned one of the league’s worst field goal percentages.
Career PPG: 13.6
Best Year: ’97-’98. 15.3 ppg, .450 fg%, .839 ft%, 80 games
2008 Danilo Gallinari, Italy, 6’10”, three seasons, two teams *Active
The Knicks may come to regret trading the smooth shooting, fierce driving Gallinari. Then again, if the injuries that abbreviated his season follow him throughout his career, maybe they won’t. Like Mercer, statistical categories other than scoring look fairly sparse. Another one of these Europeans in the Dirk Nowitzki outside-shooter mold, Gallinari does possess a good three-point shot, although he needs to find more accuracy overall.
Career PPG: 13.8
Best Year: ’09-’10. 15.1 ppg, .423 fg%, .381 3p%
1993 Calbert Cheaney, Indiana, 6’7”, 13 seasons, five teams
Add Cheaney to the long list of pro players who never matched their college success; although that would have been hard for Cheaney as he had so much of it at Indiana. The Bullets had high hopes for the former National College Player of the Year. They were answered to some degree as Cheaney fell into a fairly solid third or fourth option on the team. He was heading in the right direction after three years but regressed to more of a supporting role when Webber and Howard joined. Always shot well, always shot free throws poorly, always signed a lot of autographs.
Career PPG: 9.5
Best Year: ’94-’95. 16.6 ppg, 4 rpg, .453 fg%
1977 Kenny Carr, NC State, 10 seasons, four teams
After a slow rookie start, got progressively better and enjoyed his most productive season in his fourth year. His first few years had "bench warmer" written all over them, but his trade from L.A. seemed to help him rejuvenate. Injuries hit him pretty heavily, but he could hit the glass pretty well and hit it harder later in his career. His final season in the league saw him averaging a double-double in points and rebounds, good way to go out. Always high fg%.
Career PPG: 11.6
Best Year: ’80-’81. 15.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg, .511 fg%
2009 Jonny Flynn, Syracuse, 6’0”, two seasons, one team
The jury is still out on Flynn. He can score as evidenced by his first season with Minnesota, but he can also miss a lot; and I’m talking about games as well as shots. A hip injury wiped out a lot of the second season which saw his numbers drop in almost every statistical category. By the end of the year, he was shooting an appalling .365 from the field. Even the Minnesota weather isn’t that dreary.
Career PPG: 10.2
Best Year: ’09-’10. 13.5 ppg, 4.4 apg, .417 fg%, 80 games
1999 Wally Szczerbiak,Miami (OH), 6’7”, 10 seasons, four teams, AS
Wally Sczcerbiak; easy on the eyes, tough on the spell check. Made one All-Star game. Will be remembered for his consistent shooting as much as the injuries which helped him out of the league prematurely. Like many others on this list, passing and rebounding were not a priority. Neither was defense. Part of a generation of taller players who could shoot the three-point lights out.
Career PPG: 14.1
Best Year: ’01-’02. 18.7 ppg, .505 fg%, .455 3p%
1975 Lionel Hollins, Arizona State, 6’3”, 10 seasons, five teams, AS
Hollins is enjoying decent success as a coach just like he did as a player. Was a fairly consistent starter and defender, even making one All-Star team. His third and fourth years were strong and almost identical to each other in terms of output. Won an NBA championship with Portland in his second year. Shot more than he passed. Lionel always reminds me of the lion mascot from the now defunct toy store by the same name.
Career PPG: 11.6
Best Year: ’77-’78. 15.4 ppg, 4.7 apg
2003 Chris Kaman, Central Michigan, 7’0”, 8 seasons, 1 team. AS, *Active
Kaman kept us all waiting, but finally dropped an All-Star season on us after seven years in the association. Unless he does something like pull the rim off while dunking and hula-hoop with it, Kaman will always be most remembered for infamously having his private parts grabbed during a game by opposing player Reggie Evans’ (most popular Chris Kaman video on YouTube). This is more than Evans will ever be remembered for. Kaman has averaged double-doubles, albeit for extremely poor Clipper teams.
Career PPG: 11.8
Best Year: ’09-’10. 18.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 34.3 mpg, 76 games
1992 Tom Gugliotta, NC State, 6’10”, 13 seasons, seven teams, AS
Gugliotta, or "Googs" as he was affectionately referred to as, may have brought the best Italian last name to Washington since Capitals hockey player Dino Ciccarelli. Googs was more than just a name, and he rebounded, scored and played solid defense for many teams and even made an All-Star game in 1997. Started off his career strong the first two years with Washington, being named to the All-Rookie first team in 1993. Gugliotta’s career finished a little messily as he suited up with four teams over his final two years. Overall, a really good player on some really bad teams.
Career PPG: 13.0
Best Season: ’96-’97. 20.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 38 mpg
2001 Shane Battier, Duke, 6’8”, 10 seasons, two teams *Active
Battier is a defensive blanket that has put out many bright burning offensive fires over the years. As a member of the Houston Rockets, famously battled with and frustrated Kobe Bryant in the playoffs a few years back. Took an elbow from a Laker that painted the entire side of his face red like a die-hard Arizona Cardinals fan. But Battier never looked for retaliation and took it like a man. His offensive skills may not have carried-over from college to the pro’s, but his hard work, defense, and attitude sure did. Biggest minutes his rookie year which was statistically his best.
Career PPG: 9.6
Best Season: ’01-’02. 14.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 40 mpg.
1987 Kenny Smith, UNC, 6’3”, 10 seasons, six teams
Smith, aka the Jet, was part of one of the best teams in my generation; the ’93 and ’94 Houston Rockets. Smith was also an ill-fated Dunk Contest competitor who probably should have been left off that invite list. Where was the patented Tar Heel shaved head Smith? The Jet’s career never lifted off to the extent that many thought it would, but his leadership, hustle and his eight of 10 seasons that he scored in double figures made him one of the biggest winners at the sixth pick. Now, if only he could win a few battles with his co-host Charles Barkley on the TNT halftime show.
Career PPG: 12.8
Best Year: ’90-’91. 17.7 ppg, 7.1 apg, .520fg%, 78 games starter
1981 Orlando Woolridge, Notre Dame, 13 seasons, seven teams
Poor Orlando Woolridge. He just kept missing out on rings. Was the man when MJ came to the Bulls, but he jumped off the Chicago team in the mid 80s before they hit it big and was late for the Lakers and Pistons championships. Nevertheless, Woolridge enjoyed a standout career as an accurate shooter, ferocious dunker and competent defender. Oddly enough, he enjoyed a career renaissance at the age of 31 in his 10th season with the high-scoring Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets averaged over 119 ppg that year; sadly their opposition averaged over 130, while Woolridge averaged a career-high in points (25.1) and rebounds (6.8). Woolridge will be remembered as a scorer; a goggled specimen chiseled in the mold of a shorter David Robinson. Lost in the first round of two straight slam dunk contests but recorded the first ever between the legs dunk on record. Sorry J.R. Rider.
Career PPG: 16.0
Best Year: ’84-’85, 22.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 36.6 mpg, 77 games (second only to MJ on the Bulls that year)
1988 Hersey Hawkins, Bradley, 6’3”, 13 seasons, four teams, AS
Hersey started his career with a bang, averaging over 15 points ppg (a 76ers record at the time) and being selected to the All-Rookie First Team. He kept improving and had his best statistical season in his third year. A real minutes hog, Hawkins could also light it up from beyond the three-point arc. His first 11 years were all spent averaging double digits in scoring. Was a great defender and consistently among the league leaders in steals. To this day, millions of fans still scratch their head when no results come up in their Google search for “Hershey Hawkins.”
Career PPG: 14.7
Best Year: ’90-’91. 22.1 ppg, .472 fg%, .400 3p%, 2.2 spg, 80 games
1996 Antoine Walker, Kentucky, 6’8”, 12 seasons, five teams, three-time AS
Nobody jacked shots like Walker in their careers. Perennially pudgy, Walker spent a few years driving the lane before migrating out of the paint to comfortably bomb as many threes as his soft arms would allow. Played the Garfunkle to Paul Pierce’s Simon when they were teamed in Boston, never winning a ring together.
Was always among the leaders in shots per game and was either first or second 2000-2003 in three-point field goal attempts and makes. Led the league in both field goal and three-point attempts in ’01-’02. Could get on the boards when he chose to, and average a double-double in his second year. Walker always had a mad-swag, chose not to play much defense, and finally hit gold in 2006 when his 13.3 ppg in the playoffs helped the Heat win it all.
Career PPG: 17.5
Best Year: ’00-’01. 23.4 ppg, 8.9 rbg, 5.5 apg, .367 3p%
2006 Brandon Roy, Washington, 6’6”, five seasons, one team, three-time AS, ROY, *Active
Clutch shots, even and calm demeanor, in-your-face-defender, and sadly, possible career altering injury victim. Roy has never played a full season, and only played over 70 games twice in his career. Is a threat at almost any skill, shooting for a high percentage on the floor and at the free-throw line, rebounding, tossing assists and playing D on the western conference's finest.
Was the biggest thing to hit Portland since Clyde Drexler or the Microbrewery (Portland has largest number of brew-houses per capita in the U.S.) But will there be a return to the promise of his three all-star seasons, or will obscurity be brewing in Roy’s future due to chronic knee and hamstring injuries.
Career PPG: 19.0
Best Year: ’08-’09. 22.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.1 apg, .480 fg%
1976 Adrian Dantley, Notre Dame, 15 seasons, seven teams, six-time AS, ROY, HOF
Dantley could get to the hoop, get to the line and absolutely kill opponents with his mid-range shot. One of the most prolific foul-shooters in NBA history, Dantley once tied the NBA by making 28 in a game. Never got his ring but earned plenty of other accolades and awards, including the scoring title two different times in the high-scoring 80’s (if there was a live ball era in baseball, this was the live ball era in basketball) and having his No. 4 jersey number, retired by the Utah Jazz.
Dantley avoided injuries for the most part during his career, logged huge minutes, scored 30 ppg in four straight seasons and took shots as accurately as anyone shooting at a .540 career clip. His shots always found their way into the net, and if he played today, they might nickname him GPS.
Career PPG: 24.3
Best Year: (really tough to choose) ’83-’84. 30.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.8 apg, 12 fta, 37.8 mpg
1978 Larry Bird, Indiana State, 13 seasons, one team, 12-time AS, ROY, three-time MVP, HOF
If Bird had another nickname, it might just be numbers, because that is all you see when you look across Bird’s career stats. Unfortunately, the Bird got caged a little early due to his ailing back. Despite popular lore, could actually dunk.
McDonalds corporate offices later informed us that Bird eventually beat Jordan in the “nothing but net” TV commercials of the early 90s when Michael finally missed after the cameras had been shut off. Let me just put it this way; greatest ever in order is Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, then Larry Bird. Enough said.
Career PPG: 24.3 (as well as 10.0 rpg and 6.3 apg)
Best Year: All of them