All right, Mr. General Manager, you’re on the clock.
Be careful. This pick is VERY important for your franchise.
Choose the right guy, and you could be headed for the NBA Finals. Make a blunder, and you’ll be right back here in the lottery. You’ve reviewed all the tape, taken all the measurements and worked out all the players. This is why they pay you the big bucks.
Go get yourself a star.
Throughout the years, NBA general managers have proved that drafting is not an exact science. As good as a kid looks in college, on paper or in a workout, it might not translate to playing in the Association. Sometimes blunders happen when the team goes along with the general consensus, and sometimes they happen when the team drafts someone unexpected. For one reason or another, whether it’s innate talent, hard work or the just the right situation, certain players develop into stars while others do not. And it’s the GM’s job to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Of course, blunders are relative, so for this exercise the size of each blunder was determined (loosely) by the following equation:
B = [(Tp * Np) - Td] / Nt
B = size of blunder
Tp = talent level of player(s) passed up
Np = number of good players passed up
Td = talent level of team’s draftee
Nt = number of teams making the same blunder (misery loves company)
Honestly, I eyeballed most of these, but don’t tell me you didn’t have a good time trying to figure out that equation!
So here they are – the 11 biggest draft day blunders since 1980, in order of size. (By the way, you may be surprised by blunder #1.)
In their defense: Personnel people (scouts, GMs) always fall in love with size, and Bradley had it in spades. Too bad that’s all he had.
In their defense: Ten years ago, drafting a kid straight out of high school was still a dicey proposition. Daniels, Battie, Thomas and Foyle are still in the league, and McGrady hasn’t advanced past the first round of the playoffs.
In their defense: Pippen was a late bloomer, KJ was little and Miller was a skinny kid with a funky looking shot. (I know - it’s tough to defend this one.)
In their defense: The Wizards gave Brown three and a half years to develop, and when he didn’t, they somehow convinced the Lakers to swap him for Caron Butler, who turned into an All-Star in 2006-07. In golf, that’s called a “sand save.”
In their defense: Webster came straight out of high school so it will take another two to three years to truly judge this pick. (But it’s not looking good.) Meanwhile, Jarrett Jack is the Blazers’ starting point guard.
In their defense: Bender was immediately traded to the Pacers for (the solid) Antonio Davis, so it was Indiana’s blunder, not Toronto’s. The Pacers were probably still shell-shocked after passing on another high school kid three years earlier. (Can you guess who that is? If not, just keep reading.)
In their defense: Malone wasn’t regarded as a great athlete coming out of college. The most important thing about a player – his work ethic – is also the toughest to predict. No one worked harder on his game than Malone did.
In their defense: No one but the Mavs had any intention of drafting Nowitzki early in the ’98 draft. Dallas saw an opportunity to trade down and still get their guy and the Bucks played right into their hands. As a double kick in the nuts, Milwaukee also passed on Pierce.
In their defense: Bryant came out just a year after Garnett did, so drafting high school kids was still taboo. Although he won Executive of the Year in 1995, this is the transaction that has everyone calling Jerry West a “genius,” even though he’s leaving the Grizzlies in worse shape than when he found them.
In their defense: Ironically, the Blazers were the beneficiaries of a multi-team blunder the year before. 11 teams passed on Clyde Drexler (Dallas and Houston, where Drexler played college ball, each passed twice) before the Blazers picked him at #14. Drexler was the best player to come out of the 1983 draft, but he played the exact same position as Jordan, so the team went with for size and drafted Bowie. The multi-team blunder in 1983 led to the Blazers’ blunder in 1984!
In their defense: Ironically, Memphis won the #2 pick in the lottery, just missing out on LeBron James, but the pick was only top-1 protected (as part of the Otis Thorpe trade), so they had to give the pick to Detroit. It turns out that the Pistons didn’t deserve it.
That wraps up the 11 biggest draft day blunders in the modern era. As the 2007 Draft approaches, be sure to say a few prayers that your team doesn’t make a move that eventually finds its way onto this list.
In the meantime, here are a few more blunders from the past two decades:
1986: Just about the entire league passes on Mark Price and Dennis Rodman, who were eventually picked in the second round.
1989: The Clippers pass on Sean Elliot and Glen Rice so that they can draft Danny Ferry.
1995: Golden State, LA Clippers, Philadelphia and Washington pass on Kevin Garnett to draft Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, respectively. There aren’t any bums on that list, but those four teams have to rue the day they passed on KG. Detroit and Chicago pass on Michael Finley for Randoph Childress and Jason Caffey, respectively.
1998: The Clippers pass on Mike Bibby for Michael Olowokandi. Denver passes on Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter for Raef Lafrentz. Houston passes on hometown hero Rashard Lewis three times for Michael Dickerson, Bryce Drew and Mirsad Turckan.
2000: Chicago passes on Mike Miller to draft Marcus Fizer.
2001: Just about the whole league passes on Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas, who at #28 and #31, are arguably the second- and third-best players (after Pau Gasol) to come out of that draft.
2002: Golden State, Memphis, Denver, Cleveland and the LA Clippers pass on Amare Stoudemire and Caron Butler to draft Mike Dunleavy, Drew Gooden, Nickoloz Tskitishvili, Dajuan Wagner and Chris Wilcox, respectively. Five teams also pass on Tayshaun Prince to draft Curtis Borchardt, Ryan Humphrey, Kareem Rush, Qyntel Woods and Casey Jacobsen. The entire league passes on Carlos Boozer, who ends up going to the Cavs at #35 overall.
2003: Just about the entire league passes on Leandro Barbosa and Josh Howard, who go #28 and #29, respectively.
2004: Toronto passes on Andre Iguodala to draft Rafael Araujao. Utah passes on Josh Smith for Kirk Snyder.
2006: Boston trades away the draft rights to Randy Foye (also passing on Brandon Roy in the process) for Sebastian Telfair.