NEW YORK - JUNE 26: LeBron James who was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers poses for a portrait during the 2003 NBA Draft at the Paramount Theatre at Madison Square Garden on June 26, 2003 in New York, New York. NEW YORK - JUNE 26: Darko Milicic of the Detroit Pistons poses with his jersey during the 2003/2004 NBA Draft Portrait at Paramount Theatre Madison Square Garden on June 26, 2003 in New York, New York.
Take your pick
The NBA Draft is upon us Thursday. The Cleveland Cavaliers have the top pick, and what usually is an envied position isn't this go-round. With Kentucky's Nerlens Noel and Kansas' Ben McLemore among those atop the talent ladder it seems there is no consensus on who is No. 1. So in a process that sees big men come up small and small men come up large, here's a look at the best and worst of each NBA franchise's picks.
Best: Peja Stojakovic The 6-9 forward isn't an obvious choice, but he was stellar in Sacramento after being chosen 14th overall in 1996. He spent seven seasons as a King to open his career and was a key component to much of the success the team had. The Croatian star scored more than 13,600 points in his career. Worst: Pervis Ellison Never Nervous Pervis never lived up to expectations after being taken first overall out of Louisville in 1989.He played 34 games in Sacramento before being shipped to Washington. He later signed with Boston. Undistinguished would be the perfect word to describe his NBA career and impact.
Best: Joe Dumars This is a team that made draft picks count for a number of years in building the "Bad Boys." Isiah Thomas, John Salley, Dennis Rodman, all were part of the core. However, we will give a slim nod to the guard from McNeese State chosen 18th overall in 1985. All he did was score 16,401 points as half of one of the best backcourt's in NBA history in a career that was played entirely with the Pistons. Worst: Darko Milicic Talk about mistakes. The No. 2 overall choice in 2003 was heralded and huge things were expected from the Serbian. Instead, the biggest news came when he was paid tribute in a blog called FreeDarko. He wandered all over the league making hardly any sort of a mark. His last appearance was a five-minute effort this season with Boston.
Best: Jason Kidd The second overall pick out of Cal in 1994 turned out to be a surefire Hall of Famer. The 6-4 guard actually had two turns in Dallas. They encompassed eight years and he played a role in the team's championship. A defining player as point guard, this was a stellar choice. If you were wondering why not Dirk Nowitzki, he was actually chosen by Milwaukee. Worst: Roy Tarpley The seventh overall pick in the beleaguered 1986 draft, the 6-11 star from Michigan saw peaks and valleys in Dallas. The big problem was every time he seemed to get his act together, it fell apart, basically derailing the franchise's hopes and dreams. Tarpley was later banned from the NBA for violating the league's drug policy.
Best: Michael Jordan A slam dunk. The third overall choice out of North Carolina in 1984, His Airness is NBA royalty. All he did was win and leave people gasping with his play. A legend. And no contest in this race. Worst: Keith Lee A year after drafting the greatest player, the Bulls chose the Memphis forward who had absolutely no impact on the team. Lee's career peaked in college and led him to be chosen 11th overall in 1985. He was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and had a short NBA run that ended after the 1989 season.
Best: Raymond Felton Chosen fifth overall in 2005, the North Carolina guard has proven to be the best of a weak lot of picks by Charlotte. The problem for the beleaguered Bobcats is much of Felton's success has come elsewhere. He blossomed in Denver and is thriving in New York after spending five seasons in Charlotte. Worst: Adam Morrison The Gonaza star cried at the end of his college career. And Bobcat fans are still teary-eyed when he is mentioned. Talk about total flops. The 6-8 forward had two stays in Charlotte, neither memorable and scored a grand total of 1,200 points in his career.
Best: Bill Russell What? How can this be? The best choice the Hawks franchise made was someone who wound up becoming the lord of the rings in Boston? Well, that's exactly who chose the San Francisco star. St. Louis grabbed the 6-10 center with the No. 2 overall choice. The only problem for the Hawks is they dealt Russell to Boston for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan. The rest is NBA history. Worst: Jon Koncak The fifth overall pick in 1982 was a 7-foot center from SMU. He spent 10 years in Atlanta and hardly made a dent, unless you want to consider a financial one. He was given a six-year, $13 million contract that earned him the nickname "Jon Contract." The pact made him higher-paid than many of the NBA superstars of that generation. His lack of production on the court only added to the Hawks' woes.
Best: Carmelo Anthony No NBA championships for Denver. However, they did grab the Syracuse star with the third pick in the 2003 draft. The 6-8 forward can score and did just that in seven-plus seasons in the Mile High City before forcing a trade to the Knicks. Worst: Mark Macon In 1991, Denver grabbed Dikembe Mutombo with the fourth overall selection. Four slots later, it chose the Temple guard off a stellar college career. Only problem was, the 6-4 guard never progressed at the next level. He played two seasons in Denver before being dealt to Detroit and continuing a pro career that went nowhere.
Best: Akeem Olajuwon The Dream proved to be precisely that after being tabbed No. 1 overall in 1984. The 7-foot center out of Houston spent 17 seasons as a Rocket and delivered two championships. He scored more than 20,000 points and grabbed more than 13,000 rebounds for the franchise. Worst: Rodrick Rhodes The Kentucky star was chosen 24th overall in 1997. He had precious little impact in the league, only seeing action in 72 games and totaling 380 points, the bulk of which came in his rookie season as a Rocket.
Golden State Warriors
Best: Rick Barry The second overall choice in 1965 — the Warriors had the first and second choice, grabbing Fred Hetzlel at No. 1 overall — the 6-5 forward from Miami (Fl.) was an absolute star in both the NBA and ABA. He was a key part in the Warriors' championship stunner of the Washington Bullets in 1975. He will also be forever remembered as one of the game's great free-throw shooters, with his trademark underhand shot. Worst: Chris Washburn A total washout. Troubled in college due to grade issues, troubled in the pros. The NC State star went No. 3 overall in 1986 and was an utter mess. He played 72 games in four years. He wound up being banned for life. The happy ending is that the 6-11 Washburn was able to clean up his life and has gone on to a successful career in business. A remarkable turnaround.
Best: Reggie Miller In 1987, the Pacers drafted the shooting guard out of UCLA in the first round with the 11th overall choice. Miller provided enough highlights for a career during one playoff spurt against the Knicks to earn this accolade. However in 18 seasons in Indiana, Miller topped the 25,000-point mark and gave Pacers fans more than anyone could have imagined when he was chosen. Worst: Scott Haskin At the other end of the Pacers' draft spectrum is the 6-11 forward from Oregon State. Talking dud. Twenty-seven games played, 55 career points. Teams usually expect far more than that when they use the 14th pick in a draft. That choice in 1993 didn't work for Indiana.
Los Angeles Lakers
Best: Earvin Johnson A legend, and he has to be one to earn this honor on a team that has selected players such as Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and James Worthy. The 6-8, do-everything player from Michigan State made an immediate impact, capping his rookie season with a championship performance for the ages. His rivalry with Larry Bird was a key part of a renaissance by the league. Worst: Earl Jones The exact opposite of Magic Johnson was the result of the choice of the 7-foot center from the University of the District of Columbia. He played two games for the Lakers, failed to score and that was that.
Los Angeles Clippers
Best: Blake Grifiin Turning a moribund franchise into one with juice and playoff power is all the the former Oklahoma star has done for the Clips. A team that seemingly didn't exist in Los Angeles now rivals the once-mighty Lakers for headlines and media coverage. This is in large part due to the No. 1 overall pick in 2009. He's done what has seemed impossible. Can he bring a ring to the Clippers? Worst: Michael Olowokandi Talk about someone who symbolizes everything the Clippers were for so many years. A No. 1 overall pick out of Pacific in 1998, this 7-foot center never delivered. He played five seasons in L.A. and never scored 900 points in any one of them. One of the top names on the all-time bust list. An easy choice.
Best: Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar The Bucks have one championship and in large part it is due to the 7-2 center from Power Memorial High School in New York and UCLA. Abdul-Jabbar spent six seasons in Milwaukee after being chosen No. 1 overall in 1969 and combined with Oscar Robertson to give the city an NBA championship in 1970-71. The Bucks were 12-2 in that playoff run. The team hasn't been close to that since Abdul-Jabbar left for Los Angeles after the 1974-75 season. Worst: Kent Benson Abdul-Jabbar played a role in the beginning of the end of the Indiana star's NBA career. Two minutes into Benson's first game, Abdul-Jabbar broke the 1977 No. 1 overall pick's jaw with a punch in retaliation for an elbow. He spent two seasons in Milwaukee before moving on in a journeyman career that saw him play for five teams.
Best: Dwyane Wade There hadn't been a ton of success in South Beach until the 6-4 guard from Marquette was chosen with the fifth overall pick in 2003. His selection helped turn a faceless franchise into one of the glamour acts in the NBA. Wade led the Heat to their first championship, and has played a major role as "The Big Three'' has brought consecutive titles to Miami. Worst: Michael Beasley Can it only be five years since the 6-9 forward was chosen with the second overall pick in 2008? It seems as if he has been in the league forever. Most of those headlines were not game related. The former Kansas State star only lasted two seasons in Miami before heading to Minnesota. He didn't achieve star status there or in Phoenix.
New Orleans Hornets
Best: Chris Paul The fourth overall choice in 2005, the guard from Wake Forest enlivened a franchise. He quickly became one of the top players in the league, earning honors for his passing ability, defense and overall play. He has since moved on to the Clippers. Worst: Kirk Haston A bust who wound up in the D League and suffered a knee injury that ruined any hope for retribution. The 16th overall pick in 2001 was looked at as a strong shooter. However, he had little impact averaging 1.2 points in 27 games.
Best: Kevin Garnett One of the best picks by any team and he came straight from Farragut Academy in Chicago. Garnett was the Timberwolves. Their identity, their hope and their spirit. Selected at No. 5 overall in 1995, Garnett's impact was powerful and immediate. He spent 12 years in Minnesota before moving to Boston, where all he did was restore Celtic pride and bring the championship back to Beantown. Worst: Jonny Flynn There are bad drafts and then there are those that are hard to wrap your mind around. Minnesota had three picks in the top 18 in 2009 and David Kahn (Kahhhhhhhnnnn!) selected three guards. The bust of them all was the Syracuse star, who was chosen in the sixth slot. He spent a lackluster year-plus with the Wolves before being shipped to Toronto. Next up were stays in Houston and Portland before being shown the exit.
Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle Sonics
Best: Kevin Durant The best is yet to come from the Oklahoma City star out of Texas. However, his performances to date give reason for people to believe he will be one of the defining players from this generation of NBA stars. It wasn't an easy choice as the franchise selected a gem in Jack Sikma with the eighth pick in 1977, and all the forward from Illinois Wesleyan did was play nine seasons in Seattle and deliver a championship to the Emerald City. Worst: Rich King In 1991, the Sonics took the 7-2 center from Nebraska with the 14th pick in the draft. Big things were expected. However, sometimes small things come out of the biggest players. How about 72 games in four seasons, 135 points and 74 rebounds? Total. And a total waste of a pick.
New York Knicks
Best: Willis Reed The Knicks had the No. 1 overall pick in the 1964 draft. They grabbed Jim "Bad News" Barnes from Texas Western (now UTEP). The best news from that year for New York, however, came in the second round when they selected Willis Reed from Grambling. The 6-9 center was a key piece to the teams that brought two titles to Madison Square Garden — the only two so far — and his effort in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals has not faded. He edges Walt Frazier, selected in the first round in 1967 after leading Southern Illinois to an NIT title at the Garden. Worst: Frederic Weis Let's be honest. Another center, another first-round choice (15th, 1999) and another moment for the ages. Only difference is this time the Frenchman is best remembered for being posterized by Vince Carter in the 2000 Olympics. The slam was called the "dunk of death" by the French media. The choice of the the 7-2 center wasn't far from that. He never played in the NBA, but will never be forgotten.
Portland Trail Blazers
Best: Clyde Drexler The 14th pick in 1983 out of Houston, this 6-7 force proved to be a rock for the Trail Blazers. He played 11 seasons in Portland and finished with more than 22,000 points in a great career. Honorable mention has to go to Bill Walton, the No. 1 overall pick in 1974, whose career was curtailed by injury but did bring a championship to the Blazers. Worst: Greg Oden This was a tough decision. Two injury-plagued centers drafted by the same team. Sam Bowie, No. 2 overall in 1984, and Greg Oden, No. 1 overall in 2007. Bowie did play 511 games in his career; Oden is at 82 and now a free agent. So, the edge in failure goes to Oden, whose future remains murky.
Best: Maurice Cheeks Talk about finding gold, the 76ers chose the guard from West Texas A&M with the 36th overall choice in the 1978 draft. All he did was 11 years in Philly at all-star level. Beyond a steal and the location of the selection moves him ahead of Charles Barkley, the fifth overall pick in 1984. Worst: Marvin Barnes One of the all-time characters in basketball history, the 6-8 forward from Providence was the second overall choice in 1974. He never played a minute in Philly, heading to the ABA and an overall checkered career. This is from a team that selected Dana Lewis, Shaler Halimon, and Al Henry, among other failed picks.
San Antonio Spurs
Best: Tim Duncan The Big Fundamental has proven to be one of the greatest selections by any team of any generation. Chosen No. 1 overall out of Wake Forest in 1997, Duncan has been the integral part of four NBA championships for the Spurs. That almost became five this year. At 37, his play remains remarkable and the Spurs' choice of the big man has been rewarded generously. Worst: Alfredrick Hughes The 14th pick out of Loyola (Chicago) in 1985, the 6-5 shooting guard was a bust. He managed only 356 points in 68 games, averaging a puny 5.2 points per game.
Best: Wes Unseld Talk about a powerhouse, a total force and rebounder extraordinaire and you have the Louisville force that was selected second overall in 1968. How about scoring 10,000-plus points while grabbing 13,000-plus rebounds. Unseld spent his entire career with the franchise. Worst: Kwame Brown In 2001, the 6-11 forward from Georgia was the No. 1 overall selection. Washington president Michael Jordan tabbed Brown, and it was all downhill from there. He's still hanging around but has played on seven teams in 12 seasons. He never scored more than 805 points in a season and topped 300 rebounds just twice.
Best: Chris Bosh The two-time champion with the Miami Heat cut his NBA teeth north of the border. He was chosen fourth overall out of Georgia Tech in 2004 and spent seven seasons in Toronto becoming a star. He scored and rebounded well enough to put himself in position to become part of the Big Three in Miami. Worst: Andrea Bargnani Not a bust but not a star, as the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 out of Italy. He hasn't had the impact needed out of someone chosen as the cream of the crop. He has only played in 66 games total over the last two seasons.
Best: Karl Malone, John Stockton You honestly didn't think we were going to split the faces of the franchise, did you? Stockton and Malone, Malone and Stockton. Any way you want to look at it, they are the Jazz. Each was a first-round pick, Stockton 16th overall in 1984 and Malone 13th the following year. Two all-time greats that shouldn't be split. Worst: Jose Ortiz A first-round pick — 15th overall — out of Oregon State in 1987, the 6-10 forward lasted two years with the Jazz. He scored 183 points and grabbed 35 rebounds. Another candidate was Luther Wright (18th overall in 1993), who struggled in the NBA but has battled back from all sorts of adversity to be exemplary off the court.
Best: Steve Nash Selected 15th overall in 1996, the point guard had a two-year stop in Phoenix before heading off to Dallas. However, after spending six seasons with the Mavericks he returned to the Suns and shined brightly. He didn't deliver a championship but is a two-time MVP (2005, 2006) and will go down as one of the great point guards of all-time. Worst: William Bedford The sixth pick in the 1986 draft out of Memphis, the 7-foot center lasted one season in Phoenix, playing a grand total of 50 games. He also played with the Pistons and Spurs, never seeing more than 60 games of action in any season. Drug use ruined his potential, and after his career he wound up in prison. After being released in 2011, he returned to Memphis and coaching, helping with an ABA team there.
Best: Shaquille O’Neal It was a battle of the big men between the No. 1 pick out of LSU in 1992 and Dwight Howard, a No. 1 choice out of high school in 2004. Howard lasted longer in Orlando, but Shaq's legacy, like everything about him is larger. Edge to O'Neal. Worst: David Vaughn The 7-foot center out of Memphis was taken 25th overall in 1995. His tenure was short and not pleasant as he played in 68 games before heading to Golden State, Chicago and the Nets. A troubled life continued away from the game, too, as money issues plagued Vaughn.
New Jersey Nets
Best: Buck Williams A total stud as the third overall pick in 1981 out of Maryland. Williams delivered for the Nets — immediately. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1982, and went on to be a three-time All-Star. The 6-8 power forward helped define the position, a constant force for the franchise. He spent eight years with the Nets before moving on to continued success in Portland. Worst: Ed O'Bannon The ninth overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, O'Bannon didn't last long with the Nets — or anyone else. He played in 128 games in two seasons with the Nets and Dallas Mavericks before leaving the NBA and bouncing around European leagues for the remainder of his pro career.
Best: Shareef Abdur-Rahim Selected out of Cal as the third overall pick in the 1996 draft, the 6-9 forward delivered splendidly for the then-Vancouver franchise. He spent five years with the Grizzlies and was named to the All-Star team in 2001-2002. Rahim also earned a gold medal for the US in 2000. Overall, he scored more than 15,000 points in a solid career. Worst: Hasheem Thabeet The second overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Connecticut, the 7-2 center never developed. He's a journeyman on a trip to nowhere, having totaled 456 points and 555 rebounds in a career that can kindly be called spotty.
Best: Larry Bird Talk about genius. The Celtics chose a junior-eligible player from Indiana State sixth overall in 1978 and waited an entire year for him. All Bird did that season was lead the Sycamores to the NCAA Final against Magic Johnson and Michigan State. The rest is basketball history. Worst: Kedrick Brown The Celtics took Brown with the 11th overall pick in 2001. By 2004, he was off the team. By 2005, he was out of the NBA. He averaged just 3.6 points per game in 143 games over four seasons. He currently plays for a Turkish club.
Best: LeBron James All he did was revive a moribund franchise and take it to the brink of a championship. A fantastic choice as the No. 1 selection out of an Akron high school, the only missing piece is the ring that didn't wind up in Cleveland before King James took his talents to South Beach. That said, it will take a tremendous player for the Cavaliers to improve on this selection in their history. Worst: Chuckie Williams Williams was the 15th overall selection out of Kansas State in 1976. It doesn’t get much worse than choosing someone 15th overall and getting 22 games and 37 points out of the player. That’s exactly what the downtrodden Cavaliers received from the former Wildcat.