A 20-year review of the NBA draft's No. 15 overall pick
JUN 24, 2014 4:22p ET
Fox Sports South offers a 20-year capsule review of the NBA draft (1994-2013), specifically tracking the No. 15 pick in Round 1 -- the Atlanta Hawks' top selection for Thursday's draft.
BREAKDOWN: Piatkowski (career average: 7.5 points) hung around the NBA for 13 years and buried 865 three-pointers. So, the Clippers were hardly in the wrong for acquiring Piatkowski, via trade, one day after the Pacers selected him at 15.
However, the Clippers might have been better off in the long run with Aaron McKie (more diverse talent) or point guard Charlie Ward (four seasons of 4.6 assists or higher).
But we're splitting hairs here, since the '94 talent pool became quite shallow after Jalen Rose fell off the board at No. 13 (Denver Nuggets).
Actual pick: SG Brent Barry (Oregon State), Denver Nuggets (draft-day trade to Clippers)
Hindsight pick: SG Michael Finley (Wisconsin)
BREAKDOWN: Brent Barry (14 NBA seasons) had an interesting professional legacy: He averaged double-digits scoring seven times, played on two championship teams (2005 Spurs, 2007 Spurs) and captured one Slam Dunk Contest title (1996).
However, Finley -- a two-time All-Star and three-time NBA leader with minutes played -- would have been a more dynamic figure for the attention-starved Clippers in the 1990s.
From 1997-2004, Finley was one of the NBA's most complete players, posting strong numbers with points (eight consecutive seasons of 16-plus) and flirting with averages of 5 rebounds/5 assists just about every year.
Actual pick: PG Steve Nash (Santa Clara), Phoenix Suns
Hindsight pick: PG Steve Nash
BREAKDOWN: This is a perfect example of the draft being an inexact science and isolated proof that ANYONE can be a personnel executive at the NBA level.
In 1996, future pedestrian performers like Samaki Walker (No. 9 overall -- Mavericks), Todd Fuller (No. 11 -- Warriors) and Vitaly Potapenko (No. 12 -- Cavaliers) all went ahead of Kobe Bryant (No. 13 -- Hornets), Peja Stojakovic (No. 14 -- Kings), Steve Nash (Suns), Jermaine O'Neal (No. 17 -- Blazers) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (No. 20 -- Cavaliers).
For reasons that cannot be explained, the Cavaliers drafted two slow Eastern European centers (Potapenko, Big Z) in the first 20 selections ... but had no interest in a European shooting star (Stojakovic) or two high-end prep talents (Bryant, O'Neal).
To be fair, Cleveland gets a lukewarm free pass on the latter issue, since NBA teams were reluctant to draft prepsters in the early to mid-1990s.
In fact, if the "one-and-done" college rule had been in place back then, it would have been interesting to see if the San Antonio Spurs would have taken Tim Duncan or Kobe with the first pick in the 1997 NBA Draft.
BREAKDOWN: The Portland Trail Blazers cannot be blamed for falling in love with Cato during the 1997 NCAA Tournament, when the athletic, rim-protecting center played a key role in helping Iowa State advance to the Sweet 16 round (losing to UCLA by a single point).
In the pros, Cato was a top-notch contributor on the rebounding end for five of his 10 NBA seasons.
But Cato's offensive game never really developed after college, which might explain why he bounced around to five different clubs (Blazers, Rockets, Magic, Pistons, Knicks) during his career.
Brevin Knight, on the other hand, was a high-functioning point guard for his first 11 NBA seasons, often handling bigger guards for sustained stretches of play and occasionally flirting with triple-doubles.
(At Stanford, Knight nearly pulled off a quadruple-double in a game.)
Actual pick: SF Matt Harpring (Georgia Tech), Orlando Magic
Hindsight pick: SF Rashard Lewis
BREAKDOWN: The Magic did OK with this choice, even though Harpring wouldn't maximize his true pro potential until joining the Utah Jazz in 2002.
As a Plan B, though, the Magic could have landed a certifiable star at No. 15, Rashard Lewis (two-time All-Star), if the franchise hadn't been so reluctant to invest in a high-school phenom.
(Orlando wouldn't select a prepster until 2004 -- Dwight Howard at No. 1 overall.)
The club might have saved some money in the long run, as well, given that Lewis (seven consecutive seasons of 18-plus-points from 2002-09) would eventually ink a mega-sized free-agent deal with Orlando in 2007 ($90 million).
BREAKDOWN: This might go down as one of the biggest blunders in draft history. The Knicks passed on productive talents like Ron Artest, Andrei Kirilenko, Jeff Foster, James Posey, Devean George and Hall of Fame lock Manu Ginobili at No. 13 ... just for the, uh, thrill of landing a middling French center who would never play a single minute in the NBA.
To make matters worse, Weis garnered much fame (or infamy) during the 2000 Summer Olympics -- after American high-flyer Vince Carter leapt over the 7-2 Frenchman to execute a thunderous dunk.
Actual pick: C Jason Collier (Georgia Tech), Houston Rockets (draft-day trade with Bucks)
Hindsight pick: SF Hedo Turkoglu
BREAKDOWN: The 2000 NBA Draft wasn't exactly knee-deep in future stars, so the Rockets shouldn't be disparaged too much for taking a reasonable flier on the 7-foot Collier (career scoring average: 5.6 points).
What's the old NBA adage about the draft? If you're going to make a mistake, do it with a big man.
That aside, the Rockets would have enjoyed more team success if they had opted for Hedo Turkoglu (No. 16 -- Kings), Desmond Mason (No. 17 -- Sonics), one-time All-Star Jamaal Magloire (19 -- Hornets), Morris Peterson (No. 21 -- Raptors), DeShawn Stevenson (No. 23 -- Jazz) or Michael Redd (No. 43 -- Bucks).
Houston actually missed out on the high-scoring Redd (career average: 21.4 points) twice in that 2000 draft.
BREAKDOWN: Thirteen years later, it's easy to proclaim that Randolph (two-time All-Star, career averages: 17.2 points, 9.4 rebounds) should have been the redoubtable choice at No. 15.
But let's also remember Randolph was only a part-time starter at Michigan State ... and that a number of NBA clubs had "character concerns" about the Indiana native with the somewhat checkered past (as a youth).
On the flip side, Steven Hunter never developed into anything outside of a dependable shot blocker and Kirk Haston (the No. 16 overall pick) was out of the NBA after two fruitless seasons.
Instead of investing in marginal-at-best talents, the Magic and Hornets could have had their run of Randolph, Gerald Wallace (No. 25 -- Kings), All-Stars Gilbert Arenas (No. 30 -- Warriors) and Mehmet Okur (No. 37 -- Pistons) ... or Tony Parker, the final pick of Round 1 (Spurs).
Heck, even point guard Earl Watson would have been a more prescient pick than Hunter or Haston. Ouch.
BREAKDOWN: The 2002 NBA Draft was full of sound and fury, prospects-wise, but ultimately signified very little in the "game-changers" department.
Yes, Yao Ming (No. 1 overall -- Rockets), Amare Stoudemire (No. 9 -- Suns) and Caron Butler (No. 10 -- Heat) enjoyed great NBA careers. But the same cannot be said for Jay Williams (career derailed by a motorcycle accident), Nikoloz Tskitishvili (remember the lame draft-night video of him shooting in an empty practice gym, at half-speed?) and Bostjan Nachbar, who never averaged double-digit scoring in six middling NBA seasons.
The real draft gems, after Stoudemire and Butler, involved Tayshaun Prince (No. 23 -- Pistons) and Carlos Boozer (No. 35 -- Cavaliers). Either one would have been a great complement to Yao Ming in the rebuilt Houston frontcourt.
Actual pick: SF Reece Gaines (Louisville), Orlando Magic
Hindsight pick: PF David West
BREAKDOWN: Gaines scored a grand total of 123 points in the NBA, generously spread over three empty campaigns (2003-06).
And yet, some NBA exec once believed Gaines had more ability or upside than top-notch talents like David West (No. 18 -- New Orleans Hornets) and Josh Howard (No. 29 -- Mavericks) ... or even productive assets like Boris Diaw (No. 21 -- Hawks), Carlos Delfino (No. 25 -- Pistons), Kendrick Perkins (draft-day trade to Celtics), Steve Blake (Round 2 -- Wizards) and Mo Williams (Round 2 -- Jazz).
On the positive side, Gaines tallied more career points than Timberwolves first-rounder Ndudi Ebi, who spurned college ball in 2003 to collect 40 total career points at the NBA level.
Actual pick: PF Al Jefferson (Mississippi prepster), Boston Celtics
Hindsight pick: PF Al Jefferson
BREAKDOWN: The Celtics get dual credit here: One for landing Jefferson out of high school; and two for using him as trade bait in the franchise-altering deal with Minnesota, bringing Kevin Garnett to Boston.
(The Celtics would claim the NBA title in 2008.)
Since the 2006-07 season, Jefferson has been a certifiable force in the paint, averaging 19.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks with the Celtics, Timberwolves, Jazz and Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets).
All told, Big Al should have been the No. 2 or No. 3 pick in 2004, behind Dwight Howard (another prep star at the time) and maybe Andre Iguodala.
BREAKDOWN: On the heels of a stupendous junior season at Texas A&M (2004-05) -- leading the Big 12 Conference in three-point percentage and finishing fourth in scoring (17.8 per game) -- Antoine Wright certainly had the look of a long-term NBA contributor on draft night.
But Wright essentially fizzled out after the 2011 season, leaving Nets fans to ponder snubbed options like David Lee (career averages: 15.2 points, 9.8 rebounds), Danny Granger (averaged 21.6 points/5.4 boards from 2007-12) or even second- round flier pick Marcin Gortat (13.3 points/6.9 boards/1.5 blocks with the Wizards last season).
And if the Nets truly had their hearts set on a shoot-first, ask-questions-later scorer in the '05 draft, they could have selected Monta Ellis (No. 40 -- Warriors) over the limited Wright.
BREAKDOWN: In 2006, the Hornets were still riding high from the draft acquisition of Chris Paul (2005); so, it's not like the rebuilding club was desperate to take another point guard.
That aside, the alternative of passing on Rondo (a top-5 NBA point guard, when healthy) and investing in Cedric Simmons (163 career points from 2007-09) was a monumental error in judgment.
But let's not assign total blame to the Hornets: Picks 15-20, leading up to Rondo's selection at No. 21 overall, were all shameful:
Simmons (15), Rodney Carney (No. 16 -- traded to 76ers), Shawne Williams (No. 17 -- Pacers), Oleksly Percherov (No. 18 -- Wizards), Quincy Douby (No. 19 -- Kings) and Renaldo Balkman (No. 20 -- Knicks).
BREAKDOWN: As a Detroit native, I can't find too much fault with this pick ... even though Marc Gasol would have infused an aging Pistons frontcourt six or seven years ago.
Citing the last six seasons, Stuckey has averaged 14.3 points (on 44-percdent shooting), while also possessing the unique gift of routinely getting to the basket off the dribble (83 percent from the charity stripe).
The only downsides: Stuckey has been a dismal shooter from beyond the arc (29 percent) and hasn't been a difference-maker in helping the Pistons collect more wins, from year to year.
Here's something to celebrate (sort of): Of the players taken from No. 15 in Round 1 all the way through Round 2, Detroit arguably landed two of the three best talents in that cluster -- Stuckey, Arron Afflalo and the aforementioned Marc Gasol, an All-Star pivotman who has averaged 14.4 points, 8.0 boards and 1.6 blocks over the last three seasons (2012-14).
BREAKDOWN: It's fair to ask whether the up-tempo Suns would have ultimately benefited more with Hibbert patrolling the paint, compared to the more athletic Robin Lopez (two-year averages: 11.2 points/7.1 boards/1.6 blocks)?
The converse of that speculation: Phoenix might have enjoyed a quicker rebuilding, if it had committed to an offense centered around Hibbert, a two-time All-Star with averages of 11.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks from 2010-14.
BREAKDOWN: Five years ago, the Pistons were happy to grab an NBA legacy (Daye's father, Darren, played for the Celtics in the 1980s) who was once projected to be the draft's top prospect (between his freshman and sophomore campaigns at Gonzaga).
Detroit would have been wise to pass on Daye, in hindsight. The 6-foot, 11-inch small forward has been nothing but a warm body in the pros, averaging 5.4 points over five pedestrian seasons.
As a sound Plan B, the Pistons could have selected Jrue Holiday (career averages: 13.5 points/6.0 assists/3.6 rebounds) as their point guard of the future.
BREAKDOWN: Personal quirks aside, Sanders has been a productive asset for the talent-deficient Bucks, averaging 9.3 points and 8.9 rebounds over the last two seasons.
Overall though, Sanders' defense-focused talents might invariably fall short of diverse assets like Stephenson (NBA leader in triple-doubles last season) or even Eric Bledsoe (No. 18 -- draft-day trade to Clippers) and Avery Bradley (No. 19 -- Celtics).
Actual pick: SF Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State), San Antonio Spurs (trade with Pacers)
Hindsight pick: SF Kawhi Leonard
BREAKDOWN: We'll keep this capsule review of the 2014 NBA Finals MVP short and sweet: NAILED IT!
Actual pick: SF Maurice Harkless (St. John's), Philadelphia 76ers (eventual trade to Magic)
Hindsight pick: PF Andrew Nicholson or SF Draymond Green
BREAKDOWN: The early returns suggest that Harkless (a one-and-done prospect at St. John's) has the athleticism and versatility to be a longtime NBA factor.
That aside, Harkless may have already been eclipsed by current Magic teammate Andrew Nicholson, who was snagged by Orlando three picks later in Round 1.
On a positive note, Harkless (career average: 7.8 points) is three years younger than Nicholson and Green.
Actual pick: SF Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Milwaukee Bucks
Hindsight pick: SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
BREAKDOWN: The Antetokounmpo kid, who doesn't turn 20 until early December, has absurd athleticism and possesses the down-the-road traits of a prolific scorer and/or rebounding wiz.
In other words, the Bucks (15-67 last year) were wise to draft a raw talent with off-the-charts upside. The club just needs to stick to their eminently patient approach to constructing a viable playoff roster from the ashes.