The 14 NBA teams that failed to make the playoffs ended up in the draft lottery, with the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the top pick. But it's instructive to note that a high pick doesn't guarantee anything. You can get a future All-Star at No. 14 or a total bust at No. 1. We have the best and worst picks at each of the top 14 spots in the lottery era, which began in 1985.
Best No. 14 pick: 1989 Warriors, Tim Hardaway
Why do so many NBA point guards have a good crossover dribble these days? Perhaps because they grew up emulating the ankle-breaking moves of Hardaway, who could shift dribble hands and directions faster than a defender could blink. He used the crossover to devastating effect with the Warriors and Heat, making five All-Star teams and finishing his career with over 15,000 points and 7,000 assists.
Worst No. 14 pick: 1994 Nets, Yinka Dare
New Jersey took a chance on Dare, a 7-footer from Nigeria who had only taken up basketball seriously three years earlier. Problem was, he still didn't really know how to play. He certainly never learned how to pass, finishing his four-year NBA career with a grand total of four assists.
Best No. 13 pick: 1996 Hornets, Kobe Bryant
In retrospect, Charlotte looks foolish for drafting the 17-year-old Bryant only to deal him to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac. But who knew he'd be so good? After all, no guard had made a successful prep-to-pros transition. Of course, all Kobe has done in LA is win five championships, two scoring titles, two Finals MVPs and one MVP award. With 27,868 points, he is sixth on the NBA's all-time list and still going strong at 32. Incidentally, the league's No. 2 career scorer, Karl Malone, also was picked 13th (in 1985).
Worst No. 13 pick: 2005 Bobcats, Sean May
May boosted his stock by powering North Carolina to the 2005 NCAA title and Charlotte couldn't resist picking the local hero. It was always questionable, however, whether the somewhat pudgy May was an NBA-caliber athlete. Microfracture surgery on his right knee exacerbated his weight and conditioning problems, leading three teams to cut him. May is now playing pro ball in Turkey.
Best No. 12 pick: 1989 Nets, Mookie Blaylock
Pity the Utah Jazz, who hold the No. 12 pick in this year's draft. That spot has been a wasteland in the lottery era, producing a string of mediocrities with short NBA careers. The only exception is Blaylock, a quick-handed point guard who played 13 seasons and wreaked defensive havoc for three teams. Twice the league leader in steals, he finished his career with over 2,000 of them. Even cooler than that, a Seattle rock band originally went by the name "Mookie Blaylock" before changing it to "Pearl Jam."
Worst No. 12 pick: 1999 Raptors, Aleksandar Radojevic
It's no wonder NBA fans are skeptical when their teams take tall international players with high draft picks. Many of them turn out like this 7-foot-3 Yugoslavian, who had several injury-plagued seasons with a couple teams before returning to Europe. He is best known for accepting money from Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien, costing O'Brien his job.
Best No. 11 pick: 1987 Pacers, Reggie Miller
Several shooting guards were picked ahead of Miller in 1987, including Ohio State's Dennis Hopson at No. 3 by the Nets. But while Hopson was a big-time bust, Miller became one of the greatest shooters in NBA history and an Indiana institution for 18 seasons. Best known for his playoff heroics against the Knicks (and his verbal sparring with Spike Lee), Miller retired in 2005 with 2,560 three-pointers, an NBA record since broken by Boston's Ray Allen. Not bad for Cheryl's little brother.
Worst No. 11 pick: 2005 Magic, Fran Vazquez
Orlando viewed the 6-10 Spaniard as a perfect complement to center Dwight Howard, whom they had taken with the top pick the year before. But despite attending the draft and indicating he wanted to join the Magic, Vazquez decided to remain in the Spanish league for another season. And another. And another. And ... well, Orlando's still waiting.
Best No. 10 pick: 1998 Celtics, Paul Pierce
Boston struck gold with Pierce, who quickly emerged as one of the NBA's top young players, but the Celtics struck out in subsequent drafts, wasting high picks on the likes of Jerome Moiso, Kedrick Brown and Gerald Green. It wasn't until they swung major trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007 that Pierce got the help he needed to be a champion. Boston's Big Three won the title in 2008 and Pierce was the Finals MVP.
Worst No. 10 pick: 2006 Sonics, Mouhamed Sene
Seattle fell in love with the potential of Sene, a 6-11 center with a 7-8 wingspan, but quickly fell out of love when they realized his skills were too raw to put him on the court. They assigned him to the D-League's Idaho Stampede and occasionally called him up for brief stints with the big club before waiving him in 2009. Sene now plays in France.
Best No. 9 pick: 1999 Bucks, Dirk Nowitzki
Milwaukee quickly followed the best No. 9 pick with one of the worst trades in NBA history, sending the German teenager (and Pat Garrity) to the Mavericks for the sixth pick in the draft, Michigan's Robert "Tractor" Traylor. While Traylor battled weight problems and was out of the league by 2005, Nowitzki has been a 10-time All-Star, the 2007 MVP and now the 2011 Finals MVP after leading Dallas past the Miami Heat for his first title.
Worst No. 9 pick: 1995 Nets, Ed O'Bannon
College success doesn't always translate to NBA glory. Just ask O'Bannon, a UCLA star who led the Bruins to the 1995 NCAA title with 30 points and 17 rebounds in the championship game. Remarkably, he lasted just two seasons in the NBA, and not just because of bad knees. "I missed shots, got pulled from games, it affected my defense, and I lost all my confidence," he said.
Best No. 8 pick: 1985 Mavericks, Detlef Schrempf
No. 8 hasn't been a hot spot for future NBA All-Stars, with Vin Baker (1993) and Rudy Gay (2006) among the few notable players to be chosen with this pick. Schrempf is the best of the bunch and an underrated, all-around player who won two Sixth Man of the Year awards with the Pacers before making three All-Star teams with Indiana and Seattle. He averaged 19.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 1992-93 and shot 51.4 percent from three-point range two seasons later. Before Dirk Nowitzki, he was the only German to reach the NBA Finals.
Worst No. 8 pick: 1989 Mavericks, Randy White
You can't blame the Mavs for hoping that White would turn out something like Karl "The Mailman" Malone. After all, both were star power forwards at Louisiana Tech, where White averaged 21.2 points and 10.5 rebounds as a senior and was nicknamed "Mailman II" and "Mailkid". But this Mailman didn't deliver. While Malone finished as the NBA's No. 2 career scorer, White averaged 7.4 points in five seasons with Dallas before going the European route.
Best No. 7 pick: 1985 Warriors, Chris Mullin
Though Mullin was a three-time All-American and 1985 national player of the year at St. John's, some NBA teams were worried by his lack of athleticism. Benoit Benjamin, Joe Kleine and Jon Koncak were among the players picked ahead of him. As it turned out, Mullin could score against anybody. A brilliant shooter and crafty player, he averaged 18.1 points over 15 NBA seasons, making five All-Star teams. He also won gold with the U.S. Olympic teams in 1984 and 1992.
Worst No. 7 pick: 2001 Nets, Eddie Griffin
The nation's top recruit in 2000, Griffin averaged 17.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.4 blocks as a freshman at Seton Hall. Considered a possible No. 1 pick, he slipped in the draft because of so-called character issues that turned out to be more serious than anyone imagined. Suffering from depression and alcoholism, Griffin never came close to reaching his enormous potential before dying in 2007 when he drove his car into a moving train while drunk.
Best No. 6 pick: 1986 Cavaliers, Ron Harper
Harper really had several NBA careers. His first was as a high-flying, high-scoring young player in Cleveland, where he averaged 22.9 points as a rookie. A knee injury took away his explosiveness, so he reinvented himself as a savvy defender and solid shooter, a role he played on five championship teams with the Bulls and Lakers.
Worst No. 6 pick: Dejuan Wagner, 2002 Cavaliers
Still best known for scoring 100 points in a high school game, Wagner was often compared to Allen Iverson as he entered the NBA after one season at Memphis. The comparisons quickly stopped after he shot 36.6 percent from the field and averaged 9.4 points in three seasons in Cleveland. His NBA career then ended abruptly because of health problems, including surgery to remove his colon.
Best No. 5 pick: 1987 Sonics, Scottie Pippen
It's often said that Pippen would not have won six NBA titles without Michael Jordan, but the reverse is equally true. Jordan reportedly wanted the Bulls to take UNC star Joe Wolf with the eighth pick of the '87 draft. Instead, they chose Olden Polynice and dealt him to Seattle for the rights to Pippen, who ended up making seven All-Star teams with Chicago as a do-it-all complement to MJ. An eight-time member of the All-NBA defensive first team, Pippen was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
Even though Tskitishvili had played little for his European pro clubs, NBA teams became enamored with the 7-footer's athletic ability during pre-draft workouts. Denver was chagrined when it turned out he couldn't do much with a ball in his hands, but headline writers were thrilled when he was out of the league after four awful seasons.
Best No. 4 pick: 2005 Hornets, Chris Paul
Considering Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams were the top two picks in 2005, New Orleans got a steal in Paul at No. 4. That's appropriate because Paul set an NBA record by recording a steal in 108 straight games, and that's far from his only accomplishment. He's won Rookie of the Year, made four All-Star teams and finished second in the 2008 MVP voting. Still only 26, he and Deron Williams, picked one spot ahead of him by Utah, have led an influx of dynamic point guards into the NBA over the past five years.
Worst No. 4 pick: Marcus Fizer, Bulls
It should have been a red flag when Fizer measured at just under 6-foot-8, shorter than expected, at the NBA draft combine. That's too small for a power forward without great speed or leaping ability. But the Bulls were impressed by his dominant play at Iowa State, so they took Fizer and watched him struggle to get rebounds or easy baskets in four NBA seasons. Relegated to the minors, he won MVP of the D-League in 2006, proving he can pick on guys his own size. He's been playing abroad ever since.
Best No. 3 pick: 2001 Hawks, Pau Gasol
Surprisingly, the No. 3 pick has included far more draft disasters than future All-Stars since the Bulls took Michael Jordan at this spot in 1984, the year before the lottery went into effect. Chauncey Billups (1997) and Deron Williams (2005) were excellent choices, but Gasol gets the nod for the impact he made on the Lakers following his arrival by trade in 2008. LA reached the Finals three straight years, winning the title in 2009 and 2010, thanks largely to the 7-1 Spaniard, the most skilled big man in the league.
Worst No. 3 pick: 1986 Warriors, Chris Washburn
A 6-11 power forward with blazing speed, soft hands and explosive leaping ability? How could that go wrong? Let's count the ways. Immaturity. Poor work ethic. Knee problems. Drug abuse. Washburn (second from right) lasted just two NBA seasons before getting banned from the league for life after a third failed drug test. He wasn't alone among 1986 lottery selections. Len Bias (second from left) died of a cocaine overdose two days after the draft, while drugs also hampered the careers of William Bedford (far left) and Roy Tarpley.
Best No. 2 pick: 1994 Mavericks, Jason Kidd
Kidd's incredible longevity and versatility put him ahead of Gary Payton (1990) and Alonzo Mourning (1992) on this list. It's hard to remember that Kidd was an extraordinary athlete for the first half of his career, the NBA's best defensive point guard and a triple-double machine. In his second stint in Dallas, he reinvented himself as a steady floor leader and 3-point shooter, a role he played to perfection as Kidd and the Mavs won their first NBA title this month.
Worst No. 2 pick: 2003 Pistons, Darko Milicic
There have been worse basketball players picked at No. 2, including Hasheem Thabeet in 2009, Stromile Swift in 2000 and Shawn Bradley in 1993. And Len Bias was certainly more tragic. But Milicic goes down as the worst pick simply because of whom Detroit could have taken instead. The Pistons won the NBA championship in 2004 but how many more titles would they have if they'd taken any of the three players to go right after Darko: Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh?
Best No. 1 pick: 1997 Spurs, Tim Duncan
Naturally, there have been many great players taken at No. 1 in the lottery era, including Patrick Ewing (1985), David Robinson (1987), Shaquille O'Neal (1992), Allen Iverson (1996) and LeBron James (2003). But none of those accomplished more with the team that originally drafted them than Duncan, who has led the Spurs to four NBA titles. A 13-time All-Star and two-time MVP, he's never made serious noise about leaving San Antonio, where he'll almost certainly end his career as the greatest power forward in league history.
Worst No. 1 draft pick: 2001 Wizards, Kwame Brown
As Washington's team president, Michael Jordan didn't do himself, the Wizards or Brown any favors by making the Florida high school star a No. 1 pick. Jordan didn't have patience for an immature teenager. The Wizards needed more immediate help, especially once Jordan decided to return to the court as a player. And Brown wasn't ready for the pressure and expectations. Now 29, he has been a journeyman center for five teams and could end up having a long, undistinguished but lucrative NBA career. Fine for a late first-round pick. Lame for a No. 1.