A Retrospective of Third Overall Lottery Draft Picks

A Retrospective of Third Overall Lottery Draft Picks

I’m sure most New Jersey Nets fans are a bit disappointed by the other night’s NBA Draft Lottery. Actually, maybe more than a bit. It could even be seen in new Nets owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, a man who has appeared every bit as super cool as 1990s Samuel L. Jackson. However, once the placard showed the Nets were picking third overall, Prokhorov looked a bit rigid and tight, the opposite of his usually loose and focused demeanor. In one fell swoop, “accepting every single role” 2000s Samuel L. Jackson appeared… still kind of cool, but definitely tainted.

Prokhorov, like most Nets fans wanted the first overall pick, which the Washington Wizards won, and the draft rights to Kentucky point guard, John Wall. Although, I personally wanted Evan Turner, the versatile swing man from Ohio State. Unless the Philadelphia 76ers, owners of the second overall pick, decide to go big and select someone like DeMarcus Cousins or Derrick Favors, I’m afraid the Nets won’t be able to draft Turner either.

However, the unfortunate flailing of the lottery balls could actually work out for the Nets since their glaring need is to replace Yi Jianlin at the power forward spot. The only negative about that is there are many power forwards (relatively, anyway) on the free agent market – Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, David Lee, possibly Amar’e Stoudemire – that could easily fill the four spot. But, who’s to say any of those free agents decide to come into the Nets fold? And who knows if the third pick overall isn’t a good thing, anyway? Remember, the last time Rod Thorn had a chance to pick third overall he was with the Chicago Bulls. And he selected the best third overall pick ever, Michael Jordan.

The Nets actually had the third overall pick in 1987 and selected the flat-top known as Dennis Hopson. Yes, that’s him in the picture up top. I actually had those same Nike Force sneakers back in the day. I wouldn’t mind having those old school Nets unis right now because they were so awful, they were cool.

Anyway, if one believes in relativity and fate, perhaps Turner does fall to the Nets at three as Hopson did go to Ohio State as well. Not only that, like Turner, Hopson could score in a myriad of ways, pass the ball, and rebound from the wing position. So… who knows? However, Turner will never rock a flat-top the way Hopson did and, hopefully, if Turner does make it to the Nets, he rocks a much better NBA career.

Below is a list of the third overall picks during the Lottery Era from 1985 to last year. 1985 was the year I really got into basketball, which coincided with the New York Knicks drafting Patrick Ewing, so after each pick, I’ll leave some commentary. Make sure you do the same in the Comments section.

1985 – Benoit Benjamin (Creighton), C, Los Angeles Clippers
Players chosen before him: Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks) and Wayman Tisdale (Indiana Pacers)
Career stats: 11.4 PPG; 7.5 RPG; 2.0 BPG; 49.7 FG%; 72.1 FT% from 1985-2000
Teams played for: Clippers, Seattle SuperSonics, Los Angeles Lakers, New Jersey Nets, Vancouver Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers

Benjamin could have been so much better if he cared about conditioning and seemingly about the game itself. I never really got the sense that he enjoyed playing, which is too bad because he was physically gifted. Still, you can’t teach height and Benjamin cared enough to have a long career.

1986 – Chris Washburn (North Carolina State), C, Golden State Warriors
Players chosen before him: Brad Daugherty (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Len Bias (Boston Celtics)
Career stats: 3.1 PPG; 2.4 RPG; 0.2 BPG; 41.2 FG%; 43.9 FT% from 1986-1988
Teams played for: Warriors, Atlanta Hawks

What a waste. Washburn is definitely in the conversation for biggest NBA Draft busts ever. He only played two non-impressive seasons in a brief career marred by drugs and suck.

1987 – Dennis Hopson (Ohio State), SG, New Jersey Nets
Players chosen before him: David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs) and Armen Gilliam (Phoenix Suns)
Career stats: 10.9 PPG; 2.8 RPG; 0.2 3pTM; 1.0 SPG; 43.1 FG%; 76.5 FT% from 1987-1992
Teams played for: Nets, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings

Hopson never became the star many Nets fans had hoped for, but he was a decent enough player. However, you want great out of your third overall pick. In any case, Hopson eventually got to practice against the G.O.A.T. and win a title with the Bulls in 1991.

1988 – Charles D. Smith (Pittsburgh), F/C, Philadelphia 76ers
Players chosen before him: Danny Manning (Los Angeles Clippers) and Rik Smits (Indiana Pacers)
Career stats: 14.4 PPG; 5.8 RPG; 1.4 BPG; 47.5 FG%; 77.4 FT% from 1988-1997
Teams played for: Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs
Honors: 1988-89 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team

Smith, as a Knickerbocker, will always be remembered for being underneath the basket and trying desperately to score against the Chicago Bulls in 1993 during a high-pressure playoff game. Well, that or being confused with former NBA and Georgetown point guard, Charles Smith.  Smith had a pretty good career, but how he didn’t grab more boards with his height and upper body (shoulders were ridiculous) is beyond me.

1989 – Sean Elliot (Arizona), SF, San Antonio Spurs
Players chosen before him: Pervis Ellison (Sacramento Kings) and Danny Ferry (Los Angeles Clippers)
Career stats: 14.2 PPG; 4.3 RPG; 1.1 3PTM; 0.8 SPG; 46.5 FG%; 80.0 FT% from 1989-2001
Teams played for: Spurs, Detroit Pistons
Honors: 1989-90 NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team
All-Star: 1993, 1996

Elliot was David Robinson’s main man before Tim Duncan came along and did so many things well. Elliot was very fundamentally sound and always seemed to make the right play. He was someone that snuck up on you in the boxscore where you’d ask yourself, “How did he end up with 20 points?” Elliot was also an inspiration, suffering a kidney disease and returning to play after a kidney transplant.

1990 – Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (LSU), PG, Denver Nuggets
Players chosen before him: Derrick Coleman (New Jersey Nets) and Gary Payton (Seattle SuperSonics)
Career stats: 14.6 PPG; 3.5 APG; 0.8 3PTM; 0.8 SPG; 44.2 FG%; 90.5 FT% from 1990-2001
Teams played for: Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, Vancouver Grizzlies
Honors: 1990-91 NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team, 1992-93 NBA Most Improved Player

Abdul-Rauf was amazing in college as Chris Jackson. He could score almost at will. It didn’t translate as well in the NBA, but he was unquestionably a threat. However, Abdul-Rauf will be remembered more for his refusal to stand up for the national anthem before games as opposed to his truly gifted ability to put the ball in the hoop.

1991 – Billy Owens (Syracuse), G/F, Sacramento Kings
Players chosen before him: Larry Johnson (Charlotte Hornets) and Kenny Anderson (New Jersey Nets)
Career stats: 11.7 PPG; 6.7 RPG; 2.8 APG; 0.9 SPG; 48.1 FG%; 62.9 FT% from 1991-2001
Teams played for: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Kings, Seattle SuperSonics, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons
Honors: 1991-92 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team

Coming out of Syracuse, Owens seemed like he was going to kill it in the NBA. He could score, board, pass, he had size, could handle the ball… his talent was limitless, until it was eventually limited.  He also seemed unfocused on basketball at times and never reached the potential he flashed during his days at Syracuse.

1992 – Christian Laettner (Duke), F/C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Players chosen before him: Shaquille O’Neal (Orlando Magic) and Alonzo Mourning (Charlotte Hornets)
Career stats: 12.8 PPG; 6.7 RPG; 1.1 SPG; 48.0 FG%; 82.0 FT% from 1992-2005
Teams played for: Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards, Miami Heat
Honors: 1992-93 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team
All-Star: 2000, 2001

Laettner always seemed overrated to me, but I’ll admit bias being a Tar Heels and St. John’s fan. Laettner wasn’t athletic at all, but had basketball smarts in droves. He was the only non-professional on the original Dream Team and while he never became a superstar, he had a long productive career.

1993 – Anfernee Hardaway (Memphis), G/F, Golden State Warriors
Players chosen before him: Chris Webber (Orlando Magic) and Shawn Bradley (Philadelphia 76ers)
Career stats: 15.2 PPG; 4.5 RPG; 5.0 APG; 1.6 SPG; 45.8 FG%; 77.4 FT% from 1993-2008
Teams played for: Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Miami Heat
Honors: 1993-94 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team, 1994-95 All-NBA 1st Team, 1995-96 All-NBA 1st Team, 1996-97 All-NBA 3rd Team
All- Star: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998

Before succumbing to injury in the middle of his career, Hardaway was on his way to being a Hall of Famer. No joke, he was that good. In fact, he was so good, he’d have his own puppet called Lil Penny doing Nike commercials with Tyra Banks when she wasn’t close to annoying as she is now.  In any case, Hardaway could do it all as he was a skinnier Magic Johnson type – a tall guy that could play the point.  Of course, no one will ever be Magic, but Hardaway could have been compared favorably to him when all was said and done.  Now, “Penny” is just considered one of those players that could have been great if it wasn’t for injury.

1994 – Grant Hill (Duke), SF, Detroit Pistons
Players chosen before him: Glenn Robinson (Milwaukee Bucks) and Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks)
Career stats: 17.8 PPG; 6.5 RPG; 4.5 APG; 1.3 SPG; 48.6 FG%; 76.7 FT% from 1994-Present
Teams played for: Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns
Honors: 1994-95 NBA Co-Rookie of the Year, 1994-95 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team, 1995-96 All-NBA 2nd Team, 1996-97 All-NBA 1st Team, 1997-98 All-NBA 2nd Team, 1998-99 All-NBA 2nd Team, 1999-2000 All-NBA 2nd Team
All-Star: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005

Hill is just like Hardaway above – an injury in the middle of his career cutting down his sure path to Hall.  Coming out of college, he was an athletic wing with a high basketball IQ, charisma, and great skills.  I’ll profess to owning a couple of Pistons jerseys with Hill’s name emblazoned across the top of the back even though I hated Duke.  See… charismatic!  Hill could definitely ball and still continues to in fact.  Thanks to being out so much previously, his body isn’t as worn down despite his age.  Go, Grant, go!

1995 – Jerry Stackhouse (North Carolina), G/F, Philadelphia 76ers
Players chosen before him: Joe Smith (Golden State Warriors) and Antonio McDyess (Los Angeles Clippers)
Career stats: 18.0 PPG; 3.6 APG; 1.1 3PTM; 1.0 SPG; 40.9 FG%; 82.1 FT% from 1995-Present
Teams played for: 76ers, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks
Honors: 1995-96 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team
All-Star: 2000, 2001

Stackhouse was one of the first players people were saying was the “next Jordan” although I think Harold Miner (and his funky free-throw ritual) was probably before Stack.  In any case, the comparisons were bound to happen since Stackhouse went to Carolina like MJ, could dunk sort of like MJ, could score sort of like MJ, and that’s really about it.  So, really, Stack was nothing like MJ!  Oh, you have to love the dubious comparisons to the G.O.A.T. though.  In any case, Stackhouse has had a long and fruitful career, although his ability to score proficiently wasn’t so great.  Look at that ugly field-goal percentage… ouch.

1996 – Shareef Abdur-Rahim (California), PF, Vancouver Grizzlies
Players chosen before him: Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Camby (Toronto Raptors)
Career stats: 18.1 PPG; 7.5 RPG; 1.0 SPG; 47.2 FG%; 81.0 FT% from 1996-2008
Teams played for: Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings
Honors: 1996-97 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team
All-Star: 2002

Before Chris Bosh, Abdur-Rahim was known as the best NBA player outside of the United States that was a legitimate star-type of player.  Despite the fancy name, there was nothing fancy about his game.  No high-flying dunks or devastating blocks on the regular, just the boring and regular getting of a lot of points and rebounds.    Abdur-Rahim will go down as one of the most dull effective NBA players ever with the top spot going to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

1997 – Chauncey Billups (Colorado), PG, Boston Celtics
Players chosen before him: Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs) and Keith Van Horn (Philadelphia 76ers)
Career stats: 15.4 PPG; 5.6 APG; 1.7 3PTM; 1.0 SPG; 41.6 FG%; 89.2 FT% from 1997 to Present
Teams played for: Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons
Honors: 2004-05 All-Defensive 2nd Team, 2005-06 All-Defensive 2nd Team, 2005-06 All-NBA 2nd Team, 2006-07 All-NBA 3rd Team, 2008-09 All-NBA 3rd Team
All-Star: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
MVP: 2003-04 NBA Finals

Billups never seems to do anything that makes you go, “DAMN!”  Well, until crunch time.  Known as Mr. Big Shot, Billups is the only NBA Finals MVP of this lot.  He’s a consistent performer that didn’t really get into a groove until he joined the Pistons.  He’s currently plying his trade back in his home state of Colorado and looks like he’ll be effective at least a couple of more years.

1998 – Raef LaFrentz (Kansas), F/C, Denver Nuggets
Players chosen before him: Michael Olowokandi (Los Angeles Clippers) and Mike Bibby (Vancouver Grizzlies)
Career stats: 10.1 PPG; 6.1 RPG; 0.8 3PTM; 1.6 BPG; 46.6 FG%; 71.1 FT% from 1998 to 2008
Teams played for: Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers

LaFrentz was excellent in college, but never seemed like he could do much in the NBA other than block shots and get hustle points.  However, when Olowokandi gets selected with the top pick in your draft class, could there really have been much expectations for anyone in this draft?

1999 – Baron Davis (UCLA), PG, Charlotte Hornets
Players chosen before him: Elton Brand (Chicago Bulls) and Steve Francis (Vancouver Grizzlies)
Career stats: 16.7 PPG; 7.4 APG; 1.6 3PTM; 1.9 SPG; 40.9 FG%; 70.8 FT% from 1999 to Present
Teams played for: Hornets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers
Honors: 2003-04 All-NBA 3rd Team
All-Star: 2002, 2004

Davis’ career has been marred by injury in recent years, but when he’s on the court, B-Diddy is one of the best point guards, scorers, and chuckers.  Oh, and beard-wearers.  His career is in decline, but he’s still effective on the hardwood and still one of the more charismatic characters in the game.

2000 – Darius Miles (High School), F, Los Angeles Clippers
Players chosen before him: Kenyon Martin (New Jerey Nets) and Stromile Swift (Vancouver Grizzlies)
Career stats: 10.1 PPG; 4.9 RPG; 0.9 SPG; 1.1 BPG; 47.2 FG%; 59.0 FT% from 2000 to 2009
Teams played for: Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies
Honors: 2000-01 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team

BUST!  BUST!  BUST!  Honestly, Miles is like the Glass Man in Unbreakable.  I’m surprised he didn’t damage his forehead after every dunk when he and a teammate, most prominently Quentin Richardson, brought their fists to their head.

2001 – Pau Gasol (Spain), F/C, Atlanta Hawks
Players chosen before him: Kwame Brown (Washington Wizards) and Tyson Chandler (Los Angeles Clippers)
Career stats: 18.8 PPG; 9.0 RPG; 3.2 APG; 1.7 BPG; 52.1 FG%; 74.3 FT% from 2001 to Present
Teams played for: Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers
Honors: 2001-02 NBA Rookie of the Year, 2001-02 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team, 2008-09 All-NBA 3rd Team, 2009-10 All-NBA 3rd Team
All-Star: 2006, 2009, 2010

Well, don’t the Wizards and Clippers wish they chose this big man instead.  Gasol was an excellent player from Day One in the NBA.  It’s just that no one knew because he played in Memphis.  Well, now that he’s in Los Angeles and playing for a champion, everyone knows him.  Gasol is known as one of the better passing big men, which makes him a perfect fit in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, as well as Kobe Bryant’s wing man.

2002 – Mike Dunleavy (Duke), G/F, Golden State Warriors
Players chosen before him: Yao Ming (Houston Rockets) and Jay Williams (Chicago Bulls)
Career stats: 12.2 PPG; 4.7 RPG; 1.2 3PTM; 0.8 SPG; 44.0 FG%; 79.7 FT% from 2002 to Present
Teams played for: Warriors, Indiana Pacers

I always thought that Dunleavy would be a bust in this league because despite his numerous skills, he looked like a toothpick to me.  Well, I should have known better because he’s done pretty well in the L.  He’s been hit by injury in recent years, but is still young enough to get back on track.

2003 – Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse), SF, Denver Nuggets
Players chosen before him: LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Darko Milicic (Detroit Pistons)
Career stats: 24.7 PPG; 6.2 RPG; 3.1 APG; 1.1 SPG; 45.9 FG%; 80.1 FT% from 2003 to Present
Teams played for: Nuggets
Honors: 2003-04 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team, 2005-06 All-NBA 3rd Team, 2006-07 All-NBA 3rd Team, 2008-09 All-NBA 3rd Team, 2009-10 All-NBA 2nd Team
All-Star: 2007, 2008, 2010

It’s appropriate that Melo was selected with the third pick because when it comes to this draft class, it’s always about LeBron first, Wade second, and then finally Melo third.  But, hey, at least on the greatness scale he doesn’t follow Darko.  Melo is a great scorer and always seems to improve on something during the offseason, whether it be three-point shooting or conditioning.  He should be one of the NBA’s better scorers  for the next several years.

2004 – Ben Gordon (Connecticut), G, Chicago Bulls
Players chosen before him: Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) and Emeka Okafor (Charlotte Bobcats)
Career stats: 17.9 PPG; 3.0 APG; 1.8 3PTM; 0.8 SPG; 43.5 FG%; 85.9 FT% from 2004 to Present
Teams played for: Bulls, Detroit Pistons
Honors: 2004-05 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, 2004-05 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team

Gordon is a proven scorer, as well as a clutch performer in the NBA.  Whether it’s off the bench or starting from the get-go, nets will be snapping when Gordon is on the floor.  He received a huge contract last offseason from the Pistons, along with Charlie Villanueva, but will they be worth it?

2005 – Deron Williams (Illinois), PG, Utah Jazz
Players chosen before him: Andrew Bogut (Milwaukee Bucks) and Marvin Williams (Atlanta Hawks)
Career stats: 16.7 PPG; 9.0 APG; 1.1 3PTM; 1.0 SPG; 46.7 FG%; 79.9 FT% from 2005 to Present
Teams played for: Jazz
Honors: 2005-06 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team, 2007-08 All-NBA 2nd Team, 2009-10 All-NBA 2nd Team
All-Star: 2010

Williams should have been a multi-All-Star, but it doesn’t help to have other point guards such as Steve Nash, Tony Parker, and Chris Paul in the same conference.  Well, at least justice was served this past season as Williams is one of the rare players capable of being a 20/10 producer every season.

2006 – Adam Morrison (Gonzaga), SF, Charlotte Bobcats
Players chosen before him: Andrea Bargnani (Toronto Raptors) and LaMarcus Aldridge (Chicago Bulls)
Career stats: 7.5 PPG; 2.1 RPG; 0.8 3PTM; 0.2 SPG; 37.3 FG%; 71.0 FT% from 2006 to Present
Teams played for: Bobcats, Los Angeles Lakers
Honors: 2006-07 NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team

I can’t believe there were comparisons to Larry Bird with Morrison.  Bird was a cocky jerk that could basically do anything on the court.  Morrison is an introspective person that can basically only shoot.  Bust?  Yes.

2007 – Al Horford (Florida), F/C, Atlanta Hawks
Players chosen before him: Greg Oden (Portland Trail Blazers) and Kevin Durant (Seattle SuperSonics)
Career stats: 12.0 PPG; 9.6 APG; 1.1 BPG; 52.7 FG%; 75.3 FT% from 2007 to Present
Teams played for: Hawks
Honors: 2007-08 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team
All-Star: 2010

Horford is one of the better defenders in the Association and a double-double waiting to happen on any given night.  He adapted quickly to the NBA from college unlike Florida teammate Joakim Noah.  However, Noah made big strides this past season, although Horford is more proven and more healthy.  He’ll always be on the cusp of being an All-Star every season for the next decade.

2008 – O.J. Mayo (USC), G, Minnesota Timberwolves
Players chosen before him: Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls) and Michael Beasley (Miami Heat)
Career stats: 18.0 PPG; 3.1 APG; 1.7 3pTM; 1.2 SPG; 44.8 FG%; 84.5 FT% from 2008 to Present
Teams played for: Memphis Grizzlies
Honors: 2008-09 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team

Mayo  was one of the most-hyped players all the way back to grade school.  There were some alleged shenanigans with USC, but Mayo is in the NBA now and he’s done well.  He’s one of the core young players for the Grizzlies along with Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay (restricted free agent), and Mike Conley, Jr.

2009 – James Harden (Arizona State), SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Players chosen before him: Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers) and Hasheem Thabeet (Memphis Grizzlies)
Career stats: 9.9 PPG; 3.2 RPG; 1.2 3PTM; 1.1 SPG; 40.3 FG%; 80.8 FT% from 2009 to Present
Teams played for: Thunder
Honors: 2009-10 NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team

Harden played effective minutes off the bench and provided a spark to the offense.  He is part of the core of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook that should have the Thunder be one of the better teams in the NBA for seasons to come.

Of the 25 eligible players above…

… 2 won the NBA Rookie of the Year award
… 14 made the NBA All-Rookie 1st Team
… 4 made the NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team
… 12 eventually became NBA All-Stars
… 2 eventually made the All-NBA 1st Team
… 4 eventually made the All-NBA 2nd Team
… 1 was an NBA Finals MVP
… 1 was the NBA Sixth Man of the Year
… 1 was the Most Improved Player of the Year

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the last time Rod Thorn had the opportunity to select third overall, he selected Michael Jordan in 1984 for the Chicago Bulls, a year before the draft lottery. Will the Nets pick be the next Jordan? Never! However, looking at the above, they have a better chance of selecting a very good player as I count only five or six busts, depending on how you judge busts.

So, have faith Nets faithful! The Nets won’t get John Wall, but they’ll get someone good. Who knows? Maybe the Sixers go big with DeMarcus Cousins or Derrick Favors with the second pick, allowing SG/SF Evan Turner to fall to third. Hmm… big man taken second before a guard taken third… yes, this could work out nicely.