The 2013 NBA Draft was held in Brooklyn New York. It was a draft in which the Cleveland Cavaliers, without LeBron James, were a dreadful team and had the number one pick. No one on the board excited them. If they had a do- over they would have drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo. (But so would have Orlando, Washington, Charlotte, Phoenix, New Orleans, Detroit, Minnesota, Portland….the list goes on and on).
Half the league missed on Antetokounmpo. Of the teams that passed, Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento, Dallas haven’t been to the playoffs in the six years Antetokounmpo has been a pro. Of the 14 players who were drafted before Antetokounmpo, only one, Victor Oladipo, has been an All-Star. But on the bright side, only Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad were not on a NBA roster this year. Lottery teams ended up with role players but no one special. Special they missed out on.
It is the definition of feast and famine, the 2013 draft, where Anthony Bennett was the number one pick and is out the league, and Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t a lottery pick and is the MVP frontrunner. How exactly does that happen?
Before the draft, Cleveland management voted 9-1 to draft Anthony Bennett. The defector, Chris Grant, liked Kansas scorer Ben McLemore. Bennett would struggle right out the gate. His work ethic wasn’t NBA caliber, he was fat, and suffered from sleep apnea. Plus, there was that thing about being taken number one. It was pressure. You had to prove to a skeptical post-LeBron fanbase that you were worthy of being drafted the same position as hero LeBron.
Bennett wasn’t mentally tough for what he was being asked to do. He had flashes here and there but mostly he was a very young player who was out of shape and oh-yeah, his career started off with a whimper, missing his first sixteen shots. Cavs fans were miserable and mocking as they watched his big body try to hustle and then score his first points… in the fifth game. He was booed and the relationship only got worse.
“The problem with Anthony was, and we had no way of knowing it at the time, the kid had no desire to overcome adversity whatsoever. As soon as it was hard, he was out” said David Griffin, Cavs GM.
400 miles from Cleveland, hard work was on the agenda. In 2012-13, the Milwaukee Bucks won 38 games, coached by Scott Skiles, who was fired after 32 games, and then Jim Boylan finished the season. The Bucks hired Larry Drew and were even worse with the rookie Giannis. They won 15 games.
Giannis’ rookie year he mostly came off the bench and played 24 minutes but when you watched him run the floor you knew the potential. Plus, he was long, like his arms could stretch from Wisconsin to Minnesota and then back again. He didn’t shoot much and only averaged 6 points but there was something about him when he was on the court that was watchable. He had charisma and if he only learned how to play the NBA game, the Bucks would have something special.
Coached by Jason Kidd the following year, Giannis played 30 minutes, upped his shooting percentage to 49%, was a defender of epic proportions, and the Bucks were in the playoffs. Anthony Bennett, was at home.
Traded by the Cavs to Minnesota, his second year was not that much different from his first. He scored 20 points once and 9 points or less 49 times. The last game of the season, he played 21 minutes and scored 9 points. It was his Minnesota goodbye. He would then play 19 games with Toronto, and a year after, 23 games with the Nets. Currently, he is in the G-league.
Four years was all it took for the number one pick to flame out.
Four years was all it took for Giannis Antetokounmpo to become an All-Star. He is averaging 27 points and 13 rebounds and if he wins the MVP, which he should, he will join Steve Nash as the only MVP’s who weren’t lottery picks. Both were born outside the United States and drafted 15th.