The Beautiful and the Ugly: NBA Lottery Edition

The Beauty (2005-11)

2005. Chris Paul. 4th pick. Pre-draft everyone loved Chris Paul. They saw in him a throwback point who could lead a team and score when he needed to, plus a great leader. His only disappointment has been some playoff brain freezes and an inability to get to the Western Conference Finals. He is injury prone. The 9 time All-Star was Rookie of the Year in 2006. 817 games. 18.7 points. 9.9 assists.

2007. Kevin Durant. 2nd Pick,  The college scorer became the NBA scorer who won a MVP, carried his team to the Finals and will forever be known as fleeing where he was beloved. Kevin Durant was an anomaly, the size of a forward, the skill and range of a guard. Coming into the draft he was thought to be too skinny and unable to endure the NBA beating. Guess who had the last laugh? Rookie of the Year. 8 time All-Star. MVP. 700 games. 27.2 points.7.1 rebounds.

2008. Derrick Rose. 1st pick, 2008. The Rookie of the Year (2009) and the Most Valuable Player (2011) has been tortured by his own body. His overwhelming talent is the equalizer. It has allowed Rose to fight through all the knee and hamstring and bone break issues to continue to play at a high level, although no longer at an elite level. He came into national fame in the title game when Memphis played Kansas to an overtime thriller. He was quicker than everyone on the floor and in the NBA before injuries, he was in the top-5. Still a good point and a 3 time All-Star who can win games. 462 games. 19.5 points. 6.0 assists.

2008. Russell Westbrook. 4th pick, 2008. Westbrook entered the draft out of UCLA, a teammate of Kevin Love, and everyone thought he should have stayed in school until the combine. Then they saw his speed and vertical. What he had to develop would come. What couldn’t be taught, Westbrook had. In spades. He is as imperfect as he is a hurricane. He’ll take a shot he shouldn’t take in a key moment and the next play, falling out of bounds, hit a game winner. The 6-time All Star was the NBA scoring champion in 2015. He will be the scoring champion in 2017. 652 games. 22.5 points. 7.5 assists.

2009. Blake Griffin. 1st pick. Griffin has had to overcome consistent criticism of his game. His rookie year was abrupt when he broke his kneecap. There wasn’t a honeymoon period for Griffin. Considered overrated by some, his development has never been fully appreciated. He worked hard on his shooting and to be known as more than a dunker . He still incentivizes scorn only because he hasn’t won anything. His career low was hitting equipment guy which cost him half the season and a Clippers flameout in the playoffs. Rookie of the Year 2011. 5 time All-Star. 455 games. 21.5 points. 9.5 rebounds.

2009. James Harden. 3rd pick.  Harden came off the bench in what feels like a lifetime ago until the Thunder made the financial decision to trade him. That’s when Harden became a star. The defensively challenged Harden is a beautiful shot maker but his leadership skills are a work in progress. He has had great regular seasons but hasn’t had a dominant playoff run. His image took a beating last season but under Mike D’Antoni Harden has thrived, upping his assist game. The Sixth Man of the Year and 5 time All-Star has solidified himself at the top of the shooting guard food chain. 599 games. 22.0 points. 5.6 assists.

2009. Steph Curry. 7th pick. Entering the draft Curry had a lot of doubters only because of his size. Could he stay healthy in a physical league like the NBA? He struggled early with ankle injuries, overcame them. The Warriors organization believed in him so much they traded fan favorite Monta Ellis and took in an injured Andrew Bogut. Curry rewarded them with 2 MVP’s, a NBA title, two Finals appearances, the best regular season record in NBA History, 4 All-Star nods. 558 games. 22.7 points.6.8 assists.

2010. DeMarcus Cousins. 5th pick. Cousins is an enigma. He is the most talented big man in the game. He can score at will, run the floor, pass and rebound. There are no NBA matchups for Cousins. But what he was given innately didn’t exactly travel up to his brain. He is his own worst enemy at times. Emotional, a little immature though he has gotten better, passion that can often work against him, Cousins is still learning how to be a great player and how to be a professional player as well. But there is no denying what a special talent he is. Three time All-Star who has never been to the playoffs. 21.1 points. 10.8 rebounds.

2010. Paul George. 10th pick. Paul George was way off the radar in the 2010 draft, a Fresno State two year player few had ever seen compete. He should have been the number three pick behind John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. The number three pick that year was Derrick Favors who isn’t a bad player but he’ll never be a top-10 player. George is the prototypical small forward. He scores from the perimeter and can put the ball on the floor and get to the hole. He can guard three positions. He isn’t selfish and has proven he can push back adversity and lead a team. He was the Most Improved Player in 2013 and has been a three time All-Star. 430 games. 17.6 points. 6.2 rebounds.

2011 Kyrie Irving. 1st pick. The Australian raised Irving was injured much of his first and only year at Duke but made a huge impression in the tournament. He was a no-brainer pick. He could score off the dribble, iso to the rim, drain a three. He was fast and confident. He was Rookie of the Year. Neverthless, his struggles on a bad team exposed his leadership game; it was a work in progress. The best thing that happened to him was LeBron James coming home. It gave Irving the freedom to create and the discipline. HIs defense is still a work in progress but his talent is sublime. 365 games. 21.4 points. 5.5 assists

The Ugly or Tell Me Why? (2005-13)

2005. Fran Vasquez.  11th pick. The Spaniard played zero NBA games. He was a 6-10 forward who snubbed the NBA and taught teams a lesson. Be careful the player you draft, particularly from Europe. The Orlando Magic took Vasquez because of his potential and also because there was a lot of low hanging fruit not deserving of three year guaranteed money. Sure they could have taken Lou Williams who ended up in the second round or Jarrett Jack but to what end? They got burned and they got saved. A lottery pick is supposed to be an All-Star. None of the players drafted after Vasquez were ever an All-Star.

2005. Yaroslav Korolev. 12th pick. One of those garbage picks Elgin Baylor was known for. Korolev was a bust. He couldn’t shoot, he couldn’t rebound. He was a risky pick but like Vasquez, there wasn’t much talent behind him so why not swing for the fences? He has had a long career playing in Russia. 34 games. 1.1 points. 0.5 rebounds.

2005. Sean May. 13th pick. When Sean May was passed on by the Lakers (they took Andrew Bynum 10th) May famously said he was going to make everyone pay who didn’t draft him. The college champion and son of a NBA-er always had weight issues and unless you are a freak of nature, it is hard to stay healthy when packing on the pounds. He started his career with microfracture surgery and it went downhill from there. 119 games. 6.9 points. 4.0 rebounds.

2006. Patrick O’Bryant. 9th pick. He had no game. He was a seven footer who had his cup of coffee in the NBA and then was gone after two years. He was mostly a D-league player. He currently plays in Taiwan. The Warriors passed on J.J. Redick, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry in favor of O’Bryant. 90 games. 2.1 points. 1.4 rebounds.

2006. Muhammad Sene.  10th pick. The Senegal born Sene had his quick turn at the NBA and then he was gone. Drafted by the Sonics, the seven footer primarily stayed in the D-League. In OKC he had knee surgery and then was waived. He tried the Knicks. Disaster. A one week player. He went to Europe. His last NBA experience was in the D-League where he played one game and 16 minutes, then was waived. 47 games. 2.2 points. 1.6 rebounds

2007. Greg Oden.  1st pick. What makes this look like a bust is not just that Oden was the number one overall pick, it was who was number two. Kevin Durant. One has a Hall of Fame career, is a MVP, played in the Finals, the other was perpetually injured. Greg Oden was a dream that became a nightmare. 8.0 points. 6.2 rebounds. 105 games.

2007. Acie Law IV. 11th pick. Most lottery busts are big men. The game is just harder for them to transition to. Guards usually figure out how to shoot and find their way on someone’s bench. Law had a good college career and tournament run while at Texas A & M and he was a disappointment afterwards. He played for the Hawks who drafted him, then the Warriors, Bobcats, Bulls, Grizzlies and Warriors again. His last professional game was in Greece in 2014. In the NBA, Law couldn’t make threes and his twos were iffy. Therefore, the left handed shooter didn’t have a role. 188 games. 3.9 points. 1.6 assists.

2008. Joe Alexander. 8th pick. The arrogant and flashy small forward came to the NBA out of West Virginia thinking he was all that. He wasn’t. He couldn’t shoot and that’s a one way ticket to the D-league which is where Alexander found himself. He has since fled to Israel where he currently plays. Milwaukee is not known for draft day genius. (Giannis Antetokounmpo is the exception). They traded Dirk Nowitzki. They could have drafted Serge Ibaka, George Hill or Nic Batum who were drafted at the bottom of the first round. 67 games. 4.2 points. 1.8 rebounds.

2009. Hasheem Thabeet. 2nd pick. Signs that Thabeet would be a bust were there for all to see but his seven foot frame was too enticing. In fact, Thabeet only scored at UConn when he was at the rim. He had no other game. He dominated much smaller players. Athleticism and size were the NBA fundamentals and Thabeet came up way short in offense and defense. He couldn’t score. He couldn’t rebound. He looked confused in games. It messed with his mind. However, he hasn’t gone to Europe still hoping for that NBA comeback. He had a couple of tryouts but no go. Nothing has changed in the Thabeet world. Memphis who drafted him could have had James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Steph Curry, DeMar DeRozan. 224 games. 2.2 points. 2.7 rebounds.

2013. Anthony Bennett.  1st pick. It’s a little bit tired to talk about how many ways the Cavs blew this but the reason they blew this was it was a very weak draft class. Yeah, they could have had Victor Oladipo but he would have eventually been traded. The problem with Bennett is he wasn’t a bad player. He just didn’t have first round talent nor the mental toughness to overcome the negativity. It would have been interesting to see what kind of player he would have been if selected in the second round and with no pressure. 140 games. 4.3 points. 3.1 rebounds.


photo via llananba