Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Future of the Nets is Brighter than it May Appear

The New Jersey Nets suffered their first upset of the 2009-2010 season.

Mikhail Prokhorov, the new owner of the New Jersey Nets, stood perfectly still, with a small grin on his 13.4 billion dollar face. Irene Pollin, the new owner of the Washington Wizards, needed to stop her eyes from rolling to the back of her skull. Their teams were separated by 14 wins. The tops of their heads were separated by over a foot and a half.

The New Jersey Nets, a team that narrowly avoided the distinction of having the worst record in the history of the NBA this past season, were hoping, no correction, praying, for the top pick in this summer’s draft. Yet, the nightmare for New Jersey continued. Despite having the greatest chance to land the number one pick and most likely John Wall, they fell all the way to number 3. Prokhorov seemed to be unfazed, saying, "Sometimes luck makes all the difference, but it never comes down to one player. I'm sure we're going to get a great player. For our team, the only way is up." But, is that statement true?

Do not fret New Jersey fan(s) because as history has proven, the first pick may actually be no better than pick 3. Here’s a look back at the first and third picks of the last 8 drafts, going back to 2001 and excluding 2009, since it is much to early to begin calling those picks successes or failures. I also named a few “crack-fallers” who are top players, or future top players, outside of the top 5 picks.

2001: The Bust, Brainiac, and Hot Wife

Pick 1: Kwame Brown, Washington Wizards. One of the biggest busts in recent years. This past season Brown put up 3.3 ppg and 3.7 rpg. Brown was born in Charleston, SC. Wall was born in Raleigh, NC. If John Wall turns out to be a bust as well, perhaps Washington should consider avoiding first overall picks from a Carolina.

Pick 3: Pau Gasol, Vancouver Grizzlies. The super talented Gasol is approaching superstar status, assuming he is not already there. This past year he averaged 11.3 rpg, which was more than Brown’s rebounds and points combined, and 18.3 ppg.

Better Pick: Pau Gasol. Not even close to being close.

Biggest through-the-cracks fallers: Joe Johnson (pick 10), Tony Parker (pick 28), Gilbert Arenas (pick 31). Maybe we should be more focused on the Wizards second pick…

2002: Mediocrity, Mediocrity, Mediocrity

Pick 1: Yao Ming, Houston Rockets. It took some time, but for a little while Yao seemed to have found his place in the line-up. That is, until he became hampered by injuries. Even with Yao healthy, the Rockets are yet to make any significant strides in the playoffs.

Pick 3: Mike Dunleavy, Golden State Warriors. He has averaged a 12.2 ppg and 4.7 rpg for his injury filled career. His best season was 07-08, in which he averaged 19.1 ppg.

Better Pick: Yao Ming. Much like my opinion on Dwight Howard, Yao needs to be meaner and better, but nonetheless, he was a top center for a small handful of years and the obviously superior player to Dunleavy.

Biggest through-the-cracks-fallers: Amare Stoudemire (pick 9). The only true gem from the draft, Stoudemire, continues to be the a model of consistency, aside from his injured year in the 05-06 season.

2003: Chose Your Hall of Famer

Pick 1: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers. We know all about him.

Pick 3: Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets. Melo has shown from day one that he is the total package. His career averages of 24.7 ppg, 6. 2rpg, and 3.1 apg attest to this fact.

Better Pick: Obviously LeBron, but Anthony was a fine pick.

Biggest through-the-cracks-fallers: David West (pick 18) and Josh Howard (pick 29). Bosh and Wade do not count as crack-fallers since they were still top 5 picks. The only real losers of this draft were the Detroit Pistons with their infamous selection of Darko Milicic. It didn’t seem to matter though, as Detroit won the championship in 2004.

2004: Dunk Contest Anyone?

Pick 1: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic. I am often critical of his play, but that’s only because I see the ability for him to be truly dominant. Still, he is the best player to come out of the draft and far better than Emeka Okafur (pick 2), who the Magic could have mistakenly selected as their center instead of Dwight.

Pick 3: Ben Gordon, Chicago Bulls. Gordon has averaged just under 18 points/game for his career. I wouldn’t say that the Bulls missed on this pick considering Gordon is still one of the top players from this draft class.

Better Pick: Dwight Howard. As I said, Howard is the best player to come out of the draft, but needs to start playing more aggressively like he did last night.

Biggest through-the-cracks-fallers: Andre Iguodala (pick 9), Al Jefferson (pick 15), Josh Smith (pick 17). Iguodala , Smith, and Howard should have a dunk contest reunion to see who is the flashiest GOOD player close to reaching GREATNESS.

2005: Depth, Depth, Depth

Pick 1: Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks. When healthy, Bogut is an adequate center. This last season he averaged 15.9 ppg and 10.2 rpg, the best numbers of his short career. Perhaps a few years from now he will be playing more like a first overall pick.

Pick 3: Deron Williams, Utah Jazz. After this last season, Williams is now considered one of the best point guards in the league. Some may argue he is the best. He has averaged 19 ppg and 10.5 apg over the last 3 seasons. He has also avoided significant injuries, unlike his counter part and number 4 pick, Chris Paul.

Better Pick: Deron Williams. Although this one may be too early to call, Williams appears to be the clear choice as he not only puts up good statistical numbers, but wins games too. Now, if he could figure out a way to move the Lakers to the east coast…

Biggest through-the-cracks-fallers: Andrew Bynum (pick 10), Danny Granger (pick 17), David Lee (pick 30), Monta Ellis (pick 40). This is the best collection of crack-fallers since 2001. The summer of 2012 should be an interesting one.

2006: What a Bargaini!

Pick 1: Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors. Bargnani had is best season this year when he put up 17.2 ppg and 6.2 rpg. His numbers have improved each season in the NBA and he could emerge as an all-star within the next few seasons.

Pick 3: Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats. Great first name, poor game. Morrison has played only fractions of each season after his rookie year. Thus far in his career, he is the worst 3rd pick of the last 9 years and their equivalent to Kwame Brown. It must be that damn mustache-like-thing.

Better Pick: This is the only draft not to contribute an all-star between either of the picks. I’m obviously gonna give it to Bargnani, but I have a feeling nobody really cares. In fact, I barely do.

Biggest through-the-cracks-fallers: Brandon Roy (pick 6), Rudy Gay (pick 8), Rajon Rondo (pick 21). These 3 players are the 3 best of the entire draft and represent the best #6, #8, and #21 picks of the last 9 years.

2007: Mostly Role Players

Pick 1: Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers. If he could ever actually make it onto the floor for an extended period of time, then perhaps Oden would play like a first overall pick. However, until that happens, Oden is nothing more than the biggest and oldest looking 22- year-old on the planet.

Pick 3: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks. Much like Bargnani, Horford’s numbers have improved after every season. He averaged 14.2 ppg and 9.9 rpg this past season. Horford produced 39 double-doubles.

Better Pick: Al Horford. Obviously, for young players like these 2, the word “better” is not meant as a definitive word. A lot can change in their career, but until Oden gets onto the court, Horford is the unquestionably better pick. However, both of these players will probably be forever remembered as the ones sandwiching Kevin Durant.

Biggest through-the-crack-fallers: Joakim Noah (pick 9), Rodney Stuckey (pick 15), Aaron Brooks (pick 26). All of the players from this draft are obviously young and have a lot to prove still in their careers. However, thus far, the only true star to emerge has been Kevin Durant.

2008: Too Close to Call

Pick 1: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls. Rose is clearly a superstar in the making. He is extremely quick and a good scorer. Look for his numbers to continue to improve, especially if a certain player decides to play in Chicago next year. Just don’t ask him to take the SATs.

Pick 3: O.J. Mayo, Minnesota Timberwolves. Mayo, now a member of the Grizzlies, has averaged 18 ppg over two years in the league. Like Rose, he has the potential to be a perennial all-star.

Better Pick: Tie! I think most sports lovers are morally against ties, but sometimes, they are necessary. It is far too early to decide which player will be better, thus, a draw is appropriate.

Biggest through-the-crack-fallers: Eric Gordon (pick 7) and Brook Lopez (10). Most likely this draft’s crack was bigger than I am describing it, since many young players will likely emerge in their 3rd year in the league. As far as the Nets are concerned, they managed to land an obvious crack-faller. If they can land a solid #3 pick this year, look for a far better performance (they will not be the worst team in the history of the NBA next season).

In case you were not keeping a tally, the final score was:

Pick 1: 4 wins, 3 losses, 1 tie

Pick 3: 3 wins, 4 losses, 1 tie

Ultimately, picking a player is as much up to chance as the determining of the order in the lottery. The crack-fallers show that there still exists tremendous talent outside of the top 5 draft picks. For that reason, this article will most likely be the most in depth NBA draft analysis I will give this year.


1 comment:

  1. You should mention the 1984 draft. Although the number one pick was outstanding and may eventually be in the Hall Of Fame (Hakeem Olajuwon), the number three pick was also a fairly good player - Michael Jordan.