Marshall is a Wisconsin realtor and mentor who coaches inner city youth who may not have the access to play otherwise.
Missed Opportunities and Bad Decisions
With the NBA season more than halfway completed, we have seen more than a few dazzling performances by some outstanding rookies. So far this year Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, Tyrese Haliburton, Immanuel Quickly, and Isaac Okoro have all had solid starts to their careers, with Lamelo Ball unquestionably leading the pack. With the benefit of retrospect, it’s easy to wonder how some of these players didn’t go even higher in the draft. (Why wasn’t Lamelo #1 again?) With that being said, I believe it is time for the annual ‘Worst draft misses’ list, but with a twist. Instead of focusing on this year, we will be taking a look at the past decade to see which were the absolute worst, strangest, and downright laughable draft misses over the last 10 years.
I will only be focusing on lottery picks (№1-№15) who were selected higher than a player who has had a better/ more successful career thus far.
I will not be holding teams accountable for players getting hurt/ injured. There is no way to foresee injuries. They are a part of the game. I will however, take into account a player’s injury history pre-draft selection.
This is my list. Although I will be referencing stats, and other factual data, this list is based on who I think is better, would’ve been a better fit, etc. For example, I didn’t take position into consideration when making this list. Even with me trying my best to be objective, this is just my opinion at the end of the day.
Now with that all out of the way let’s get straight into it!
Wesley Johnson, Ekpe Udoh and Al Faruq Aminu over Paul George
4th Overall- W. Johnson career highs: 9.9 ppg 4.4 rpg 1.9 apg 1.1 spg 1.0 bpg
6th Overall- E. Udoh career highs: 5.7 ppg 4.7 rpg 1.1 apg 0.7 spg 1.7 bpg
8th Overall- A. Aminu career highs: 10.2 ppg 7.7 rpg 1.7 apg 1.2 spg 0.8 bpg
10th Overall- P. George career highs: 28.0 ppg 8.2 rpg 4.1 apg 2.2 spg 0.6 bpg
This is where retrospect plays a huge role. Most Mock Drafts and Big Boards had Paul George going even lower at the time. As it turns out, they were all horribly wrong. Most of the other top 10 picks have had decent careers, but 11 years after the fact, Paul George is hands down the best player to come out of this draft. He’s a Most Improved Player, 7 time All-Star, 4 time All-Defense and 5 time All-NBA performer. Every time he hits another step-back three, Minnesota and Golden State fans utter a silent curse under their breath. Could you imagine Paul George playing with Minnesota Kevin Love? How would he have developed alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in Golden State? The Clippers were able to make up for their miss by trading for him years later, but could you imagine him playing in Lob City with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin? There is no doubt in my mind that he is the piece they were missing as they failed to get over the hump for all those years.
Tristan Thompson, Jan Vesely and Jimmer Fredette over Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard
4th Overall: T. Thompson career highs:12.0 ppg 10.2 rpg 2.1 apg 0.7 spg 1.1 bpg
6th Overall: J Vesely career highs: 4.7 ppg 4.4 rpg 0.8 apg 1.3 spg 0.8 bpg
10th Overall: J. Fredette career highs: 7.6 ppg 1.2 rpg 1.8 apg 0.5 spg 0.1 bpg
11th Overall: K. Thompson career highs: 22.3 ppg 3.8 rpg 2.9 apg 1.1 spg 0.8 bpg
15th Overall: K. Leonard career highs: 27.1 ppg 7.3 rpg 4.9 apg 2.3 spg 1.0 bpg
As a life-long fan of the Milwaukee Bucks, this one hurts. We drafted Fredette over Klay and Kawhi and traded him immediately for a package that included an aging Stephen Jackson. The very next year, we included Jackson in a trade for Monta Ellis when we could’ve gotten an injury-plagued Steph Curry for less. That means we passed on both of the Splash Brothers. Can you hear me shaking my head? Meanwhile, Kawhi has developed into the best player from this draft (and maybe the best in the entire league), while Klay is widely recognized as one of the greatest shooters of all-time. They are both perennial All-Stars with multiple NBA Championships, who are known for their defensive prowess and efficient scoring. Every single team who picked another player over them has to be kicking themselves right now.
Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson over Damian Lillard
2nd Overall MKG career highs: 12.7 ppg 7.6 rpg 1.5 apg 1.0 spg 1.0 bpg
5th Overall T. Robinson career highs: 5.7 ppg 5.6 rpg 0.7 apg 0.6 spg 0.5 bpg
6th Overall D. Lillard career highs: 30.0 ppg 4.9 rpg 8.0 apg 1.2 spg 0.4 bpg
Excluding Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard has out shined everyone in this draft. He’s likely to retire as the greatest player in Portland Trailblazer history and he’s one of the fastest ever to score 16,000 points with 4,000 assists in NBA history, needing just 9 seasons. He was the consensus best point guard in the draft and one of the best scorers in the country coming out of college. How then did he fall all the way to 6th? It seems even stranger looking back now. I understand the Hornets had just drafted Kemba the previous year, but he would’ve been trade fodder after Dame’s Rookie of the Year campaign. Kemba didn’t become a 20 point per game scorer until his 5th season in the league. Dame had 19 points per game his rookie season and has been over 20 every year since then. After 10 years in the league he hasn’t matched Dame’s points and assists totals. This was simply another bad move by Michael Jordan, the executive. The same goes for the Kings. Since their run in the early 2000’s, they have been known for nothing if not their horrible luck with draft picks. The year before they picked Bismack Biyombo ahead of Kawhi and Klay. This year they went with Thomas Robinson over Dame Dolla. Their plan must have been to stock up on big men. Although he never truly lived up to his potential, Thomas Robinson lasted 5 seasons in the NBA before choosing to go and play overseas. We’ll be seeing the Kings on this list again for sure (Sorry Sacramento!).
Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammed and everyone else who went before Giannis Antetokuompo
1st Overall A. Bennett career highs: 5.2 ppg 3.8 rpg 0.8 apg 0.5 spg 0.3 bpg
14th Overall S. Muhammed career highs: 13.5 ppg 4.1 rpg 1.2 apg 0.5 spg 0.2 bpg
15th Overall G. Antetokounmpo career highs: 29.5 ppg 13.6 rpg 5.9 apg 1.6 spg 1.9 bpg
This one should go without saying. No disrespect to Victor Oladipo, but Giannis is far and away the best player from this draft. He has back to back MVPs and a Defensive Player of the Year trophy in his trophy case to prove it. Not to mention, he’s the only player in NBA history to win Most Improved Player and then go on to win MVP. He has 5 All-Star selections, 4 All-NBA selections, 3 All- Defense selections and just recently won his first All-Star MVP. Rudy Gobert (27th pick) is the only player from this draft to at least come close to those numbers. I say that to say that it is probably not fair to single out a single player and compare him directly to the defending league MVP. So I picked two. Shabazz Muhammed lasted five seasons in the NBA with three different teams. For someone known as a scorer he was never truly able to find his footing in the league. With Kevin Garnett on his way out of the league, Giannis would have been the perfect player for him to mentor. Minnesota missed yet another gem. There aren’t many words to say about Anthony Bennett that hasn’t already been said in a much harsher way. I’ll be the bigger man here and leave him alone.
Nik Stauskus over Zach Lavine, Adrien Payne over Nikola Jokic
8th Overall N. Stauskus career highs: 9.5 ppg 2.8 rpg 2.4 apg 0.6 spg 0.4 bpg
13th Overall Z. Lavine career highs: 25.5 ppg 5.2 rpg 4.5 apg 1.5 spg 0.5 bpg
15th Overall A. Payne career highs: 7.2 ppg 5.1 rpg 0.9 apg 0.6 spg 0.4 bpg
41st Overall N. Jokic career highs: 20.1 ppg 10.8 rpg 7.3 apg 1.4 spg 0.8 bpg
Imagine deciding that you need a shooting guard and you have Zach Lavine and Nik Stauskus standing in front of you. If you’re the Sacramento Kings, you’re choosing Nik. Sauce Castillo baby! If you are a sane person, you’d choose Zach Lavine. This should have been a no brainer even then. With Lavine making his first All-Star appearance and continually ascending and Stauskus somewhere in the G-League, it couldn’t be more apparent now. No one can say they saw this coming from Nikola Jokic. He’s taken the league by storm with his amazing court vision and astonishing passes. If this draft were to be done over again, he’d be in at least the top three. Adrien Payne on the other hand only lasted 4 years in the NBA and never gave Atlanta more than one assist per game in any season.
Stanley Johnson over Devin Booker
8th Overall S. Johnson career highs: 8.7 ppg 4.2 rpg 1.6 apg 1.4 spg 0.8 bpg
13th Overall D. Booker career highs: 26.6 ppg 4.5 rpg 6.8 apg 0.9 spg 0.3 bpg
This one continues to baffle me. Detroit was a team in need of spacing with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond as it’s two best players. One of the biggest concerns about Stanley Johnson coming into the draft was his scoring. More specifically, his three point shooting. Devin Booker was known by pretty much everyone as a sweet shooter, with maybe the best jump shot in the draft. He could have been an instant plug and play floor spacer who would have developed into one of the best players in franchise history. He and Karl Anthony-Towns are the only players from this draft to make multiple All-Star appearances. This one probably stings as much as Milicic over Carmelo.
Thon Maker, Dragan Bender and Georgios Papagiannis over Malcolm Brogdon
4th Overall D. Bender career highs: 9.0 ppg 5.9 rpg 2.1 apg 0.4 spg 0.6 bpg
10th Overall T. Maker career highs: 5.5 ppg 3.7 rpg 0.9 apg 0.5 spg 1.1 bpg
13th Overall G. Papagiannis career highs: 5.6 ppg 3.9 rpg 0.9 apg 0.2 spg 0.8 bpg
36th Overall M. Brogdon career highs: 16.5 ppg 4.9 rpg 7.1 apg 1.1 spg 0.3 bpg
This draft wasn’t the deepest to say the least. There was no drama about who the number one pick should be and nobody blinked at all when Dragan Bender went fourth overall. The Bucks felt comfortable going with an “experiment” pick at number ten. Phoenix chose a lesser known player from overseas with it’s second lottery pick, proving that there weren’t many great options. Somehow though, the Rookie of the Year fell all the way to the second round. He was the easy choice for ROY after four years of experience in college and some unfortunate injuries to his closest competition. If this draft were to be done over again, he’d go in the top ten for sure.
Lonzo Ball over Jayson Taytum
2nd Overall L. Ball career highs: 11.8 ppg 6.9 rpg 7.2 apg 1.7 spg 0.8 bpg
3rd Overall J. Taytum career highs: 23.4 ppg 7.0 rpg 3.0 asp 1.4 spg 0.9 bpg
It’s pretty easy to see why the Lakers fell for the hype surrounding Lonzo. He was a Youtube sensation in high school and he was coming off of a solid freshman season at UCLA. His dad wouldn’t let us forget it either, going on every TV station that would have him to remind the world about it. Magic Johnson had just taken over as President and they were looking for the point guard of the future. They traded away D’Angelo Russell to make room for him. Then, they ignored De’Aaron Fox and picked Lonzo. I’m sorry but if you’re looking for the best point guard, you go with the one who dropped 47 points on the other one’s head. If you’re looking for the best player, you go with the player who’s 6’9 with ball handling abilities and a smooth stroke. Danny Ainge even admitted that he would’ve taken Taytum with the first pick overall if he would’ve kept it. Lonzo only lasted two seasons with the Lakers before being traded. I can’t imagine how good Philly would be with Jason Taytum suiting up next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. I can’t even imagine Taytum playing alongside Anthony Davis and Lebron James. The entire league would be at their mercy as they were in the midst of their first three-peat.
Marvin Bagley III over Luka Doncic
2nd Overall M. Bagley career highs: 14.9 ppg 5.2 rpg 1.0 apg 1.0 spg 0.5 bpg
3rd Overall L. Doncic career highs: 28.8 ppg 9.4 rpg 8.8 apg 1.1 spg 0.3 bpg
Can you believe it? The Kings are on this list again! I know it seems like I’m picking on them but I promise, I’m not. Even a King’s fan would have to admit they’ve made some pretty bad selections throughout the years, and I don’t need very many years to see that this was another bad pick. Luka is a franchise changing player who has already been an All-Star twice in his first three seasons. I don’t know of anyone who anticipates Bagley getting close to that level. Luka on the other hand continues to improve and his legend steadily grows. It’s scary to imagine what he might be in the next few years. He could be winning championships and MVPs at a historic clip. Just to think, he could have been doing it all in a purple and black uniform.
Jarrett Culver over Tyler Herro
6th Overall J. Culver career highs: 9.2 ppg 3.4 rpg 1.7 apg 0.9 spg 0.6 bpg
13th Overall T. Herro career highs: 13.5 ppg 4.1 rpg 2.2 apg 0.6 spg 0.2 bpg
This was another down year for the draft. After the top three players every other pick felt like a throw away pick. Every team that picked in the lottery pretty much got it right for the most part. If I had to choose one team that might want that pick back, it would be the Phoenix Suns. They traded Jarrett Culver to the Minnesota Timberwolves right away, but if they’d have drafted Tyler Herro, they might have kept him. Behind R.J. Barrett, Herro is turning out to be the second best shooting guard in this draft. With his recent breakout performance in the playoffs, memes on social media and even a song named after him, his social influence is far greater than that of Culver’s. The Suns may find themselves in need of a player who can handle the ball and get his own shot, like Herro, as soon as this postseason.
James Wiseman over Lamelo Ball
Yes, I know. It’s way too early to say that this was a “mistake” by the Warriors. Wiseman is having a decent season and compliments the Warriors defense quite nicely. Sure, I’ll give you that. But, have you seen Lamelo play!? Everytime he touches the ball you just lose your breath wondering, what kind of crazy pass he’s going to throw next! Is he really just going to shoot it from there? How did he make that? It’s almost reminiscent of watching Steph dance around screens and launch 40 footers. Could you imagine the two of them playing together? Lamelo has shown the willingness and ability to do whatever the team has asked of him and more. He can play on the ball or off the ball. Whether starting or coming off the bench he plays with the same energy and enthusiasm. He’s the only player in this draft we can definitively say makes his teammates better. The Hornets are the League Pass team to watch so far this year. A part of me feels slightly disappointed that he isn’t doing it with the Warriors after watching Steph be triple and double teamed with Wiseman on the floor with him.
© 2021 Marshall Trudo IV