Monday, June 27, 2005

Looking Back - The 1997 NBA Draft


"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Hello and welcome to the Tim Duncan...err...the 1997 NBA Draft."


By Paul Benedict


Throughout the year, I'm going to reminisce over every NBA draft of the past ten years. It's always fun to look back and see how your favorite team fared, see which guys totally busted, and see which draftees turned out to be the biggest steals. I'll profile each 1st round pick with a little more emphasis on the lottery picks and then discuss some of the noteworthy 2nd round picks. The grades will be based on how each player turned out with regard to their respective draft position. So without further delay, I present to you a look back at the 1997 NBA Draft.




Revisiting the 1997 NBA Draft

· Best Player: Tim Duncan
· Best Pick: Tim Duncan
· Steal of the Draft: Tracy McGrady
· Worst Player: Paul Grant
· Biggest Bust: Tony Battie
· Draft Most Known For: Producing 3 superstars (Duncan, Billups, McGrady) and a bunch of players that just haven't lived up to their potential despite sticking in the league for years.
Overall Draft Grade: C

Lottery Picks

1. San Antonio - PF Tim Duncan, Wake Forest
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 22.5 PPG, 50.7 FG%, 12.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.5 BPG
Career Highlights:
-1998 All-Rookie 1st Team
-1998 Rookie of the Year
-6 Time All-Defensive 1st Team
-All-Star in every single season he's been in the NBA
-Co-MVP of All-Star Game in 2000
-1st Team All-NBA in every single season he's been in the NBA
-Two-time Regular Season Most Valuable Player (2001-02 and 2002-03)
-Has reached at least the Conference Semifinals in each season he's played except in 2000 when he missed the Playoffs due to a knee injury
-Member of Team USA in 1999, 2003, 2004
-Three-time NBA Finals MVP ('99, '03, '05)
-Three-time NBA Champion
The Lowdown:
It's hard to top what Tim Duncan has accomplished thus far in his career. In fact, only Larry Bird and Bill Russell can claim to have won 2 regular season MVP Awards and 3 NBA Championships before their 30th birthdays. And only 4 other players-- Bird, George Mikan, Bob Pettit, and Oscar Robertson, have been named 1st Team All-NBA in each of their first 8 seasons in the league. 'The Big Fundamental' isn't your prototypical NBA superstar-- he doesn't boast a particularly flashy game, he seldom lands in the spotlight for anything not basketball-related, and he very rarely draws attention to himself, yet Duncan currently ranks as the hands-down most established player in the league. And with a selfless attitude and approach to the game that has Duncan only concerned with adding to his growing collection of rings, you can expect TD to build on his already esteemed NBA legacy.
Grade: A+

2. Philadelphia - F Keith Van Horn, Utah
*Traded with Don MacLean, Michael Cage, and Luscious Harris to New Jersey for Tim Thomas, Jim Jackson, Eric Montross, and Anthony Parker.
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 16.7 PPG, 83.5 FT%, 36.0 3PT%, 7.1 RPG
Career Highlights:
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-1st Team All-Rookie in 1998
-5th in the NBA in scoring in '98-99 (21.8 PPG)
-Has averaged at least 17 PPG and 6 RPG 5 times in his career
-Was on the Nets team that reached the NBA Finals in 2002
The Lowdown:
Van Horn arrived in the league after a much-ballyhooed college career at Utah and displayed promising signs of NBA stardom in his first two seasons with the Nets. But two essential factors were necessary if Van Horn was going to take his game to All-Star status: 1- He was going to have to find a way to step it up to a respectable level defensively; 2- A player with his size and versatility was becoming more common in the NBA so it was up to him to remain a step ahead of the pack offensively. Van Horn has never been able to accomplish either of these necessities and so his career has seen a steady decline since a stellar 1998-99 season. He is now with his 4th team in the last 3 seasons and has earned the unfortunate reputation of being one of the most overpaid players in the NBA. Everyone loves to dog Van Horn at this point in his career, but the guy still has a lot of game left in him. If cast into the right situation, he can still be a highly effective small forward in the league.
Grade: C

3. Boston - PG Chauncey Billups, Colorado
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 13.6 PPG, 87.8 FT%, 38.0 FT%, 4.6 APG, 1.0 SPG
Career Highlights:
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-Finished 2nd in NBA in FT% in 1999 (91.3%)
-2nd Team All-Defense in 2005
-Member of 2004 Pistons Championship Team
-2004 NBA Finals MVP
The Lowdown:
Billups has lived perhaps the most intruiging career of any player from the 1997 draft class. After a breakthrough sophomore season at Colorado in which he was named 2nd Team All-American, Chauncey's stock soared in the weeks prior to the NBA Draft leading to Boston coach Rick Pitino selecting him 3rd overall, which was considered a reach by many. Despite a respectable start to a rookie season in which Billups showed flashes of his potential, Pitino decided he didn't fit into his system and shipped him off to Toronto in a package deal essentially made to acquire a more veteran point guard (Kenny Anderson). And just like that, Billups' seemingly promising career started to represent that of a veteran journeyman. By the time Chauncey had signed with Minnesota on August 8, 2000, he had already been a member of 4 different teams. But it was with the Timberwolves that Billups' career started to take a positive turn as he assumed a scoring role off the bench that earned him a much-deserved opportunity to show what he could do in the league. Two years later, Billups took less money to play for Detroit in order to seize a possible chance to start for a Playoff-caliber team. Now in 2005, after having lead the Pistons to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances including a title in 2004 in which he was named Finals MVP, Billups is the one who has had the last laugh. If there's ever been a player who's made GMs and coaches think twice about letting go of a young player too early, Chauncey Billups is Exhibit 'A'.
Grade: B+


"If I had a free hand, I'd extend a middle finger out to all those teams who gave up on me too soon."


4. Vancouver - PG Antonio Daniels, Bowling Green
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 7.8 PPG, 44.9 FG%, 77.4 FT%, 3.3 APG
Career Highlights:
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-Led NBA in Asst/TO Ratio in 2003-04 (4.89) and finished 2nd in 2004-05 (3.96)
-Member of 1999 Spurs Championship Team
The Lowdown:
Despite being considered one of the NBA's most outstanding citizens, Daniels hasn't exactly lived up to the lofty expectations many bestowed upon him after the 1997 NBA Draft. Daniels also worked his way up the draft board like Billups after some tremendous workouts-- scouts loved his size, defensive tenacity, and ability to play both guard positions. Unfortunately none of those attributes has translated into stardom, although all of them have enabled Daniels to enjoy a moderately successful career as a role player. As he heads into free agency this summer, Daniels will likely look for an opportunity to play a key role on a team that offers him an opportunity to win his 2nd ring. Though it's unlikely that Daniels will be able to do enough with the rest of his career to justify being drafted 4th overall, he certainly can be a contributor on a title-contending team and retire happy knowing that he has reached the promised land at least once in his NBA career.
Grade: C-


5. Denver - C Tony Battie, Texas Tech
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 6.5 PPG, 48.9 FG%, 5.7 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Career Highlights:
-Starting center on 2002 Celtics team that reached Eastern Conference Finals
The Lowdown:
Anytime you've earned the nickname "El Busto", you probably haven't enjoyed a significant amount of success in the NBA. And so is the case of Tony "El Busto" Battie, a nickname rightfully deserved by the Texas Tech product for failing to live up to the promise so many people thought he had. Despite an abundant of athleticism and the capablity of running the floor like a small forward, Battie lacked the desire to play tough and to put in the effort during the off-season required of him to develop into an effective big man. To his credit, he has matured a great deal since the days when Dan Issel publicly ripped him for not having the motivation needed to succeed in the NBA, and Battie is now considered as one of the league's more outspoken 'locker room' guys. But that doesn't exactly detract from a career that never saw him average more than 8 PPG or 6 RPG.
Grade: D

6. Boston (from Dallas) - SG Ron Mercer, Kentucky
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 13.6 PPG, 25.0 3PT%, 80.8 FT%, 3.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 SPG
Career Highlights:
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-1st Team All-Rookie in 1998
-Averaged at least 15 PPG his first four years in the NBA
The Lowdown:
Mercer was hand-picked by his college coach Rick Pitino to join him in Boston after reaching two consecutive national championship games at Kentucky together. Though he didn't boast outstanding athleticism or exceptional touch from outside, Mercer was known for being a pure scorer, the type of player who just has an uncanny knack for putting the ball through the net. After two impressive seasons in Boston, Pitino shipped Mercer off to Denver after he decided that he wasn't worth the hefty long-term contract extension he was seeking. Luckily for the Cs, this turned out to be one of the only smart moves made by Rick Pitino during his tenure in Boston. Mercer's lack of a solid perimeter game kept him from ever raising his play to the next level and his career started to take a turn for the worse in 2001 when he consistently encountered injury problems. Since then he has remained an injured-list regular and now appears to be on his way out of the league.
Grade: C

7. New Jersey - F Tim Thomas, Villanova
*Traded with Jim Jackson, Eric Montross, and Anthony Parker to Philadelphia for Keith Van Horn, Luscious Harris, Don MacLean, and Michael Cage
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 11.9 PPG, 44.3 FG%, 36.8 3PT%, 76.6 FT%, 4.0 RPG
Career Highlights:
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-2nd Team All-Rookie in 1998
-Runner-up for 6th Man Award in 2001
-Has averaged at least 11 PPG in every season but one ('99)
-6th Man on 2001 Bucks team that reached Eastern Conference Finals
The Lowdown:
Thomas bolted for the NBA after only a year at Villanova (much to the disappointment of Wildcat fans) in which he left scouts high-fiving each other over the promise he displayed. With Kevin Garnett quickly blossoming into a unique kind of superstar, everyone was searching for a similar kind of player, and Thomas appeared ripe for the comparisons. With a long, sturdy frame and skills that allowed him to play 3 positions (SG, SF, PF), Thomas seemed destined to blossom into a superstar in due time. Many people felt the time had come in 2001 when he seemingly took the 'leap' during the Bucks' march to the Eastern Conference Finals, but Thomas failed to rev up his game the next season. Now back close to home with the Knicks a few years later, there are people still waiting for Thomas to realize his potential and to burst into NBA prominence. It ain't happening. Some players have that burning desire to achieve greatness no matter what it may take-- Tim Thomas is simply not one of these players, which is unfortunate because he has always had a world of potential.
Grade: C+

8. Golden State - C Adonal Foyle, Colgate
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 4.6 PPG, 47.0 FG%, 49.0 FT%, 5.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG
Career Highlights:
-All-Time Warriors leader in blocks
-Has finished in the top ten in BPG 4 times ('01, '02, '03, '05)
The Lowdown:
As if the Warriors didn't learn their lesson with Todd Fuller being an immediate bust the year before, they went out and drafted offensively inept big man Adonal Foyle in 1997 (whose college GPA of 3.47 doesn't quite top his career PPG like Fuller's did). I'll never quite understand why naturally gifted big men like Foyle don't ever develop in the NBA. Here you have a guy who's truly a class act both on and off the floor, nobody has ever questioned his willingness to put in the work, and he'll occasionally blow you away with a 10 point, 9 rebound, 5 block performance in only 15 minutes. My only assessment is that no matter how imposing or athletically talented a player may be, it's a lot tougher to teach coordination and agility (as we've seen with Ben Wallace who just can't seem to develop as an offensive player) than many of us bargain for. At this point, all Warriors fans can hope for is that Foyle stays far away from the injured list and continues to give them an exceptional effort on the defensive end (which may be asking too much considering Chris Mullin foolishly signed the injury-prone Foyle to a long-term deal last summer). But as NBA fans, let's hope and pray that Samuel Dalembert doesn't fall in line with the likes of Adonal Foyle, Calvin Booth, Ervin Johnson, Acie Earl, and Doug Smith-- talented big men who could just never get over that offensive hump that seems to limit their careers.
Grade: C-


9. Toronto - G/F Tracy McGrady, Mount Zion Academy (N.C.)
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 22.0 PPG, 44.4 FG%, 6.4 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.1 BPG
Career Highlights:
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-Named NBA's Most Improved Player in 2001
-Named to the All-Star Team in each of the last 5 seasons
-Named to an All-NBA Team in each of the last 5 seasons (1st Team in '02, '03)
-Led NBA in scoring twice ('03, '04)
-Scored 99 points in back-to-back Playoff games at Detroit in 2003
The Lowdown:
If the 1997 NBA Draft were to have taken place 5 years later, McGrady almost certainly would have been drafted right behind Tim Duncan, but a lot of GMs were still somewhat afraid of gambling on a kid coming straight out of high school. Though it was generally understood that T-Mac was going to be a work-in-progress, nobody could deny that he was far and away the most gifted player in the draft class. The Raptors used him primarily as a defensive-stopper off the bench early in his career despite the fact that many onloookers claimed he was dominating practices with cousin Vince Carter right from the get-go. McGrady was unleashed during his third and final year in Toronto when he and Vinsanity really put Toronto on the NBA map, but T-Mac loudly expressed his desire to play elsewhere and was delivered to Orlando during the summer in a sign-and-trade deal that left the budding superstar happy and filthy rich. Since then McGrady has proven himself as arguably the NBA's most dynamic athlete and its most prolific scorer, yet there remain questions abound concerning his attitude and willingness to become the kind of leader that refuses to let his team get pushed out of the 1st Round of the Playoffs yet again. T-Mac showed signs of maturity in his first season with the Rockets this past year, but it's going to require more than just "signs" if he is going to imprint his name among the NBA's greats when all is said and done. Of course he's only 26 years old, so there's still plenty of time.
Grade: A


"Tracy, we could rule this league together if you stay in Toronto with me!"
"Don't be silly, Vince. This is fun and all, but I have to think about myself right now and that means going where the money is."


10. Milwaukee - PF Danny Fortson, Cincinnati
*Traded along with Johnny Newman and Joe Wolf to Denver for Ervin Johnson
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 8.7 PPG, 47.0 FG%, 78.5 FT%, 7.6 RPG, 0.2 BPG
Career Highlights:
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-Led NBA in offensive rebounds in 1999
-Finished 4th in RPG in 1999 (11.7) and 2002 (11.6)
The Lowdown:
Typical of most former Cincinnati players during the Bob Huggins era, Fortson came in with a reputation of being a talented and physical player, with one nasty mean streak to boot. Though undersized for a power forward (listed at 6'8", but closer to 6'5"), scouts felt that Fortson's robust frame (260 lbs.), soft shooting touch, and unteachable fearlessness would allow him to succeed in the league. While he has stuck around all these years, he has proven to be incapable as a starter because he simply can't guard bigger or quicker power forwards who either jump right over him or drive right past him. Fortson did find a nice role off Seattle's bench this past season where his rugged demeanor fit right in with a team in dire need of some toughness. Of course he could end up playing himself right out of a roster spot if he continues to treat the NBA as though its the WWE.
Grade: C+

11. Sacramento - G/F Olivier Saint-Jean (Tariq Abdul-Wahad), San Jose St.
Career Stats:
6 Seasons: 7.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 SPG
Career Highlights:
-1st France-born player ever to play in NBA
-Helped France earn Bronze Medal in 2000 Olympics
The Lowdown:
-Typical of most players who change their names midway through their careers (Chris Jackson, Brian Williams), Abdul-Wahad's career went south as soon as he ditched his given name. Abdul-Wahad was another player who worked his way up draft boards thanks to superb workouts and camp showings where he displayed natural tendencies on the defensive end that left many pegging him as the next great on-the-ball defender. Unfortunately, Abdul-Wahad has been bogged down by crippling knee injuries over the years and has never been able to show the ferocity on defense that many felt would lead to a successful NBA career.
Grade: C-

12. Indiana - F Austin Croshere, Providence
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 7.4 PPG, 40.5 FG%, 86.0 FT%, 4.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG
Career Highlights:
-Played in all 2000 NBA Finals games against the Lakers averaging 15.2 PPG and 6 RPG
-Member of 2004 Pacers team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals
-Has spent his entire career with the Pacers
The Lowdown:
Croshere's career peaked a bit too early after his impressive Playoff run with the Pacers to the 2000 NBA Finals. Indiana straight-up paid him during that summer (7 years, $50 million) and he has stayed a Pacer ever since even though the results from Croshere have been far from satisfying. It's nothing really against the former Providence stud who supposedly works as hard as anyone in the NBA, it's just that Donnie Walsh (in one of his very rare mistakes) assumed Croshere had the makings of a solid NBA starter even though he was far too slow on defense and wasn't enough of a threat on offense to make up for it. After a disappointing 2000-01 season, Croshere was sent permanently to Indiana's bench where he has since remained a stable and reliable member of Indiana's reserve unit.
Grade: C+

13. Cleveland - SG Derek Anderson, Kentucky
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 13.1 PPG, 41.1 FG%, 85.4 FT%, 3.4 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.2 SPG
Career Highlights:
-Selected to participate in 1998 Rookie Game, but did not play due to injury
-2nd Team All-Rookie in 1998
-Has averaged double-figures in scoring and at least 3 APG in all but one season ('05)
-Was the 2nd-leading scorer on the 2001 Spurs-- many thought his knee injury in the Playoffs prevented them from winning it all.
The Lowdown:
Anderson had already dealt with a series of knee injuries before he even started his NBA career, yet he was just too talented and too fierce of a competitor for Cleveland to let him slide any further in the draft. He hurt his knee once again in just his 2nd season before the Cavs decided the risk just wasn't worth the award and shipped him off to the Clippers in exchange for Lamond Murray. Once he escaped NBA purgatory under Donald Sterling, Anderson fled for San Antonio where he had one of the real breakout seasons in 2000-01. With the Spurs coasting through the Playoffs and everyone's favorite to win the title, their season essentially ended when DA blew out his knee yet again during the Conference Semifinals (they would go on to get swept by the Lakers in the Conference Finals). Since then Anderson has had to readjust from being an explosive scorer to becoming a steady, system-fit shooting guard. After three respectable seasons in Portland, Anderson suffered through a tumultous season this past year in which he spent as much time worrying about his notoriously drunk Mother as his increasingly diminishing role with the Blazers. If Anderson's history of bouncing back is any indication, look for him to make a splash with whatever team he ends up with next season.
Grade: B

The Rest of the 1st Round

14. LA Clippers - PF Maurice Taylor, Michigan
Career Stats/Highlights:
7 Seasons: 12.0 PPG, 46.7 FG%, 4.8 RPG, 0.5 BPG
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-2nd Team All-Rookie in 1998
-Led Clippers in scoring in '99 and '00
The Lowdown:
Maurice Taylor falls right in line with the rest of the 1997 draftees whose careers have been plagued by nagging knee injuries. Though Mo Taylor never could play a lick of defense, he immediately established himself as one of the league's best back-to-the-basket power forwards in the three seasons he spent with the Clippers. Taylor was forced to miss the entire 2001-02 campaign after having season-ending knee surgery and he has since seen his mobility and effectiveness dwindle on an almost year-to-year basis. He's still a threat when he has the ball 15 feet and in, but he can't be relied upon for any more than 25 minutes a night.
Grade: B-

15. Dallas (from Minnesota) - PF/C Kelvin Cato, Iowa St.
*Traded to Portland for Chris Anstey and cash
Career Stats/Highlights:
8 Seasons: 5.7 PPG, 51.2 FG%, 5.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-Has averaged at least 6 RPG and 1.3 BPG 4 times ('00, '02, '04, '05)
The Lowdown:
Cato was drafted out of Iowa State for the superb athleticism he exhibited for someone his size. He spent two seasons with Portland as a reserve where he demonstrated outstanding defensive instincts and seemed poised to take his game to another level if given the opportunity to play a larger role. Houston then acquired him as their key target in the Scottie Pippen deal, but Cato never really developed the way they were hoping he would. Though he can always be relied upon for some tough defense and consistent rebouding, Cato's lack of an offensive game has essentially limited him into only being a role player in the NBA.
Grade: B-

16. Cleveland (from Phoenix) - PG Brevin Knight, Stanford
Career Stats/Highlights:
8 Seasons: 7.6 PPG, 15.8 3PT%, 78.0 FT%, 6.5 APG, 1.8 SPG
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-Led all rookies in assists and was named 1st Team All-Rookie Team in 1998
-2nd in the NBA in APG in 2005 (9.0)
-Led the NBA in steals in 1998
The Lowdown:
Knight has always been the kind of player that everyone appeciates-- nice, young kid from Jersey who went out west to Stanford with every intention of receiving a valuable education to go along with a shot at an NBA career. After graduating from Stanford, Cleveland selected him to be their point guard of the future, which was a bit of a surprise considering Knight's draft stock was sinking due to his slight frame and mediocre perimeter game. But he took the job with the Cavaliers and was their starting point guard for three seasons before being shipped off to Atlanta in a trade to acquire Jim Jackson. Since then he has settled in as mainly back-up in the leagueThough Knight never exactly lit up opposing teams, he
Grade: B

17. Orlando - SF Johnny Taylor, Tennessee-Chattanooga
Career Stats/Highlights:
3 Seasons: 54 Games (9 Starts), 4.7 PPG, 40.2 FG%, 2.2 RPG, 0.6 SPG
The Lowdown:
After guiding the UTC Moccasins to a Cinderella run in the 1997 NCAA Tournament, Taylor watched as his draft stock soared about as high as his jaw-dropping vertical leap. The Magic thought they were getting a potential steal in Taylor, but they must have forgetten that you have to be able to shoot, pass, and perhaps play a little defense in the NBA. He lasted just 20 games with Orlando before being given his walking papers-- a couple DNP-CD-laden seasons later, Taylor was out of the league.
Grade: F

18. Portland - PF Chris Anstey, Australia
*Traded with cash to Portland for Kelvin Cato
Career Stats/Highlights:
3 Seasons: 5.2 PPG, 41.3 FG%, 3.4 RPG, 0.4 BPG
The Lowdown:
Direct quote from Don Nelson following the 1997 NBA Draft: "Chris Anstey is the best running big man in the entire draft." After an unimpressive rookie campaign, Nelson decided that Anstey wasn't the player he thought he was getting and once again went searching for the best running big man in the next year's Draft. The result? Dirk Nowitzki-- perhaps the best running big man the NBA has ever seen. As for Anstey, he took a back-up role with Chicago in '99-00 and performed respectably, but decided to leave the NBA on his accord following the season to seek opportunies playing overseas.
Grade: D+

19. Detroit - C Scot Pollard, Kansas
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 4.8 PPG, 49.8 FG%, 5.0 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG
-Has reached Playoffs in every season except his rookie year
-Reached Conference Finals with Kings in '02 and Pacers in '04
The Lowdown:
Scot Pollard is like that guy we've all worked with at least once in our lives-- he goes to work, does what they (the employers) tell him to do, rarely tries to do anything more than what's asked of him, and never complains about anything to anyone. He might not get noticed and you might not like him for whatever reason, but damn it, you have to respect him. And I'm giving him bonus points for being the catalyst in the NBA's outpouring of donations to the relief funds in Southeast Asia after the Tsunamis this Winter.
Grade: B


It might not be pretty (no, it never is), but Scot Pollard gets the job done.


20. Minnesota (from Charlotte) - PF Paul Grant, Wisconsin
Career Stats/Highlights:
2 Seasons: 16 Games (0 Started), 111 minutes, 29 Points, 18 Rebounds, 3 Assists
The Lowdown:
Considering that Grant is the first player with whom I've used career stat totals instead of averages for, that should tell you that his NBA career was barely distinguishable from that of mine-- aka, it was non-existent. Despite a senior season at Wisconsin that didn't exactly raise eyebrows, Grant was able to work himself into the 1st round by wowing scouts at both the Portsmouth Invitational and Nike Desert Classic. Unfortunately, serious foot injuries kept Grant from ever realizing his dream of NBA stardom, let along playing time.
Grade: F

21. New Jersey (from LA Lakers) - G/F Anthony Parker, Bradley
*Traded with Tim Thomas, Jim Jackson, and Eric Montross to Philadelphia for Keith Van Horn, Luscious Harris, Don MacLean, and Michael Cage
Career Stats:
3 Seasons: 55 Games (0 Starts), 2.4 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.5 APG
The Lowdown:
Let's make sure we're clear here-- this is Anthony Parker, not Tony Parker-- the latter might sic Eva Longoria's monstruous bodyguard on our asses if we confuse the two. Like we've seen with many players over the years, Parker encountered serious injury problems early in his career and was never given a fair chance to succeed once he fully recovered. Fortunately for Parker, he has gone on to enjoy a very successful career in Europe which includes two Euroleague championships and one Euroleague MVP award.
Grade: F

22. Atlanta - SG Ed Gray, California
Career Stats/Highlights:
2 Seasons: 60 Games (6 Starts), 6.2 PPG, 33.9 FG%, 81.4 FT%, 0.5 SPG
The Lowdown:
You can throw Ed Gray into that flock of former big-time Pac-10 guards who never experienced success in the NBA-- Harold Miner, Khalid Reeves, Ed O'Bannon, Ron Riley, Miles Simon, Toby Bailey, Jeremy Veal, Isaac Fontaine, Jason Garnder, etc. Gray actually showed that he could play in the league during his rookie season (7.6 PPG in only 15.6 MPG), but after being arrested for six traffic violations, including a DUI, he played his way right off the Hawks and right out of the league.
Grade: F


23. Seattle - G Bobby Jackson, Minnesota
*Traded to Denver for James Cotton and a 2nd Round Pick in 1998
Career Stats:
8 Seasons: 10.0 PPG, 43.0 FG%, 80.0 FT%, 3.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.0 SPG
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-2nd Team All-Rookie in 1998
-6th Man of the Year in 2003 after being the runner-up in 2002
-Has averaged double-figures in scoring 5 times
-6th Man on 2002 Kings team that reached Western Conference Finals
The Lowdown:
Jackson fell to 23rd despite being one of the most talented and exciting prospects in the draft. Scouts annointed him with the dreaded "tweener" label because they weren't sure he could run the point and he was clearly too small (6'0") to play the two. And the truth is, their assessment was exactly right. Except sometimes people forget that you don't always have to plan on using players for 35 to 40 minutes a night. Jackson has proven to be the best change-of-pace guard in the league over the duration of his career and it's tough to get anything more than that this late in the draft.
Grade: B+


Is there anyone out there who doesn't like Bobby Jackson?!


24. Houston - G/F Rodrick Rhodes, USC
Career Stats/Highlights:
3 Seasons: 72 Games (14 Starts), 5.3 PPG, 34.7 FG%, 62 FT%, 1.7 APG, 1.0 SPG
The Lowdown:
There's usually one player who inexplicably sneaks his way into the 1st Round every year. In 1997, Rodrick Rhodes, whose topsy-turvy college career and lack of apparent upside led to him not even being included in the NBA Draft media guide, became that guy. It was amusing because the last time Houston drafted in the first round was 1993, so many pundits joked that the NBA had forgetten to send the Rockets a media guide in 1997. Not to anyone's surprise, Rhodes was anything but stellar in his rookie season and played his way right out of the league by 1999.
Grade: F

25. New York - PF John Thomas, Minnesota
Career Stats:
4 Seasons: 2.8 PPG, 50.6 FG%, 58.7 FT%, 2.1 RPG, 0.2 BPG
The Lowdown:
Thomas would never play a single game with the Knicks, but it doesn't seem as though they missed much with Thomas being out of the league after a quiet 2-year stint with Toronto. He would actually retire from basketball soon afterwards only to rediscover his love for the sport a few years later. With a reputation among NBA circles as a heady guy who has always been willing to put in the work, Thomas received offers from both Portland and Minnesota within days of each other to hop on board the team and help out their frontlines. The decision for Thomas, who was born, raised, and attended school at U of Minnesota was easy and he sticks with the Wolves to this day.
Grade: C-

26. Miami - SG Charles Smith, New Mexico
Career Stats/Highlights:
4 Seasons: 120 Games (32 Starts), 5.4 PPG, 40.8 FG%, 26.9 3PT%, 60.4 FT%, 0.7 SPG
The Lowdown:
Charles Smith, nicknamed "Spider" for his ridiculous 84" wingspan, was drafted by Pat Riley in '97 with the hopes that he could become a defensive stopper off the bench. Despite rave reviews from Riley after Smith put together a solid summer league season and training camp, the 2 guard was shipped to the Clippers at the February trade deadline in order to acquire Brent Barry and his career went into oblivion from there. He enjoyed a modest stint with the Spurs during the '01-02 season, but hasn't been able to stick with a team since.
Grade: D-

27. Utah - PG Jacque Vaughn, Kansas
Career Stats/Highlights:
8 Seasons: 5.0 PPG, 78.6 FT%, 2.7 APG, 0.6 SPG
-Reserve for the 1998 Jazz team that reached the NBA Finals
The Lowdown:
Because Jacque Vaughn came out of Kansas with such a heralded reputation, many people instantly dubbed him as the heir apparent to John Stockton in Utah. Unfortunately for Vaughn, this has led many to believe that he has lived a disappointing NBA career when he has indeed actually succeeded just from sticking around all these years. With limited athletic ability and a perimeter game not much better than Adonal Foyle's, Vaughn has proven that you can defy NBA standards by approaching your goals with hard work and the utmost professionalism.
Grade: B

28. Chicago - SF Keith Booth, Maryland
Career Stats:
2 Seasons: 45 Games (4 Starts), 2.9 PPG, 32.5 FG%, 9.1 3PT%, 56.3 FT%, 2.2 RPG
-Won NBA Title with Bulls in 1998
The Lowdown:
Booth earned a ring with the Bulls' championship team in '98 despite playing a grand total of 17 minutes during the season. You might think his limited playing time was simply because he was the youngest guy on a title-winning team, but consider that he couldn't even stick with the 13-37 Bulls team the next season before he saw his way right out of the NBA. He resurfaced last season as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Maryland.
Grade: D-


Notable 2nd Rounders

38. Golden State - C Marc Jackson, Temple
Career Stats:
5 Seasons: 9.0 PPG, 44.8 FG%, 80.7 FT%, 4.7 RPG, 0.3 BPG
-Participated in 2001 Rookie Game
-1st Team All-Rookie in 2001
-Has averaged double-figures in scoring twice ('01, '05)
The Lowdown:
For all of the Warriors' draft-day blunders over the years, P.J. Carlesimo deserves credit for nabbing burly big man Marc Jackson out of Temple in 1997. Of course the Warriors didn't bother offering him a contract after they selected him in the 2nd Round, so Jackson skipped off to Europe for 3 seasons where he dominated competition. The Warriors did bring him back in 2000 and reaped the benefits as he put together a 1st Team All-Rookie season (he probably would have taken Rookie of the Year honors had he played more than 48 games). But the Warriors failed to make a substantial contract offer after the season much to Jackson's chagrin, and the Rockets signed him to an offer sheet in the Fall. And then the Warriors inexplicably (like so many of their personnel moves) matched the offer, but decided they weren't going to play a pouty Jackson at all during the season. He was shipped off to Minnesota by the trade deadline and so goes the story of another puzzling Golden State player transaction. Jackson has since gone home to Philadelphia where he has become the Sixers' most imposing post threat since Derrick Coleman in 1998 (which really isn't saying much, but let the dog have his bone).
Grade: A-

40. Sacramento - PG Anthony Johnson, College of Charleston
Career Stats/Highlights:
8 Seasons: 5.2 PPG, 40.3 FG%, 2.6 APG, 0.7 SPG
-Led Kings in assists as rookie (4.3 APG)
-Reached the NBA Finals twice with the Nets ('02, '03) and the Eastern Conference Finals with the Pacers in 2004.
The Lowdown:
Anthony "Beetlejuice" Johnson (as NBA Source has dubbed him for his unprecedented likeness to 'Howard Stern Show' regular Beetlejuice) actually earned himself a starting gig with the lowly Kings in the '97-98 season, but did little to retain the spot and has since bounced around the NBA as a back-up point guard. Johnson is now coming off his best season ever with Indiana and seems assured to last in the league as long as his body is willing.
Grade: B+


In his free time, Anthony Johnson can often be found making guest appearances on the 'Howard Stern Show'.


43. Phoenix - SG Stephen Jackson, Butler CC (Kansas)
Career Stats/Highlights:
5 Seasons: 13.1 PPG, 42.1 FG%, 77.9 FT%, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 SPG
-Participated in 2001 Rookie Game
-Starter for the 2003 Spurs Championship Team
-Has averaged 18 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 APG, 1 SPG in each of the last two seasons
The Lowdown:
Jackson was set to join Lute Olson at Arizona in 1998 and help the Wildcats repeat as NCAA Champions, but he instead opted for the NBA Draft where he slipped all the way to Phoenix in the 2nd Round. He didn't make the Suns roster to start the '97 season and bounced around the professional ranks until he landed with the Nets in 2000. After a moderately successful rookie season in New Jersey, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs signed him in the summer of 2001 and like they have with so many unknowns, turned Jackson into an effective and highly respected player within just two seasons. Nobody in San Antonio will forget how instrumental Jackson was in the Spurs 2003 Championship run. Though he has since developed a reputation as one of the NBA's true nut-jobs, Jackson has proven that he can be a quality starter for just about any team in the league
Grade: A

45. Cleveland - SF Cedric Henderson, Memphis
Career Stats/Highlights:
5 Seasons: 7.3 PPG, 14.0 3PT%, 2.9 RPG, 0.9 SPG
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-2nd Team All-Rookie in 1998
The Lowdown:
The high-flying Henderson was one of three key rookies along with Brevin Knight and Derek Anderson for the playoff-bound Cavaliers in the 1997-98 season. He would spend the following season as a starter for the Cavaliers before seeing his NBA career go down the sink due to injuries that limited his leaping ability and athleticism.
Grade: B

48. Portland - G Alvin Williams, Villanova
Career Stats/Highlights:
7 Seasons: 9.1 PPG, 76.2 FT%, 4.1 APG, 1.2 SPG
-Participated in 1998 Rookie Game
-Did not miss a single game in each of 3 seasons ('99, '01, '02)
-Has played more games in a Raptors uniform than any other player
The Lowdown:
Scouts loved Villanova-alum Williams for his size and ability to play both guard positions, but he still managed to slip all the way to Portland late in the 2nd Round. He proved to be a steal right from the outset of his career and has to this day rocked a Toronto Raptors uniform more than any other player in NBA history. Williams missed the entire 2004-05 season after having knee surgery, but hopes to challenge Rafer Alston for the starting gig next season.
Grade: A-

49. Washington - C Predrag Drobnjak, Yugoslavia
Career Stats/Highlights:
4 Seasons: 7.9 PPG, 42.5 FG%, 79.9 FT%, 3.5 RPG, 0.4 BPG
-Member of gold medal-winning Yugoslavian team during 2002 World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis
The Lowdown:
The Sonics brought Drobnjak over from Turkey in 2001 after he earned a reputation as one of Europe's best big men. He has since earned significant back-up roles with 3 teams thanks to his size and smooth shooting touch, but hasn't been able to secure a starting spot due to his lack of defense and reputation of being too "soft".
Grade: B

51. Atlanta - SF Chris Crawford, Marquette
Career Stats/Highlights:
7 Seasons: 6.6 pPG, 82.4 FT%, 2.2 RPG, 0.6 APG
-Has spent entire career with Atlanta
-Averaged double-figures in scoring for first time in career in 2003-04
The Lowdown:
Nobody really believed Crawford, an athletically-challenged and slow swingman, would stick in the league for as long as he has. It just goes to show you that even a scrub can sustain a career in the NBA so long as he's willing to work out of Atlanta.
Grade: B

55. Seattle - C Mark Blount, Pittsburgh
Career Stats/Highlights:
5 Seasons: 6.7 PPG, 51.6 FG%, 4.6 RPG, 0.9 BPG
-Member of 2002 Celtics team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals
-Finished 2nd in the NBA in FG% in 2004
The Lowdown:
It's hard to fault Mark Blount on what he's accomplished during his NBA career given that he was one of the very last selections in the 1997 Draft, but all of you that read the NBA Source regularly know how I really feel about him. After struggling for 3 seasons and showing very little promise of developing into a legitimate NBA-caliber center, somebody whispered into Mark Blount's ear during last season that he was in the midst of a contract year. And from that point on, Blount played with the tenacity and heart that GMs drool over when it comes to big men. The Celtics ended up outbidding the 76ers for his services last summer and signed Blount to a preposterous 6 year, $41 million contract. And in a stunning development, Blount seemingly forgot how to rebound and play defense right at the moment he stroked his John Hancock on those contract papers. If you're wondering why NBA owners demanded that the maximum-length in which players could sign contracts be cut down from 6 years to 5 in the latest CBA, look no further than Mark Blount.
Grade: B


"Hey, isn't that criminal mastermind Mark Blount?!"
"Yeah! He's that guy that stole MILLIONS from the Celtics last summer! Let's get a picture with him!"

3 Comments:

At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

um, you might want to take another look at your comments on adonal foyle. did you intentionally mistake him for sam dalembert?

sjg

 
At 11:59 PM, Blogger Paul Benedict said...

No, I purposely put that. Sorry if it was confusing, but I meant that Dalembert could fall in line with a lost cause such as Foyle.

 
At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

eh. dalembert is already better than foyle ever was.

what did you think of the 2005 draft by the way? i looked up the numbers. Of the LOTTERY picks from 1993 to 2002, only one out of every five go on to spend more than 3 years as above average players for the teams that drafted them. Perhaps that's the real reason that this year teams drafted more college seniors than usual. What's the point of drafting a McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal, or Larry Hughes when someone else is gonna get the benefit?

sjg.

 

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