Each NBA draft brings with it a tidal wave of speculation, assertions and #TAKES of all shapes and sizes. The 2017 edition of this annual event is just a day away, and perhaps this year more than ever, the deluge of opinions has been overwhelming.
Is an athletically gifted talent from a 2-16 Pac-12 team like Markelle Fultz really the best option at No. 1? What’s Lonzo Ball’s ceiling? Is Lauri Markkanen the next evolutionary big man? And what about some trades?
The intrigue of this NBA draft seemingly surpasses any in recent memory. With so much potential in this class, overzealous fans will celebrate prematurely.
Others will overreact to every decision made.
Some will do both. But in reality, the results of an NBA draft cannot be accurately gauged until a few seasons after this June night. Frankly, the likelihood of being wrong outweighs the possibility of being right. It’s best to temper all exceptations — and to avoid being called an idiot by a head coach.
In the spirit of bad NBA draft takes, Your Humble Author is compelled to don his own ombudsman’s cap. Heaven knows that in my years following basketball, I have been wildly incorrect on a number of pro prospects. Following college basketball as closely as I have much my life, I’ve been especially prone to misjudging standout NCAA players’ forecasts.
The following are some noteworthy examples.
Iowa State big man Marcus Fizer was an absolute destroyer in college. Fizer averaged more than 22 points, nearly eight rebounds and a blocked shot per game in the 1999-00 season, leading the Cyclones to a Big 12 championship and Elite Eight run.
Fizer left Iowa State with a year of eligibility remaining, entering the infamously poor 2000 NBA draft class alongside fellow low-post prospects Kenyon Martin and Stromile Swift. Fizer had the same athletic explosiveness of Martin and Swift, who went No. 1 and 2, but his absolutely jacked physique separated him from his counterparts.
I thought the Chicago Bulls were taking the next Karl Malone at No. 4 that year.
In the weeks leading up to the 2008 NBA draft, I was a bit perplexed in the growing rumbles that Chicago planned to draft Memphis guard Derrick Rose at No. 1 over Kansas State forward Michael Beasley. My position wasn’t so much that I didn’t believe in Rose — though I did have concerns about the consistency of his outside touch.
Rather, Beasley was coming off one of the most individually impressive college seasons I had ever followed. Beasley was a monster, averaging absolutely absurd numbers: 26.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. Adding Beasley to a lineup just two years removed from a championship, with Dwyane Wade — at that time, one of the five best players in the NBA — just seemed unfair.
I waved off criticisms that emanated about Beasley ahead of the draft, such as him measuring a full two inches shorter than his listed height at K-State, as the kind of clap-trap more commonly coming before the NFL draft.
The Dallas Mavericks 1998 NBA Draft
Even in lean seasons, the Dallas Mavericks are never terrible under Mark Cuban’s ownership. That’s a stark contrast from my youth, when the Mavs were one of the NBA’s laughingstocks.
Dallas made a no-brainer draft pick in 1994, snagging that year’s co-Rookie of the Year out of Cal, Jason Kidd. With a lineup already featuring young talents Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn, I presumed the Mavericks were turning it around. Then, in 1996, Kidd was shipped to the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns were involved in another trade with the Mavericks two years later, sending Dallas Steve Nash — a budding young talent whose opportunities were limited with Kidd on the same roster — as part of a deal that included a 20-year-old German with Backstreet Boys hair.
For every Drazen Petrovic or Toni Kukoc who came to the NBA and made an impact, Europe had plenty more prospects like Martin Müürsepp who neither never came, or never panned out. I wasn’t necessarily enamored with Michigan big man Robert Traylor, who I assumed was the next incarnation of Oliver Miller, so much as I was skeptical that Dirk Nowitzki would develop into a productive NBA player.
When the Mavericks later drafted Bruno Sundov that same year, I couldn’t help but scoff at the same ol’ Mavs.
Not only were they not the same old Mavericks, but Nowitzki was not the same old forward. He was the transcendent talent that Kukoc had been hyped up as, but never quite lived up to. A 7-footer with 3-point range, the ability to attack off the dribble and still command the paint when needed, Nowitzki was one of the forefathers in evolving the NBA to the style of play prevalent now.
And speaking of the NBA’s evolution…
Now, there are several qualifiers that need to be addressed when evaluating this one with hindsight. Salim Stoudamire’s NBA career never quite began, as a series of nagging injuries plagued him throughout three, truncated seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. Stoudamire was also a prospect ahead of his time in 2005, just before the transition to a game more reliant on spreading the floor with outside sharpshooters took over.
A healthy Stoudamire would fit nicely into the style prevalent today. He’s still to this day the best college shooter I’ve watched, ahead of Steph Curry in his run at Davidson, or Buddy Hield last year at Oklahoma. To wit, he shot over 41.5 percent from behind the 3-point arc each of his four seasons at Arizona, including a ridiculous 50.4 in 2004-05.
This one I chalk up to unfortunate circumstance, but Stoudamire’s short-lived NBA career serves as reminder that numerous elements factor into an NBA draft’s results.
Not long after his Hail Mary heave against Duke rimmed out, I was ready to anoint Gordon Hayward and the Butler Bulldogs front-runners to win the 2010-2011 NCAA championship. There was no way the pipe-cleaner thin guard who looked an unsettling bit like me circa 2000 was going to declare for the NBA draft, right?
Then, he did. Oh, and the Utah Jazz drafted him? Makes sense. Say goodbye to him, another name college basketball fans and pundits like myself will remember fondly, while NBA heads scoff and snicker. See also: Morrison, Adam.
Seven years later, Hayward no longer resembles a high school me. He also profoundly surpassed my projection for him, developing into one of the NBA’s best new stars.