With the conference finals in full swing, and a very good possibility of at least one lottery pick from one of the more talented drafts in recent memory competing in The Finals, we decided it would be a good idea to take a look back at the 2003 draft and see just how 20/20 hindsight really is. Let’s start with the top ten:
- LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
- Darko Milicic – Detroit Pistons
- Carmelo Anthony – Denver Nuggets
- Chris Bosh – Toronto Raptors
- Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat
- Chris Kaman – Los Angeles Clippers
- Kirk Hinrich – Chicago Bulls
- T.J. Ford – Milwaukee Bucks
- Michael Sweetney – New York Knicks
- Jarvis Hayes – Washington Wizards
Our two cents from the armchair and the rest of the picks after the jump
- LeBron James – No analysis needed here. Regardless of whether he wins a title in Cleveland, or leaves for a bigger spotlight, drafting the best player in the draft, and future best player in the league (and a hometown kid to boot!) is a no-brainer. The Cavs deserve some credit though, as this was a really good draft class, and other teams (see: Trailblazers, Portland) have managed to screw up worse sure things.
- Darko Milicic – This pick, without a doubt, is roundly trashed more than any other in this draft, and we find it a bit unfair. After all, Darko had a pretty good pedigree coming in, and the Pistons did go on to win a title. What most seem to overlook as they cast their eyes down the list of later draftees (including us, until we had a recent conversation with a lifelong Pistons fan), is that a) none of the other players that could have gone second would have fit into the Pistons system (that did lead to a title, and six straight conference finals), and b) Larry Brown absolutely hates to play young players. If the Pistons were to have drafted Carmelo Anthony, he likely wouldn’t have played much, and there wasn’t a ton of room for him anyway, with Tayshaun Prince already ensconced in the starting lineup. Basically, with Larry Brown at the helm, this pick was going to be wasted anyway, and with Darko, the Pistons got to do so without drafting a player that would go on to be great on another team. Above all else, it worked out for them. Lucky or not, you can’t argue with the results.
- Carmelo Anthony – This was, at the time, and still today, considered a great pick. Anthony was coming off a fantastic college campaign, and has developed into a legit franchise guy, even if it did take him a little longer than his draft classmates.
- Chris Bosh – While you can’t really argue with this pick, as Bosh did lead them to the playoffs last year (even if they were AS SOFT AS COTTONELLE TISSUE [thanks SAS]), and he did have a fantastic Olympic campaign, this marriage was never meant to last. Bosh badly wants out of Toronto, and we assume that the feeling is mutual with all (10) Raptor fans. Tough to say whether another player would have worked here.
- Dwyane Wade – Widely considered the steal in this draft, even at five, there’s still a little more to the story than that. Wade was lucky to be drafted by a team that didn’t have a front office full of dolts, and gave him enough pieces (Shaq) to win (steal) a title. It’s tough to say that he belongs any higher in this draft, especially considering all of the factors we mentioned above.
- Chris Kaman – This is where things start to get interesting. While Kaman is far from terrible, there are plenty of guys further down the draft board you could make a stronger case for. You need look no further than the team making the selection.
- Kirk Hinrich – Hinrich is a solid contributor on an up and coming Bulls team, but there are certainly better players from this class at this position that were drafted much later.
- T.J. Ford – Injury issues aside, Ford never developed into the type of player you’d want to take this high. Safe to say we have our first bust. (We don’t consider Darko a bust. Like we said, that player was going to be wasted anyway.)
- Michael Sweetney – Much like the Kaman pick, look no further than the team making the pick. Nuff said. Bust number two.
- Jarvis Hayes – Quick! There’s a run on busts! Grab one while you can! Again, injury played a part, but look just a bit further down and you’ll see considerably more value at the same position.
We won’t presume to intrude upon too much of your time, so, here are some of the highlights from outside the top ten, specifically those that make some of those first selections head scratchers.
- Mickael Pietrus – 11th overall to Golden State Doesn’t he make much more sense at this point than Hayes? This year’s playoffs say so.
- Marcus Banks – 13th overall to Memphis Grizzlies Best known as trade fodder.
- David West – 18th overall to New Orleans Hornets Casting aside his early struggles, he has blossomed playing along side Chris Paul, and makes a lot more sense at this point than players like Sweetney or Nick Collison.
- Sasha Pavlovic – 19th overall to Utah Jazz When LeBron James openly lobbies for you to have more playing time, that probably means you can play. Considerably more value here than Hayes or Reece Gaines
- Dahntay Jones – 20th overall to Boston Celtics Originally relegated to the scrap heap, Jones has rejuvenated his career in Denver, and is a starter on a Nuggets team that is currently giving the Lakers all they want.
- Boris Diaw – 21st overall to Atlanta Hawks When Diaw was sent west to Phoenix in a deal that returned Joe Johnson, the early returns on the Atlanta side of the ledger looked less than stellar. However, Johnson has turned into a legitimate All Star, and Diaw looks to be a victim of stat inflation derived from playing in Mike D’Antoni’s up tempo offense.
- Kendrick Perkins – 27th overall to Memphis Grizzlies Perkins is best known today for his role as a role player for the Celtics. He probably gets a little more credit than he deserves, but you have to think that he’s at least better than Nick Collison or some of the bizarre Euros drafted ahead of him
- Leandro Barbosa – 28th overall to San Antonio Spurs One time 6th Man of the Year, Barbosa could be another victim of stat inflation, but remains a solid contributor in Phoenix.
- Josh Howard – 29th overall to Dallas Mavericks Probably the best candidate to make you think “Wow that really was a good draft”. Quite a steal here.
- Luke Walton – 32nd overall to Los Angeles Lakers He’s actually quite terrible (but makes such nifty passes!), and his significant minutes betray one of the glaring weaknesses in this year’s Lakers team.
- Zaza Pachulia – 42nd overall to Orlando Magic Zaza came of age during last year’s first round for the Hawks, jawing face to face with Kevin Garnett. He has seen an increased role since the departure of Josh Childress, and is significantly more valuable than others drafted ahead of him
- Mo Williams – 47th overall to Utah Jazz The last player selected in this draft that has made an All Star team, Williams profile is no doubt illuminated by the brilliance of LeBron James. Although he seems mouthy at times, there are certainly worse players to have as your starting point guard.
That puts a wrap on our not so brief trip down memory lane, and no doubt we’ve left off someone we shouldn’t have. However, our list here does, we think, serve to underscore how talented the 2003 draft truly was, and how, even given such a deep talent pool, some teams continue to make ridiculously bad decisions. That’s all for now. So long everybody.