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Shaun Powell

Dwight Howard, Andrea Bargnani, Greg Oden and Blake Griffin
Dwight Howard, Andrea Bargnani, Greg Oden and Blake Griffin have had varying success in their careers.
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Buyer beware: Top pick doesn't guarantee championship


Posted Sep 22 2010 8:13AM

The Wizards drafted John Wall with the hope that this No. 1 will mean the Wizards will someday finish No. 1. Our advice to the Wizards: Good luck with that.

This is no reflection on the organization, its choice, or even Wall. It's just a reflection of the recent past. As we know, the No. 1 pick hardly guarantees a championship, a playoff appearance or even a turnaround. Only time, along with additional pieces, can mean one equals one.

Wall is definitely a player who passes the star smell test, because of his skills and ability to entertain. Of course, almost every team that ever made the No. 1 pick said as much about their guys, some of whom didn't last long with the team that drafted him, or even in the league.

The last No. 1 pick to lead his team to a championship was Tim Duncan, class of 1997. And it helped that Duncan was a big man who joined another big man, David Robinson, also a former No. 1 pick. At least Duncan proved his worth over the long haul as well, adding additional titles without the help of Robinson and still dropping bank shots today.

With training camp less than a week away, and the organization flush with a new spirit, the Wizards don't want to hear how 13 straight No. 1 picks are without championships (so far). Nor should they. Every No. 1 pick, and the team that drafted him, deserves to start with a clean slate and unbridled enthusiasm. So enjoy, Wizards, and take the following for what it's worth:

Michael Olowokandi, Clippers, 1998. Stayed five years, Clippers never made the playoffs. Then he dealt with nagging injuries. Kandi Man became just another symbol of What's Wrong With The Clippers. Definitely doesn't win the title as the least accomplished No. 1 overall pick ever. But he's in the quarterfinals.

Elton Brand, Bulls, 1999. This was the best decision in the post-Jordan era by GM Jerry Krause, and soon followed by a bad one: Dumping Brand two years later in order to build a winner around Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry. That didn't exactly work out. Brand averaged 20 and 10 in his time in Chicago and shared the Rookie of the Year award.

Kenyon Martin, Nets, 2000. He had more cracks at a title than any No. 1 since Duncan, reaching two straight NBA Finals with the Nets in 2002 and '03. But how much did Jason Kidd have to do with K-Mart being an All-Star and subsequently signing for big bucks in Denver? Microfracture surgery certainly played a huge part in sucking the sneer out of the emotional Martin, now a rich role player for the Nuggets.

Kwame Brown, Wizards, 2001. Taking the Wizards someday to the promised land was ruled out almost from the start, when demanding team prez Michael Jordan almost pushed Kwame to the limit in training camp. Kwame did more damage to Jordan's rep than deep fly balls to centerfield in Birmingham.

Yao Ming, Rockets, 2002. Went as far as the second round against the Lakers in 2008-09, when he scored 28 points to win Game 1. Then he fractured his foot, the start of a frustrating injury spell. The Ming Dynasty ended before it started because he never really got to know Tracy McGrady. Still might get a title shot soon if the Rockets get lucky, but the clock is ticking.

LeBron James, Cavaliers, 2003. He took the Cavs to the 2007 NBA Finals, helped by a Jordan-esque effort against the Pistons in the conference finals, but nobody in Cleveland wants to hear about that right now.

Dwight Howard, Magic, 2004. Perhaps the best big man drafted since Duncan, Howard carried the Magic to the Finals against the Lakers two playoffs ago, and came two wins away from a return Finals trip last summer. Orlando might still be a player or two from winning it all. But Howard might actually have something to brag about to Charles Barkey in a future cellphone commercial.

Andrew Bogut, Bucks, 2005. Appeared to be headed to bust-ville, mate, until he had a breakout 2009-10 season and became one of the league's top big men. Missed a chance to help the Bucks in the playoffs last summer because of a gruesome elbow injury. But with Brandon Jennings around, could someday help the Bucks win their first title since Kareem, a No. 1 pick himself, did 40 seasons ago.

Andrea Bargnani, Raptors, 2006. He wasn't the big man the Raptors staked their hopes to; that was Chris Bosh, who recently gave up his Canadian citizenship. If the Raptors ever win it all, this jump-shooting big man may be a reason, not THE reason.

Greg Oden, Trail Blazers, 2007. Is he a championship piece? Or a broken piece? Blazers would love to know, because with their makeup, they're only missing a defensive-minded big man who can yank a dozen rebounds. That sounds like Oden, and maybe it is Oden, if he can ever stay on the floor. You think the Blazers would be knocking on the door by now had they taken Kevin Durant instead?

Derrick Rose, Bulls, 2008. The last point guard taken No. 1 overall to lead his team to a championship was Magic Johnson, class of 1979. Rose certainly has the goods, and he helped put a scare into the defending champion Celtics two summers ago during an epic, seven-game playoff series. All he needs is the supporting cast and a little more time. At least the Bulls haven't given him the Elton Brand treatment.

Blake Griffin, Clippers, 2009. Well, we're back where we started, taking stock of a pick made by the Clippers. Griffin hasn't gotten started yet, for the simple reason the Clippers' luck can be crummy. But at least he's a long ways (hopefully) from being finished. If that's any consolation to the Clippers.

Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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