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Sam Smith: Rewriting NBA Draft History

Taking a Look at Past NBA Drafts and What Did and Should’ve Happened

Sam Smith: Rewriting NBA Draft History


The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

What if you could go back in time, knowing then what you know now? Everyone fantasizes about doing that in their lives, because we all know we could have been smarter, or, at the very least, way more confident with our choices in life. Everyone has moments they wish they could change.

Sam Smith's draft guide

The NBA Draft is one of the most second-guessed events in sports because it is so inexact. When it comes to picking the right players, general managers have to measure a young kid who has often played against lesser competition and try to imagine how he will hold up and respond to bigger situations against better talent.

Now, let's get this straight - everyone makes mistakes. Some of them are really big ones. So if you're a NBA GM, in all honesty all you can really do is hope to get it right most of the time.

With the NBA Draft just a couple days away, I decided to take a look at the last 10 drafts and rerate each of them. We're essentially stepping back in history and rewriting the books. What would you do today if you had the chance to re-draft?

In doing this exercise, what I found most interesting is that a lot of team executives tend to have a pack mentality when it comes to the Draft. These men seem to follow the same set of guidelines, but some also tend to make the same mistakes over and over.

Basically, these appear to be the four main rules:

  1. If you're not sure what to do, pick the bigger guy.
  2. If you're really not sure what to do, go ahead and pick the guy with the biggest upside.
  3. If you're completely lost, go with the athlete.
  4. Don't ever step out of the box and try to be bold or innovative because you'll probably end up getting criticized by your peers, your team's fans and of course all the TV analysts, and worst yet, you may lose your job if your owner gets mad.

You see, it's much safer to do what everyone else does.

Of course, there are always exceptions to these rules and a good number of team bosses make some savvy moves. But like in life, it's usually safer and more socially acceptable to not rock the boat by staying in agreement with your peers.

It's perhaps why if you're a really smart evaluator, you'll find some top-notch players every now and then with a low first round or medium second round pick, while everyone else is busy trying to land a knockout punch. Too often teams spend their time trying to land an All-Star with every pick instead of securing solid players who can fill a needed role and be in the rotation.

The truth is it's virtually impossible to get it right even much of the time. Every team does an amazing amount of research on every player in the Draft. They give these guys all sorts of physical and psychological tests and explore their entire family backgrounds. But even with all that, one never really knows if a guy is going to work hard once you sign him to a multi-million dollar deal. Does he want to take the big shot or does he just want to be part of the background? Can he stand up to the public and media scrutiny and live the right life? Will he stay healthy? When it comes to the Draft, there's generally way more luck than skill involved.

Here's a look at the top 10 picks in the last 10 Drafts, along with a look at the top 10 in each of those same Drafts if I could do them today.


Derrick Rose Derrick Rose (Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls)

2008 Draft

How it happened
# Team Player
1. Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose
2. Miami Heat Michael Beasley
3. Minnesota Timberwolves O.J. Mayo
4. Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook
5. Memphis Grizzlies Kevin Love
6. New York Knickerbockers Danilo Gallinari
7. Los Angeles Clippers Eric Gordon
8. Milwaukee Bucks Joe Alexander
9. Charlotte Bobcats D.J. Augustin
10. New Jersey Nets Brook Lopez
How it should've happened
# Player Actual Pick
1. Derrick Rose (#1 Chicago)
2. Brook Lopez (#10 New Jersey)
3. Michael Westbrook (#4 OKC)
4. Michael Beasley (#2 Miami)
5. O.J. Mayo (#3 Minnesota traded to Memphis)
6. Kevin Love (#5 Memphis traded to Minnesota)
7. Eric Gordon (#7 LA Clippers)
8. Jason Thompson (#12 Sacramento)
9. Anthony Randolph (#14 Golden State)
10. Courtney Lee (#22 Orlando)

Kevin Durant Kevin Durant (Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls)

2007 Draft

How it happened
# Team Player
1. Portland Trail Blazers Greg Oden
2. Seattle Supersonics Kevin Durant
3. Atlanta Hawks Al Horford
4. Memphis Grizzlies Michael Conley
5. Boston Celtics Jeff Green
6. Milwaukee Bucks Yi Jianlian
7. Minnesota Timberwolves Corey Brewer
8. Charlotte Bobcats Brandan Wright
9. Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah
10. Sacramento Kings Spencer Hawes
How it should've happened
# Player Actual Pick
1. Kevin Durant (#2 Seattle/OKC)
2. Al Horford (#3 Atlanta)
3. Greg Oden (#1 Portland)
4. Thaddeus Young (#12 Philadelphia)
5. Marc Gasol (#48 Lakers traded to Memphis)
6. Joakim Noah (#9 Chicago)
7. Glen Davis (#35 Seattle traded to Boston)
8. Jeff Green (#5 Boston traded to Seattle/OKC)
9. Al Thornton (#14 LA Clippers)
10. Rudy Fernandez (#24 Phoenix traded to Portland)

Brandon Roy Brandon Roy (Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls)

2006 Draft

How it happened
# Team Player
1. Toronto Raptors Andrea Bargnani
2. Chicago Bulls LaMarcus Aldridge
3. Charlotte Bobcats Adam Morrison
4. Portland Trail Blazers Tyrus Thomas
5. Atlanta Hawks Shelden Williams
6. Minnesota Timberwolves Brandon Roy
7. Boston Celtics Randy Foye
8. Houston Rockets Rudy Gay
9. Golden State Warriors Patrick O'Bryant
10. Seattle Supersonics Mouhamed Saer Sene
How it should've happened
# Player Actual Pick
1. Brandon Roy (#6 Minnesota traded to Portland)
2. LaMarcus Aldridge (#2 Chicago traded to Portland)
3. Rajon Rondo (#21 Phoenix traded to Boston)
4. Paul Millsap (#47 Utah)
5. Rudy Gay (#8 Houston traded to Memphis)
6. Andrea Bargnani (#1 Toronto)
7. Tyrus Thomas (#4 Portland traded to Chicago)
8. Randy Foye (#7 Boston traded to Minnesota)
9. Ronnie Brewer (#14 Utah)
10. Leon Powe (#49 Denver traded to Boston)

Chris Paul Chris Paul (Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls)

2005 Draft

How it happened
# Team Player
1. Milwaukee Bucks Andrew Bogut
2. Atlanta Hawks Marvin Williams
3. Utah Jazz Deron Williams
4. New Orleans Hornets Chris PaulWake Forest
5. Charlotte Bobcats Raymond Felton
6. Portland Trail Blazers Martell Webster
7. Toronto Raptors Charlie Villanueva
8. New York Knickerbockers Channing Frye
9. Golden State Warriors Ike Diogu
10. Los Angeles Lakers Andrew Bynum
How it should've happened
# Player Actual Pick
1. Chris Paul (#4 New Orleans)
2. Deron Williams (#3 Utah)
3. Danny Granger (#17 Indiana)
4. Andrew Bynum (#10 LA Lakers)
5. David Lee (#30 New York)
6. Monta Ellis (#40 Golden State)
7. Andrew Bogut (#1 Milwaukee)
8. Marvin Williams (#2 Atlanta)
9. Raymond Felton (#5 Charlotte)
10. Charlie Villanueva (#7 Toronto)

Dwight Howard Dwight Howard (Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)

2004 Draft

How it happened
# Team Player
1. Orlando Magic Dwight Howard
2. Charlotte Bobcats Emeka Okafor
3. Chicago Bulls Ben Gordon
4. Los Angeles Clippers Shaun Livingston
5. Washington Wizards Devin Harris
6. Atlanta Hawks Josh Childress
7. Phoenix Suns Luol Deng
8. Toronto Raptors Rafael Araujo
9. Philadelphia 76ers Andre Iguodala
10. Cleveland Cavaliers Luke Jackson
How it should've happened
# Player Actual Pick
1. Dwight Howard (#1 Orlando)
2. Al Jefferson (#15 Boston)
3. Emeka Okafor (#2 Charlotte)
4. Devin Harris (#5 Washington traded to Dallas)
5. Andre Iguodala (#9 Philadelphia)
6. Kevin Martin (#26 Sacramento)
7. Ben Gordon (#3 Chicago)
8. Andris Biedrins (#11 Golden State)
9. Luol Deng (#7 Phoenix traded to Chicago)
10. Jameer Nelson (#20 Denver traded to Orlando)

Dwyane Wade Dwyane Wade (Doug Benc/NBAE/Getty Images)

2003 Draft

How it happened
# Team Player
1. Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James
2. Detroit Pistons Darko Milicic
3. Denver Nuggets Carmelo Anthony
4. Toronto Raptors Chris Bosh
5. Miami Heat Dwyane Wade
6. Los Angeles Clippers Chris Kaman
7. Chicago Bulls Kirk Hinrich
8. Milwaukee Bucks T.J. Ford
9. New York Knickerbockers Michael Sweetney
10. Washington Wizards Jarvis Hayes
How it should've happened
# Player Actual Pick
1. LeBron James (#1 Cleveland)
2. Dwyane Wade (#5 Miami)
3. Carmelo Anthony (#3 Denver)
4. Chris Bosh (#4 Toronto)
5. David West (#18 New Orleans)
6. Josh Howard (#29 Dallas)
7. Kirk Hinrich (#7 Chicago)
8. Kendrick Perkins (#27 Memphis traded to Boston)
9. Leandro Barbosa (#28 San Antonio traded to Phoenix)
10. Boris Diaw (#21 Atlanta)

Yao Ming Yao Ming (Andrew Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

2002 Draft

How it happened
# Team Player
1. Houston Rockets Yao Ming
2. Chicago Bulls Jay Williams
3. Golden State Warriors Mike Dunleavy Jr.Duke
4. Memphis Grizzlies Drew GoodenKansas
5. Denver Nuggets Nikoloz TskitishviliItaly
6. Cleveland Cavaliers Dujaun WagnerMemphis
7. New York Knickerbockers Nene HilarioBrazil
8. Los Angeles Clippers Chris WilcoxMaryland
9. Phoenix Suns Amare Stoudemire
10. Miami Heat Caron Butler
How it should've happened
# Player Actual Pick
1. Yao Ming (#1 Houston)
2. Amare Stoudemire (#9 Phoenix)
3. Nene Hilario (#7 New York traded to Denver)
4. Caron Butler (#10 Miami)
5. Carlos Boozer (#35 Cleveland)
6. Tayshaun Prince (#23 Detroit)
7. Luis Scola (#56 San Antonio to Houston)
8. John Salmons (#26 San Antonio to Philadelphia)
9. Drew Gooden (#4 Memphis)
10. Roger Mason Jr. (#31 Chicago)

Tony Parker Tony Parker (Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images)

2001 Draft

How it happened
# Team Player
1. Washington Wizards Kwame Brown
2. Los Angeles Clippers Tyson Chandler
3. Atlanta Hawks Pau Gasol
4. Chicago Bulls Eddy Curry
5. Golden State Warriors Jason Richardson
6. Memphis Grizzlies Shane Battier
7. New Jersey Nets Eddie Griffin
8. Cleveland Cavaliers DeSagana Diop
9. Detroit Pistons Rodney White
10. Boston Celtics Joe Johnson
How it should've happened
# Player Actual Pick
1. Tony Parker (#28 San Antonio)
2. Joe Johnson (#10 Boston)
3. Pau Gasol (#3 Atlanta traded to Memphis)
4. Richard Jefferson (#13 Houston traded to NJ)
5. Gilbert Arenas (#31 Golden State)
6. Shane Battier (#6 Memphis)
7. Gerald Wallace (#25 Sacramento)
8. Jason Richardson (#5 Golden State)
9. Tyson Chandler (#2 LA Clippers traded to Chicago)
10. Zach Randolph (#19 Portland)

Michael Redd Michael Redd (Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

2000 Draft

How it happened
# Team Player
1. New Jersey Nets Kenyon MartinCincinnati
2. Vancouver Grizzlies Stromile Swift
3. Los Angeles Clippers Darius Miles
4. Chicago Bulls Marcus Fizer
5. Orlando Magic Mike Miller
6. Atlanta Hawks DerMarr Johnson
7. Chicago Bulls Chris Mihm
8. Cleveland Cavaliers Jamal Crawford
9. Houston Rockets Joel Przybilla
10. Orlando Magic Keyon Dooling
How it should've happened
# Player Actual Pick
1. Michael Redd (#43 Milwaukee)
2. Hedo Turkoglu (#16 Sacramento)
3. Kenyon Martin (#1 New Jersey)
4. Mike Miller (#5 Orlando)
5. Jamal Crawford (#8 Cleveland traded to Chicago)
6. Joel Przybilla (#9 Houston to Milwaukee)
7. Quentin Richardson (#18 LA Clippers)
8. Desmond Mason (#17 Seattle)
9. DeShawn Stevenson (#23 Utah)
10. Morris Peterson (#21 Toronto)

Elton Brand Elton Brand (Jonathan Daniel/NBAE/Getty Images)

1999 Draft

How it happened
# Team Player
1. Chicago Bulls Elton Brand
2. Vancouver Grizzlies Steve Francis
3. Charlotte Hornets Baron Davis
4. Los Angeles Clippers Lamar Odom
5. Toronto Raptors Jonathan Bender
6. Minnesota Timberwolves Wally Szczerbiak
7. Washington Wizards Richard Hamilton
8. Cleveland Cavaliers Andre Miller
9. Phoenix Suns Shawn Marion
10. Atlanta Hawks Jason Terry
How it should've happened
# Player Actual Pick
1. Elton Brand (#1 Chicago)
2. Richard Hamilton (#7 Washington)
3. Andre Miller (#8 Cleveland)
4. Lamar Odom (#4 LA Clippers)
5. Baron Davis (#3 Charlotte)
6. Andrei Kirilenko (#24 Utah)
7. Shawn Marion (#9 Phoenix)
8. Ron Artest (#16 Chicago)
9. Steve Francis (#2 Vancouver traded to Houston)
10. Jason Terry (#10 Atlanta)