Cohen: The "Smart" Draft Picks
May 7, 2013
Josh Cohen’s Analysis: When we look back at NBA Drafts we tend to praise teams for picking a player that turned out to be a stud and criticize teams for choosing a guy that didn’t pan out. Sometimes it’s all about lottery luck and other times it’s about players falling in a franchise’s lap. But occasionally, it’s just about being “smart” and making a wise draft decision. I assessed each team since 2000 and singled out the most intelligent picks of the century. CLICK NEXT
Atlanta Hawks: While he may have played his final game for his hometown (FA this summer), Josh Smith has been the face of the Hawks franchise for several years. When you consider busts like Luke Jackson, Robert Swift and Kirk Snyder were picked ahead of him; Smith was a steal at No. 18 in 2004.
Boston Celtics: Forget his performance while with the Celtics, Al Jefferson proved ultra valuable in the resurrection in Boston. Big Al was the prized chip in delivering Kevin Garnett – and a 2008 NBA title – to the C’s. And remember, Jefferson was picked between Kris Humphries and Kirk Snyder in 2004.
Brooklyn Nets: BKN can thank draft blunders from Milwaukee and Charlotte, which chose Joe Alexander and DJ Augustin, respectively, before the Nets landed Brook Lopez in the 2008 draft. Now, Lopez has evolved into the premier offensive center in the league.
Charlotte Bobcats: It is hard to reward the Bobcats after all the failed draft choices since their origin in 2004 (Emeka Okafor, Adam Morrison, Sean May, DJ Augustin). But at least Kemba Walker has worked out for the most part.
Chicago Bulls: TNT analyst Steve Kerr recently said that if he can have one player to start his team with in the playoffs, Joakim Noah would be in the top five. Considering Noah was picked ninth overall in 2007, you have applaud the Bulls for making such a wise decision when several other teams passed on him.
Cleveland Cavaliers: You can’t really say LeBron James was a “smart” choice. It was the obvious choice. Kyrie Irving, on the other hand, was more of a risk with the No. 1 pick after barely playing at Duke because of a serious injury.
Dallas Mavericks: He may have fizzled out of the league, but for several years in Dallas, Josh Howard was Dirk Nowitzki’s chief sidekick. Picked 29th overall in 2003, Howard is one of the biggest draft steals over the last dozen years.
Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson was actually acquired in a trade from Minnesota on draft-night in 2009, but we will count it as a Denver pick. Carmelo Anthony wasn't really a "smart" pick. He had just won an NCAA title and some debated whether he should have been chosen No. 1 instead of LeBron.
Detroit Pistons: For a while, the draft was irrelevant and inconsequential in Detroit, which was competing for championships over a five-year span. Once that trend concluded, it was unfamiliar territory for the draft to be important for the Pistons. You can argue that aside from Paul George, Greg Monroe was the “smartest” pick from 2010.
Golden State Warriors: If you have watched the 2013 NBA playoffs, you now know just how good Stephen Curry is. There were three point guards selected ahead of Curry in 2009, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. Hands down, Curry is better than all three combined.
Houston Rockets: Since the start of the century, the Rockets have been far more active with trades than the draft. While Yao Ming in 2002 was the obvious choice with the No. 1 pick, Chandler Parsons has proven rather quickly to be one of the best second round selections in NBA history after getting chosen 38th in 2011.
Indiana Pacers: Credit to the Pacers front office, they have landed gems without having top eight picks. Danny Granger was picked 17th in 2005, Roy Hibbert was acquired by the Pacers after also getting chosen 17th, Tyler Hansbrough, a year later, was the 13th pick and Paul George, arguably on the cusp of being a top 10 player in the entire league, was the 10th selection in 2010.
L.A. Clippers: Though Eric Gordon’s tenure in L.A. didn’t last long, if it wasn’t for his potential, Chris Paul wouldn’t be with the Clippers right now. Blake Griffin was the inarguable No. 1 pick in 2009. Gordon was a tad of a risk a year earlier and became the main piece in the Paul trade in 2011.
L.A. Lakers: Many criticized the Lakers for drafting Andrew Bynum 10th overall in 2005. But not only did he help L.A. capture two NBA titles, he was selected between four other big guys, Channing Frye, Ike Diogu, Fran Vazquez and Yaroslav Korolev. That’s a big win for the Lakers.
Memphis Grizzlies: All that was supposed to matter from the 2007 draft was Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. But as we eventually learned, there was far more talent in that class, including Mike Conley Jr., who was chosen fourth overall by the Grizzlies.
Miami Heat: If the Heat slipped up in the 2003 draft, we would have a completely different perspective of that franchise. Dwyane Wade was obviously a superb pick, but if they went in pretty much any other direction that year, it would have been a disaster in Miami.
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings had made headlines the year before Milwaukee chose him ninth overall in 2009 when he decided to play professionally overseas instead of in college. And after an abysmal performance in Italy, most assumed Jennings would sputter in the NBA. It’s been quite the opposite, however.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Well, acquiring Kevin Love from the Grizzlies proved to be a brilliant decision. And taking a chance on Ricky Rubio even though it took a while for him to come to the states was solid. That’s pretty much as good as it gets in the draft for the Wolves since 2000.
New Orleans Pelicans: You could argue the answer here is Chris Paul, but shouldn’t CP3 have gone higher than fourth in 2005? David West, picked 18th in 2003, is far more of a steal and a “smart” pick.
New York Knicks: It’s like the analysis for the Clippers. While Chris Paul wouldn’t be in L.A. if it weren’t for Eric Gordon, Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t be in NY if not for Danilo Gallinari, picked one slot ahead of Gordon in the 2008 draft and the main piece in the Melo to Knicks deal.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Most thought it was a reach for the Thunder to take Russell Westbrook fourth overall in 2008. Five years later, you have to wonder how Michael Beasley and OJ Mayo were selected ahead of him.
Orlando Magic: There was practically nobody outside the Magic organization that suggested it would be the right decision to pick Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor. You can argue that Howard was the all-time “smartest” No. 1 pick in NBA history when you consider all those that figured it was a no-brainer to go with Okafor.
Philadelphia 76ers: Not much has gone right for the Sixers lately after deciding to acquire Andrew Bynum last summer. But at least Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia’s 17th overall pick in 2009, has been a pleasant surprise for the 76ers.
Phoenix Suns: There were a lot of busts from the 2002 draft, including Jay Williams, Dajuan Wagner and Chris Wilcox. But the only player from this class that worked out for an extended period of time was Amar’e Stoudemire, who the Suns chose ninth overall.
Portland Trail Blazers: Most criticize the Blazers for the Sam Bowie and Greg Oden picks. But really, Portland has generally done a very good job on draft nights through the years. Remember, they acquired LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy in 2006 and now they have a few teams frustrated for letting Damian Lillard walk on the Oregon Trail.
Sacramento Kings: At a time when it was uncertain how well foreigners would translate in the NBA, the Kings made a daring decision to select Hedo Turkoglu 16th overall in 2000. Turk helped revitalize Sacramento a decade ago and proved that players overseas can cut it in the NBA.
San Antonio Spurs: There has been no team on San Antonio’s level over the last 15 years or so when it comes to finding talent. The perfect example is Tony Parker, who the Spurs secured with the 28th pick in 2001.
Toronto Raptors: Sure, Chris Bosh may be a rational choice here, but DeMar DeRozan was the bigger steal considering he was chosen ninth behind guys like Jonny Flynn and Jordan Hill.
Utah Jazz: Maybe it was because he played at a relatively small college (Louisiana Tech), but why in the world did Paul Millsap drop to the 47th pick in 2006? The Jazz are happy he did. That is for sure.
Washington Wizards: The NBA Draft has not been too kind to the Wizards since 2000. The number of disappointments certainly outweighs the number of successes. But finally it appears Bradley Beal will end that drought of failure.