Sam Smith: Star players can be found all over the draft
While it's better to have a higher draft selection, NBA history shows you can find stars outside the Top 10.
Remind Me Later •
Sam Smith takes a look back at the top Draft Picks in the past
In this political convention season, perhaps it’s appropriate for the Bulls facing the 2020 NBA draft to paraphrase James Carville’s pithy advice to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential campaign: “It’s the scouting, stupid.”
The Bulls hope Thursday in the NBA Draft Lottery, 7:30 p.m. ESPN, to draw a lucky combination and at least get into the top four from their current No. 7 position. They have a 7.5 percent chance to get the No. 1 overall pick.
And it’s certainly better to have a higher draft pick.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t get a star player. And especially in this draft with so much uncertainty because players have not been able to work out for teams and the NCAA tournament was cancelled because of the coronavirus.
NBA history, especially recently, is filled with franchise star players who weren’t even lottery picks, like Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Pascal Siakam. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash weren’t top 10 picks in 1996, the Spurs built their post David Robinson years with Tim Duncan and future international picks late in the first and in the second round. And Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas was part of the Denver braintrust that built the current contending Nuggets with second round pick Nikola Jokic.
So there’s value to be found. It’s up to the team to unearth.
While many top picks are obvious, like LeBron James in 2003, Duncan in 1997 and Shaquille O’Neal in 1992, having the No. 1 pick doesn’t guarantee success.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac probably just lost his job because he had No. 2 while the No. 3 pick in that draft was Luka Doncic, who is becoming a top NBA star. The consensus in 2007 was to select Greg Oden No 1. Kevin Durant at No. 2 became one of the great stars in league history as Oden had a short career with injuries.
Zion Williamson was everyone’s favorite last year. But many are already saying with Williamson’s injuries and body type that Ja Morant at No. 2 will be the better player in the long run. The decisions become even more complex because players now come into the NBA so young. And this year because many players didn’t even have one full college season or a post season tournament. Some of the top prospects, like James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball, barely played at all or overseas.
So consider the gems that perhaps were a combination of bad lottery luck and good scouting.
Scottie Pippen, of course, whom the Bulls long chased and only managed to get on draft night in a trade with the Seattle Supersonics for the Bulls No. 8 pick. Plus the Bulls got a little lucky when the Clippers selected Reggie Williams No. 4. The Supersonics wanted Williams. When he wasn’t available, only then they agreed to the swap of draft picks. Sacramento at No. 6 in that draft also was seeking Pippen. They selected Kenny Smith. Future All-Star point guard Kevin Johnson was seventh. Who would the Bulls have taken if they stayed at No. 8? Olden Polynice as Seattle did?
Consider some recent drafts, and perhaps it’s a clue to what works in the NBA and what scouts tend to ignore.
Some of the best recent players from the lottery were selections out of the top seven, like C.J. McCollum, No. 10 in 2013, Klay Thompson No. 11 in 2011, Devin Booker No. 13 in 2015 and Donovan Mitchell No. 13 in 2017. Talk about your lucky 13. You can add No. 13 Zach LaVine to that list from 2014. All are shooting guard/wing player types who can also make plays, which has been the emphasis in the constantly downsizing NBA.
Look at some of the other best players leading teams these days, like Doncic with the Mavericks, Jayson Tatum with the Celtics, Jimmy Butler, James Harden and until his injuries Victor Oladipo.
Scouts often still hold onto the belief of the dominant big man. And if you can find Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal, take him. But there are few like them. With examination and information, it appears more often these days a clever team can identify a talented player who doesn’t appear to have exceptional skills or size and develop a team leader. Perhaps LaVine can take that final step under new management. Or that new management can discover even outside the top four picks, if it comes to that, the kind of talented player to join the underachieving talent the Bulls may just have. Those players are there to be uncovered. Perhaps one just needs to look more carefully.
The best players from the lottery.
|1985||Patrick Ewing No. 1, Chris Mullin No. 7|
|1986||Brad Daugherty No. 1, Chuck Person No. 4|
|1987||David Robinson No. 1, Scottie Pippen No. 5|
|1988||Mitch Richmond No. 5, Danny Manning No. 1|
|1989||Glen Rice No. 4, Sean Elliott No. 3|
|1990||Gary Payton No. 2., Kendall Gill No. 5|
|1991||Larry Johnson No. 1, Dikembe Mutombo No. 4|
|1992||Shaquille O’Neal No. 1, Alonzo Mourning No. 2|
|1993||Chris Webber No. 1, Penny Hardaway No. 3|
|1994||Jason Kidd No. 2, Grant Hill No. 3|
|1995||Kevin Garnett No. 5, Rasheed Wallace No. 4|
|1996||Allen Iverson No. 1, Ray Allen No. 5|
|1997||Tim Duncan No. 1, Tracy McGrady No. 9|
|1998||Dirk Nowitzki No. 9, Vince Carter No. 5|
|1999||Elton Brand No. 1, Richard Hamilton No.7|
|2000||Kenyon Martin No. 1, Jamal Crawford No. 8|
|2001||Pau Gasol No. 3, Joe Johnson No.10|
|2002||Amar’e Stoudemire No. 9, Yao Ming No. 1|
|2003||LeBron James No 1, Dwyane Wade No. 5|
|2004||Dwight Howard No. 1, Andre Iguodala No. 9|
|2005||Chris Paul No. 4, Deron Williams No. 3|
|2006||LaMarcus Aldridge No. 2, Rudy Gay No. 8|
|2007||Kevin Durant No. 2, Al Horford No. 3|
|2008||Derrick Rose No. 1, Russell Westbrook No. 4|
|2009||Stephen Curry No. 7, James Harden No. 3|
|2010||Paul George No. 10, John Wall No. 1|
|2011||Kyrie Irving No 1, Klay Thompson, No. 11|
|2012||Anthony Davis No. 1, Damian Lillard No. 6|
|2013||Victor Oladipo No. 2, CJ McCollum No.10|
|2014||Joel Embiid No. 3, Zach LaVine No. 13|
|2015||Devin Booker No. 13, Karl-Anthony Towns No. 1|
|2016||Ben Simmons No. 1, Brandon Ingram No. 2|
|2017||Jayson Tatum No. 3, Donovan Mitchell No. 13|
|2018||Luka Doncic No. 3, Trae Young No. 5|
|2019||Ja Morant No. 2, Zion Williamson No. 1|
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