Decade Debate: 10 Biggest NBA Draft Blunders

The single most important thing to do when rebuilding an NBA franchise is to find good players in the draft. Young players are cheap, and if a team finds a good one, they’ll likely have them at a bargain for the first few years of his career. As a part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, here is a list of draft picks from the ’00s that…um…didn’t work out so well. I’ll rank them in order of magnitude of the blunder, which takes into account the talent of the pick as well as the players that the team passed up.

10. The Grizzlies select Mike Conley (#4), passing on Jeff Green and Joakim Noah.

Conley has played better of late, and may eventually prove to be a good pick, but he certainly hasn’t had the kind of consistency that the Grizzlies hoped for when they took him with at #4 in the 2007 draft. What’s funny is that GM Chris Wallace made this pick when the Grizzlies still had Pau Gasol on the roster. Then he traded Gasol, and now he’s drafting for size (Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll). What’s even funnier is that he’s still the GM in Memphis.

9. The Knicks select Jordan Hill (#8), passing on Brandon Jennings and Ty Lawson.

When it became clear that the Knicks might miss out on Stephen Curry, they settled on Hill as their fallback option. Jennings is the current ROY frontrunner, while Hill is seeing regular DNP-CDs. Even at the time, the pick was strange since Hill plays the same position as current double-double machine David Lee and Mike D’Antoni is dying to find a point guard that can run his offense. While Jennings may not have the pass-first mentality of Steve Nash, he can certainly push the ball and find open people. Were the Knicks worried about Jennings being a ball-dominant guard when they hope to add a ball-dominant small forward named LeBron next summer? Even if Jennings wasn’t the right fit, what about Lawson, who is getting 21 minutes per game on a good Denver squad? This Hill pick was not Donnie Walsh’s finest hour, but as a sometimes-proud Bucks fan, I couldn’t be happier that Jennings fell in Milwaukee’s lap.

8. The Pistons select Rodney White (#9), passing on Joe Johnson.

This blunder is overshadowed by another pick from the same draft (’01, we’ll get to it), but it’s ponderous nonetheless. Johnson was picked at #10. At the time, the Pistons’ top four players were Jerry Stackhouse, Corliss Williamson, Clifford Robinson, Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace. I think Joe Johnson could have found a place on that team.

7. The Raptors select Rafael Araujo (#8), passing on Andre Iguodala, Andris Biedrins and Al Jefferson.

The list of big man busts is extensive, and back in ’04 the Raptors were looking for a center to protect Chris Bosh at power forward. They could have had Biedrins (#11) or Jefferson (#15), but took the BYU product instead. It’s a shame, because Biedrins would be a perfect fit for the up tempo style the Raptors want to play. Iggy would look pretty good at off guard as well.

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Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom. ranks the rookies, post-summer league

Drew Packham of ranks how the rookies fared at summer league.

1. Blake Griffin
2. Jonny Flynn
3. Tyreke Evans
4. James Harden
5. Brandon Jennings
6. Ty Lawson
7. Dante Cunningham
8. DeJuan Blair
9. Austin Daye
10. Tyler Hansbrough

Packham provides a short writeup for each player and lists several notables.

Summer league isn’t a great indicator of future success (i.e. Jerryd Bayless had a great summer league last year), but you’d obviously rather see your guy play well than stink up the gym.

The Top 10 Head Scratchers of the 2009 NBA Offseason

The NBA offseason is by no means over, but the lion’s share is behind us, so it’s a good time to take a look back at a few of the…um…let’s say “questionable” decisions of the summer. Here are my Top 10, in no particular order. Feel free to add to the list if I missed something.

1. Trevor Ariza plays spiteful hardball…and loses.
Let’s get this straight — the Lakers offered Ariza the same deal he was getting on the open market, and he refused since the Lakers could have offered more, but didn’t? Um, okay. David Lee (the agent, not the Knicks forward) says that Ariza wanted to go somewhere where he’d be “appreciated.” Lee overestimated the market for his client, and the Lakers quickly moved on to acquire Ron Artest. Now instead of playing for the world champs, Ariza is stuck in Houston on a team that faces a very uncertain future. Lee now says that Ariza turned down a deal worth $9 million more, but still picked Houston. It sounds to me like he’s just trying to save face.

2. Grizzlies acquire Zach Randolph.
Once the Clippers traded for Randolph (and his toxic contract) last season, I thought the bar for NBA general managers had hit a new low thanks to Mike Dunleavy and his wily ways. But Dunleavy proved that he wasn’t the dumbest GM in the league when he convinced the Memphis Grizzlies to take on the final two years Randolph’s contract at the tune of $33.3 million. Remember that $25 million or so of cap space that the Grizzlies were going to have next summer? Yeah, that’s down to about $8 million with this brilliant move. Just when it looked like Chris Wallace was going to rehab his image after the Pau Gasol trade — Marc Gasol panning out, trading for O.J. Mayo — he goes and does this. Sigh.

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2009 NBA Draft: Cheers & Jeers

It’s waaaaaaaay too early to start judging the 2009 NBA Draft, but that’s not going to stop me (or anyone else, for that matter) from trying. It takes at least three years before a draft class really shakes out, so there’s no reason to fly off the handle criticizing (or praising) a team for what they did on Thursday night.

That said, as the draft wore on, there were some picks I liked and some that I didn’t. This is by no means the final say on whether or not the pick is good or bad; it’s just a snapshot that’s based on what we know right now.

So let’s jump the gun:


Thunder: #3 James Harden
I don’t know that Russell Westbrook is really a point guard, but Harden projects to be a great fit in OKC.

Sixers: #17 Jrue Holiday
The talented freshman worked out for most of the lottery teams and was reportedly up and down leading up to the draft. With this much PG depth, I figured someone would slip and the Sixers were the beneficiary. In Holiday, they get a lottery talent and their point guard of the future, though Lawson would have been able to come in and help the Sixers more immediately.

Nuggets: #18 Ty Lawson
I thought he’d go to a team in more need of PG help, but the Nuggets swooped in and snatched him up. At the very least, I think he’s going to be a capable starter.

Grizzlies: #36 Sam Young
At 24, Young doesn’t have the upside of many of the players drafted ahead of him, but he’s already a better player than most, as well. If he can improve his handle, he could be a starter-quality small forward.

Spurs: #37 DeJuan Blair
Think this guy played with a chip on his shoulder before? Just wait and see what kind of energy he brings in 15-25 minutes playing for the Spurs. I know his knees are an issue, but I’m shocked that he wasn’t picked earlier in the second round.

Hornets: #43 Marcus Thornton
The Hornets have issues on the wing and they took a point guard with their first pick. They made up for it in the second round by acquiring Thornton, an off guard, from the Heat. He’s a great scorer and can make contested jumpers.


Timberwolves: #5 Ricky Rubio / #6 Jonny Flynn
It’s not that I don’t like the individual players or the individual picks; they just don’t make any sense when picked together. I don’t know how a Rubio/Flynn backcourt will be successful. Had the T-Wolves drafted Stephen Curry with one of the picks, it would have made a lot more sense.

Jazz: #20 Eric Maynor
Maynor is a good all-around player, and maybe the best that was available, so let’s not be too hard on the Jazz here. Still, how many minutes is he going to play behind Deron Williams? If he turns out to be a player, they can use him as an asset, so maybe they didn’t feel that way about any of the frontline players that were available.

Hornets: #21 Darren Collison
New Orleans has star/superstar quality players at PG, PF and C, and a good young prospect in Julian Wright at small forward, so off guard seems to be their biggest need. Like Utah, the Hornets went with a point guard to back up their best player. I like Collison, I just don’t like this pick for New Orleans (though they made up for it in the second round).

Blazers: #31 Jeff Pendergraph / #33 Dante Cunningham
I don’t have a problem with the players themselves, but with the fact that Portland passed on DeJuan Blair twice in the second round (where the financial risk is much lower if his health turns out to be a problem). They could have used his toughness and rebounding, but were unwilling to roll the dice on his knees.

Draft grades & pick-by-pick analysis

Wondering how your team did last night?

Chad Ford graded each team’s draft and provided analysis for every pick in the draft.

He gave out 10 “A” grades to the Nuggets, Rockets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Thunder, Sixers, Suns, Spurs, Jazz and Wizards.

Meanwhile, Bill Simmons has posted his own running diary of the night’s events.

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