Page 2 columnist
Whenever experts discuss the NBA draft, the phrase "It's an inexact science" always seems to pop up ... and it's an absolute crock. The draft is an exact science. Teams always make the same mistakes. Players always fail for the same reasons. The same dumb things always seem to happen. And people make the NBA draft out to be a labyrinth of "Matthew Perry dating Jennifer Capriati"-level proportions.
Well, it's not nearly that complicated. So because of the little-known clause in my contract that I get to play Robo-Journalist twice per year, I'm breaking down the draft process for you (and unleashing a ton of meaningless information, so proceed at your own risk).You can separate the draft into four tiers: Tier No. 1: The Blue-Chippers
Usually goes about seven or eight players deep, with a 90-95 percent success rate. Last year's class went seven deep (Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Eddy Curry, Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Eddie Griffin) before it dropped to the next level, which begs the question, "Why don't teams try everything possible to move into the top group during the draft?" For instance, the 2002 draft goes seven deep: Yao Ming, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Chris Wilcox, Drew Gooden, the Eastern European Guy (Nikoloz Tskitishvili), Caron Butler ... and if you want to throw in the Brazilian Guy (Maybyner Hilario), that's fine, we can make it eight. So if you're Phoenix sitting at No. 9 this week, you're thinking, "All right, if we don't move up at least one spot, suddenly our odds drop from 90-95 percent to 50 percent." Why not just make a deal, for God's sake? Why wouldn't it be worth an extra No. 1 or a player to increase your odds from 50 percent to 95 percent? (By the way, did you notice how I pulled a Hubie Brown and used the second person there? I'm full of tricks.) Tier No. 2: The Maybes
Usually stretches from the No. 8-9 pick to the No. 14-15 pick, with at least two or three of these guys failing miserably (you have about a 40 percent chance of landing a starter in this group). Last year's Second Tier went seven deep (DeSagana Diop, Rodney White, Joe Johnson, Kedrick Brown, Vlad Radmanovic, Richard Jefferson, Troy Murphy) ... it's too early to tell which of those guys will pan out, although it's pretty safe to say that Diop will be sharing a condo with Yinka Dare, Luther Wright and Sharone Wright in a few years.
(Note: This is the region that usually makes or breaks a draft. For instance, the '96 draft produced Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Kerry Kittles and Steve Nash in Tier No. 2. On the flip side, the 2000 draft didn't yield a single potential starter from No. 5 to No. 15, with the possible exception of Courtney Alexander. So you never know.)Tier No. 3: The Gambles
Welcome to the second half of the first round ... start rollin' the dice! Will it come up Theo Ratliff ... or will it come up Billy Curley? Odds are, it's coming up Curley. Last year's class featured three Third Tier guys who showed potential (Jason Collins, Jamaal Tinsley, Tony Parker), two maybes (Brendan Haywood and Zach Randolph) and one foreign possibility (Raul Lopez), proving yet again that the success rate drops to about 20 percent here (sometimes even less). On the bright side, the chances of picking up a Goofy White Guy for your 12th man increase to 90-95 percent. Tier No. 4: The Second Rounders
Now you're batting about 10 percent -- only two or three second rounders per season eventually contribute in an NBA eight-man rotation. Last year's class featured Trenton Hassell and Gilbert Arenas ... and that's it. Not exactly a murderer's row. So those are the four levels, which could apply to any draft in the past two decades, with one major exception (the inexplicable, "X-Files"-esque 2000 draft, which featured three blue-chippers in the top five picks, an astounding 10 straight stinkers, then six consecutive sleeper picks), and one minor exception (the '97 draft, which featured a stronger pool from Nos. 8-14 than Nos. 2-7). Here's the point: Only Tier No. 1 and Tier No. 2 really matter -- the first 13-14 picks, usually -- and it's a crapshoot after that. After Tier No. 2 closes, unless your team selects an overseas talent with signability questions -- such as Stojakovic (No. 14, 1996) or Andrei Kirilenko (No. 24, 1999) -- you're getting someone with A) a 12-15 percent chance of breaking your eight-man rotation some day, and B) a 5-10 percent chance of potentially starting for you. So why even keep a pick below No. 15? Why not trade it every year, then use the extra cash for a free agent (a cheaper veteran who could help for a year, such as Erick Strickland or Jimmy Jackson)? Doesn't that make more sense? Anyway, because the same types of players are selected after Tier No. 2 in every draft, and because an overwhelming amount of them fail, here's my list of my "Top 10 Favorite Character Traits to Steer Away From After the Lottery." If your favorite team takes somebody out of one of these groups Wednesday night ... well, my sincerest condolences: 1. The Jerome Moisos
Guys who use workouts/camps to disguise the fact that they either A) sucked in college, B) underachieved in college, or C) didn't show their full games in college ... somehow they always rope one stupid GM into rolling the dice on them. I never understood the whole "Stock shooting up in the workouts" phenomenon. If someone's good, wouldn't you see that from them in college games? In Moiso's case, he wasn't even one of the best three players on his team at UCLA ... after a few "impressive" workouts, suddenly he was one of the top 11 players in the 2000 draft? You're either good or you're not. (2002 Example: Miami guard John Salmons, who's pulling a Johnny Taylor and climbing into the Top 25 this week. Did you ever watch a Miami game over the past four years and say, "Boy, that John Salmons has pro written all over him?" Now he might crack the Top 20. Go figure.) 2. The Ed O'Bannons
There isn't a more dreaded word during draft week than "Tweener" -- guys either too small for the 4-spot and too big for the 3-spot (eg: Mark Madsen), or too small for the 3-spot and too slow for the 2-spot (eg: Sam Jacobson). It's one thing when you have the talent of Tweeners such as Corliss Williamson, Danny Fortson or Mo Taylor ... it's another thing when you're Hanno Mottola or Pete Mickeal. Just for the record, Brad Sellers and Brad Lohaus were my all-time favorite Tweeners. Any time there's a 7-footer who's afraid to rebound and seems more comfortable 20 feet from the basket, you know you have something special.
(2002 Example: Kentucky forward Tayshaun Prince ... 6-foot-9, 113 pounds. I can't even begin to imagine where an NBA contender would play him.)3. The Anthony Peelers
Head cases who drop from the Top 10 because of character flaws or personal problems (eg: Courtney Alexander, Erick Barkley, Donnell Harvey). The worst thing that happened here was when Nick Van Exel dropped to the 37th pick in '93, then evolved into a Top 10 point guard ... ever since then, teams ignore the red flags and take flyers on these guys. Of course, even when they pan out (Fortson, Alexander, Ron Artest, John Wallace), they always seem to be better off playing 40 minutes a night for a crappy team. It's uncanny how that happens. (2002 Example: Illinois guard Frank Williams ... you always worry when people question someone's work ethic in college. If they can't get motivated to play consistently hard in college -- with millions of dollars at stake for them down the road -- what makes you think these guys will suddenly start playing hard once they sign a four-year, multimillion contract? I don't get it.) 4. The Chris Herrens
Head cases who are clearly insane, yet somebodyhas to take them. Don't names such as Mamadou N'diaye (No. 26, 2000), Herren (No. 33, 1999), Tremaine Fowlkes (No. 54, 1998), God Shammgod (No. 46, 1997), Dontonio Wingfield (No. 37, 1994) and the immortal Dontae' Jones (No. 21, 1997) bring a smile to your face? Couldn't we put them on the same minor-league team, with Bob Huggins as coach? (2002 Example: None. With many regrets.) 5. The Scoonie Penns
Quality college players from quality programs who seemed like definite first rounders during the season ... within three months, they dropped like stones. Remember when Scoonie Penn seemed like a mortal lock for the lottery? Miles Simon? Tyus Edney? Dwayne Schintzius? Or my personal favorites from the '80s, Steve Alford and Scott Skiles? (2002 Example: Casey Jacobsen. Won't you feel a little jolt when he goes No. 28 to the Lakers?)
6. The Doug Edwardses
Guys with "NBA Bodies" who never seem to have an "NBA Game" to match (Jason Caffey, Corie Blount, Rodrick Rhodes, Soumaila Samake, Don MacLean, Mario Bennett, Dickey Simpkins, Cliff Rozier, etc.). An enjoyable group, if only because you see them on the court and always think to yourself, "Man, that guy looks like he should be good." And they never are.
Guys destined for the minor leagues or Europe (eg: Khalid El-Amin, Schea Cotton, Chris Carrawell). You know them when you see them; it's an innate feel. Usually they came from big-time college programs, playing just well enough that you entertained "Hey, he might not make a bad pro" thoughts at least once in your life. (2002 Example: Luke Recker. Again, you can't explain it.) 8. The Shawn Resperts
The proverbial "Shooting guard in a point guard's body." My favorite category, because one gets taken every year -- Randolph Childress, Randy Woods, James Robinson, Travis Mays, Erick Barkley, Eddie House, Keyon Dooling, A.J. Guyton, Joe Forte -- and never, ever, ever ends up contributing for a winning team. It's a mortal lock. House probably panned out better than any of these guys in the past 10 years ... would he have even seen the court if he played for the Lakers, Nets, Kings, Celtics or Mavs this spring? Of course not. (2002 Example: Juan Dixon. Outstanding college player. Just terrific. And a helluva defensive player. But he can't handle the ball well enough to play point, and anyone who thinks he can play the 2-guard at the NBA level is obviously insane. So what's left? And by the way, I wouldn't be shocked if we were calling this group "The Dajuan Wagners" five years from now.)
9. The Geert Hamminks
Foreign guys with either a.) unpronounceable names (eg: Mamadou N'diaye, Dalibor Bagaric), or b.) names that just don't sound like names for a quality NBA player (Frederic Weis, George Zidek). These guys never make it unless they have "Kirilenko-Stojavokic"-level talent, yet they're staying in Europe for seasoning.
Stiff centers who will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever contribute for more than 10 minutes a game (and we use the term "contribute" loosely). Of course, this is my favorite group. Check out this list of BWG's (Big White Guys over the height of 6-9) taken between the ninth and 35th picks in the past 12 years, then tell me if you would go anywhere near Curtis Borchardt this year: Alec Kessler ... Rich King ... Adam Keefe ... Weis ... Haskin ... Eric Montross ... Cherokee Parks ... Loren Meyer ... Todd Fuller ... Les Jepsen ... Bill Curley ... Chris Anstey ... Scot Pollard ... Paul Grant ... Michael Doleac ... Jim McIlvaine ... Gheorghe Muresan ... George Zidek ... Jeff Foster ... Scott Padgett ... Joel Przybilla ... Jason Collier ... Vitaly Potapenko ... Hammink ... Murphy ... Jake Tsakalidis ... Michael Bradley ... Bruno Sundov ... Kirk Haston ... Travis Knight ... Radoslav Nesterovic ... Jake Voskuhl ... Evan Eschmeyer ... Alex Radojevic ... Zydrunas Ilgauskas ... Brian Evans ... Greg Ostertag ... Loren Meyer ... Dwayne Schintzius ... Primor Brezic. Good God! Even "CSI" doesn't feature that many stiffs. Out of those 41 players, Foster, Pollard and Ostertag were the only three Americans who even remotely panned out; Nesterovic and Potapenko could be considered "mediocre"; Murphy showed a little potential; and Ilgauskas could have been special if not for his foot problems. That's eight players in all -- none ever made an All-Star team, only two started for extended stretches, and only Ostertag ever played for a serious contender (two if you count Todd McCulloch, drafted No. 47 back in 1999). So why even go there? Why even roll the dice?
(2002 Example: Borchardt. I can't wait for someone to take him in the Top 10 this season. I'm giggling just thinking about it.)
|***** ***** *****|
Top Tier: Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Eddy Curry, Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Eddie Griffin First dropoff point: No. 8 (DeSagana Diop) Second Tier studs: Diop, Rodney White, Joe Johnson, Kedrick Brown, Vlad Radmanovic, Richard Jefferson, Troy Murphy (too early to tell who makes it) Second dropoff point: No. 15 (Steven Hunter) Third Tier surprises: Jason Collins (No. 18); Jamaal Tinsley (No. 28); Tony Parker (No. 29) Second Round surprises: Trenton Hassell, Gilbert Arenas Top Tier if they did it again: Gasol, Chandler, Richardson, Curry, Battier, Brown, Griffin (Note: I hate judging drafts this early, but I can't imagine any circumstance under which we'll say the words, "MJ made the right move taking Kwame over Gasol.")
|Busts 'R' Us|
|My Favorite Busts From the '90s: 15. Frederic Weis (1999, No.15) -- You never hear anyone say, "I can't believe Fred Weis never made it." 14. Adonal Foyle (1997, No. 8) -- The first Patriot League player to become a Lottery pick ... and the last. 13. Todd Fuller (1996, No. 11) -- G-State passed up Kobe, Peja, Nash and Jermaine O'Neal for him. Classic Warriors. 12. Bo Kimble (1990, No. 8) -- I'm still amazed that he never made it. Didn't he have skills or am I crazy? 11. Dontae Jones (1997, No. 21) -- The classic "This guy's nuts, but we'll roll the dice with him, anyway" pick by the Knicks ... made even better by the fact that Rick Pitino traded for him. 10. Mark Macon (1991, No. 8) -- A shooting guard who couldn't shoot. 9. George Zidek (1995, No. 22) -- I remember giggling when the Hornets took this guy. I mean, didn't they see him in college? Did they really think the running lefty hook would translate on an NBA scale? 8. Robert Traylor (1998, No. 6) -- Over Pierce and Nowitzki. Absolutely unbelievable. 7. Larry Hughes (1998, No. 8) -- Ditto. 6. Willie Burton (1990, No. 9) -- Scored 50 points in a game and was hospitalized for depression shortly thereafter. Heat fans really ran the gamut of emotions with Willie. 5. Todd Day (1992, No. 8) -- The human ebola virus. Maybe the most despicable Celtic of all-time. 4. Harold Miner (1992, No. 12) -- Hey, it's baby MJ! Would anyone like to adopt him? 3. Luther Wright (1993, No. 18) -- A serious head case. 2. Yinka Dare (1994, No. 14) -- Not only was he a colossal bust from Day One, but it actually took the Nets five full years to get him off their roster and return him back to the morgue. 1. Bill Curley (1994, No. 22) -- Before the '94 Draft, I vowed that Curley would be a bigger stiff than Bernie Lomax; my Dad thought Curley was the next Dave Cowens. In other words, I got a decade's worth of father-son bragging rights from the Bill Curley Era. Just beautiful.|
Top Tier: Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Jonathan Bender, Wally Szczerbiak, Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion First dropoff point: No. 10 (Jason Terry) Second Tier studs: Terry, Corey Maggette Second dropoff point: No. 14 (William Avery) Third Tier surprises: Ron Artest (No. 16); James Posey (No. 19); Jeff Foster (No. 21); Kenny Thomas (No. 22) Second Round surprises: Todd McCulloch, Lee Nailon Top Tier if they did it again: Francis, Davis, Miller, Marion, Brand, Hamilton, Terry, Szczerbiak, Odom (Note: If Lamar Odom hadn't thrown his career in the toilet, this draft could have ranked right up there with the '98, '85, '84 and '81 Drafts as one of the Top 5 drafts of the past 25 years. And it still might. The "Francis vs. Davis vs. Miller at No. 1" argument is a good one.)
Top Tier: Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby, Raef LaFrentz, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Robert Traylor, Jason Williams, Larry Hughes, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce First dropoff point: No. 11 (Bonzi Wells) Second Tier studs: Wells, Keon Clark, Michael Dickerson, Matt Harpring Second dropoff point: No. 16 (Bryce Drew) Third Tier surprises: Pat Garrity (No. 19); Ricky Davis (No. 21); Al Harrington (No. 28); Nazr Mohammed (No. 29) Second Round surprises: Ruben Patterson, Rashard Lewis, Cuttino Mobley, Jahidi White Top Tier if they did it again: Nowitzki, Pierce, Carter, Bibby, Olowakandi, Jamison, Lewis, Wells, LaFrentz (Note: Maybe the deepest draft of all-time -- this baby yielded 21 starters, four franchise guys and at least 10 possible All-Stars. Tough to top. And it doubled as the most interesting draft to watch while it was actually happening.)
Top Tier: Tim Duncan, Keith Van Horn, Chauncey Billups, Antonio Daniels, Tony Battie, Ron Mercer, Tim Thomas First dropoff point: No. 8 (Adonal Foyle) Second Tier studs: Tracy McGrady, Danny Fortson, Derek Anderson, Maurice Taylor Second dropoff point: No. 15 (Kelvin Cato) Third Tier surprises: Brevin Knight (No. 16); Scot Pollard (No. 19); Bobby Jackson (No. 23) Seond Round surprises: Alvin Williams Top Tier if they did it again: Duncan, McGrady, Van Horn (Note: Yucky draft. I'm not even sure if Van Horn should count as a Tier No. 1 Guy ... I was just being generous. This thing was more top-heavy than Christy Canyon.)
Top Tier: Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker First dropoff point: No. 7 (Lorenzen Wright) Second Tier studs: Kobe Bryant, Stojakovic, Kittles, Nash Second dropoff point: No. 16 (Tony Delk) Third Tier suprises: Jermaine O'Neal (No. 17); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (No. 20); Derek Fisher (No. 24); Jerome Williams (No. 26) Second Round surprises: Moochie Norris, Jeff McInnis, Malik Rose, Shandon Anderson Top Tier if they did it again: Bryant, Iverson, Allen, Walker, Abdur-Rahim, O'Neal, Stojakovic, Nash, Camby (Note: Maybe the most important draft in NBA history, if only because it came along at a time when the league desperately needed a talent infusion. It also yielded the two most important NBA players of the past nine drafts -- Kobe and Iverson.)
Top Tier: Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Bryant Reeves, Damon Stoudamire First dropoff point: No. 8 (Shawn Respert) Second Tier studs: Kurt Thomas, Corliss Williamson, Brent Barry Second dropoff point: No. 16, Alan Henderson Third Tier surprises: Theo Ratliff (No. 18); Michael Finley (No. 21); Greg Ostertag (No. 28) Second Round surprises: Eric Snow Top Tier if they did it again: Garnett, Wallace, McDyess, Stackhouse, Finley, Ratliff, Stoudamire (Note: This one fits my Draft Model perfectly -- seven deep at the top, three more guys hitting from No. 8-15, three more hitting in the second half, then one good second rounder. Bonus points here because Fred Hoiberg and Constantin Popa went back-to-back in the second round. Good times!)
Top Tier: Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Donyell Marshall, Juwan Howard First dropoff point: No. 6 (Sharone Wright) Second Tier studs: Brian Grant, Eddie Jones, Jalen Rose Second dropoff point: No. 14 (Yinka Dare) Third Tier surprises: Aaron McKie (No. 17); Wesley Person (No. 23); Charlie Ward (No. 26) Second Round surprises: Howard Eisley, Voshon Lenard Top Tier if they did it again: Kidd, Hill, Rose, Robinson, Jones, Marshall, Howard, Grant (Note: Looks much better on paper than it actually ended up turning out ... out of the Top Tier Guys, only the Big Dog still plays with his original team, and that probably changes this summer. Don't you love seeing the Yinka Express in there, by the way?)
Top Tier: Chris Webber, Shawn Bradley, Penny Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Isaiah Rider, Calbert Cheaney, Bobby Hurley, Vin Baker First dropoff point: No. 9 (Rodney Rogers) Second Tier studs: Rogers, Allan Houston, George Lynch Second dropoff point: No. 15 (Scott Haskin) Third Tier surprises: Chris Mills (No. 22); Sam Cassell (No. 24) Second Round Surprises: Lucious Harris, Nick Van Exel, Bryon Russell Top Tier if they did it again: Webber, Hardaway, Mashburn, Houston, Baker, Van Exel, Rider (Note: This might have been the all-time Head Case Draft -- C-Webb, Penny, Rider, Baker, Cassell and Van Exel. What was in the water that year?)
Top Tier: Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Christian Laettner, Jimmy Jackson, LaPhonso Ellis, Tom Gugliotta, Walt Williams First dropoff point: No. 8 (Todd Day) Second Tier studs: Clarence Weatherspoon, Robert Horry Second dropoff point: No. 16 (Randy Woods) Third Tier surprises: Doug Christie (No. 17); Tracy Murray (No. 18); Jon Barry (No. 21); Latrell Sprewell (No. 24) Second Round surprises: P.J. Brown, Matt Geiger Top Tier if they did it again: Shaq, Mourning, Sprewell, Gugliotta, Horry, Laettner, Ellis (Note: Strange draft. The NBA draft yielded two franchise centers since Mr. Robinson in '87, and somehow those two centers went 1-2 in the same draft. I think it's even weirder that Laettner, Jackson, Googs, Williams and Ellis all had the same career -- they peaked early, ended up underachieving and suffering some bad luck, and yet they all made some money. Plus, Bob Horry -- the NBA's version of Nate Dogg -- was involved in this draft. And Doug Christie, the most whipped professional athlete of all-time. Weird all around. This might be the best "On Paper" draft of all-time.) And just for fun ...
Top Tier: Ming, Williams, Dunleavy Jr., Gooden, Wilcox, Butler, Hilario, Tskitishvilli First dropoff point: No. 9 (Jared Jeffries) Second Tier studs: Amare Stoudemire, DaJuan Wagner Second dropoff point: No. 15 (Qyntel Woods) Third Tier Surprises: Dan Dickau (No. 20), Dan Gadzuric (No. 23) Second Round Surprises: ???? Top Tier if they did it again (in five years): Williams, Dunleavy, Wilcox, Wagner, Hilario, Ming, Gooden, Stoudamire (And yes, I think Yao Ming will be a semi-bust. Not a colossal bust on the Bradley Scale, but a semi-bust. More on this in Wednesday night's Draft Diary ...) Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine.