With the NBA Draft tomorrow, it’s time to take a look in the history books and pick the best pick of each of the last 10 years (1 for each year, 2002-2011).
2002 – Amar’e Stoudemire (9th, Phoenix)
Despite the current trouble Amar’e is in (Check out Brian Hoeg’s post: https://thesportsdownload.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/amare-stoudemire-fined-50k-for-homophobic-twitter-message) Amar’e has been a force in the NBA for the last decade, as shown by being the number two guy in the ridiculous 1, 2 punch that was Steve Nash and Amar’e, which put’s the late 2000 Sun’s as one of the best teams to not win a title. Amar’e was drafted 9th by the Phoenix Suns, behind 7 of 8 guys who have never been named to an All-Star game (the 1 to top the feat was 1st overall pick Yao Ming). He was the perfect fit at power forward for a team with an explosive offense, first with Stephon Marbury and later with the aforementioned Nash. He was named rookie of the year in 2003, and has been named to 6 All-Star teams, and 5 All-NBA teams.
Other notable 2002 draftees: Tayshaun Prince (23rd, Detroit), Carlos Boozer (35th, Cleveland)
2003 – LeBron James (1st, Cleveland)
To be honest, part of me really wanted to say Mo Williams with the 47th overall pick just to see how mad people got, BUT this was the easiest thing ever. I don’t need to vouch for the 3-time reigning MVP and current NBA Champion. I do have to say that it’s pretty ridiculous that 3 of the top 5 picks of this years draft all play for the Miami Heat.
Other notable 2003 draftees: Carmelo Anthony (3rd, Denver), Chris Bosh (4th, Toronto), Dwyane Wade (5th, Miami)
2004 – Dwight Howard (1st, Orlando)
This is a draft that was full of good players, pretty much no other great players besides Dwight. There is a very clear connection between elite big men and championships (Russell, Kareem, Malone, Hakeem, Shaq, Duncan) and they got the best center of this era. He has been the best defensive center and arguably the best defensive player since he’s been in the league. Whether he stays or leaves Orlando, which ever team has him is immediately a contender because no one can match up with superman (though he may be a bi-polar superman).
Other notable 2004 draftees: Andre Iguodala (9th, Philadelphia), Al Jefferson (15th, Boston)
2005 – Chris Paul (4th, New Orleans)
The 4th overall pick in 2005 has been one of the best point guards in the league since he entered the picture in 2006. He made a mediocre New Orleans team look like a contender for 6 years and immediately put the Clippers in the playoff picture this year. He is the prototypical point guard as a great passer (leading the league in assists twice) and great defender (leading the league in steals a whopping 4 times), not to mention a guy who can practically score from anywhere on the floor.
Other notable 2005 draftees: Andrew Bogut (1st, Milwaukee), Deron Williams (3rd, Utah), Andrew Bynum (10th, LA Lakers)
2006 – Rajon Rondo (21st, Phoenix [Traded to Boston])
This is a terrible year for the NBA Draft. Adam Morrison went 3rd. Yeah. Look it up. However Rondo was a steal. He has been arguably the most important piece in Boston and isn’t even part of their “Big Three.” Much like Paul, he is a very typical point guard. Phenomenal defensive player with unreal instincts. Also a phenomenal passer. Operates great on the fast break. Only weakness: he can’t shoot consistently, but it doesn’t matter when you can get to the rim at will (look at the 45 point game this post season). If this guy can figure out how to shoot he will be not only the best point guard in the NBA, but could be the best player. This guy will draw free agents in Boston to play with and will keep the Celtics in the fray for the considerable future.
Other notable 2006 draftees: LaMarcus Aldridge(2nd, Chicago [Traded to Portland]), Rudy Gay (8th, Houston [Traded to Memphis])
2007 – Kevin Durant (2nd, Seattle [Now Oklahoma City])
This year may be as bad as 2006, except it produced one of the top 3 players in the NBA. A ton of people believed that Durant should go above Greg Oden for the number 1 overall pick, but it has worked out great for the Thunder. This guy is the best scorer in the NBA as proof by the fact he is the youngest scoring champion ever. I don’t feel like I need to say much more.
Other notable 2007 draftees: Marc Gasol (48th, LA Lakers)
2008 – Russell Westbrook (4th, Seattle [Now Oklahoma City])
This was hands down the toughest year to pick and if people argue with me Derrick Rose (1st, Chicago) or Kevin Love (5th, Memphis [Traded to Minnesota]) I won’t even put up a fight. But here’s why I picked Russell. From a pure talent stand point, he may be as physically gifted a point guard as the leagues ever seen (speed, size, vertical, and hand-eye coordination). He doesn’t have an MVP (like Rose), and if you talked about who is the best at their position Kevin Love has a pretty good argument (probably the best power forward in the game), but he has proven his draft position by being part of the best tandem in the NBA, which allowed the Thunder to reach the NBA Finals this season. I think there’s a lot to be said about not only his play, but how well his personality clicks with Durant’s. I think down the road, especially if Rose has persistent injury problems, he will be looked at as the gem of this draft.
Other notable 2008 draftees: Roy Hibbert (17th, Toronto [Traded to Indiana])
2009 – Blake Griffin (1st, LA Clippers)
It’s tough to judge a class this young, but Blake has clearly stood out. From his highlight reel ability to dunk to his intensity and tenacity on the floor, Blake is the only real marquee name in this draft, and to think he didn’t even play his first year (He won rookie of the year over John Wall the next year). No one else in this class has developed into an All-Star.
Other notable 2009 draftees: James Harden (3rd, Oklahoma City), Tyreke Evans (4th, Sacramento), Ricky Rubio (5th, Minnesota)
2010 – John Wall (1st, Washington)
And it only get’s tougher. At least Wall has shown the ability to excel. Hasn’t reach expectations yet, but would have been rookie of the year if it wasn’t for that pesky Blake Griffin and those ridiculous dunks. Plus let’s be honest this draft class pretty much sucked, so much so I’m not listing any other notable draftees.
2011 – Kyrie Irving (1st, Cleveland)
The past few years, including this upcoming draft, have had the problem of having an obvious number 1 and a serious drop off of talent. No change in 2011 as Kyrie was on a whole different scale in his rookie campaign.
Other notable 2011 draftees: Isaiah Thomas (60th, Sacramento) — Only because of his name.
And without a doubt in the next few years the standout name from this years draft will be the likely first overall pick, Anthony Davis. Though past number 1 gets sticky, the most reliable spot to draft is number 1, where almost all of the last 10 years has been a great player.