The five best NBA draft picks of the last five years
Every general manger in any sport would love to have draft day do-overs. And if you’re part of the Portland Trail Blazers’ or Pittsburgh Pirates’ front office you’d surely want at least 52. But even the best GMs make mistakes and let future All Pros, All Stars or really good players drop too far. Here are four players who fell too far in NBA drafts from 2005-2009, along with one who went too high.
5. Greg Oden, first pick, 2007 draft, Portland Blazers – There are other players who were drafted in the 20s and 30s in these drafts who have contributed a lot to their teams and have performed better than 75 percent of the players drafted before them, but when the Blazers had the first pick in the 2007 draft it came down to two college freshman: Oden and Kevin Durant. Durant averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds in his lone year at Texas, while Oden averaged 15.7 and 9.6. The Blazers opted for Oden because of his once-in-a-decade potential as an Olajuwon-like center, and Durant fell into the lap of the Sonics – and they’ve never looked back. Durant was chosen as the Rookie of the Year in 2007-08 and made his first All-NBA Team in 2009-10 after the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. Usually there are several studs at the top of the draft and teams have a good chance at hitting, but when you consider Durant has played in 254 career games and Oden has played in 82, it’s easy to see that the Blazers made the right pick…for the Sonics/Thunder.
4. Danny Granger, 17th pick, 2005 draft, Indiana Pacers – Granger’s teams haven’t done much, but he has. He’s basically the Steven Jackson of the NBA. Granger finished in the top eight in scoring the past two years, and he’s 16th this year. He’s averaged approximately 22 points a game the last four years, and he’s one of only about 13 or 14 players to average at least one or more steals and blocks this year. Plus, he has career averages of 1.1 steals and 1 block per game. It looks like Indiana may be able to make the playoffs this year, and Granger is one of the main reasons why. Also, Granger is possibly the fourth-best player in his draft class, and I think John, Paul, George and Ringo would have had better NBA careers than four guys who were drafted right ahead of him – Sean May, Rashad McCants, Antoine Wright and Joey Graham.
3. Marc Gasol, 48th pick, 2007 draft, LA Lakers – What do Stanko Barac, Petteri Koponen and Derrick Byars have in common, besides the fact that they all Stanko? They all were drafted ahead of Gasol in ’07. A year later Marc was packaged with some other pieces to the Grizzlies for his older brother, Pau, and the Lakers have won two titles with Pau as their second-best player. You think any of the teams that passed on him would like to have traded him for Pau? I think so. Or they could’ve just kept Marc – who kinda looks like a Geico Caveman – and have one of the better centers in the game who shoots over 56 percent from the field for his career and averages 8.2 boards and 1.3 blocks a game. You decide: Stanko or Marc?
2. Paul Millsap, 47th pick, 2006 draft, Utah Jazz- If there’s one trait that carries over from the college game, it’s rebounding. Ask DeJuan Blair. But Millsap, who led the nation in rebounding each of his three years at Louisiana Tech, slipped all the way to the Jazz at the 47th pick in ’06, going after James Augustine, Dee Brown, Adam Morrison and Patrick O’Bryant, the latter two of the four were top-nine picks. All he’s done since draft night 2006 is average 9.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, a number better than that of Amar’e Stoudemire’s per 36 rate. Millsap’s proven to be incredibly durable, playing in 82 games three of his four full years. Pauly Sap wasn’t a full-time starter until this year, but for his career when he starts he has averages of 16.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1 block a game, all while shooting 54 percent from the field.
1. Rajon Rondo, 21st pick, 2006 draft, Phoenix Suns – Apparently Rondo, who is currently leading the league in assists by almost four a game, has an Osama Bin Laden-type of hiding power. How else to explain his falling all the way to 21. He was the first point guard selected in the ’06 draft, and I guess point guards weren’t as valuable in 2006 as they are right now. His lack of a jump shot coming out of college (and still now) probably scared off some teams, but there’s a reason why the good teams are good. Boston received Rondo from the Suns for the Cavaliers’ first round pick in 2007, and the Suns took Rudy Fernandez with that pick. And then promptly traded him to Portland. So maybe it’s more of medicore-to-above-average teams not evaluating talent properly. But if the Suns would’ve held on to Rondo they probably could’ve gotten more than Rudy Fernandez or cash for him a couple years later.