Missed ‘Em by THAT Much: An Alternative Look at the NBA Draft

The NBA Draft is beyond unpredictable. No matter what the “experts” say, most of the picks are gambles at best. Sure, every few years there is a “sure-fire superstar”, but how often does that guy get overshadowed by someone picked 10 slots later?

Some players are famous solely based on who they were picked before in the draft, not what they did on the court. Ever heard of Sam Bowie? The only reason you have is that he was picked in-between Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan.

Will DeAndre Ayton be the next superstar in the NBA? Luka Doncic? Marvin Bagley III? Perhaps. Could it be someone that isn’t on anyone’s radar? Just as likely.

Instead of giving you a lame Mock Draft that everyone just copies from the handful of guys that act like they know what they’re talking about, I’ll go a different route and show you how little those mock drafts really mean.

jordan could have been.jpg
What could have been…

Sometimes, they’re super accurate at predicting greatness because there’s a guy like LeBron James or Anthony Davis available. Other times, the best you’ve got to choose from is Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, and Otto Porter Jr. and a team picks Anthony Bennett (worst first pick ever?) instead.


Take this for example. The following is a compilation of players selected first-overall and others that weren’t picked inside the top-10:

Notable No. 1 Overall Picks (Since the NBA/ABA Merger)

Year Player
1979 Magic Johnson
1982 James Worthy
1984 Hakeem Olajuwon
1985 Patrick Ewing
1987 David Robinson
1992 Shaquille O’Neal
1996 Allen Iverson
1997 Tim Duncan
2003 LeBron James
2004 Dwight Howard
2008 Derrick Rose
2009 Blake Griffin
2010 John Wall
2011 Kyrie Irving
2012 Anthony Davis
2015 Karl-Anthony Towns
2016 Ben Simmons

 

Notable Picks Outside the Top-10 (Since the NBA/ABA Merger)

Year Player
1983 Clyde Drexler (No. 14)
1984 John Stockton (No. 16)
1985 Karl Malone (No. 13)
1987 Reggie Miller (No. 11)
1996 Kobe Bryant (No. 13)
1996 Steve Nash (No. 15)
1999 Manu Ginobili (No. 57)
2001 Tony Parker (No. 28)
2007 Marc Gasol (No. 48)
2008 DeAndre Jordan (No. 35)
2011 Klay Thompson (No. 11)
2011 Kawhi Leonard (No. 15)
2011 Jimmy Butler (No. 30)
2011 Isaiah Thomas (No. 60)
2012 Draymond Green (No. 35)
2013 Giannis Antetokounmpo (No. 15)
2013 Rudy Gobert (No. 27)
2014 Nikola Jokic (No. 41)
2015 Devin Booker (No. 13)
2017 Donovan Mitchell (No. 13)
2017 Kyle Kuzma (No. 27)

 

Of course, the more recent drafts are still unraveling. We don’t really know who the stars are going to be if they’ve only been in the league a handful of years, so take those from 2014-present with a grain of salt, especially 2016 and 2017.

Are the top-overall picks better than those outside of the top-10? Well of course. They should be. However, notice how many are missing. Only 17 worth mentioning over 42 years? That should be borderline alarming. At the least, it should show that getting the top-pick doesn’t at all equate to getting the best player.

Are most of the consensus top-10 players of all-time no. 1 picks? Quite a few of them. But there are more busts than legends at any draft slot.

I guess the simplest way to say it is:

Draft position does not determine stardom. Top picks are more likely to be stars because they are viewed as the most talented coming into the draft, but that doesn’t mean they’re a sure thing and it also doesn’t mean that guys picked lower can’t become stars.

Don’t buy too much into draft stock. Let the players prove it on the court.


Okay, enough being serious. Here’s something fun I’ve wanted to do for a while. Couldn’t think of a better time to present my “Missed ‘Em by That Much” All-Time Teams!

All of the following are players that teams missed by one pick. I only counted it if the player they passed on is significantly better than the player they picked. For example, in 2003, the Nuggets picked Carmelo Anthony over Dwayne Wade. Was Wade the better pick? Yes, but not by a large enough margin to include on this list since Anthony became a star in his own right.

Going back to the NBA/ABA merger, here are the All-Time teams that could have been, and who they were instead. Which team would you take?

Missed ‘Em by THAT Muchcurry draft.jpg

Team Who They Missed (By One Pick) Who They Got (One Spot Above)
Trail Blazers Michael Jordan

Kevin Durant

Kyle Kuzma

Sam Bowie

Greg Oden

Caleb Swanigan

Warriors Larry Bird

Tracy McGrady

Manu Ginobili

Andrew Bynum

Purvis Short

Adonal Foyle

Tim Young

Ike Diogu

Mavericks Isiah Thomas

Charles Barkley

John Stockton

Mark Aguirre

Sam Perkins

Terence Stansbury

Timberwolves Russell Westbrook

Steph Curry

DeMarcus Cousins

O.J. Mayo

Jonny Flynn

Wesley Johnson

Kings Clyde Drexler

Dikembe Mutombo

Steve Nash

Damian Lillard

Ennis Whatley

Billy Owens

Peja Stojakovic

Thomas Robinson

Clippers Dominique Wilkins

Scottie Pippen

Pau Gasol

Amare Stoudemire

Terry Cummings

Reggie Williams

Tyson Chandler

Chris Wilcox

Sixers Chauncey Billups

Dirk Nowitzki

Kristaps Porzingis

Keith Van Horn

Larry Hughes

Jahlil Okafor

Cavaliers Kobe Bryant

Draymond Green

Victor Oladipo

Vitaly Potapenko

Jae Crowder

Anthony Bennett

Jazz Josh Smith

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Devin Booker

Kirk Snyder

Shabazz Muhammad

Trey Lyles

Wizards Karl Malone

Marc Gasol

Kenny Green

Dominic McGuire

Nets Gary Payton

Kyle Lowry

Derrick Coleman

Josh Boone

Pistons Carmelo Anthony

Donovan Mitchell

Darko Milicic

Luke Kennard

Raptors Andre Iguodala

LaMarcus Aldridge

Rafael Araujo

Andrea Bargnani

Knicks Rajon Rondo

DeMar DeRozan

Renaldo Balkman

Jordan Hill

Hawks Tony Parker

Trevor Ariza

Jamaal Tinsley

Viktor Sanikidze

Spurs Jimmy Butler

Isaiah Thomas

Cory Joseph

Adam Hanga

Pacers Dennis Rodman Greg Dreiling
Grizzlies James Harden Hasheem Thabeet
Bucks Klay Thompson Jimmer Fredette
Rockets Kawhi Leonard Marcus Morris

 

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