The all-time NBA draft: Everyone’s eligible!

Posted: June 27, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
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Forget about this current NBA draft, the real one. It’s a bunch of guys you watched for a year or have never heard of and the most excited people are South Dakotans and St. Cloud residents eager to see one of their own picked late in the first round or early in the second. We won’t know who’s good for a year or two and there’s no guarantee any of them will be great.

Instead, let’s visit an alternative universe. The bad suits remain, and David Stern will again announce every selection. We’re holding it in New York and people will boo. Who’s eligible? Everyone. Everyone who’s ever played in the NBA. When teams are considering who to take, they should evaluate the player’s entire career. So yes Bill Walton will be injury-prone. Yes, Magic retires after 12 seasons. Does Michael Jordan go first or do you go with a big man, the type of strategy that didn’t work for the Blazers in 1984 but has been great throughout NBA history — unless you want to argue against the resumes of Russell, Wilt, Kareem, and Duncan. Do older guys make the cut? In this fake world the teams — with their new legends — will play with their current guys (yes, things will get confusing). Could Mikan dominate or even compete?

Draft order was easy. No lottery, no conspiracies, unless teams have been tanking for 50 years in order to pick first. Worst all-time winning percentage picks first and on down the line. That means the Charlotte Bobcats own the first pick, the Lakers the last.  And these percentages take into account all of the teams that make up a franchise — the Brooklyn Nets’ record includes the New Jersey days, the Thunder were the Sonics and the Kings have been a well-traveled franchise.

And it looks like David Stern is making his way to the podium…

1. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS — MICHAEL JORDAN
Part of it’s the hometown selection. Most, but not all, teams would take Jordan first. Throw in the North Carolina connection and it’s a no-brainer. Also, with his executive role and out-of-control ego, how does Jordan not select himself? The only reason he wouldn’t is if he somehow wanted to motivate himself in a bizarre way, hoping he’d drop to third or fourth, just so he could show Charlotte how it screwed up. Everyone would be too frightened to say, “Um, Michael, remember, you passed on yourself? You said it’d motivate you but we all just thought it was because you’re the same guy who picked Kwame and Adam Morrison.”

2. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS — KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR
A case can easily be made for No. 1. And let me make it. You’re getting 20 years. You’re getting the most unstoppable shot in NBA history — watch a team try to play small ball with the Captain on the block. In his prime he was a great rebounder and shot-blocker; most people remember bald Kareem who didn’t always compete on the glass. And you’re getting a guy who was the Finals MVP at age 38. People have, rightfully, praised Tim Duncan’s Finals performance at 37. At 38 Kareem averaged 25 and 9 boards as the Lakers won in six games and he did it against the Celtics, the greatest frontcourt in NBA history. He made first-team all-NBA at 39 — in a league with Hakeem, Ewing and Moses — and at 40 scored 33 in a clinching title game. Also, we’re talking about the Clippers here, a hapless franchise that either picks terrible players — Michael Olowokandi — or unlucky ones (Danny Manning). With Kareem they’re getting 20 seasons. And he’s comfortable in LA, an important thing for the occasionally aloof Kareem.

3. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES — WILT CHAMBERLAIN
Over Russell? Sure. The Grizzlies are now run by John Hollinger, king of PER, and no one had PER like Wilt. And of course no one scored or rebounded like Wilt. Is he going to average 50 in the current NBA? Of course not. But he’s also going to have modern training methods. We’re going to have a run on big men here but only because the best of them can dominate no matter the era. Think of it this way: In 2009 Dwight Howard took a team of Hedo’s and Rashard’s, beat LeBron and gave the Lakers a decent series in the Finals. An all-time center couldn’t dominate in today’s game?

4. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES — BILL RUSSELL
No team has lost like the Wolves. Yes, they only have the fourth-worst winning percentage all-time but even the teams above them have had some glory. Not the Wolves who, since 1989, have had one season when they won a playoff series. It’s a franchise built on losing — it only exists because the state lost the Lakers 50 years ago. So why not bring in the ultimate winner. Again, like Wilt, Russell won’t put up the same ridiculous numbers. He’s not winning 11 titles, not with Luke Ridnour at shooting guard. But he’s a winner, the greatest winner. He’ll rebound and patrol the paint. He’ll puke before each game while Tom Hanneman wishes him good luck. Also, you need someone who wants to be in Minnesota, who can endure the misery of the winter. Russell will want to prove he can win anywhere.

5. TORONTO RAPTORS — MAGIC JOHNSON
This pains me. Magic in Canada? Seems wrong that No. 32 should operate a fastbreak full-time in anyplace other than LA. And frankly, if the Clippers knew what they were doing, they probably take him second. Magic is LA. You’ll only get those 12 seasons, of course, and I’m not going to argue against Kareem when I just petitioned for him, but Magic in a Raptors uniform? Actually, Magic in a Clippers jersey would be an even bigger atrocity so this is fine. Once the Canadians have seen Magic pass for a decade, they’ll forget all about hockey.

6. BROOKLYN NETS — KOBE BRYANT
John Calipari wanted to take Kobe in 1996 but went with Kerry Kittles after a series of maneuvers and false flags from Kobe’s camp. Brooklyn needs a face of the franchise. Kobe would love the challenge. Kobe is also really good at basketball. Kobe’s in Brooklyn.

7. WASHINGTON WIZARDS — LARRY BIRD
The Boston Celtics were terrible before Larry Bird arrived. In 1979 Boston went 29-53. A year later, with the same team (this was before McHale and Parish), Bird led Boston to 61 victories. If he can take a once-great franchise and lead it back to the top, he can take the always-down Wizards to some type of height that’s above cellar.

8. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS — LEBRON JAMES
Inevitable and obvious. And all those Cavs fans who spent three years burning jerseys will again become annoying and start yelling at everyone that their hometown guy’s the best player ever.

9. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS — SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
The Warriors have been looking for a great big man since Wilt played in San Francisco. From the Run-TMC days to the Baron Davis era, big men are in short supply out West, so much so that when Andrew Bogut looks even halfway competent it’s a revelation. Shaq over Duncan, Moses and Hakeem? Shaq at his peak was as dominant as anyone who’s ever played. 2000 Finals: 38 points, 16 boards per game. 2001: 33 and 15. 2002: 36 and 12. And while his career ended with him playing the part of an overweight, lumbering ogre, he was still averaging 17 at 36. He had a winning record against Duncan in the playoffs and a motivated Shaq can slow down Duncan. No one can do anything against  a motivated Shaq.

10. SACRAMENTO KINGS — TIM DUNCAN
The Kings will win 50 games every year. They’ll be fundamentally sound. People will call them boring. Duncan will tilt his head like an alien spotting an Earthling for the first time. Duncan will open his eyes and mouth to protest every foul call against him. The Kings will win some titles.

11. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS — JERRY WEST
The Pelicans wanted to grab a high-scoring guard but management was eventually talked out of taking local legend Pistol Pete Maravich. Instead it’s Mr. Clutch, who transitions nicely into the team’s general manager when he retires, where he works with his boss David Stern.

12. DETROIT PISTONS — OSCAR ROBERTSON
West over Robertson? Robertson over West? These two have to be linked again so Detroit, which had experience winning titles with a point guard, take the Big O.

13. ATLANTA HAWKS — HAKEEM OLAJUWON
There’s a reason the Rockets aren’t ripped like the Blazers for passing on Michael Jordan, and it’s not just because Houston won two titles in the one year Jordan was gone and the year he returned in March — Hakeem was amazing. Today we remember the footwork and the spin moves but early in his career he could overwhelm with his power. And always there was the defense. He was as good as anyone at the center position on D — and also had maybe the prettiest post game of them all.

14. NEW YORK KNICKS — JULIUS ERVING
Dr. J was made to play in New York. He’ll spend his offseasons playing at Rucker and I’ll go watch him at Dyckman. And the Knicks get their man.

15. DENVER NUGGETS — JOHN HAVLICEK
A lot of arguments in the Denver war room. One faction wanted the great Moses Malone, but the scientists in the front office pointed out that the…bigger-boned Moses might not perform to his full potential in the higher altitude. Denver’s always had running teams so they draft one of the great perimeter players and a guy who could run all day.

16. DALLAS MAVERICKS — ELGIN BAYLOR
It’s a testament to how fortunate the Lakers have been in landing legendary players that Baylor isn’t talked about as much as other players. Magic, Kareem, Kobe, West, they all get more attention. Which seems odd when you’re talking about a player who averaged 27 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists in his career.

17. INDIANA PACERS — MOSES MALONE
No worries about altitude here.

18. HOUSTON ROCKETS — CHARLES BARKLEY
Things didn’t go as planned when Barkley actually played in Houston but the Rockets are willing to take the overall package.

19. ORLANDO MAGIC — KARL MALONE
In the same way West and Robertson, Bird and Magic, and Wilt and Russell are always linked, so are Malone and Barkley. Malone’s overall body of work — he played a key role with the Lakers when he was 40 and they might have won the title if he hadn’t re-injured his knee in the playoffs — should actually probably give him an edge over Barkley, who faded a bit as he got older. Still, Barkley at his peak seemed to have another level that the Mailman couldn’t quite reach. The Mailman had the turnaround jumper and people might forget how devastating he was running the lane in his younger days — he nearly killed poor, elderly Kareem on a couple of dunks in the 1988 playoffs. But Barkley had the little jumper, could handle the ball and was just as good close to the basket, even with the height differential. Barkley was a freakish athlete; there are many videos of him rejecting guys flying in for dunks, meeting them at the rim. This is also a good pick for the Magic, who are grateful Malone fell to them. Shaq left. Dwight Howard left. One thing we know about Malone is he’s fine sticking with one city for nearly 20 years.

20. MIAMI HEAT — KEVIN GARNETT
Look out, we’ve got ourselves a run on power forwards here. Again, I could see Garnett going ahead of Barkley — maybe his defense gives him the ultimate edge. Either way, as he leaves the green room, Garnett is heard cursing and screaming, vowing revenge for not being picked earlier. Inexplicably, he punches Rick Rickert, who is serving as an analyst for a Duluth television station.

21. CHICAGO BULLS — ISIAH THOMAS
The hometown hero returns. Has Isiah’s post hoops career overshadowed his playing days at all? The CBA debacle, the Knicks, the sexual harassment lawsuit, the coaching fiasco, going to college, blaming his kid for his own overdose, ongoing controversy over the 1992 Olympic team and what he might have said about Magic Johnson getting HIV. Has there actually been one piece of positive news about Isiah since he left the league? Still, the Bulls aren’t worried about those character concerns and scoop him up.

22. MILWAUKEE BUCKS — DAVID ROBINSON
Good guy, great player, good city.

23. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS — BILL WALTON
Reporter: Lot of concerns about Walton’s health. Played 35 games as a rookie, 51 in his second year. Missed two whole seasons, then played 33 and 55 games. And obviously the franchise hasn’t had the best of luck picking centers. Bill, Bowie, Oden, even LaRue Martin if you want to go back that far. And there are a lot of good players on the board still — literally hundreds of other players you might want to pick instead. Why Bill?
G.M.: Our doctors examined Bill and think he’s going to be healthy for us. Great passer, dominant rebounder and defender. Can’t believe he fell this far in the draft. We really feel lucky and think he’s going to be injury-free.

24. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS — RICK BARRY
Bill Simmons mentioned Barry’s broadcasting career in his Book of Basketball — including a cringe-worthy exchange with Bill Russell — but it’s still strange turning a game on ESPN Classic or YouTube and hearing Barry call the action…while knowing he was an active player at the time. Was he that good with postgame quotes that TV executives just couldn’t wait to get him on the air? Still, the networks would have only wanted him if he was also a great player, someone fans knew or respected. And Barry was certainly that. Also, while there were concerns with Philly management about whether he can handle the rowdy crowds, Barry actually seems perfect for it. He probably will get into verbal altercations with the faithful but when he’s scoring 35 and making amazing passes they’ll love him all the more.

25. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER — WILLIS REED
Drafting him to show Kendrick Perkins what a real tough guy looks like. He was 27 when he limped out for Game 7 of the 1970 Finals, a month from his 28th birthday. Always pictured him being like 34 during that series but he was actually retired by 31. Still, he’s a building block and not just because he’s built like a cement one. OKC fans are not happy that the team passed on Kevin Durant.

26. UTAH JAZZ — JOHN STOCKTON
Oh for God’s sake, Utah, get some imagination! Honestly! I suppose you’re going to try to call Orlando and pull a trade and bring Malone in too, huh? Maybe grab Hornacek, see what Ostertag’s up to? While the rest of America cringed at the idea of John Stockton again running around in his short-shorts — in this new league where every legend plays, he was, not surprisingly, the one player who said he would prefer the 1986 shorts. In fact he weirdly had it put in his contract — Utah is overjoyed at having a guy they know will play every game for nearly 20 years and will control the pace and tempo of a game like few others.

27. PHOENIX SUNS — SCOTTIE PIPPEN
Yes, Phoenix has the fourth-best winning percentage of any franchise in NBA history. Weird, right? And think of what that percentage would be if they’d won the coin toss for Kareem. The Suns have never been known for their defense but bringing Pippen onboard changes that. He proved during the 1994 season, when Jordan was swinging at fastballs, that he can carry a team.

28. SAN ANTONIO SPURS — STEVE NASH
You’ve seen how the Spurs have transformed themselves from a boring, defensive-minded team into an elite offensive unit. Popovich continues the trend by going for an offensive wizard who wasn’t always known for his defense. They also, of course, need a good soldier, someone who is a great team player who will fit into the system and Nash is the perfect candidate. Hopefully he plays with his long hair — the short-haired version at the start of his career and the one limping around LA at the end robbed him of some magic.

29. BOSTON CELTICS — DIRK NOWITZKI
He’s not Larry Bird — are we sure Dirk actually has had an assist in his career or are statisticians across the league simply lying? — but Boston will take to the German shooter. Heinsohn will make horrible blitzkrieg jokes.

30. LOS ANGELES LAKERS — KEVIN DURANT
Entertaining, dominant offensive player — a Lakers tradition, which is why Dwight Howard feels so out of place in the purple and gold. Possesses that classy feel. Not a long career so who knows what happens from here on but even with just what he’s done he’d be worth it.

POST-DRAFT ANALYSIS
Too many old guys, too many new guys? Too many guards, too many centers? Maybe. Some guys still sitting in the green room, stewing, weeping, being comforted by their significant others? Bob Pettit, Bob Cousy, Gary Payton, Patrick Ewing, Kevin McHale, George Mikan, Dwyane Wade, Dominique Wilkins, Jason Kidd, Allen Iverson, George Gervin. Many more. They’ll go in the second round. Grades? Give all the teams an A. Except Portland. When will they learn?

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Comments
  1. Mike says:

    This was a fun read. I am strangely interested in tonight’s draft, especially it being the 25th anniversary for horrible T-Wolves draft picks. I have no idea what to expect and after watching Nate Wolters play high school ball, I am rooting for him to go in the 1st.

  2. […] goes by the franchise’s all-time record? You’d pay, like, $49.99 to watch that, right? This was fun to put together, although controversy still rages. I’ve got the Toronto Raptors taking Magic with the fifth pick and I do not want to see him […]

  3. alexvoltaire says:

    Great, great post. I love this, and may try something similar on my own blog. I love how you tried to not only draft for overall talent, but on the player’s suitability for a particular city. Jordan in Charlotte and Dr. J in New York, and even Havlicek in high-altitude Denver, were all brilliant. I would love to see you do rounds 2-5, and giving each team a starting lineup. (Hopefully my favorite player from my youth, Chris Mullin, would be drafted in a subsequent round.)

    • shawnfury says:

      Glad you liked it, Alex. Feel free to expand with your own picks. I could see Mullin going in 2nd or 3rd (maybe returning to hometown of NYC, and of course Warriors I’m sure would welcome back part of Run TMC).

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