We are approaching the 14th anniversary of one of the NBA greatest draft classes. In 2003 the NBA saw its current wave of stars enter the league. Players like Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and many other future All-Stars were drafted. The impact of this draft was felt league-wide, with players throughout the draft having wild success early on. The 2003 draft class was laced with talent from top to bottom. It is commonly known that Lebron James was the number one pick in ’03 but, some of the players who were drafted after Lebron had incredible successes of their own.
It wasn’t just the first round of the 2003 draft that produced stars either. There are almost a dozen players who fell to the second round that will be featured on this list. Players like Kyle Korver, Luke Walton and Mo Williams all were drafted in the second round in 2003.
Probably the greatest compliment to the ’03 class is to acknowledge that all 30 players on this list were NBA starters at one point in their career, not many draft classes can stake that claim. With that being said, let’s get right into the top 30 players drafted in the epic 2003 NBA Draft.
30. Dahntay Jones
Dahntay Jones was the 20th overall pick in the ’03 draft by the Boston Celtics. The Celtics selected Jones out of Duke University but elected to trade him to the Grizzlies before he ever had a chance to suit up with them.
Jones spent much of his career as a journeyman reserve who brought toughness and accountability to the locker room. Jones was known for his grit and his borderline dirty play style, but nonetheless he was able to get the job done. Jones was last seen playing with the Cavaliers last season as a late season pick up for the top heavy squad. Fortunately for him, he was part of the team as they went on their magical ride to the NBA Championship in 2016.
29. Brian Cook
The Los Angeles Lakers took Cook with the 24th pick in 2003. He was looked to as a potential future center for the Lakers who were in desperate need in the middle after the departure of Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq was famously run out of town by Kobe Bryant following their championship run.
Cook was unable to live up to expectations in Los Angeles, although he was a serviceable big-man with them for several years. Had he not had to follow Shaq, perhaps his outlook would have been better. After playing for the Lakers, Cook bounced around between five NBA franchises before ultimately traveling overseas to play professionally. Cook’s best season came in 2005 when he started 42 games for the Lakers and averaged career highs in points (7.9) and rebounds (3.4.)
28. Jarvis Hayes
In 2003 the Washington Wizards took Hayes with the 10th overall pick. He was brought in to back up Jerry Stackhouse, and provide the Wizards with a consistent deep threat. His rookie season was a success and he looked to be a bright spot for the Wizards’ future. However, in his second season, he suffered a gruesome knee injury which forced him to miss an entire calendar year.
Once he returned to health he was not the same player. He had gained a substantial amount of weight during his injury which caused him to play a different style of ball which he was not comfortable with. After seven NBA seasons, Hayes decided to take his talents to the international leagues, where he is still playing.
27. Carlos Delfino
Delfina began his professional career at the age of only sixteen. He played professionally in Europe for six years before joining the Pistons in 2003 when they selected him with the 25th overall pick.
His NBA career started slow as he suffered an injury shortly after joining the team. His rookie season was mostly spent on the bench with spot appearances during garbage time and the end of blow outs. The Pistons shipped him to Toronto after three seasons, deciding to get what they could in return after Delfino had a productive third year with the team. The rest of his career was spent playing the role of serviceable shooting guard on teams usually in rebuilding stages.
26. Matt Bonner
Matt Bonner has the most interesting story of the 2003 draft. Bonner was selected with the 45th overall pick, making him a second round selection. Second-round selections are not always guaranteed a roster spot and that is exactly what happened to Bonner.
Bonner was drafted by the Bulls but traded to the Raptors. The Raptors had no roster spots left at the time, but asked Bonner to play a season overseas in exchange for a guaranteed spot on the team the following season. When Bonner agreed he joined Sicilia Messina of the Italian league. The team filed for bankruptcy midway through the season and stopped paying its players. Bonner finished the season anyway, averaging almost 20 and 10. Bonner got his roster spot with the Raptors and would ultimately go on to win two titles with the San Antonio Spurs.
25. Sasha Pavlovic
Sasha Pavlovic was drafted by the Jazz in 2003; 19th overall. His rookie season was nothing to write home about, but he did have some productive games, which is why the Bobcats selected him during the team’s expansion draft in 2004.
The Bobcats would trade Sasha for future draft picks, landing him in Cleveland. He ran with Cleveland for the following five seasons, even taking part in their run to the 2007 NBA Finals. Following his run in Cleveland, he would begin bouncing all over the league before ultimately landing in Greece with the famous Panathinaikos team of the Greek League. Pavlovic will be remembered most for his resemblance to Elija Wood, or maybe it will be the five seasons with Cleveland which gave him a ton of NBA playoff experience.
24. Willie Green
Now an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, Green was a very serviceable shooting guard in the NBA for over 12 seasons.
After being drafted 41st overall in 2003 by the Seattle SuperSonics, Green would immediately be traded to Philadelphia. The 76ers used Willie as their starting two-guard for a large chuck of the following seven seasons. In 2007-08 Green started in 74 games with the Sixers, averaging a career high 12.2 points per game. The fact that Green was a full-time starter for more that a couple seasons while being drafted in the second round just goes to show how deep the 2003 draft really was. It seems Green now has a bright future in coaching as Steve Kerr personally recruited Green for his bench.
23. Travis Outlaw
Although he has never officially retired, Outlaw has not played in the NBA in over two years, but during his time in the league made a nice little career for himself.
After skipping college and entering the draft out of high school Outlaw was taken with the 23rd overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers. Travis spent his first six years in Portland, averaging 8.6 points, and 3.2 rebounds per game. Once he proved he could be a consistent player at the NBA level, the New Jersey Nets decided to invest big in him, signing him to a five year, $35 million contract. Although he would ultimately be waived by the Nets, he must have been doing something right to get a contract like that in the first place.
22. Jason Kapono
Kapono was a second round selection by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. He led the team in three-point field goal percentage his rookie season and was taken by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2004 expansion draft.
Once with the expansion Bobcats, Kapono would increase his production drastically from his rookie season, more than doubling his points per game. Also, an interesting fact about Kapono is that he recorded the first blocked shot in Bobcat history. After being part of the inaugural season with the Bobcats he was sent to the Miami Heat, which is where he had his highest levels of success. Kapono would lead the NBA in three-point percentage in back to back seasons, while also being part of the 2006 NBA Champion Miami Heat. Kapono also won two Three-Point Shootout competitions at the NBA All-Star Weekend.
21. James Jones
Jones was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 49th overall pick back in 2003. He will forever be linked to another 2003 draftee, LeBron James, as the two have been to an astounding six straight NBA Finals together.
Jones spent much of his early years as a reserve who possessed the ability to spread the floor and play quality team basketball. After three different teams in five years, Jones landed in Miami where he would spend six seasons, and help the team capture two NBA Championships. When LeBron James decided to go back home to Cleveland, he insisted that Jones follow him. Naturally, James took the ride and so far it has worked out wonderfully for him. You wonder if he’ll ever want to leave LeBron’s side, considering the success he’s had.
20. Nick Collison
Nick Collison was drafted 12th overall by the Seattle SuperSonics back in 2003, and he has been the epitome of white collar in the NBA. Despite never averaging double digits in points or rebounds, Nick has been able to stay with the franchise that drafted him 14 years ago.
His best season came back in 2007-08 when he averaged career highs in points (9.8) and rebounds (9.4.) His role has evolved throughout his career, and now that he is approaching the end of the line, he has morphed into an incredibly dependable veteran for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder rely on him to keep the game close while the starters get some rest, but more than that, they rely on him to help mentor the younger players on the roster, and to his credit Nick has done an incredible job in that role.
19. Zaza Pachulia
It is reported that Zaza was 6’8″ at the tender age of 13, which prompted many scouts around the world to clamor about him at an early age. Pachulia began playing professionally in the country of Georgia when he was only 15. Once he turned 18 he entered the NBA draft, but teams were a bit hesitant to draft him due to his limited experience playing against top flight talent.
Ultimately the Orlando Magic took a chance on him with the 42nd overall pick. The Bobcats took Pachulia from Orlando in the 2004 expansion draft, only to trade him to Milwaukee. It wasn’t until his third season that he began to show his true talents, but once he broke out with the Atlanta Hawks he has become know as one of toughest players in the post league wide. He is currently the starting big man for the Golden State Warriors, a role he fills perfectly.
18. Luke Walton
Walton was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 31st overall pick back in ’03 and it didn’t take long for the Lakers’ faithful to fall in love with him. Walton proved to be a hard-nosed, passionate role player for a championship team.
During his nine seasons in L.A., Walton was a key reserve for three NBA Finals runs, including two that culminated in the Lakers winning it all. It was clear early on that Luke had an incredible basketball brain, not surprising since he grew up in NBA locker rooms, following his Hall of Fame father Bill Walton. Once Luke retired it was clear he had a bright future in coaching. After being Steve Kerr’s right-hand man in Golden State, Luke was offered the head coaching position with the team that drafted him.
17. Steve Blake
Many people forget that Blake spent his first two NBA seasons with the Washington Wizards, the team that selected him 38th overall in 2003.
In his rookie season, Blake put up quality numbers for a rookie (5.9 points, 2.8 assists.) But in his second season his playing time was drastically cut due to an overflow at the point guard position in Washington. After getting out of D.C., Blake played for four different teams in four seasons. Blake was the ultimate journeyman point guard, during his 16 seasons Blake played with 10 different teams, including three different stints with Portland. During his prime, Blake was a great floor general who could average double digit points, and nearly double-digit assists while running any offense a coach would ask.
16. Keith Bogans
Bogans was drafted 43rd overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2003, after spending four years in college, making him one of the oldest players drafted that year. Keith would be traded on draft day, and that would mark the beginning of a career filled with new homes.
Bogans has not played in an NBA game in a couple of years, but during his time he was kind of a jack of all trades type shooting guard/small forward. He was good at everything, but great at nothing, which is what led to him playing with 10 different teams in 13 years. There was a stretch in his career when Bogans played for a new team, seven years in a row. Although he has not officially retired, at age 36 it certainly appears that his NBA days are through, but Bogans can definitely say that he got his playing time during his time in the NBA.
15. Luke Ridnour
The Seattle SuperSonics decided to take the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year with the 14th overall pick back in 2003. Ridnour would go on to become a high-level point guard for over a decade.
Despite having a very respectable 12-year career, Ridnour may be remembered most for the fact that he was traded four times in the span of six days back in 2015. Aside from obviously being solid trade bait, Luke was a quality point man in his day. His best season came in 2005, while still with the Sonics, when he averaged 11.5 points, and 7.3 assists per game. His greatest team success also came during his time in 2005, when he helped lead the Sonics to the Western Conference Semi-Final round.
14. Kendrick Perkins
Perkins grew up playing alongside some of the greatest players of the 2003 draft, including playing alongside LeBron James with their traveling AAU team.
Perkins was a first-round selection by the Memphis Grizzlies, but was traded to the Boston Celtics on draft day. There was no better landing spot for Kendrick than Boston, as he would be groomed under the great Kevin Garnett. Perkins was never an incredibly gifted athlete; he had no jumper — hell he could barely jump at all. But with the roster Boston had, Perkins was the perfect fit for center. His role was to protect the rim, with shot blocks and hard fouls, while also setting screens for his shooters. Perkins was a catalyst for Boston on their way to the 2008 NBA championship, and he will forever be thought of fondly in the Northeast.
13. Mickael Pietrus
A much-forgotten star of the 2000s, Mickael Piteous was one of the most multidimensional players in the NBA during his career.
Drafted 11th overall in ’03 by the Golden State Warriors, Pietrus’ career got off to a bit of a slow start. He only averaged 5.3 points per game in his rookie season, but he showed flashes of greatness on both ends of the floor. After five seasons with the Warriors, Mickael signed with the Orlando Magic, which is where he had his highest levels of personal and team success. In 2009, he played a huge role in the Orlando Magic’s run to the NBA Finals. He was the team’s best wing defender while also being a huge asset on offense with his ability to handle the ball and knock down the three-point shot. Ultimately the Magic came up short against the Lakers in the ’09 Finals, but Pietrus proved he was a big time player during that playoff run.
12. Josh Howard
The Dallas Mavericks took Howard with the 29th pick in ’03, which would ultimately prove to be one of the biggest steals of the draft. Howard would help Dallas to many deep playoff runs, but sadly for Howard, the season Dallas was able to capture the title, he was shipped out mid-season.
When he arrived in Dallas, it quickly became clear that he had a unique ability to score the basketball. Aside from his rookie season, he averaged over 12.5 points per game every year in Dallas, including his All-Star season in 2007 when he averaged 19.9. Howard also averaged over six rebounds per game during his seven years with the Mavericks. It’s a shame he didn’t get a chance to finish his Dallas run with a championship.
11. Leandro Barbosa
Barbosa was a late first round pick by the San Antonio Spurs back in ’03, but was traded on draft day to the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were a title contender back in 2003, and Barbosa’s versatile playing style could be a piece that helped push them over the edge.
His playing style was in lock step with what they were doing in Phoenix at the time. He was a run and gun style player, with a knack for making the extra pass and filling lanes just as coach Mike D’Antoni wanted. The plan worked to some extent as Barbosa averaged double-digit points in five of his seven seasons with Phoenix; however, they were never able to get over the hump and win a title. Barbosa did get a second chance, though; he joined the Golden State Warriors in 2014 and helped lead the Warriors bench, which helped carry them to the NBA title that season.
10. Chris Kaman
One of the more underrated players in the 2003 draft, Kaman had an incredibly impressive career. He was selected 6th overall by the Clippers, which seems high for someone who is underrated, but once he got into the league, he seemed to get lost in the shuffle in Los Angeles. It’s a mystery as to why.
Kaman was immediately thrown into a starting role as a rookie, but he was able to have moderate success early on, even with the scrubs that played alongside him in la la land. In his 13 years in the NBA, Kaman averaged double-digit points in six of them. His career best season was clearly in 2010, when he was named an NBA All-Star while averaging 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds.
9. Kirk Hinrich
The 7th pick in the draft out of Kansas, Hinrich wasted no time in establishing himself as one of the top young guards in the NBA. In his phenomenal rookie season, Hinrich averaged 12.1 points and a career high 6.8 assists on his way to NBA All-Rookie First Team honors.
After bursting on the scene so emphatically, it was hard for Kirk to live up to the expectations he put on himself; however, his points per game did improve every year for his first four NBA seasons. As his career progressed, he began to morph himself into a top-level defender, culminating in him earning a spot on the 2007 NBA All-Defensive second team. At 36 years of age now, Kirk is doing his best to stay in shape and looking for the ideal spot to make a return, as he is currently an unrestricted free agent.
8. David West
The New Orleans Hornets got one of the best bargains of the 2003 draft when they selected David West with the 18th overall pick.
After two seasons in which he hardly saw any playing time, West burst onto the scene in his third year with the Hornets. West would help Chris Paul lead the Hornets to several playoff births, being named to two All-Star teams along the way. In his prime, West was a double-double machine who could fill it up to the tune of 21.2 points per game as he did in the 2007-08 season. After a decade of super effective high scoring a rebound numbers, West is now looking to be a role player on a championship team. Last season, he took the league minimum to play with the San Antonio Spurs. This season, he took a similar paycheck to be part of the Golden State Warriors.
7. Boris Diaw
Drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the 21st overall pick, Diaw has had a wild transformation during his career. He broke into the league as a point guard, but as his body filled out, his 6’8″ frame, combined with his incredible footwork, seemed to push him into the forward position.
Diaw’s career seems to be best broken into two parts. The first part is his life as a point guard/small forward. He had much success in Phoenix with Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni, running a free flowing offense that allowed his passing and athleticism to shine. As he got older and a little less fleet-a-foot, he transitioned his game to more of a point forward, even point center at times. His career accomplishments include being named the NBA Most Improved Player in 2006, and being a huge part of the Spurs’ NBA title back in 2014.
6. Mo Williams
Drafted by the Utah Jazz late in the second round, Williams is surely one of the biggest steals of the ’03 draft.
Williams is your classic shooting guard; he was often forced to play the point position due to lack of talent on his team, but he is without question a traditional shoot first guard. The Cleveland Cavaliers were looking to add an All-Star player to play alongside Lebron James in 2008, so they targeted Williams, who was coming off back-to-back 17.2 ppg, 6.1 apg seasons in Milwaukee. Williams and James teamed up for three seasons but were unable to get Cleveland to the promised land. Mo rejoined the Cavs last season, and finally, he and James were able to finish what they started so many years ago, although Williams was not nearly the same player as he was in his first stint with the Cavs.
5. Kyle Korver
Perhaps the biggest steal of a draft full of them, Kyle Korver was a bottom of the second round flyer who turned out to be one of the most prolific three-point shooters in league history.
The New Jersey Nets took Korver with the 51st pick in the draft, and on draft day, they sent him to Philadelphia in exchange for $125,000. The Sixers inherited perhaps the best shooter of the generation for less than one season of the league’s minimum contract. Korver has bounced around a bit during his career, but he has always ranked among the elite when it comes to three-point shooting. His career best 53% three-point shooting in 2008-09 set the all-time record for three-point percentage in a season. He was recently traded to the Cavaliers to help bolster their already three-point heavy offense.
4. Chris Bosh
Probably the greatest third option of all time, Chris Bosh was the 4th overall pick by Toronto back in 2003.
Bosh led the Raptors to numerous playoff berths after arriving in Canada, but it was clear he didn’t have what it took to lead a team to the ultimate prize. After seven seasons and four All-Star appearances, Bosh decided to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami. The trio would lead the Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, winning two. Bosh made the greatest sacrifice of the big three, as he was used to being the focal point of the offense in Toronto, but now he became a step above role player. He took it in stride and like a true champion, Bosh did what was best for the team, and in the end, it seemed to all work out for the best, although when LeBron did leave Miami, Bosh didn’t mince words about how he felt.
3. Carmelo Anthony
One of the greatest scorers of all time, Carmelo Anthony will always be remembered as the player drafted right after Darko Milicic. No, that is a joke — he will be remembered for much more than that, but somehow it is true that Darko was drafted ahead of Melo (and almost everyone else in 2003).
Although he doesn’t have as much team success as he would like, Melo has had one of the greatest careers of any individual over the past several decades. He has led the NBA in scoring and averaged over 25 points eight times. He has been named to six All-NBA teams and nine All-Star teams. He has carried the burden of New York basketball on his shoulders for half a decade, and at this point, I don’t think anyone could fault him if he decided to go chase a ring before its too late.
2. Dwyane Wade
Wade was a can’t miss prospect coming out of Marquette, yet he still somehow slipped to the 5th pick in the draft. The Heat were lucky enough to get him, and the fortunes of the franchise were changed forever.
Wade arrived in Miami and immediately put them in title contention. After averaging 24.1 points in his second season, Wade made it clear that he was ready to take the next step and win a title. GM Pat Riley got the message loud and clear; he was able to acquire Shaquille O’Neal in Wade’s third season, and with the combo of Shaq and Wade, the Heat become NBA champions. Following the Shaq title, the Heat hit a bit of a dry spell until LeBron and Bosh joined Wade for a run of four straight NBA Finals appearances. There is no doubt that when it is all said and done, there will be a statue of Wade outside of the Heat arena in what is now referred to as “Wade County.”
1. Lebron James
It was a foregone conclusion that LeBron would be the first pick in the star-studded 2003 draft, but the surprise came the night of the draft lottery when it was revealed that he would be drafted by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
Once his career began, it started to look like the fairytale story would be foiled by the curse of Cleveland. It was literally fire and brimstone when LeBron was unable to capture a title by 2010, and he decided to take his talents to South Beach. The city of Cleveland, and the nation for that matter, began to view James as a villain, a role with which he was entirely uncomfortable. After four straight trips to the Finals, James righted his wrongs and went back home to the Cavs.
He led the team to a heartbreaking loss in the Finals in his first year back, and it appeared they were doomed for a repeat in his second season back home — that is, until James put on his Superman cape and literally led the Finals in every statistical category on his way to a resurrection from down 3-1 in a best of seven series to the greatest regular season team ever.
LeBron lived up to and surpassed all the hype that surrounded him when he entered the NBA as a raw 18-year-old kid way back in 2003.
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