Its often been written that the 1996 NBA Draft was the best in the history of the league. With multiple NBA Championship rings on the fingers of a number of players drafted in both the first and second round of the annual June event, players also have numerous individual accolades on their resume including the Hall of Fame (one player, with two more guaranteed and at least two more on the fence) MVPs (three players), All-NBA Teams (eight players), All-Stars (eleven players). With household names like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Ray Allen and Stephon Marbury, the '96 draft offered a little bit of everything.
The hardest part about a redraft? Where do you actually place a player? Most people would slot Bryant into the first overall pick and rightfully so, but do you think he would be "Mamba" with the Philly faithful? Would Nash have actually maintained hoop dreams in Vancouver for the next 20 years? Who would have risen from the lower depths of the draft and who would have seen the largest jump? Heck, what if the Timberwolves, who were so happy with KG decided to draft another prep to pro with either Kobe or Jermaine O'Neal? The Baby T-Wolves before the Baby Bulls.
In hindsight, some players didn't really fulfill the needs of the team that drafted them and with our redo draft, placement based on talent and chemistry is key. It's easy to sit here and look back at the rights and wrongs of the 1996 NBA Draft and hammer out some changes on a keyboard, but for those in the war room at the time, some of the picks were just a roll of the dice. Some came up sevens, others were snake-eyes.
29 Chicago Bulls: Samaki Walker
Original Pick: Travis Knight
Walker didn't necessarily fall to the Bulls because of his talent, it's just that somebody had to and Walker was this version of Travis Knight. Although he managed to play ten years in the league, his best statistical season came during his second year with the Dallas Mavericks (who drafted him in real life with the 9th overall pick, he dropped 20 picks in this draft, somebody had to and Walker was ours).
28 Atlanta Hawks: Vitaly Potapenko
Original Pick: Priest Lauderdale
The "Ukraine Train" was actually selected with the 12th overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but in our redo version of the '96 draft, the eleven year vet slides all the way down to the 28th pick.
27 Orlando Magic: Jamie Feick
Original Pick: Brian Evans
There was nothing sexy about Feick's game. He knew is role and played it well. Had the Orlando Magic drafted the Michigan State senior, they would be adding a rebounding machine to their front line.
26 Detroit Pistons: Adrian Griffin
Original Pick: Jerome Williams
In the NBA, Griffin failed to catch on to a team during the 58 player summer selection process, but here, Griffin catches on with the Detroit Pistons, providing a perfect fit for both player and team. A grit and grind combo guard out of Seton Hall, Griffin could have provided Doug Collins a classic hard nosed tweener off of the bench to replace either Joe Dumars or Grant Hill.
25 Utah Jazz: Travis Knight
Original Pick: Martin Müürsepp
He was actually the final pick in the '96 NBA Draft, but in this redo version, Knight jumps up four spots and lands a role with the Utah Jazz. He failed to make the Chicago Bulls roster and ended up signing a deal with the Lakers for one season, seeing action in 71 games and claiming a spot on the All-Rookie 2nd team. Then the Celtics threw the former UConn Husky a boat load of money on a multi year contract.
24 LA Lakers: Othella Harrington
Original Pick: Derek Fisher
As the first pick in the second round of the actual 1996 NBA Draft, Harrington turned a four year career at Georgetown into eleven years in the NBA. While he was known more for his defensive efforts, the former Hoya managed to put up averages of 7 PPG and 4 RPG over his time with five different teams.
23 Denver Nuggets: Tony Delk
Original Pick: Efthimios Rentzias
Who the heck is Efthimios Rentzias? Other than being a 6'11" big man who didn't actually suit up in the NBA until the 2002-03 season, nobody really knew what the center from Greece had to offer. So with that being said, the Nuggets (who added Jeff McInnis in the second round) filled their need for a combo guard player with the addition of Delk.
22 Vancouver Grizzlies: Walter McCarty
Original Pick: Roy Rogers
"Waltah" could have easily been a fan favorite in Vancouver just as he was with the Boston Celtics. Considering that the Grizz would eventually draft a point guard rather than a combo forward, McCarty may have been able to slide into a more prominent role than he had with the Knicks and then Celtics.
21 New York Knicks: John Wallace
Original Pick: Dontae Jones
The 1996 Knicks didn't really have a lot of depth at the small forward spot with only Larry Johnson as their only viable option at the three spot. In order to get by, they managed to juggle their lineup when LJ went to the bench by sliding Allan Houston to the wing and rolling John Starks as the off guard.
20 Cleveland Cavaliers: Malik Rose
Original Pick: Žydrūnas Ilgauskas
The mid 90s Cavs were hovering around the .500 mark and with the roster makeup in place (which wasn't like the current crop), the addition of the blue collar work ethic of Rose would be a perfect fit for the Eastern Conference squad.
19 New York Knicks: Shandon Anderson
Original Pick: Walter McCarty
The Knicks add a combo guard/forward in Anderson in order to give the team more depth off the bench, especially considering the health of Larry Johnson's back. Originally a late second round pick (54th) by the Utah Jazz, Anderson's ten year tenure in the league proved that he had more worth than what many teams may have believed.
18 New York Knicks: Jerome Williams
Original Pick: John Wallace
Based off hustle points and energy alone, J.Y.D would have been a better fit in the Big Apple than Wallace was. Although both played less than a decade in the league and suited up for multiple teams, Williams found himself tallying over 200 more games in his career than Wallace did.
17 Portland Trail Blazers: Lorenzen Wright
Original Pick: Jermaine O'Neal
The Trailblazers were looking for a young forward/center and originally selected a prep to pro project, but in this redo version, adding the 6'11 Memphis product would have given them assistance with their front line immediately. While O'Neal turned out to be an All-NBA level talent, it wasn't until a trade to Indiana in his fifth year that he blossomed.
16 Charlotte Hornets: Jeff McInnis
Original Pick: Tony Delk
Both went to prestigious NCAA schools (one UNC, the other Kentucky). Both are combo point/shooting guards. One started more games, the other a serviceable player off the bench. One played 576 games, the other 545. One averaged 9 PPG, 4 APG and 2 RPG, the other 9 PPG, 2 APG and 2.5 RPG.
15 Phoenix Suns: Erick Dampier
Original Pick: Steve Nash
Okay Suns fans, calm down. First off Nash already went to the Grizzlies way up the draft with the third overall pick. Secondly, Nash wasn't "Nashty" until he was sent to Dallas and even at that point it took a bit of time.
14 Sacramento Kings: Derek Fisher
Original Pick: Peja Stojaković
Wow, could you imagine Fish on the Kings rather than in the purple and gold of the Lakers, especially after all the battles that the two teams had during the early 2000s?
13 Charlotte Hornets: Kerry Kittles
Original Pick: Kobe Bryant
The Hornets probably wouldn't have traded Kittles for Vlade Divac, so adding the Villanova product would be the next best thing at this point in the draft. Unfortunately, chances are Kittles career would probably still only last for eight years. After averaging 16 and 17 PPG during his first two years and seeing action in 82 and 77 games, knee damage slowly took toll on Kittles career.
12 Cleveland Cavaliers: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Original Pick: Vitaly Potapenko
The Cavs actually selected Big Z eight picks later in the real draft and thought that Big V was actually going to be the better player. Playing twelve of his thirteen seasons with Cleveland (he was hurt for one year and finished his career in Miami), the Lithuanian big man gave his team 13 points and 7 boards a night on average.
11 Golden State Warriors: Peja Stojakovic
Original Pick: Todd Fuller
Imagine adding Peja's scoring touch to a Warriors lineup that included Latrell Sprewell (before chokegate), the 1995 top pick and Roy Joe Smith, along with an aging but still effective Chris Mullin.
10 Indiana Pacers: Jermaine O'Neal
Original Pick: Erick Dampier
The 1996 Pacers were starting to show signs of aging, but still managed to remain relevant in the Eastern Conference. Although they failed to make the 96-97 playoffs, adding O'Neal, who ironically would have the best years of his career once he was traded from Portland to Indiana would have given them a forward for the future without having to give up a valuable roster member.
9 Dallas Mavericks: Ben Wallace
Original Pick: Samaki Walker
The 96-97 Mavericks roster had a ridiculous amount of talent. Jason Kidd, Jimmy Jackson, Jamal Mashburn, Michael Finley and Chris Gatling to name but a few. So why did they manage only 24 victories? Chemistry for one and defense for another. Most of the chemistry issues came off-court but their defensive liabilities could have been helped with drafting Big Ben.
8 New Jersey Nets: Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Original Pick: Kerry Kittles
As rumor, truth and legend has it, the Nets were all set to add Kobe Bryant to the mix, but Young Mamba's camp basically boycotted the selection stating that the high school star wouldn't ink a contract with the club.
7 LA Clippers: Stephon Marbury
Original Pick: Lorenzen Wright
He may not have been part of the dominating LA franchise that one might have hoped, but if the Clippers had somehow added Marbury to the mix in 1996, it may have fast tracked their attempted takeover of Hollywood.
6 Boston Celtics: Antoine Walker
Original Pick: Antoine Walker
The 1995-96 Boston Celtics were a horrid bunch. Sure they had some component pieces in David Wesley, Rick Fox and Todd Day, but they didn't have a star player to hang their hat on and get a bucket when the time called for it. Enter Employee #8.
5 Minnesota Timberwolves: Marcus Camby
Original Pick: Ray Allen
"Starbury" and KG were a dynamic duo that unfortunately had their time cut short by egos, especially the one belonging to Marbury. If the T-Wolves, who had the patience to bring prep to pro star Kevin Garnett along, teamed up their future HOF forward with a defensive presence like Camby, just imagine the terror those two would have created on their opponents.
4 Milwaukee Bucks: Allen Iverson
Original Pick: Stephon Marbury
Imagine teaming "The Answer" with Vin Baker and Glenn Robinson. That trio would have had all aspects of the floor covered. Perimeter game, check. Wing and transition game, check. Post presence, check. Now, would Bubba Chuck actually have signed in a city like Milwaukee?
3 Vancouver Grizzlies: Steve Nash
Original Pick: Shareef Abdur-Rahim
As with the Raptors and the Camby selection, the Grizz really didn't go wrong with SAR, it's just that when you look at the fact that they had a future two-time MVP growing up in their own back yard (well actually about a 1.5 hour ferry ride away) and a guaranteed ticket booster, selecting Nash was a no brainer.
2 Toronto Raptors: Ray Allen
Original Pick: Marcus Camby
Picking Camby wasn't a bad selection for the Raptors who needed a big man to play off of Rookie Of The Year Damon Stoudamire. While Camby would end up giving the team a defensive presence, the young franchise still needed to add some firepower and excitement in order to entice fans. Enter "Jesus Shuttlesworth".
1 Philadelphia 76ers: Kobe Bryant
Original Pick: Allen Iverson
Sure nobody knew how good the kid from Lower Marion was going to be (which is why we are writing this hindsight piece), but would you really trade potentially one of the top ten all-time players in league history for Iverson? Yes, AI became a Hall of Famer, an MVP and a multi-time All-Star and scoring champ, but Kobe has five chocolate chip cookies to his name, plus all the individual accolades.It's hard to imagine the Sixers without Iverson for over a decade. However, as much as The Answer was legend in Philly, there is no questioning that Bryant would have been a better selection for the City Of Brotherly Love.
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