The 1985 NBA Draft was as dramatic as professional drafts get (barring conscription). It had everything a fan could hope for: a few Hall of Famers, double-digit all-stars, the fashion of the 80s, Cold War excitement (attempted drafting of Soviet workhorse, Arvydas Sabonis, who was too young to draft anyway), and – in the hoops equivalent of WWE plot-twists – the greatest controversy in NBA draft history.
In 1985, New York may have been the greatest American city, but the Knicks were the country's third-worst team and then-commissioner David Stern is suspected of impersonating Vince McMahon: prioritizing entertainment by sneakily giving the Knicks the no.1 pick. Back in these days, a bunch of envelopes containing team names were put in an over-sized hamster-ball that the commissioner would spin before drawing from, with the order of the draw becoming the order of the draft. In scandalous fashion, it is believed that Stern wanted no.1 prospect Patrick Ewing in the Mecca's blue and orange so, when adding the Knicks' envelope, he tossed it extra-hard against the hamster-ball’s interior so that its edge would crimp, allowing for easy retrieval. In a draft with talents ranging from Patrick Ewing to Uwe Blab and heights ranging from the 7-foot-7 Manute Bol to the 5-foot-7 Spud Webb, it's no surprise that we got to enjoy the full range of sports ethics as well.
The Lakers had just won the championship against the Boston Celtics, Larry Bird had just won MVP, and a young lad by the name of Michael Jordan had just won Rookie of the Year. Along comes a draft class full of big studs (a la Karl Malone and Ewing), nifty wings (a la Chris Mullin and Detlef Schrempf), and talented guards (a la Michael Adams and Terry Porter). Using the powers bestowed upon me by Captain Hindsight, here is a re-draft of the 1985 NBA Draft’s Top 20 Picks where the busts stay home and the cream rises to the lottery...
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20 New York Knicks - Patrick Ewing
While fellow draftee Karl Malone could have also been an excellent pick here, Patrick "Spongebob's Bestie" Ewing was an absolute monster during his 17 years in the Association and seems to have been the correct pick for the struggling Knickerbockers. The “NY Knicks” were essentially the “NY King” as their only semblance of game came in the form of league-leading scorer Bernard King and his 32.9 ppg on 53% shooting. With a pickup of Ewing, an eventual 11x All-Star with career averages of 21p/9.8r/2.4b on 50% shooting, the Knicks surge back into relevancy with a talented gargantua to play alongside their above-average-ish PF, fellow Patrick, Pat Cummings (averaging 15.8p/8.2r in '84).
The consensus in '85 for #1 pick was correct, leaving one to wonder what happened to modern scouting (remember #1 pick Anthony Bennett?), and you and me to wonder how the rest of these picks got messed up.
19 Indiana Pacers - Wayman Tisdale Karl Malone
The Indiana Pacers were one of the few teams worse than the Knicks in the 1984-85 campaign, despite strong contributions from their forwards Clark "Cereal" Kellogg (18.6p/9.4r on 50% shooting) and Herb "Legalize It" Williams (18.3p/8.5r on 48% shooting). Given their strength in size, picking a guard like Joe Dumars or Terry Porter may have made sense for this pick (even though they opted for kingly jazzist and forward Wayman Tisdale anyway), but at the end of the 4th – the overwhelming value of Karl “Mailman” Malone trumps positional concerns.
Malone played 19 seasons in the Association, earning the all-star moniker 14 times while averaging a beastly 25p/10r on 52% shooting. While Wayman Tisdale was certainly the man, nabbing a generational talent like Malone would have been a major positive alteration to Indiana’s history and huge heartbreak for John Stockton.
18 Los Angeles Clippers - Benoit Benjamin Chris Mullin
The 1984-85 Clippers were not a good basketball team. Led by a fairly talented backcourt of PG Norm Nixon (17.2p/8.8a on 47% shooting) and SG Derek Smith (22.1p/5.3r on 54%), accompanied by an assembly of mob-movie extras (from Harvey Catchings and Junior Bridgeman to Lancaster Gordon and James Dondaldson), the Clippers were looking to add some size and talent to their paint operations. Fortunately, above-average 7-footer, Benjamin Benoit, was on the board – unfortunately, they chose him over fellow big fellas Karl Malone and Charles Oakley.
With Malone gone in a re-draft, the Clippers still should have ignored Oakley for the lanky, elite scorer Chris Mullin. Mullin spent 15 years in the Association earning five all-star nods and a career average of 18.2ppg on 51% shooting. With a perimeter trio of such lethality, the Pacers’ frontcourt mediocrity would have been easy to ignore.
17 Seattle SuperSonics - Xavier McDaniel Joe Dumars
The 84-85 Sonics lacked talent, but boasted the greatest vanilla frontcourt of all-time: Tom “36” Chambers and Jack “O’Lantern” Sikma. Tommy was purely nebulous buckets, a big guy scoring from anywhere and everywhere en route to 21.5 pts/7.1 rebounds on 48% shooting while Jacky was equally large and in charge, helming the Sonics during the 84-85 campaign with 18.5p/10.6r/4.2a on 49% shooting. Couple those ivory towers with eventual 6x all-star, offensive threat and defensive juggernaut Joe Dumars? Problematic.
Joe averaged 16.1p/4.5a on his career, playing 14 seasons effectively disrupting offensive stars like Michael Jordan, dropping in his fair share of buckets on the other side, and earning two championships with the Detroit Pistons. Detroit lucked out when the league miscalculated the impending doom to be wreaked by Dumars and he fell all the way into their laps at #18, but in a re-draft the Sonics are sure to scoop him up.
16 Atlanta Hawks - Jon Koncak Detlef Schrempf
No offense to Eddie Johnson, but the Hawks were a local YMCA team with a solitary NBA superstar. Eddie J was putting up a pretty legit 16.3p/7.8a in 84-85, but the rest of the show was “Dominique and the Boys.” Dominique Wilkins put up 27.4p/6.9r over the previous season (if he is still dunking at age 50, you know that vert was astronomical in the 80s). With ‘Nique and Eddie, the team looked to 7-footer Jon Koncak for some interior balance, a guy who spent 11 years in the A averaging 5 & 5.
How about we pick someone less boring? Detlef Schrempf played 17 seasons, earning three All-Star nods while averaging 13.9p/6.2r/3.4a on 49% shooting. At 6-foot-10, Schrempf could have been run at the three alongside a 6-foot-8 ‘Nique at the two and 6-foot-7 Eddie Johnson at the one – making a pretty darn formidable combo of statures and buckets.
15 Kansas City Kings - Joe Kleine Charles Oakley
Before Boogie's Sacramento, the Kings' round table was found in Woodie's Kansas City. Notorious coach Mike Woodson helmed the Kings from the point position with a solid 17 ppg on 50% shooting, while apt bucketeer Reggie Theus pitched in 16.4p/8a on 49% and excellently-named, decent big LaSalle Thompson contributed a casual stat-filling of 11.8p/10.4r/1.6b/1.2s. Given their abilities at the guard position, it seems like the right time for the mid-ranged, physically domineering and testosterone-prone grunt himself: Charles Oakley.
Oak Tree may have only all-starred once in his 19 seasons of play, but the eager timber hustled his way to a 9.7p/9.5r career stat-line on 47% shooting. Back court buckets aplenty and a talented front-court for balance, these Kings may have preferred a bigger boy like Joe Kleine (7-footer with career averages of 5p/4r), but considering Oak's "grit" attributes, it’s no contest.
14 Golden State Warriors - Chris Mullin Xavier McDaniel
The 84-85 Warriors had an interesting battalion led by some of the greatest basketball names ever: small-forward-baller Purvis Short and point-guard-extraordinaire Sleepy Floyd. Purvis was chipping in 28p/5.1r while Sleepy lulled opposition to the tune of 19.5p/5a the season before good fortune dropped franchise hero Chris Mullin to them at #7. Already rostering a solid big in Larry Smith and his 11.1p/10.9r on 53% shooting and talented ball-handler in Sleepy, a wing would still make sense for these Dubs and in a re-draft with Mullin and Schrempf already off the board, that leaves the vertically-enhanced beneficiary of "leaprosy", Xavier "X-Man" McDaniel.
X played a quality 13 years in the league, with career averages of 15.6p/6.1r on 49% shooting and one all-star selection. While Xavier’s range wasn’t as rover as Mullin’s, he might have proved a more dynamic asset, slashing on offense and disrupting on defense.
13 Dallas Mavericks - Detlef Schrempf Terry Porter
The Mavericks squad already had a few studs in 84-85, so snagging Detlef Schrempf at #8 was pretty fortunate for a team that had just reached the playoffs. Unfortunately, no Detlef this time around. The Mavs had a solid, tripartite core in shooting-guard Rolando Blackman (19.7ppg on 51% shooting), small-forward Mark Aguirre (25.7p/6r on 51%), and power-forward Jay Vincent (18.2p/8.9r), so drafting a point-guard or center takes priority barring exceptional value. Cue: Terry Porter.
Terry Porter gunned his way through 17 seasons, embellishing the ‘point’ aspect of point-guarding with career averages of 12.2p/5.6a (including 18.2ppg in the 1992-93 season) and two all-star selections. Since Aguirre and Blackman were already making baskets their sippy cups, tossing in Porter as another ball-handler would have given defenses a major shaking in their boots.
12 Cleveland Cavaliers - Charles Oakley Benoit Benjamin
The needs of the 1984 Cavaliers were similar to those of the Mavs in that their most talented players were at the SG, SF, and PF positions: World B. Free (and his 22.5 ppg on 46% shooting), Phil Hubbard (15.8p/6.3r on 51%), and Roy Hinson (15.8p/7.8r/2.3b), respectively. Deciding between the best remaining point-guards and centers is tough, with little Michael Adams’ scoring and defensive aptitudes and big Benoit Benjamin’s size both enticing. Since a point-guard means less of World B.
Free handling the ball, and the already-effective, yet quasi-undersized forward Hinson was doing work on the block – tossing seven-footer Benoit Benjamin and his career 11.4p/7.5r/2b on 50% shooting over 18 seasons into the mix would cement a gnarly front-court while allowing for World to most fully express himself.
11 Phoenix Suns - Ed Pinckney Michael Adams
Given their roster imbalance, it’s no surprise that the Suns suffered a first-round exit in the '85 playoffs. Behind a strong-bodied front-court rotation of Maurice Lucas (13.4p/8.8r), Alvan Adams (14.7p/6.1r on 52%), and the legendary Larry "Fancy Pants" Nance (19.9p/8.8r/1.7b on 59%), the Suns had a lone guard in swingman Walter Davis and his 15ppg. You can heap as much talent in the paint as you'd like, but if there's no one with the skill and game-managerial panache to move the ball, then it's all for naught.
Michael Adams was slow to bloom, but the once-all-star with averages of 14.7p/6.4a/1.7s over 11 seasons blossomed strong in 1990, tallying 26.5ppg and 10.5apg that season. With all of your talent stacked in size, potential like that at the guard position is too much to pass up at the #10 spot, even if his jump-shot's aesthetic could break a coach’s heart.
10 Chicago Bulls - Keith Lee A.C. Green
The 1984 NBA Draft was kind to the Bulls, landing them eventual Rookie of the Year and greatest hooper of all-time, his airness: Michael "Air" Jordan. Aside from MJ's ridiculous rookie stat-stuffing (28.2p/6.5r/5.9a/2.4s on 52%), the Bulls also fielded an excellent high-flying forward in Orlando "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" Woolridge (22.9p/5.6r on 55%) and passable guard in Quintin Dailey (16ppg on 47%). This pick is a little tough, given the team's general roster balance, so I figure a value and entertainment pick is in order: vertical-enthusiast A.C. "Look Out Below" Green.
A one-time all-star, A.C. spent 17 years in the league dropping 9.6p/7.4r on a variety of cloud-grazers and attempted explorations of space through his finishing and rebounding. Couple his athleticism with Orlando and MJ’s to send forth an American Air Force squadron you could write an HBO series about.
9 Washington Bullets: Kenny Green Gerald Wilkins
The Bullets had some ballers in 84-85. The back-court fielded gunners Gus Williams (20p/7.7a/2.3s) and Jeff Malone (18.9p on 50%) while the frontcourt included cannoneer Cliff Robinson (16.7p/9.1r) and big 'ol Jeff "Bazooka" Ruland (18.9p/11.1r on 57% shooting), leaving just one wing-sized hole in the Washington attack plan. How about a wing who was already putting up 19.1ppg on 49% in 86-87? Dominique Wilkins' younger brother, Gerald Wilkins, spent 13 years in the league averaging 13ppg on 45%.
At 6-foot-6, the sharer of 'Nique's illustrious genes was a high-flyer with an affinity for getting that tangerine globe through the net, a worthy new weapon for the Bullets to slot in to balance their five. The guy they got instead? Kenny Green spent three years in the league averaging 4.4 ppg. Maybe this re-draft could be the Wizards’ first magic trick.
8 Utah Jazz: Karl Malone Wayman Tisdale
The Jazz already had some game, so snagging Karl Malone at #13 was a fortunate pull for a burgeoning squad. Adrian Dantley led the team with 26.6p/5.9r on 53%, while guard Darrell Griffith chipped in a casual 22.6ppg on 46% and Blocka Blocka Flame himself, Mark Eaton, kept the paint tidy with 5.6bpg to go along with his 9.7p/11.3r.
I like this pick because it is perfect in a couple ways: 1) Wayman Tisdale was an often-elite power-forward, balancing the Jazz roster nicely, and 2) Wayman eventually retired from hoops after 13 years to pursue his true love, playing jazz. An excellent jazzist playing for the Utah Jazz is the greatest thing to never happen, and I can only dream of the incredible media opportunities it would have allowed. It doesn't hurt that the smooth fella put up 15.3p/6.1r on 51% shooting for his 13 years in the league either.
7 San Antonio Spurs - Alfredrick Hughes John "Hot Rod" Williams
The 84-85 Spurs’ talent came at the wings and down low with the center, with shooting-guard George “Ice Man” Gervin (21.2ppg on 51% shooting), small-forward Mike “And Ike” Mitchell (22.2p/5.1r on 50%) and center Artis “Coating the Paint” Gilmore (19.1p/10.4r/2.1b on 62%). As such, the Spurs could have used some skill at the point or power-forward spots, but thought the value of Alfredrick Hughes was too high to pass up. Looking back on Hughes’ single-season career and 5ppg, it would seem that drafting swaggy forward John “Hot Rod” Williams might have made more sense. Hot Rod spent 13 years in the league putting up 11p/6.8r/1.6b on 48% shooting as a reliable finisher and defender. Everything but the flair of his nickname would have been a great, lasting fit for the San Antonian black and gray.
6 Denver Nuggets - Blair Rasmussen Spud Webb
The prowess of the 84-85 Denver Nuggets came principally at their forward positions, with stud Alex “Flick of the Wrist” English (27.9p/5.7r/4.2a on 52%) and Calvin “Cashing” Natt (23.3p/7.8r on 55%) helming an otherwise-mediocre squad. While the Nugs looked to draft size with the euro heft, Blair Rasmussen, they must not have realized that there was a talented point-guard left on the board. Little 5’7 Spud Webb spent 13 years in the league treating us to an unbelievable vert and fantastic pictures alongside his peer Manute Bol, putting up a smooth 9.9p/5.3a on 45% shooting the entire way. Consistent ball-handling is as important to basketball operations as it is to jockstrap quality, and the opportunity to grab a steady guard at the #15 spot would have made things much easier for English, Natt, and the Nuggets franchise.
5 Dallas Mavericks - Bill Wennington Blair Rasmussen
The big swingers of this draft, the Mavericks held the #8 pick and, back-to-back, the 16th and 17th as well. As a recap, the Mavs had Rolando Blackman, Mark Aguirre, and Jay Vincent, and in the re-draft they also get point-guard Terry Porter, leaving center as the only unfulfilled position. With a lot of random seven-footers in this draft, these two picks are a great chance for the Mavs to take a couple swings and see if something works out. Blair Rasmussen spent eight years in the league averaging 9.6p/5.7r on 47%. The big euro jamba himself had some decent touch and the size to get busy down on the block. With a following pick, the Mavs could afford to gamble and see what could be done with the Rasmussen by picking another center for him to compete with. But who?
4 Dallas Mavericks - Uwe Blab Manute Bol
Requiescat in peace happy deity. Manute Bol was awesome. A fan-favorite for his smiles, height, and love of long-range attempts; a general saint because of his devotion to his home country of Sudan; and a pretty damn good shot-blocker too. Manute spent most of his amassed fortune on trying to better his war-torn homeland of Sudan and while it may have been an attempt akin to clogging a mesh bucket, it was still admirable and hopefully did some good. While Manute's career stats, other than his 3.3 bpg (5 bpg in 85-86), might not be so impressive (2.6p/4.2r), the Mavericks could afford to grab another rotation center to accompany Rasmussen – especially one with immense shot-blocking ability, the most interesting trey ball ever, and one of the greatest and most softly charismatic personalities to grace NBA history.
3 Detroit Pistons - Joe Dumars Terry Catledge
Unfortunately for the Pistons, there's absolutely no way that Hall of Famer Joey Dumars falls to #18 in a re-draft. Fortunately, there are some other wings left on the board. Detroit already had a blossoming core of attitudinal point-guard (and managerial destroyer of the NY Knicks) Isiah Thomas (21.2p/13.9a/4.5r/2.4s on 46%) and the big jerk himself (and destroyer of the NY Liberty), center Bill Laimbeer (17.5p/12.4r). “Glam Rock” Kelly Tripucka was also around, bringing his ladykiller hair and big-man-with-touch 19.1ppg to Eminem's homeland.
Detroit could have use someone at the wing, and lengthy small-forward Terry Catledge fit the bill. Terry spent eight years in the league putting up 12.7p/6.4r while confusing announcers and fans with the pronunciation of his name. With Isiah running the show and Bill's protection, maybe Terry would have gotten some easier buckets and helped the Bad Boys get their chips sans Dumar.
2 Houston Rockets - Steve Harris Tyrone Corbin
The 84-85 Rockets finished 3rd in the West behind a Hall-of-Fame front-court tandem so sizeable they were known as the Twin Towers: 7’4 Ralph Sampson could move, 7’0 Hakeem Olajuwon could dance, and their competition felt tiny. Ralph was putting up 22.1p/10.4r/2b on 50% shooting in ’84, while ‘Keem earned himself 20.6p/11.9r/2.7b on 54%, and the Rockets looked to draft somebody a little smaller. Steve Harris seemed like the right call as a 6’6 shooting-guard, and the guy spent six serviceable years in the league dropping 7ppg on 43%.
But, fellow draftee Tyrone Corbin was a small-forward who spent 20 years in the league averaging 9.2p/4.7r on 46% (18p/7.2r in 90-91). A forward might not have been the wisest route to take, but with all the best guards off of the board – it’s easy to be enticed by Corbin’s value and the allure of grabbing every single rebound until Armageddon.
1 Boston Celtics - Sam Vincent Mario Elie
The Celtics had just lost in the Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, despite an MVP season from Larry Bird (28.7p/10.5r/6.6a on 52%), a devastating front-court in Robert Parish (17.6p/10.6r on 54%) and Kevin McHale (19.8p/9r on 57%), and solid contributions from guards Dennis Johnson (15.7p/6.8a on 46%) and Danny Ainge (12.9p/5.3a on 53%). With talent at every single position, the Celtics only needed some bench help and depth to shore up their roster with some youth, talent, and most importantly – the right character.
While Sam Vincent was a serviceable, 7.8 ppg on 45% shooting, point-guard for eight years – Mario “Kiss of Death” Elie was a clutch shooter and eventual role-player for three championship teams. Elie spent 12 years in the Association chipping in 8.6 ppg on 47% shooting and had no problem filling his role, making him an ideal fit for a team looking for guys who like their names on trophies.
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