As we gear up for another fun push for the playoffs in the NBA, it is always interesting to see which veteran players are still having an impact. The 1998 NBA Draft brought us some incredibly talented players, and some of them are still doing their thing today. Dirk Nowitzki, for example, is still leading his team, although the Mavs are not doing too well this year; it is still stunning to see a guy as old as Dirk still getting it done. There are also players like Paul Pierce and Vince Carter who were drafted in '98. These guys are now grizzled old vets, helping groom the next generation of stars.
The league was a different animal back in 1998. There have been rule modifications, as well as an overall shift in strategy. That year was the one that Michael Jordan won his final NBA championship and the strategy of the game was much more focused on big men and mid-range jump shooting. As time has passed, the game has moved further away from the basket, and long-range shooting has become much more valued. All of that, however, is a conversation for another day. Today we are going to re-draft the 1998 NBA draft, so get excited to see some names you have not heard in awhile, and get ready for a trip down memory lane!
29 Dirk Nowitzki - Los Angeles Clippers
It's not widely known, but Dirk was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks back in 1998. As the 9th overall pick, he is arguably one of the biggest steals in NBA history. Sadly for Milwaukee, they never got to see him even suit up, as he was traded on draft day to the Dallas Mavericks.
Dirk, obviously, is the greatest internationally born player in NBA history, and he has pretty much accomplished all there is to accomplish in the NBA. He has won an NBA Title (at the expense of LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade nonetheless). Also, he has been league MVP, Finals MVP, and All-NBA First Team four times over. Dirk still has one year left on his contract, and he has vowed to play it out, but at this point, he is currently 16th all-time in three-pointers made, 30th in career rebounds and 6th in career points scored. If he plays another season, he will move up at least one spot on all those lists. That is something special.
28 Paul Pierce - Vancouver Grizzlies
"The Truth" is one of the true Boston Celtic legends. Although he has bounced around a little bit during the tale end of his career, we all know Pierce bleeds Celtics green. Boston drafted Paul 10th overall in '98, and boy, did they get a steal.
Pierce ranks among the top of all major statistical categories in Celtic history, and as we all know, Boston has a prestigious basketball history. Once Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Pierce in Boston, they were able to capture a title, all three players earning their first one together. When he finally decides to retire, Pierce will rank in the top 15 career points, the top 20 career steals, and top five in career three-point shots. That is getting a bargain at the 10th overall pick in 1998.
27 Vince Carter - Denver Nuggets
Back-to-back Tar Heels Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison will forever be linked together. They are linked not only because they were teammates at UNC, but when Vince was drafted 5th overall (one spot after Antawn), he was immediately traded for his best friend Antawn.
Carter has had an incredible career, and the craziest part is that it’s not over. "Vinsanity" has transformed himself from the greatest dunker in league history to now a spot up three-point shooter. To make that kind of transformation is extremely rare in NBA history. Carter has his name all over the NBA record books, including ranking 6th in career three-pointers and 24th in career points scored. There is no question that when he decides to call it a career, Vince Carter will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
26 Antawn Jamison - Toronto Raptors
During his time at North Carolina, Jamison won every award a player could win, including the Naismith Player of the Year Award. Jamison left college after his junior season and was drafted fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors traded Jamison to the Golden State Warriors for Jamison’s college teammate and best friend, Vince Carter.
Once his career got underway, there was no doubt that Jamison was worthy of a top four selection, and possibly even higher. With a career average of 18.5 points and 7.5 assists, it is hard to imagine that for the majority of his career, he was the second or third best player on his own team. What made Antawn so special, though, was that he didn’t mind being the second or third option on his team; he had no ego. The fact that he only made the All-Star team two times in his career is somewhat surprising, but he would never complain about it.
25 Al Harrington - Golden State Warriors
Probably the most underrated player of the 1998 draft is Al Harrington. Harrington was selected 25th in the draft by the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were a title contender at the time so they decided to draft a kid straight out of high school, and they viewed him as a project for the future.
As it turned out, Harrington was exactly what they thought he would be. In his first three seasons, Harrington hardly saw any playing time. He was able to sit back and learn from some of the veteran leaders the Pacers had. By his fourth year, Al was getting some respectable minutes; naturally, his production went up as well. Starting with his fourth season, Harrington averaged more than 12 points per game for 12 out of 13 seasons, including five seasons with over 17 points per. Throughout his career, he suffered some injuries, and that is a large component to why his career is often overlooked, but during his prime, he was one of the top big men in the NBA.
24 Mike Bibby - Dallas Mavericks
Mike Bibby was the second pick in the 1998 Draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies. The Grizzlies were criticized for taking the Arizona Wildcat second overall, but Bibby immediately made them grateful. In his rookie season, he averaged 13.2 points and 6.2 assists per game on his way to an All-Rookie First Team selection.
23 Jason Williams - Sacramento Kings
One of the only players to fall in the same exact spot in which he was actually drafted, Jason Williams was selected 7th overall by the Sacramento Kings back in '98. Williams is one of -- if not the -- most exciting player drafted in 1998, the only competition being Vince Carter.
22 Raef LaFrentz - Philadelphia 76ers
LaFrentz was a college superstar, there is no other way to put it. He, along with Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal, are the only players in the 1990s to earn first-team AP All-American honors twice. He spent his college years at the University of Kansas, where he shared the court with fellow '98 draftee Paul Pierce as they dominated the college basketball scene.
In 1998, the Denver Nuggets took Raef with the 3rd overall pick. In his rookie season, he averaged a solid 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. As his career progressed it appeared he plateaued, never really improving much on his rookie numbers. In his third season, he posted a career-high 14.9 points per game, and his career high in rebounds is 7.9, very similar to his rookie season. For a third overall pick, he is slightly underwhelming, but he was certainly a serviceable player for 10 seasons. When he retired in 2008, his career averages were 10.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
21 Larry Hughes - Milwaukee Bucks
After only one season at Saint Louis University, Larry Hughes declared for the NBA Draft. With the 8th overall pick, the Philadelphia 76ers swooped him up. He was a versatile 6’5” swingman who could do it all, on both ends of the court. Unfortunately for Larry, and all of the eight teams he played for, he was unable to stay healthy for long periods of time.
20 Ricky Davis - Boston Celtics
The Charlotte Hornets took a bit of a flyer when they drafted Davis 21st overall back in '98. Davis was a bit of a wildcard coming out of college, but it was clear that he had incredible athleticism and he had a ton of energy. The challenge for the teams he played on was to harness that energy and keep him focused on the task at hand.
19 Michael Dickerson - Detroit Pistons
Michael Dickerson is probably the biggest "what if" of the 1998 NBA Draft. It appeared the Houston Rockets got a steal with the 14th overall pick after Dickerson made the NBA All-Rookie Team and averaged 10.9 points in his rookie season. The Rockets stumbled into some dumb luck when the Vancouver Grizzlies selected Steve Francis the following season. When Francis refused to play for a Canadian team, the Rockets were able to trade Dickerson for the incredibly talented Francis.
18 Nazr Mohammed - Orlando Magic
After his junior season at Kentucky, Mohammed decided he was ready for the NBA. The Utah Jazz drafted him with the final pick of the first round, and immediately traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers.
17 Radoslav Nesterovic - Orlando Magic
16 Bonzi Wells - Houston Rockets
One of the purest scorers of the '98 draft, Bonzi Wells had a chance to really be something special. After being drafted 11th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, Wells didn’t take long before he established himself as a team leader. He along with Rasheed Wallace were co-captains of the Portland teams that would challenge the great Lakers dynasty of Shaq and Kobe.
15 Matt Harpring - Orlando Magic
Yet a third pick for the Magic in '98. Harpring was a knockdown shooter coming out of Georgia Tech. He was drafted 15th overall by the Orlando Magic, and out of the gates, it appeared Harpring was going to be a star. He was named to the All-Rookie First team in 1999, but injuries forced him to miss all but four games of his second season. The Magic seemed to be worried about a potential string of injuries to Harpring so they traded him after only two seasons in Orlando.
14 Tyronn Lue - Houston Rockets
Obviously, Ty Lue has had some pretty memorable moments in his career. We all remember when Allen Iverson hit the step back three-point shot over Lue, then disrespectfully stepped over top of Lue on his way back down the court. And who could forget last year when Ty took over as the Cleveland Cavaliers head coach midway through the season and led them back from an insurmountable 3-1 series deficit to the Golden State Warriors?
Well before all of that, Tyronn Lue was the 23rd overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. The Denver Nuggets selected him out of Nebraska. Lue’s career was respectable, but nothing spectacular. He was a career backup but earned his money by being a great leader and an astute floor general. Lue now has three championship rings, including two as a player during his run with the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s.
13 Michael Doleac - Minnesota Timberwolves
Doleac was picked 12th overall by the Orlando Magic back in '98. He had drastically improved his draft stock during his senior season at the University of Utah. During his final year of college, Doleac led the Utes’ to the NCAA Championship game, earning himself high praise along the way. When Orlando selected him, they thought they had finally found someone to replace the void left by Shaquille O’Neal a few seasons prior.
12 Pat Garrity - Houston Rockets
Yup, both the Rockets and Magic had three first round picks in 1998.
Pat Garrity may just be the best trade bait player of all time. After being selected 19th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, he was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks along with Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas promptly shipped him off to Phoenix for Steve Nash. In one day, Garrity was part of a deal for Dirk Nowitzki and a separate deal for Steve Nash -- not bad.
11 Michael Olowokandi - Milwaukee Bucks
"The Candy Man," as he was referred, is often viewed as one of the bigger NBA busts in league history. Now he was no Greg Oden, or Darko Milic, but he was definitely not worthy of being the first player drafted in the class of '98.
10 Robert (Tractor) Traylor - Atlanta Hawks
Tractor Traylor had an interesting story. As a youngster, he was lumped in with the greats of his age group, participating in the McDonald’s All-American Game with the likes of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Vince Carter. With most Division I schools interested in Traylor, he chose to attend the University of Michigan.
The Dallas Mavericks selected Tractor with the 6th overall pick in '98 but opted to trade him for some guy named Dirk Nowitzki -- maybe you have heard of him?
9 Brian Skinner - Charlotte Hornets
Brian Skinner spent four years at Baylor University before being drafted 22nd overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. Skinner’s the quintessential journeyman; in 16 seasons he played for eight different franchises.
8 Bryce Drew - Los Angeles Clippers
Most people remember Bryce for his game winning buzzer beater in the 1998 NCAA tournament, but he was a serviceable backup point guard for six seasons in the NBA too. Drew comes from a serious basketball family -- his father Homer Drew was a collegiate coach for over 40 years, and his brother Scott is currently the head coach at Baylor University.
7 Keon Clark - Denver Nuggets
Keon Clark’s rocky road to the NBA came to finally happened when he was selected 13th overall by the Orlando Magic in 1998. After a collegiate career that was spent at two different junior colleges before transferring to UNLV, Clark was drafted by the Magic but was immediately traded to the Denver Nuggets. His career with Denver lasted three seasons, with decent production given that he was a young player.
6 Sam Jacobson - San Antonio Spurs
The Los Angeles Lakers selected Sam Jacobson out of the University of Minnesota with the 26th pick back in 1998. Jacobson was a standout college player during his days with the Golden Gophers. He led the team to a NIT tournament victory, as well as a Final Four appearance, before becoming a first round pick.
5 Vladimir Stepania - Indiana Pacers
Stepania was the 27th overall selection in 1998. The Seattle SuperSonics took a chance on the talented Slovenian big man. His professional career actually began in 1995 back in his home country, but he finally decided to jump to the NBA in 1998.
4 Corey Benjamin - Los Angeles Lakers
After leaving college early, Corey Benjamin was drafted 28th overall by the Chicago Bulls. He was able to carve a little niche out for himself with the Bulls during those three years but never could get the Bulls to offer him the extension he wanted.
3 Roshown McLeod - Seattle SuperSonics
Roshown McLeod was drafted 20th overall by the Atlanta Hawks back in 1998. His career appeared to be heading in the right direction early on, but due to injury, Roshown was forced to retire after only three seasons. During his three years in the NBA, Roshown was a serviceable young player. His points per game increased every season, culminating in 9.9 points per during his third and final season in the league. McLeod may be more famous for being the first collegiate transfer that Mike Krzyzewski ever accepted.
2 Felipe Lopez - Chicago Bulls
With the 24th overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft, the San Antonio Spurs selected Felipe Lopez out of St. John’s University. Lopez was a 6’5" shooting guard who lit it up during his time with St. John’s.
1 Mirsad Turkcan - Utah Jazz
Mirsad was the 18th overall pick back in '98. The Houston Rockets selected the then 21-year-old who had spent most of his teenage years playing professionally in the Turkish league.
Turkcan was a 6’9” power forward who also possessed the ability to handle the ball. However, unfortunately for Houston, and Mirsad himself, his skills never matured to an NBA level. Mirsad only played in 17 career NBA games, posting averages of 1.9 rebounds, and 1.9 points per game. For what it’s worth, Mirsad did get a couple minutes of playing time during a 2000 playoff game while with the Milwaukee Bucks; he even scored a basket! Don’t feel too bad for Turkcan, though; after his NBA career was over, he went on to have a successful career playing in the EuroLeague, even winning the EuroLeague MVP award in 2003.
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