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.
Dirk would have turned the Clippers around and seeing Dirk and Kobe play in the same building night after night would have been amazing.
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.
Pierce would have been an instant fan favorite in Vancouver had the Grizzlies drafted him that year.
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.
The Nuggets could have avoided a franchise slump in the late 90s by bringing Vinsanity to the rockies.
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.
In this scenario Toronto still drafts Jamison, but they keep him and pair him up with Tracy McGrady.
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.
While he did eventually play for the Warriors, Golden State would have loved to have him from draft day.
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.
Bibby’s production improved for three straight seasons; in that third season, he averaged a career-high 8.4 assists per game while still scoring 15.9 points per game. In 2001, the Grizzlies decided to trade Bibby to the Sacramento Kings for the more flashy Jason Williams. Bibby teamed with Chris Webber to form one of the best point guard-forward combos in the league. With Bibby leading the way, the Kings were a Western Conference contender for the first half of the decade. The team was never able to get past the dynastic Los Angeles Lakers, but the two teams battled in some of the greatest playoff series of the decade.
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.
"White Chocolate" brought a whole new style to the NBA; he incorporated street ball into his game so seamlessly that it actually worked. His flashy passes and trick-plays amazed the crowds in every city in which the Kings played. After his time with the Kings was through, he had a few other stops along the way, but his best success came as a member of the Miami Heat. Williams was the Heat point guard for their championship run back in 2006.
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.
He sure would have been a better pick for the Sixers than our ninth overall pick.
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.
Hughes was viewed as a key piece for several franchises, including the Cleveland Cavaliers who signed him to a five-year, $70 million contract in 2005. He was supposed to come in and help a young LeBron James lead the Cavs to a run of deep playoff appearances. Sadly, those hopes never materialized and Hughes was sidelined numerous times during his stint with Cleveland. When Larry was on the court, however, he was highly effective. During his first 14 seasons, Hughes averaged over 10 points per game, including in 2004, when he averaged a career-high 22.7 points per game.
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.
Davis immediately made a name for himself with his high-flying brand of basketball. In 2000, he finished second to Vince Carter in the Slam Dunk Contest. Davis had all the skills needed to be a great player in the league, but he was just never able to harness those skills properly. There was a stretch where he averaged more than 15 points per game for seven straight seasons. There was also the episode when he intentionally missed a shot at the wrong basket just so he could record a tenth rebound and a triple-double. It was those types of things that prevented Ricky Davis from being a perennial All-Star in the NBA.
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.
When Dickerson arrived in Vancouver, he posted a career-high 18.2 points per game in his first season. The following season, his points went down by a couple, but his assists nearly doubled. After that season, Dickerson only played in six more NBA games; he suffered from severe hamstring and groin injuries that never properly healed. Dickerson was one of the few players to publicly voice his happiness with playing in Vancouver, and for that, he will always be a fan favorite in the Northwest.
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.
Being traded on draft day was just the first of many times Mohammed would be traded. In 18 seasons, Mohammed played for eight different franchises and had two stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Although Nazr only started in about 35% of his career games, he was always viewed as a valuable asset to his teams. Unlike some players who are traded often, Mohammed was often desired by the team he was to which he was traded, as opposed to simply being a salary dump. In 2005, Nazr played a large role for the San Antonio Spurs as they would go on to win the NBA title. He, along with fellow 1998 draftee Radoslav Nesterovic, helped fill the center position for the champion Spurs.
17 Radoslav Nesterovic - Orlando Magic
The Magic has back-to-back picks in 1998 and they could have formed quite a good duo here. More commonly known as Rasho, this seven-footer was the 17th overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1998. The Wolves had high hopes when they picked Rasho; there were fantasies of him and Kevin Garnett becoming the new twin towers of the NBA.
Nesterovic was never able to live up to those high hopes, but he did, however, carve out a solid career for himself.
During his 12 years in the NBA, he started in nearly 600 NBA games. During his time with the Wolves, he and KG were able to have some success, though not as great as many imagined they could. In the 2002-03 season, he posted career-highs in points and rebounds, which earned him a large payday in the offseason. Luckily for him, not only did he get the big bucks, but he also landed in San Antonio. In 2005, he helped the Spurs capture the NBA Championship. Rasho decided to retire from the NBA in 2010, but he did go to Greece for one final season a little closer to home.
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.
During his time with the Blazers, Wells got the reputation of being a bit of a hot-head. He often feuded with referees, teammates, and coaches, but still produced on the court. After leaving Portland, Bonzi was never able to find a situation quite as good as the one he had with the Blazers. He is remembered fondly by the fans in Portland, but he is usually viewed as a malcontent around the league.
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.
Matt played one season with the Cavaliers, before signing with the Jazz as a free agent. Once he was fully healthy again and had some team stability, Harpring regained his form. In 2002, he finished second in the Most Improved Player Award voting. During his prime years, Matt strung together seven straight seasons of 10+ points per game. In 2010, Harpring was waived by the Oklahoma City Thunder, which put an end to his career.
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.
Bonzi Wells and Lue would have been a pretty good pair of picks for Houston.
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.
Unfortunately for Orlando, Michael Doleac was no Shaquille O’Neal. In his three seasons with the Magic, Doleac only averaged 6.6 points and 3.6 rebounds. After leaving Orlando, he spent time with the Cavs, Knicks, Nuggets, Heat, and Timberwolves. His career came full circle when in 2006, he was united with the man he was supposed to replace in Orlando. He was Shaq’s back-up in 2006 during the Miami Heat’s championship run. Doleac played one more season after that title run but hung 'em up after the 2007-08 season.
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.
As for Garrity the player, he was solid. Coming out of college, he was regarded as a highly skilled frontcourt player who could knock down the long-range shot; basically, he is what everyone refers to now as a "stretch big." Garrity spent 10 years in the NBA playing all but his rookie season with the Orlando Magic.
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.
Olowokandi spent 10 seasons in the NBA and was about as average as it gets. After making the All-Rookie Second Team in '99, it appeared he would be worthy of the first overall selection. But as his career progressed, it became more obvious that his production was going to stay mostly the same. At 27 years old, Olowokandi had his best season; he posted averages of 12.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, both career highs. Over his ten seasons, he averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest, certainly not worthy of the first overall pick. However at 19th overall, he's not a bad pick and could have been a complimentary piece for the Bucks.
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?
Traylor’s weight became a serious issue once he got to the NBA; ultimately it cost him his life. His career was viewed as a disappointment as he only lasted seven seasons in the NBA, never averaging more than 5.7 points per game.
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.
Sixteen seasons is an incredibly long time for a player to last in the NBA, but somehow Skinner made it happen (being 7 feet tall and never getting injured helped). For the majority of his career, Skinner was used as a backup front court player, sharing time at both center and power forward. His best season came in 2003-04 when he was playing with the Milwaukee Bucks. That season, he averaged career-highs in both points (10.5) and rebounds (7.3) During his 16 years in the league, Brian was fortunate enough to appear in 21 playoff games, but never an NBA Finals. In 2011, he was waived by the Memphis Grizzlies, and at that point, he finally decided to call it a career.
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.
Drew was the 16th overall pick in the '98 draft by the Houston Rockets, and although he was never a spectacular player, he was solid enough to last six years in the league. His career was spent coming off the bench and providing stable game management while the starters got their rest. In six years, Drew was able to average 4.4 points and 2.2 assists per game.
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.
Clark was an incredible defensive player, and he brought true value to teams because of his ability to block shots and protect the rim. After spending his first three seasons with the Nuggets, Clark was traded to the Raptors. In 2001, Clark set the Toronto Raptors record with 12 blocks in a game. After leaving the NBA Clark got himself into legal trouble. He is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence on a weapons charge.
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.
Once Jacobson arrived in the NBA, his talents were finally equaled and ultimately passed up by the competition. During his rookie season, he saw very limited playing time. In his second year with the team, his playing time increased but his production was all but invisible. There is no doubt that being stuck behind Kobe Bryant had something to do with his lack of playing time, but it also appeared he didn't have the talent to compete at the highest level. That assumption was confirmed in the following seasons as he was unable to find a home in the NBA after leaving Los Angeles. He did, however, find a home in Europe and played professionally in their professional leagues for several years.
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.
Stepania didn’t have much of an impact with Seattle; it was when he landed with the Miami Heat that he finally began to get some playing time. In Miami, he appeared in 146 games, including 10 starts. When Heat star Alonzo Mourning was sidelined with kidney issues, Stepania was one of the men inserted into the lineup. His career high in points (19) and rebounds (15) came during his stint with the Heat. After the Heat, he played one season with the Portland Trail Blazers before retiring at the tender age of 28.
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.
In an effort to strengthen his resume, Corey opted to play overseas during the 2001-02 season. It was a way to get himself more exposure and guaranteed playing time. After his year abroad, Benjamin signed a couple 10-day contracts with the Atlanta Hawks, but was never offered a guaranteed contract. Benjamin spent the rest of his career playing professionally overseas, with a couple trips to the NBA D-League. It's a stretch to make him a first round pick, but this '98 draft was very top heavy.
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.
Since retiring from the NBA, McLeod has pursued a career in coaching. He has worked with some big name coaches already including being an assistant to Tom Crean at Indiana University. Currently, Roshown is coaching the Fellowship Christian School, a private school in Roswell, Georgia.
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.
The Spurs drafted him with no plans of keeping him, however, and on draft day, he was part of a trade with the Grizzlies that brought Antonio Daniels to San Antonio. After only 12 games with the Grizzlies, Felipe was traded again, this time to the Washington Wizards. Things never panned out for him with Washington, so as a free agent, he then signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Again, things didn’t work out between Lopez and the team; ultimately, he was relegated to playing professionally overseas. Many will always remember Lopez as the “Spanish Michael Jordan,” who was the McDonald’s High School All-American game MVP in 1994.
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.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!