More often than not, draft day is looked back on for the missteps, not the successes. Too often we're left trying to avoid history instead of attempting to repeat it. Too often, franchises are crippled for years by the bad choices made in the first couple picks of the NBA Draft. We saw it happen all the time after welcoming in the new Millennium.
In the 2000s, some big names were drafted in the first and second picks of the draft. LeBron James, Yao Ming, Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin were among those drafted in the top spot. Those guys have been great and are unquestioned superstars. But as good as those guys have been, their organizations were wrong. Cleveland would have been better off had they not drafted LeBron. And the Rockets, Bulls and Clippers would have been better suited with other guys.
These picks didn’t cripple the organizations, but other top picks in the 2000s absolutely crushed a handful of organization’s spirits. They all could have been avoided by just grabbing a guy, who in most cases, was drafted just a few picks later.
A couple of teams got their picks right in the first and second spots during the early 2000s, but many, many more drafted the wrong guy. Here, we're going to fix those mistakes and re-draft the top two picks for the '00s.
20 2000 No. 1: Jamal Crawford
Original Pick: Kenyon Martin, New Jersey
The New Jersey Nets selected a guy from Cincinnati who ended up playing 15 seasons in the NBA. 15 seasons is good. 15 seasons is a long time to play in the NBA and most players can't achieve any type of success that far into their career. And Martin was no exception. After his initial few years in the league, knee surgeries kept Martin from any type of stardom as a veteran.
He became a known name throughout the league as he played on six different squads. But he wasn't great. For the most part, he barely scratched the surface of being good. Although Martin was an NBA All-Star in 2004, he peaked that year. One great year is not enough out of the first pick of the NBA draft.
This draft ranks near the top for those in the 2000s with the least star power. Most guys out of the first round were duds. Some had average careers but nobody could truly call any of the guys drafted this year a superstar. Mike Miller was drafted with the fifth pick this year. Some may claim the two-time champion was the best in the draft. But he wasn't. Miller became a good guy who could come of the bench and hit a three-pointer, but he wasn't consistent enough. The only reason he won two championships is because he rode the bench while LeBron James and Co. took command of the league in Miami.
The Nets should have snagged Jamal Crawford here. Crawford is still finding ways to contribute with the Clippers, and has been named Sixth Man of the Year three times. Crawford does mostly come of the bench, but to still be playing and playing well, that's more than anyone else in this draft class can say.
19 2000 No. 2: Mike Miller
Original Pick: Stromile Swift, Vancouver (Memphis)
Remember Stromile Swift?
Neither does most of us. Swift was in the league through 2009, but didn’t really contribute following the 2006-07 season. Even then, he played in just 54 games and averaged less than 20 minutes an outing. Swift played the most in his second season, averaging barely more than 25 minutes a game. He never really posted any type of numbers or contributed in a way that warranted this draft pick.
The Grizzlies didn't have much to pull from in this draft, but they could have grabbed a guy like Mike Miller and received much more contribution. Though Miller is still in the league, he hasn't provided that star power you'd like to see out of a guy drafted in one of the first two spots of the draft. Miller, for the most part, has been a guy coming off the bench. Or, not entering the game at all. But Miller has been able to prove worthy of a roster spot throughout his career.
Miller's best seasons came early, too. He was named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 2006, but really didn't contribute anything meaningful after. He was part of two championships led by LeBron James in Miami, though he didn't make much of a difference in terms of the series outcome. But still, compared to the rest of the board, Miller would have been a great pick No. 2 in this year's draft.
18 2001 No. 1: Pau Gasol
Original Pick: Kwame Brown, Washington
Without even factoring in the two NBA Championships the big man has been a part of with the Lakers, Pau Gasol should have been the No. 1 pick based on skill alone. That skill lifted Gasol into a class of rookie elite's as he was named the rookie of the year following the 2001-02 season.
Back in 2001, the Wizards, operating with team president Michael Jordan, decided to pick the kid straight out of high school, Kwame Brown. Bad mistake. It seemed even worst that first year for Brown, who would eventually play through the 2013-14 season with a total of seven different teams during that stretch. The Wizards, in 2001, saw a rookie that produced just 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Brown would improve on that lackluster season, but he would never be considered good enough to be drafted first overall.
Gasol, on the other end of the spectrum, came out of the draft showing tremendous skill in his first season in the NBA. Over the years, Gasol has been named an NBA All-Star six times, has had two NBA championships and was the Rookie of the Year to start it all. The Spanish league star, without a doubt, should have been Washington's No. 1 pick this year.
17 2001 No. 2: Tony Parker
Original Pick: Tyson Chandler, Los Angeles Clippers
Tony Parker was a steal this year as he was drafted by the Spurs with the last pick in the first round. Parker would have been just as much of a steal if he were drafted No. 2 by the Clippers. Parker's career has been good enough to make him a top draft pick. This year, though, talent from the big guy kept Parker from earning top-honors.
Parker has been part of an organization that has won four championships during his time on the roster. Of course, he was working with Tim Duncan down low, so his performance may not have been as stellar somewhere else. But the future Hall of Famer should not be overlooked, and more importantly he should have been drafted with the No. 2 pick in the 2001 NBA draft.
Unlike a lot of guys who have been drafted over the years, Tyson Chandler has put together an impressive NBA career. The big man has been an NBA Champion and All-Star, and was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. But those types of stats are something you would hope for out of someone drafted later in the first round. This high up, organizations are hoping for someone that will deliver multiple championships, like Parker has done with the Spurs.
16 2002 No. 1: Amar'e Stoudemire
Original Pick: Yao Ming, Houston
Amar'e Stoudemire was the best player in the draft pool for 2002, but just barely when compared to the towering center that was originally picked here. The six-time NBA All-Star was great right from the start, too. He was named the Rookie of the Year after his first season in Phoenix.
Although Stoudemire isn't currently playing in the league, he far outlasted Yao Ming in terms of career production. Like Ming, Stoudemire has missed nearly entire seasons due to injuries. But before the 2011-12 season, (except for 2005-06 when he played just three games), he was a consistent force playing in more than 70 games. There were also two seasons where he played in about 50 games, but for a big guy, it's expected their going to miss some time on the court.
And he's great off the court, too. That's a major aspect in determining why he is a better No. 1 pick when compared to Ming. Stoudemire has been seen on TV series like The Mindy Project, and blockbuster movies like McGruber, New Years Eve and most recently in Trainwreck.
15 2002 No. 2: Yao Ming
Original Pick: Jay Williams, Chicago
Yao Ming was a great player, and missed out being re-drafted in the top spot because of the length of his career and off-court presence. Though he put in almost a decade of solid work in the NBA, Ming just couldn't last as long as Amar'e. And even though Ming appeared in one of the most infamous commercials of all time (Yo...no it's Yao), he did not provide that off the court presence that Amar'e was able to. But when Ming was on the court, he dominated the post. He absolutely crushed defenders down there.
This Hall of Famer will go down as one of the best first rounders in history, but he was drafted just one pick too early. But nonetheless, Chicago would have been happy to snag either of these stars over Jay Williams.
In this scenario, Chicago welcomes Ming, who ends up being an eight-time All-Star. If only Ming didn’t play five years with the Shanghai Sharks before making the transition into the NBA, then maybe he would have been able to extend his presence in the NBA to become the unquestioned best center in league history. Ming could have done that and brought a couple of championships to any team that would have drafted him had he been given the chance to join the NBA just a few years sooner. Instead, Ming entered the league around the time when he was 22.
14 2003 No. 1: Dwyane Wade
Original Pick: LeBron James, Cleveland
Wait a minute before going crazy Cleveland fans. Yes, LeBron James is undoubtedly the best athlete of his time and probably the best that the league has ever seen. But it would have benefited the Cavs more if they would have selected Dwayne Wade here, and that's not because Wade was a champion before LeBron.
James needed to mature somewhere besides Cleveland, and Cleveland needed to mature before James. He's no doubt going to bring a championship to Cleveland as he grew up right down the road in Akron, but his first years should have been spent elsewhere. James should have been given time to mature before making his run in Cleveland. That would have prevented the city from losing him to the Heat, and James might have won his first couple of championships in Cleveland instead of Miami.
Now, Dwayne Wade may not have gotten Cleveland any further than LeBron did. It's almost a guarantee that he wouldn't have. But instead of bringing a championship to Cleveland in 2016, LeBron would have returned to his hometown much sooner. Failing outside of Cleveland would have forced him back sooner and we never would have had to watch the Big-3 down in Miami. Plus, Wade on the Cavs instead of LeBron could have insured a couple more years with relatively high draft picks since Cleveland wouldn’t have performed as well without LeBron’s presence.
The only reason Cleveland needs to pass LeBron is for a more steady stream of success than it has seen since this draft. Without LeBron starting in Cleveland, the Cavs would be looking at winning potentially their fourth or fifth championship since 2003, instead of just their second.
13 2003 No. 2: LeBron James
Original Pick: Darko Milicic, Detroit
You can't pass up LeBron James, who was a high school superstar. As a junior in high school, this kid was already being compared to Michael Jordan. Rightfully so. It would have been tough to imagine James was going to put on the type of muscle that he did. He transformed from a scrawny high schooler to one of the most jacked and dominating guys in the league.
And this pick is good for those who are upset to see Cleveland forgo this star with its pick. After his initial contract with Detroit, LeBron is probably wishing he could come back to Ohio and finally win a championship for his hometown. Really, Detroit could have picked almost anyone here and been better off. Milicic can be called a champion as Detroit won in 2004, but Milicic barely saw anytime on the court that year. He surprisingly found a way to push his career through 2012, but he never became the star that is expected from the No. 2 pick. Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh were still on the board here. But you can’t pass up James.
James has been the face of the league for years and will be the NBAs main star for many years to come. Young superstars are already being compared to him, with critics wondering if they’ll be the next LeBron. Who better to compare them to then a guy who has three championships and was the MVP in each of those championship series. He’s been a four-time league MVP and a 12-time All-Star selection. This list of accolades goes on, but there’s no doubting this guy is the best in the league.
12 2004 No. 1: Dwight Howard
Original Pick: Dwight Howard, Orlando
This is one of those rare times in history where the first pick was overwhelmingly correct. There’s no one else in this draft pool that could come close to touching Dwight Howard’s level of success in the NBA. The only thing that hurts Howard was his inability to produce a championship for Orlando. Howard spent a majority of his career with the Magic, before he went to the Lakers for the 2012-13 season. Although the center is an eight-time All-Star selection, he was an anchor for that team and no one could have performed better. There were four years during his time in Orlando where Howard started every game. Really, the only thing Howard didn’t do with the Magic was win a championship.
Howard is no doubt a future Hall of Famer with the career he’s had. A career that is still continuing in Atlanta. Howard has led the league in rebounds five times, led the league in blocks two times. He’s been a three-time defensive player of the year and has been to the All-Star game eight times. Howard has even won the dunk contest, and he might have been one of the last entertaining guys to claim that title. When all is said and done, no one in this draft class will come close to touching the individual numbers that Howard has displayed.
11 2004 No. 2: Luol Deng
Original Pick: Emeka Okafor, Charlotte
Luol Deng made an impact right from the start in Chicago as he was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. This was despite the fact he missed a chunk of action due to injury. He’s actually missed a lot of time throughout the course of his career because of injuries, but only has one season where he’s played less than 50 games. Since Deng is still playing to this day, currently with the Lakers, it seems he would have been a great pick at No. 2. After joining the Bulls in 2004, Deng remained in Chicago through 2013, before he was traded to Cleveland that year.
Deng isn’t as good as some of the first-round draft picks, but he is still in the upper tier of athletes who have played in the NBA. Deng is a two-time NBA All-Star selection (2012 and 2013) and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2012.
Okafor started off hot as he was named the Rookie of the Year, but his entire career just didn’t amount to what Deng’s has. After that rookie season, Okafor didn’t really do much to make him worthy of a draft pick this high. He still should have been drafted in the first round, just a little later.
10 2005 No. 1: Chris Paul
Original Pick: Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee
No questions asked, without a doubt Chris Paul has been the best player coming out of this draft. It was obvious after that first year when Paul was named the Rookie of the Year. He’s been extremely reliable, too. Throughout his career there have been rare stretches where he hasn’t seen the court. The least he’s played in a season was in 2009-10 when he was in just 45 games. He’s played in just about all games besides that except for three years when he played in about 60 games.
Paul has been a nine-time All-Star selection and was the MVP of that game in 2013. He’s been named to the All-Defensive First team six times and led the league in steals six times and led the league in assists four times.
While Paul has been doing all this, Andrew Bogut has been around. Just not as noticeable across the league. Though Bogut did lead the NBA in blocks in 2011. But again, Bogut is just another guy who should have been drafted, just not nearly this high.
9 2005 No. 2: Deron Williams
Original Pick: Marvin Williams, Atlanta
Marvin Williams is still playing in most games for his current team in Charlotte. He’s proved to be a reliable NBA veteran, but just hasn’t proved that he should be labeled as a star. Or as a No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft. This year, Atlanta would have been much better suited with Deron Williams. Deron Williams spends more time on the court each game as he averages well over 30 minutes per contest. Well, except for in his first season when he averaged about 29 minutes a game. During that first year, though, he still played in 80 games and was named to the All-Rookie First Team.
As his career progressed, the point guard stood out much more than the guy down in the post. Deron Williams has been an NBA All-Star selection three-straight times between 2010 and 2012.
8 2006 No. 1: LaMarcus Aldridge
Original Pick: Andrea Bargnani, Toronto
Though many fans probably didn’t realize it, this first pick overall played all the way through the 2015-16 season. Andrea Bargnani finished his career in Brooklyn last season, but he really didn’t do much as he played in just 46 games, averaging about 13 minutes. Although Bargnani averaged about 28 minutes a game of the course of his career, he never was able to provide any type of consistent production in the NBA.
LaMarcus Aldridge could have drastically changed the course of the Toronto franchise if he were drafted first this year. Aldridge played most of his time with Portland, who acquired him from Chicago during the 2006 NBA draft. Aldridge has been a five-time All-Star selection, and was able to do that on an often times struggling Portland squad. Currently, Aldridge is trying to get his first championship ring with the San Antonio Spurs.
7 2006 No. 2: Rajon Rondo
Original Pick: LaMarcus Aldridge, Chicago
So, even though Chicago made the pick here, they traded their guy to the Portland Trail Blazers. So, in this scenario, Rajon Rondo, who should have been snagged in the No. 2 slot, gets traded over to the Trail Blazers as well. It doesn’t make a difference though who the second pick goes to. Regardless of the team, the best available player here this year was Rondo.
Rondo has proved to be one of the most reliable guys in the league. It took a few years, but once the 2009 season started, Rondo really began to show his true playing ability. After that season he was selected to four-straight All-Star games, and was named to the All-Defensive First Team in 2010 and 2011. Rondo was the steals leader in 2010 and led the league in assists in 2012, 2013 and 2016. So, even though it took Rondo a few years to really succeed, he should have been drafted second in 2006.
6 2007 No. 1: Kevin Durant
Original Pick: Greg Oden, Portland
A lot of people felt the Trail Blazers got this pick right, but unfortunately for Portland, they were overwhelmingly wrong. Even though Greg Oden played through the 2013-14 season, he entered just 105 games in his career. He’s now playing with the Jiangsu Dragons.
While Kevin Durant is clearly the No. 1 pick when looking back now, there were a lot of questions on whether Durant could transition successfully into the NBA. Some thought his lengthy arms would help, while others thought he was far to scrawny to ever compete against the big men in the league.
Well, Durant proved to us all he deserved to be the first selection this year. He was the Rookie of the Year, has been named an All-Star seven times and was the league’s MVP in 2014.
5 2007 No. 2: Al Horford
Original Pick: Kevin Durant, Seattle
Before the Seattle SuperSonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder, they received a gift in Kevin Durant. They could not have been more right in selecting Durant. But here in the re-draft, Durant rightfully is taken away in the No. 1 spot. That leaves a couple guys who aren’t nearly as good, but deserving of the second slot compared to the rest of available names. Here, Seattle could have grabbed a couple different big men who have put together impressive careers. One of them is named Marc Gasol. Gasol is a two-time All-Star selection (2012, 2015) and is a powerful center standing at 7’1’’.
But they shouldn’t have grabbed Gasol (though Gasol should have been drafted soon after rather than 48th). Here, Seattle should have drafted Al Horford. Horford would have been a blessing to fans as he’d garnered a lot of attention coming from his back-to-back NCAA championship runs. Horford, who still is playing with the Boston Celtics, has proven a great track record in the NBA with four All-Star selections, and an average of 33 minutes, 14 points and 9 rebounds a game.
4 2008 No. 1: Russell Westbrook
Original Pick: Derrick Rose, Chicago
Russell Westbrook does everything on the court. Although there were some big names in this draft class, there are none bigger than Russell Westbrook. The guy has proven time and time again that he can do it all. Over the course of his career, Westbrook has put up some crazy, consistent numbers. Since 2008, he’s averaged about 22 points, six rebounds and eight assists a game. Last season he finished with an average of 24 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists a game. That’s a double-double average for each game, nearing the average of a triple-double per game.
Those numbers are nearly unheard of. As good as Derrick Rose was for Chicago, there’s no doubting that Westbrook would have been better. If Westbrook were drafted by Chicago with the first pick, we’d be witnessing an entire different organization than we do today.
3 2008 No. 2: Kevin Love
Original Pick: Michael Beasley, Miami
It would have been tough for Miami to pass up Derrick Rose in this re-draft. He’s been a league MVP and put up some impressive performances that spanned over the course of multiple seasons. But the last four seasons have shown a vastly difference player. Rose has not been what he seemed after his first few seasons in the league. After he won the MVP in 2011, Rose has been a guy clawing to get back into stardom.
No doubt Rose should still be considered a first round draft pick, but the second overall honors must go to Kevin Love. Love is still one of the best players in the league and has been instrumental in the Cavs recent championship run. Love first burst out on the national scene in 2011 when he led the league in rebounds and was named the Most Improved Player.
2 2009 No. 1: Stephen Curry
Original Pick: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Injuries for Blake Griffin over the past couple of seasons have got many wondering about the future of this star. With the other talent available, the first pick in this year’s draft should have no questions surrounding their future. As good as Griffin has proved to be, he should not have been the No. 1 pick.
Instead, the Clippers could have built their franchise with two amazing talents in Chris Paul and Stephen Curry. Or they could have traded Paul to get Curry some power down low. The options would have been endless and if the Clippers selected Curry, they’d be proud owners of a championship trophy they would have won during this stretch. They’d have quite possibly the greatest shooter ever on their team and seen wonderful things from the two-time MVP.
1 2009 No. 2: Blake Griffin
Original Pick: Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis
If it hadn’t been for recent years of injuries, Blake Griffin would still be the first overall pick. His injuries don’t drop his value too far, though, as Memphis would have been much better off with Griffin instead of Hasheem Thabeet. Memphis could have picked a lot of guys here that would have faired better than Thabeet, who has played mostly for the NBA D-League, where he currently still holds a roster spot.
Griffin would have brought a level of star power to Memphis that the city not often gets to see. Griffin was the Rookie of the Year in his first season and won the dunk contest that same year. That’d be an amazing boost for Memphis during Griffin’s first season. Not to mention the career he’s followed up with, that includes five selections to the All-Star game.