The NBA draft is held once a year yet it is one of the tipping point of the balance of parity in the NBA. All throughout NBA history, the draft was home to the players who changed not only a franchise, but basketball as a sport. We saw the likes of LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, and Allen Iverson live up to the prestige of being chosen first overall among a talented crop of basketball players. Although the draft has produced superstars over the years it has also had its moments of despair. With guys like Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, and Anthony Bennett chosen over all-stars, the draft has certainly made and broken franchises all throughout the years.
This article will look at both the success stories and the head scratching decisions that have been made recently during the draft. Take note that recently means players that are still under their rookie contract; if you are not familiar with how long a rookie contract is, it is usually four years meaning we will only count players from the 2015 draft onwards. Next up; "steals" usually mean players who brought more value from where they were drafted meaning if a player drafted 30th becomes an all-star or even a borderline star he has outplayed his draft position and is considered a steal. And finally, teams might have selected a good rotation player but it does not mean said player is excused of being a regrettable pick; a good reason might be because he was chosen over a star or even maybe because he was a locker room headache.
With that said, here are the 24 players that recently changed a franchise for better or for worse.
24 Regret - Luke Kennard
Luke Kennard is by no means a bad basketball player. In fact, Luke had a decent rookie year averaging 7.6 points per game while shooting a remarkable 41.3 percent from deep.
The problem? He was the 12th pick of the 2017 draft, one pick ahead of Donovan Mitchell.
It is not Kennard's fault whatsoever that Detroit took him over Mitchell but if we re-do the 2017 draft there is no doubt in my mind that Mitchell goes over Kennard 100 percent of the time. Luke will most likely turn into a serviceable role player but right now he does not look like the superstar Mitchell projects to be.
23 Steal - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Last year was Rondae Hollis- Jefferson's third year in the NBA and he proved to be one of the rapidly improving players in the league. Starting at as a rookie, Jefferson saw limited play for the Brooklyn Nets as he was only fielded in 29 games. But last year he made a huge leap in terms of offensive versatility as he averaged a career best 13.9 ppg.
During his college career, Jefferson was touted as a difference maker defensively on the wing. This factored heavily in his draft position as he fell down to the 23rd spot during the 2015 draft where he was taken by the Portland Trailblazers (He was then traded to his current team the Brooklyn Nets).
Right now, it looks like Rondae deserved to be taken in the top ten of his draft class.
22 Regret - Trey Lyles
After a phenomenal freshman year with the Kentucky Wildcats where they went 38-1, Trey Lyles declared for the 2015 NBA draft. There he was taken 12th overall by the Utah Jazz.
The problem is very similar with Luke Kennard; Lyles was taken one pick ahead rising star Devin Booker. Lyles is very familiar with Booker as the two played together in their lone season with the Wildcats. Lyles had an okay rookie year but then followed it up with a subpar sophomore year where he showed little to no improvement. Meanwhile Devin Booker made All-Rookie First Team in his first year and scored 70 points in his second year. The difference was night and day between the two.
What makes this less regrettable for Utah is that Lyles was used as a trade piece to land Donovan Mitchell two drafts later in a trade with the Denver Nuggets. Lyles averaged career bests 9.9 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game last year for the Denver Nuggets.
21 Steal - Pascal Siakam
During the 2016 NBA draft it was not a secret that the Toronto Raptors wanted a power forward with either one of their two first round picks. The Raptors took Jakob Poeltl, a skilled mobile big with the 9th overall pick and with 27th pick they took Pascal Siakam, a scrappy athletic big who had all the potential in the world especially on the defensive end.
And boy, did they get value with their 27th pick. Siakam averaged 7.3 ppg and 4.5 rpg in his second year with the Raptors but more importantly he quickly turned into a defensive menace. During the playoffs Pascal was all over the court switching every screen and chasing down every fast break.
Siakam might not have the statistical edge over Rondae but Pascal has certainly helped more in terms of winning basketball.
20 Regret - D.J. Wilson
All throughout recent history the Milwaukee Bucks have shown interest in one thing and one thing only. Wingspan. Dating back to 2013 when they took Giannis Antetokounmpo who was heralded for his 7.2 ft wingspan, Khris Middleton who has a 6.9 ft wingspan, and most recently DJ Wilson who also has a 7.2 ft wingspan.
So it is fair to say that the Bucks had their eyes on Wilson even before the actual draft.
The only problem was what followed after they picked the Michigan State Wolverine. Looking back at the 2017 draft, the mid to late first round had a bunch of players that can be considered steals but primarily John Collins (19th pick) and Jarrett Allen (22nd pick). Both players have outplayed DJ Wilson as Collins made the All-NBA Rookie Second Team and Allen statistically was a better player than Wilson.
The Bucks are loyal to their formula but this might be a time they look back and wish they did not stick to the status quo.
19 Steal - Jarrett Allen
Jarrett Allen is a throwback to the old school centers roaming the paint back in the day. Allen was one of the best defensive big to come out of the 2017 draft and even in the NBA he had no trouble adjusting as a defensive anchor averaging 1.2 blocks per game in his first year. Jarrett and Rondae provide a good young defensive core that fits in perfectly with young scoring point guard D'Angelo Russell.
Taken 22nd overall, Jarrett was supposed to be a project player that would take time to develop into a good role player but Allen came out blazing in his rookie year. The bigman 8.2 ppg and 5.4 rpg, shattering all expectations that scouts and experts had on him.
Although he has a tall lanky 6'10 ft stature, Jarrett is surprisingly nimble around the basket especially in terms of how he ducks underneath after setting a screen. Allen is without a doubt one of the many steals among the 2017 draft.
18 Regret - Cameron Payne
There was a rumor that spread during the 2015 draft that the Oklahoma City Thunder wanted Devin Booker. In fact there were reports that both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant personally called Booker and said "We want you here."
One pick away from the sharpshooting Wildcat were the Thunder and instead they had to settle for Cameron Payne. Payne was heralded as a good scoring point guard but unfortunately injuries started creeping and his scoring never translated to the NBA.
During the trade deadline in 2017, Payne was dealt to the Chicago Bulls along with Joffrey Lauvergne, and Anthony Morrow for Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, and a 2018 second round pick (Mitchell Robinson).
17 Steal - Jordan Bell
The Warriors have always been known as a good drafting team this past decade. They nabbed Klay Thompson 11th overall back in 2011, Harrison Barnes 8th overall, Festus Ezeli 30th, and Draymond Green 35th all during the 2012 draft.
The last couple of drafts, the Warriors have added talent via trade during draft night. It was the same during the 2017 NBA draft when they traded with the Chicago Bulls for Jordan Bell. Statistically, Bell does not stand out among his peers especially on the offensive end but he excels on the other side of the floor as a defensive presence where he can switch among guard and take a hit down low from the bigs.
Golden State found talent and potentially Draymond Green 2.0 with Jordan Bell.
16 Regret - Wade Baldwin
There was a time during the 2016 draft where professional scouts thought Wade Baldwin was THE point guard to pick. With only Kris Dunn acting as competition for best point guard, it is easy to see why scouts had Baldwin as high as they did.
Unfortunately for the Memphis Grizzlies who took Baldwin 17th overall, he did not turn out as good as advertised. Only playing for one season down in Memphis, Baldwin was a major disappointment especially on the offensive end. The Vanderbilt standout only averaged 3.2 ppg and shot a horrific 13.6 percent from three point area.
If given the chance to re-do the draft, the Grizzlies would have most likely picked Dejounte Murray, a similar yet better version of Wade Baldwin.
15 Steal - Fred VanVleet
Every once in a while we as fans get treated to stories so compelling that it makes it hard to cheer for anyone else. Usually for NBA fans, the story unfolds when a player that goes undrafted shines brighter than 90% of the ones that heard their name called during draft night.
Fred VanVleet is the most recent example. VanVleet was a rare four year college player before he entered in the 2016 draft. He played for Wichita State, in fact he never got much playing time until his sophomore year.
The stalwart was a big reason why the Raptors had one of the best benches in the league as he averaged 8.6 points per game and 3.2 assists per game while shooting a stellar 41.4 percent from deep.
VanVleet recently signed a two-year $18M contract with the Raptors this past summer.
14 Regret - Georgios Papagiannis
"Reaching" for a player during the draft has become a norm the last few years. Reaching means to pick a player higher than their projected draft position. For example if a player was projected to go in the 2nd round yet a team picked him during the lottery, it is a massive reach.
For the Sacramento Kings, they made one of the biggest reach in recent history when they picked Georgios Papagiannis 13th overall during the 2016 draft. What made this head scratching for most is that Papagiannis would have most likely been available later on where the Kings had another pick being the 28th pick.
Papagiannis never lived up to his draft position as he only spent one and a half year with the Kings and averaged merely 4.2 ppg and 3.2 rpg. He was then waived and picked up by the Portland Trail Blazers where he only played for a single game. Georgios is currently signed with Panathinaikos of the Greek Basket League and the EuroLeague.
13 Steal - Malcolm Brogdon
The 2016 draft was considered one of the weaker ones the last couple of years. Many scouts viewed it as a two-man draft with Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram.
But as we all know, there have been a couple of diamonds in the rough especially in the second round. One of those were Malcolm Brogdon, a scrappy throwback point guard who played for four years in college for Virginia. Brogdon was taken 36th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks.
The then 24 year old rookie was a revelation. Malcolm averaged 10.2 ppg and 4.2 apg while shooting 40.4 percent from deep. This was enough to edge out fellow rookie Dario Saric of the Philadelphia 76ers for rookie of the year.
12 Regret - Marquese Chriss
Like the Toronto Raptors, the Phoenix Suns were desperate for a power forward during the 2016 draft. How desperate? They took Dragan Bender 4th overall and traded a good young player in Bogdan Bogdanovic for high flyer Marquese Chriss.
It is hard to blame the suns for falling in love with the bouncy Chriss out of the University of Washington. Marquese looked like the next coming of Suns legend Amare Stoudemire. Chriss was seen as one of the players with the highest ceiling among his peers; a combination of insane athletic abilities and what seemed to be an improving jumper, Marquese had all the tools to be and all-star.
Chriss had a good rookie year and even made All-Rookie Second Team but unfortunately he was quite on and off the court. Clashing with assistant coaches, constantly whining to the refs, getting into fights were among the things Marquese did in his two years with the Suns.
Meanwhile Bogdan Bogdanovic looks like a star in the making for the Sacramento Kings. Marquese was traded to the Houston Rockets this past summer.
11 Steal - Josh Hart
Josh Hart is a 6'5 shooting guard who was known primarily as a knockdown shooter. In his four years at Villanova, Hart averaged 38.9 percent from deep which included a season where he knocked down 46.4 percent from three.
Taken 30th overall in the 2017 NBA draft, Hart has found a solid role with the Los Angeles Lakers. Hart is primarily used as a shooter that comes off down screens and a defensive guard tasked to guard the opposing teams 6th man.
Hart averaged 7.9 ppg on 39.6 percent shooting from deep in his first season with the Lakers.
10 Regret - Dragan Bender
Like we said earlier, the Phoenix Suns were desperate for a power forward back in 2016. Taken 4th overall, Dragan Bender was seen as a project player that needed multiple years of development. Unfortunately, it seems like Bender might never live up to being taken 4th overall.
Bender struggled to adjust to the physicality of the NBA as so far he only averages 3.7 rpg in his two years with the Suns. Being 7'1, he should theoretically average more.
It is by no means too late to turn it around for Bender as he is only 20 years old but imagine if the Suns had taken Jamal Murray to pair with Devin Booker instead.
9 Steal - John Collins
Similar to Marquese Chriss, John Collins out of Wake Forest was seen as an athletic big who can potentially turn into a good shooter. Collins impressed scouts across the nation with his athleticism, motor, and energy.Taken 19th overall by the Atlanta Hawks during the 2017 draft, Collins had little to no expectations going into his rookie year. Quite frankly everyone knew the Hawks would be one of the worst team in the league.
Collins then proceeds to show he was overlooked by most teams as he averaged 10.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, while shooting 57.6 percent from the field. This was enough to earn him All-Rookie Second Team.
8 Regret - Frank Kaminsky
Michael Jordan is without a doubt the greatest basketball player to have ever graced the hardwood. His general manager skills? Not as good to be honest.
Back in the 2015 draft, Jordan and his team took big man Frank Kaminsky 9th overall. Kaminsky was viewed as a stretch four as he averaged 41.6 percent from deep in his senior year with Wisconsin.
The Charlotte Hornets could have taken Myles Turner or Devin Booker instead.
7 Steal - Kyle Kuzma
During the 2017 draft, all eyes were on Lonzo Ball as the future of the Los Angeles Lakers.
But people overlooked 6'9 power forward Kyle Kuzma out of Utah. Kuzma was something else as a rookie; averaging a remarkable 16.1 ppg and 6.3 rpg, Kuzma quickly became a fan favorite all around Los Angeles.
Kuzma was taken 27th overall by the Brooklyn Nets before being traded to the Lakers in exchange for D'Angelo Russell. With LeBron James coming over, expect big things from Kuzma in his second year.
6 Regret - Mario Hezonja
Most fans view European prospects with great skepticism. People see Euro's as too un-athletic to play in the NBA. Mario Hezonja was different. Taken 5th overall by the Orlando Magic during the 2015 draft, Hezonja was one of the most athletic wings in his class.
Unfortunately Hezonja never put it together for the Magic. Unable to crack the rotation, Hezonja was a major disappointment in his three years in Orlando. Mario only averaged 6.9 ppg on poor 33.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Hezonja's option was declined by the Magic and he is currently signed with the New York Knicks where he hopes to turn his career around.
5 Steal - Dejounte Murray
The San Antonio Spurs has been well known for finding gems late in the draft. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard were all non-lottery picks yet they turned out better than their draft peers.
Back in 2017, the Spurs somehow did it again as they took lengthy point guard Dejounte Murray with the 29th pick.
Murray is without a doubt the point guard of the future for the Spurs. He was named all-NBA defensive second team as a 22 year old. With Gregg Popovich mentoring him, Murray will most likely be an all-star someday.
Dejounte averaged 8.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 2.9 apg in his second year under the Spurs.
4 Regret - Emmanuel Mudiay
The Denver Nuggets have a nice young core going into the 2018-2019 season. Lead by star Nikola Jokic and high potential guard in Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, it looks like the Nuggets are gonna be a force to reckon with in the near future.
But back in 2015 the Nuggets made a big hiccup in terms of the draft. They took point guard Emmanuel Mudiay 7th overall over the likes of Myles Turner, Devin Booker, Terry Rozier, and Rondae Hollis Jefferson.
Mudiay was seen as a defensive point guard who had all the tools necessary to become an all-star. Unfortunately, Mudiay never figured out how to put it all together. Looking at the basic stats, it paints the picture that Mudiay was decent 11.1 ppg and 4.3 apg for the Nuggets. But in terms of advanced stats, Mudiay was nothing more than a negative when he played.
After two and a half years, Emmanuel was traded to the Knicks as part of a three-way deal.
3 Steal - Donovan Mitchell
Probably the one of the biggest storyline last year was the race for rookie of the year between Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. Many questioned Simmons' eligibility as he was drafted a year prior but had to sit out the entire year due to injury. Mitchell on the other hand was astounding for a rookie guard.
This past season, Mitchell looked like a superstar in the making especially during the playoffs. During the playoffs, Mitchell averaged 24.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, and 4.2 apg while leading the Jazz over the star studded Oklahoma City Thunder.
Donovan was taken 13th overall during the 2017 draft. He was drafted by the Nuggets but was traded to the Utah Jazz.
2 Regret - Jahlil Okafor
In terms of bright future, the Philadelphia 76ers certainly has one of the brightest. Lead by Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, it seems like the 76ers are destined to win a championship one day.
But back in 2015, the process had a little misstep during the draft. Picking 3rd overall, the 76ers thought they were getting D'Angelo Russell out of Ohio State, but instead Jahlil Okafor, who was considered the second best player back then, fell into their laps.
Jahlil was the biggest example of a throwback center as his offensive game relied heavily on slowing the game down and scoring on the post. Unfortunately, the modern NBA relied on shooting, rebounding, and defense from the bigs which none of those Jahlil can provide.
Okafor rode the bench as he was unplayable in the modern NBA. Philadelphia definitely regrets taking Okafor as they could have taken Kristaps Porzingis or Devin Booker instead.
1 Steal - Devin Booker
We have mentioned Devin Booker quite a lot in this article and rightfully so. Booker is the very definition of draft steal. Similar to Donovan Mitchell, Booker was taken 13th overall by the Phoenix Suns back in 2015.
Booker has improved immensely in his first three years in the league and recently he showed he was indeed the star people thought he could be. Averaging 24.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 4.7 apg, Booker was one of the best players last season.
Although he has not made the playoffs yet you could argue he would have had the same impact if the Suns did make it. Devin is one of the best young scorers in the NBA. In fact he once scored 70 against the Boston Celtics in his sophomore year.
The Suns have built the team around Devin and it is only a matter of time until they make the playoffs. If they do, Booker will have a chance to show his talent and why he got a max contract this past summer.