Revisionist history is something that permeates throughout sports. "What could have been" resonates when another scenario could have been better than the chosen reality. This is especially true years after draft classes have been selected. TSFJ scribes Johnathan Tillman and Matt Whitener have set forth not only on redrafting the past two decades of the NBA, but also changing how history will play via our NBA Re-Draft series.
The Class of 2001 was the height of the preps-to-pros era. At the time, it was heralded as one of the deepest, most talented crops of high school talent in history. It was a belief that was very clear on draft night, when a record four high school hoopers went in the lottery, along with another pair of college freshmen in Eddie Griffin and Rodney White.
All the while, the true gems of the draft would emerge from afar. Spain's Pau Gasol and Tony Parker of France would become the enduring players of this grouping. Between them, they would combine to win six titles, score over 40,000 points, garner eight All-NBA selections and 255 win shares. To put it lightly, the more hallowed names on draft night came up well short of approaching this level.
Between what we knew then and what we know now, how much of a difference would this have made on draft night? Here's a look at our NBA Re-Draft of the 2001 rookie class.
Spoiler alert: the two future Hall of Famers still don't go 1-2.
Whitener is on the clock for the Wizards, with Till following as we alternate picks.
1. Washington Wizards: Pau Gasol, FC Barcelona (Spain) (+2)
Original Pick: Kwame Brown
Gasol was a seven-footer that could do it all and did it from day one, becoming one of four rookies ever to average 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks. He spent the first half of his career as one of the best ‘good player on a bad team’ guys of his era, averaging 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists for a Grizzlies team that averaged 39 wins a year during his six full seasons with them. Of course, he went on to become the perfect second-option alongside Kobe Bryant on two championship teams in L.A., averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds over 93 playoff games with the Lakers.
2. Chicago Bulls (from Clippers): Tyson Chandler, Dominguez HS
Original Pick: Same
To continue the theme of the previous draft, size mattered more than skill. With height and athleticism still vital to teams, the Bulls took Chandler out of high school. We believe they would do the same, hoping to cash in on Chandler's potential as a rim runner and protector. He's still playing, so he definitely maximized the value of the pick.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (from Hawks): Shane Battier, Duke (+3)
Original Pick: Pau Gasol
Originally, the Grizzlies landed Battier with their own pick at #6. However, they also stole away the third pick — the aforementioned Gasol — by sending Shareef Abdur-Rahim to the Atlanta Hawks. Battier’s pedigree at the time justifies this pick, as he was a superstar at Duke and a perfect fit for a team that was reeling from shaky draft picks of the past. In our NBA Re-Draft world, Battier slots in alongside Jason Williams and Michael Redd on a team building from the perimeter.
4. Chicago Bulls: Zach Randolph, Michigan State (+15)
Original Pick: Eddy Curry
Pairing the athletic Tyson Chandler with the methodically skilled Randolph is a move that might have been too smart for the Bulls' front office at the time. The man who came to be known as "Z-Bo" has some of the best movies in the post that basketball has ever seen. He would be a much better fit here than Curry.
5. Golden State Warriors: Gilbert Arenas, Arizona (+26)
Original Pick: Jason Richardson
Gil the Thrill was chronically underrated throughout his career, a trend that started on draft night. Arenas started his career as a Warrior, but it was as the second pick in the second round instead. Knowing what we know now, that could never happen. Peak Arenas was an offensive guru, making three-straight All-Star teams from 2005-2007, averaging 27.7 points while handing out 5.7 assists along with 1.9 steals per night. Over the course of his career, Arenas topped 40 points 29 times, including a career-high 60 in 2006.
6. Memphis Grizzlies: Brendan Haywood, North Carolina (+14)
Original Pick: Shane Battier
The Grizzlies don't have Pau fall to them, but they still need a center. The next NBA-ready big is the former Tar Heel pivot. Haywood, who has a college triple-double to his credit, was more than a serviceable player. While he didn't grow to be the scorer Pau was, he would have allowed the Grizzlies to be more perimeter-oriented with Jason Williams.
7. Houston Rockets (from Nets): Richard Jefferson, Arizona (+6)
Original Pick: Eddie Griffin
The Rockets had Jefferson briefly on draft night, but opted to move him as part of three-pick move to land Griffin. In hindsight, holding on to Jefferson would have been by far the smarter decision, as he become both an immediate impact player and long-term contributor. From 2003 through 2011, he averaged 17.2 points and played important minutes for three Finals teams.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Eddy Curry, Thornwood HS (-4)
Original Pick: DeSagana Diop
Size, size, size. We think Curry was a casualty of the decimated, post-dynasty Bulls franchise breakup. He was really talented, albeit unmotivated at times, with no veteran presence to help teach him to be a professional. Still, we say he gets drafted by Cleveland here because he's so big and so good.
9. Detroit Pistons: Tony Parker, Paris Basket Racing (France) (+19)
Original: Rodney White
Okay, so working on the 'knowing what we know now' theory, this is way too late for Parker to come off the board. After all, he’s only a four-time champion, four-time All-NBA pick and six-time All-Star, who mixed in a Finals MVP in 2007 for good measure. However, this was a time when size still ruled supreme and most every team ahead thus far had at least a reasonable excuse for passing on point guard pedigree in lieu of finding the ‘next big thing’ around the rim. Or at least had a reasonable incumbent at the point.
That is not the case for a Pistons team that ran out Dana Barros and Chucky Atkins at the point, and never selected Mateen Cleaves the previous year in this world. Parker would answer all of their prayers and be the best point guard since Isiah Thomas to reach the D. In an environment such as this, he would’ve put up much bigger individual numbers than he did as a part of the collective in San Antonio.
10. Boston Celtics: Joe Johnson, Arkansas
Johnson is one of the most skilled one-on-one players of the past 20 years. He's a matchup nightmare: too big and strong for guards and too quick for forwards. He was comfortable playing the 1 through 3 and was an underrated defender in his prime. The seven-time All-Star had a five-year stretch where he averaged at least 20 points a game, cementing himself as one of the stars from this class.
11. Boston Celtics (from Nuggets): Jason Richardson, Michigan State (-6)
Original Pick: Kedrick Brown
This would be a true gift for the Celts to land here, as Richardson is far better than the 11th best player in this draft. His career 17.1 points per game were second to only Gilbert Arenas from this class, who was initially his teammate in real life — and swiped his draft slot in this one. However, sometimes people slide by no fault of their own.
12. Seattle SuperSonics: Troy Murphy, Notre Dame (+2)
Original Pick: Vladimir Radmonvic
Murphy might not have been the three-point shooter Radmonovic was, but he was a much better overall scorer and rebounder. He would have been a wiser selection here for Seattle, who were looking for a power forward to fill a need.
13. New Jersey Nets (from Rockets): Mehmet Okur, Efes Pilsen (Turkey) (+25)
Original Pick: Richard Jefferson
Originally grabbed in the second round by the Pistons, Okur ended up having a very credible and productive career. His peak years came with the Jazz, for whom he averaged 15.3 points and 7.6 rebounds for over seven seasons. Ironically, he finished his career in New Jersey in 2012, where he’ll land nine seasons earlier now.
Sidebar: For fun, take a moment and try to imagine hearing Cardi B getting a hold of his name.
14. Golden State Warriors: Joe Forte, North Carolina (+7)
Original Pick: Troy Murphy
One of the things to respect about Gilbert Arenas and his game is that he could play alongside other perimeter players who needed the ball to be effective. If Forte is selected here, maybe his career doesn't flame out by playing next to a basketball genius like Gilbert. They grow together like Agent Zero and J-Rich did in the real timeline, pushing each other to improve.
15. Orlando Magic: Kwame Brown, Glynn Academy HS (-14)
Original Pick: Steven Hunter
The free fall stops here for the original number one overall pick. Even at the time, Brown was somewhat of a surprise as the top pick, as his stock shot up above that of classmates Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry and DaJuan Wagner via a strong AAU and All-Star circuit season. It was enough to propel the Wizards to make him the first high schooler to ever go #1, which we all know now was a critical error. He doesn’t hurt as much here at 15, where the Magic could use the size and the upside. This may still be a bit of reach of faith based in potential, but what draft doesn’t have that.
16. Charlotte Hornets: Vladimir Radmonovic, YMP (Yugoslavia) (-4)
Original Pick: Kirk Haston
Though Radmonovic has very few memorable NBA moments, he was a shooting 6'10" forward who would have helped do that now-commonplace idea: stretch the floor. The Hornets had Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn to create. Radmonovic would have just had to knock down shots and maybe grave a rebound or two.
17. Toronto Raptors: Gerald Wallace, Alabama (+8)
Original Pick: Michael Bradley
The fact that Wallace is still on the board here is somewhat surprising, as he was a very solid pro for a long time. It took a while for his game to develop at the pro level, but he averaged in double figures for eight straight years and led the league in steals per game in 2005-06. Just the type of guy this team could use on the perimeter behind Vince Carter.
18. New Jersey (from Rockets): Samuel Dalembert, Seton Hall (+8)
Original Pick: Jason Collins
There should be a club or secret lounge where better-than-mediocre centers can go bond. Coming after the era where the offensive focal point was the "5" position, players like Dalembert were expected to turn into Shaq-like figures, even as the taller, skilled post players were now becoming power forwards to avoid The Diesel. Dalembert was good enough to warrant him moving up in this redraft, as he was a capable shot blocker and rebounder.
19. Portland Trailblazers: Eddie Griffin, Seton Hall (-12)
Original Pick: Zach Randolph
Where to place Griffin is a challenge, as he never approached his sizeable potential due to mixture of issues that haunted him throughout his career. On the court, the top high school player in the class of 2000 and Sporting News National Freshman of the Year had talent to burn. However, he missed his entire third season due to substance abuse issues and tragically died in a car crash in 2007, when his blood alcohol level was found to be over three times the legal limit.
This is why he falls to where he does with Portland here, as the talent still has to slot in, although we know the tenure will be a disappointing –and ultimately tragic— one.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jason Collins, Stanford (-2)
Original Pick: Brendan Haywood, North Carolina
Collins filled his role quite well. He, like most of the interior big men around this time, eventually became casualties of Shaq — thrown to him to take the bruising so the power forward would be spared from foul trouble. It allowed him to have an extended career. Serviceable is a word that describes a lot of these centers and power forwards who weren't offensive-minded, but still served a purpose on rosters of the time.
21. Boston Celtics: Bobby Simmons, DePaul (+21)
Original Pick: Joe Forte
Simmons was a contributor for the better part of a decade and even posted a year where he posted 16 points a night in 2004-05 season. With a first round of Joe Johnson, Jason Richardson and Simmons, the Celtics actually have something to build off around Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker.
22. Orlando Magic: Jamaal Tinsley, Iowa State (+5)
Original Pick: Jeryl Sasser, SMU
After being on the wrong end of one of college basketball's biggest upsets with his Iowa State Cyclones losing to Hampton University in the first round of the Tournament, Jamaal Tinsley becomes the eventual starting point guard for the Orlando Magic. Next to McGrady, the Magic now have a second creator who's unafraid to hunt for his own shot.
23. New Jersey Nets: DeSagana Diop, Oak Hill Academy HS (-15)
Original Pick: Brandon Armstrong, Pepperdine
Yes, they took Mehmet Okur earlier, but the drive for size at this point in time was too much let Diop pass by as well. He brought a grown man’s body and a penchant for blocking shots and snatching boards with him from the esteemed Oak Hill Academy. However, it never bloomed into being more than a backup big, at best. Maybe landing with a team with more veterans could have done him good.
24. Utah Jazz: Carlos Arroyo, Florida International (Undrafted)
Original Pick: Raul Lopez, Real Madrid
This would be the point of the Draft where terms like, 'scrappy' or 'gritty' get frequent among analysts. But honestly, they do describe Puerto Rican legend Carlos Arroyo. A capable shooter and playmaker, he is a solid second-team/depth talent worthy of this point in the draft.
25. Sacramento Kings: Trenton Hassell, Austin Peay (+5)
Original Pick: Gerald Wallace
Hassell did what you want for a second-round swingman to do: be dependable, healthy and contribute enough to warrant his presence. He did what he needed to do well enough that he slides into the first round here. He’d have been a solid young energy guy on those Rick Adelman Kings squads.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Loren Woods, Arizona (+20)
Original Pick: Samuel Dalembert
Woods being good enough to be drafted while playing on an Arizona team with Gilbert Arenas, Luke Walton and Richard Jefferson on it speaks to both the times and Woods' individual ability. After transferring from Wake Forest after his sophomore season, Woods was able to be productive for the Wildcats, averaging 14 points and over 2 blocks per game. The Sixers would have taken a chance on him and drafted him much higher than the second round.
27. Indiana Pacers (from Vancouver): Earl Watson, UCLA (+13)
Original Pick: Jamaal Tinsley, Iowa State
The Pacers need a PG here and Watson fits the bill. He’s the quintessential depth pick for PG and not a guy that is going to lead a team to the next level, but it’s rare to find that at this point anyway….
…although the Spurs certainly did with the next pick IRL.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Charlie Bell, Michigan State (Undrafted)
Original Pick: Tony Parker
Charlie Bell would have been perfect for Gregg Popovich. Currently, he has fellow MSU Spartan Bryn Forbes and is turning him into quite the pro. Forbes is a better standstill shooter than Bell was, but Bell was much better with the ball in his hands. He could make the right play and take the right shot, which is just how Pop and the Spurs are built.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves: Forfeited
The Timberwolves forfeited the final pick of the first round, due to their salary cap punishment for the Tom Gugoliota contract. Had they been eligible to pick, they would have slotted in for the 18th pick, which would have landed them in our re-draft in firing range for Gerald Wallace, who would’ve fit in very well with this Kevin Garnett/Wally Szczerbiak/Terrell Brandon-led squad.
Highest Risers: Arenas (+26), Okur (+25), Arroyo (Undrafted)
Furthest Falls: Diop (-15), Brown (-14), Griffin (-12)
Off the Board: White (#9), Brown (#11), Hunter (#15)
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