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.
After a 2001 class where high schoolers ran rampant across the lottery — to some quickly questionable returns — NBA teams returned to what they knew well: college kids and big post players. Some variation of the adage, "can't teach height" was a staple in scouting departments, as the NBA was still trying to hang on to its focus on interior players.
Lost in the mix was the likes of Amare Stoudemire, a highly talented but somewhat enigmatic high schooler, who paid for the sins of the preps that came before him. Likewise, a surprisingly high amount of players that would go on to have long NBA careers slid into the second round, or out of the draft completely in the process. It seems like nobody had a clear idea of exactly where the game was going and what would be needed to compete within it.
It was also a year that was hijacked by the presence of Yao Ming, who was an unknown, but needed presence at the top of an otherwise meandering draft. The idea of the skilled 7'6" big man brought on a healthy dose of skepticism, but also plenty of intrigue as well. In an era where the European import was nearly synonymous with the idea of 'international' prospect, the Chinese superstar immediately became a default number pick who hovered above an otherwise balanced college class.
Because of this element, this is a draft redo where things get particularly shaken up. This includes: six second-rounders moving in the first (including a top five pick) and two previously undrafted workhorses making their way into the first round. Enjoy.
1. Houston Rockets: Yao Ming, Shanghai Sharks (China)
Original Pick: Same
Yao is one of the most underrated players in the history of the game. To be 7'6" with that level of skill and touch is insane. A Hall of Fame career was able to be had despite injuries shortening the length of it. Even if he didn't bring a title, the Rockets didn't miss with the top pick.
2. Chicago Bulls: Amare Stoudemire, Cypress Creek HS (+7)Getty Images
Original Pick: Jay Williams
Admittedly, there is a lot of the same thing on this team now in the Re-Draft universe. A year ago, the Bulls selected Tyson Chandler at number two, then turned around to take Zach Randolph at number four, now taking another high school frontcourt guy in Stoudemire a year later? Well, yes. Firstly, its not outside of the realm of possibility, after the team took Eddy Curry in real life alongside Chandler. Secondly, there’s simply not a guard worth taking (Jay Williams will not be revisited here) and Mike Miller blocks the way for Caron Butler. All things considered; they could have REALLY used Yao instead.
3. Golden State Warriors: Caron Butler, Connecticut (+7)
Original Pick: Mike Dunleavy Jr.
A big part of why Butler was passed on in the actual Draft was that he was a 22-year-old sophomore. His upbringing is documented, and it has no bearing on how good a secondary scorer he became. The Warriors, still with Gilbert Arenas and his ability to excel next to players who needed the ball, get another top end one-on-one player as the Association shifts towards space and versatility.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Carlos Boozer, Duke (+31)
Original Pick: Drew Gooden
Boozer essentially is what the Grizz needed for Gooden to be. They are starving for a physical frontcourt contributor that can board and score, and Boozer brings exactly that to the table. After his rookie year, Boozer never averaged less than 15 points or eight rebounds in any of the next eight seasons.
5. Denver Nuggets: Jared Jefferies, Indiana (+6)
Original Pick: Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Benetton Treviso (Italy)
Fresh off leading Indiana to a National Championship appearance and kissing to Maryland, the 6'10" Jefferies brings versatility to the Denver Nuggets. He grew into someone teams placed on the best offensive players simply because he allowed for defenses to rotate better. If anything, he continues on to be more than the actual pick did.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nene Hilario, PF (Brazil) (+1)
Original Pick: DaJuan Wagner
A year after adding Eddy Curry to the front court and two years after taking Chris Mihm, the Cavs finally get one right in adding a physical presence that actually makes an impact here. Nene was super consistent, high energy and brought the type of physicality that would play well at power forward next to either the aforementioned middle men. He totaled 10,000 points and over 5,000 rebounds during a strong (literally) career.
7. Denver Nuggets (from Knicks): Chris Wilcox, Maryland (+1)
Original Pick: Nene
Pairing Jefferies with a rim running athletic big like Wilcox makes Denver more athletic up front than a lot of teams at the time. For Wilcox, having a legitimate front court mate pass to him might extend his career even farther.
8. Los Angeles Clippers: Mike Dunleavy Jr., Duke (-5)
Original Pick: Wilcox
Dunleavy was better than it seemed like he was, but still not quite what is expected of a number three pick. With that being said, he’s a win here at eight. He adds a much-needed floor spreading shooter for a Clippers roster that is crowded with similar type leapers and big men. Dunleavy shot over 35% from three in 11 of his 17 seasons and was a predictability smart son of an NBA player/coach in his father, bred under Coach K. The type of guy badly needed on the Clippers of the day.
9. Phoenix Suns: Drew Gooden, Kansas (-5)
Original Pick: Stoudemire
Drew Gooden was a very solid power forward in the NBA. He's a capable scorer and rebounder, but could not develop into a dominant player on either end of the floor. He'd get to play with Steve Nash here, and while Gooden isn't as explosive as Amar'e, he would have benefited from playing with the two-time MVP.
10. Miami Heat: Tayshaun Prince, SF Kentucky (+13)Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Original Pick: Butler
Prince was a much better pro than predicted and became one of the best defensive forwards in the game in short order. Offensively, between ages 23 and 30, Prince never averaged more than 14.7 points, but never fewer than 13.5, while shooting 36% from three. Due to this skill set, he could fit in with pretty much any team and will form a smothering perimeter defensive tandem alongside Eddie Jones here.
11. Washington Wizards: Melvin Ely, Fresno State (+1)
Original Pick: Jefferies
This is a need-based pick here. The Wizards need size. Though Ely remained more raw potential than developed skill, he adds athleticism to a pretty mobile front line. Maybe he gets more opportunity to play here in Washington than he did in reality.
12. Los Angeles Clippers: Jay Williams, PG (Duke) (-10)
Original Pick: Ely
The loss of the career of Jay Williams is something that doesn’t get enough discussion. Williams was a slam dunk choice at #2 in ’02, after a decorated career at Duke that saw him win a National Championship in 2001 and be named National Player of the Year in 2002. He was a score-first point, but played smart and kept an eye for distribution as well. He averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 assists, in route to an All-Rookie second-team selection.
However, his career ended following a June 2003 motorcycle accident, so he remains one of the biggest unfulfilled potential players in the draft. However, the need/floor for his talent stops here in L.A.
13. Milwaukee Bucks: John Salmons, Miami (+13)
Original Pick: Marcus Haislip, Tennessee
Some players just know how to score. Basketball being the way it is lends itself to developing this type of player. Salmons can flat get buckets. He doesn't need a play nor a pick—just the ball and a live dribble. He did eventually land in Milwaukee. But here, he's selected by the Bucks and gets to start there earlier.
14. Indiana Pacers: Dajuan Wagner, Memphis (-8)
Original Pick: Fred Jones
Wagner was a score-first and second—type of guard that had a ton of ability that never quite panned all the way out. He averaged 13.4 points per game as a volume shooter as a rookie (36.9% from the field), but had the potential to round off his game more. However, injuries and off court issues kept him from approaching his potential. But he fits in well here for a Pacers team that needed a ballhandler with a hunger to put up points.
15. Houston Rockets: Juan Dixon, SG Maryland (+2)
Original Pick: Bostjan Nochbar
Juan Dixon walked so players like CJ McCollum could run. He may have been slight of frame but that did not stop him from getting off his shot. The NBA still hasn't quite accepted shorter scoring guards playing bigger roles on teams, so Dixon wasn't able to last. But every team needs a guard like him to provide offensive firepower off the bench.
16. Golden State Warriors (from 76ers): Luis Scola, Argentina (+40)
Original Pick: Jiri Welsch, Union Olimpija (Slovenia)
One of the greatest second-round breakouts of the lotto era, Scola went from the third-to-last pick to having a productive 10-year career. In all reality, Scola left a lot of what would’ve been his best NBA years on the table, due to him not being able to escape his European contract. However, he’s a great asset to own regardless, as he averaged 14.3 points per game while shooting 50% from the field over his first six seasons.
17. Washington Wizards: Fred Jones, Oregon (-3)
Original Pick: Dixon
With Juan Dixon gone, the Wizards need a shooting guard. They get a bigger, more explosive one in Fred Jones. The future Dunk Contest champion would have had to develop more of a jumper to contribute, but he would have been given the means to do so.
18. Utah Jazz (from Magic): Nenad Kristic, Partisan Belegrade (Serbia) (+6)
Original Pick: Curtis Borchardt, Stanford
Kristic is the type of player you think of when you think of the Jazz: a skilled big man that is comfortable shooting from the floor. His game was a bit ahead of its time, as he was a seven-footer that was at his best facing up and shooting from mid-range to nearly the arc. He didn’t come over to America until the 2004-05 season and a knee injury kept him from likely reaching his full potential, but Kristic did average 10 points and 5.4 rebounds over eight seasons.
19. Orlando Magic (from Jazz): Dan Gadzuric, UCLA (+15)
Original Pick: Ryan Humphrey, Notre Dame
This is still a time when teams kept centers who didn't develop into All-Star caliber players and kept them in the roster to defend and foul elite interior players like Shaq and Tim Duncan. Gadzuric lasted in the NBA for over a decade doing exactly that.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (from Raptors): Kareem Rush, Missouri
Original Pick: Same
Rush was a talented scorer with a nice left-handed stroke, capable of playing either guard position as needed. It only makes sense that the Lakers still select him here to add depth behind Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Brian Shaw. Rush shot 35% from three for his career and topped out at 10.1 PPG in 2005-06.
21. Portland Trailblazers: Flip Murray, Shaw (+21)
Original Pick: Qyntel Woods, Northeast Mississippi CC
It would be interesting to see how someone with the determination of Ronald "Flip" Murray managed his career after being chosen in the first round instead of pick #43. He's in the same predicament as Juan Dixon, as his size and undefined position were still a detriment to his place in a team's rotation. But he worked himself into playing big minutes in real life, and there's no doubt he'd do the same here.
22. Phoenix Suns: Udonis Haslem, Florida (Undrafted)
Original Pick: Casey Jacobsen, Stanford
The first undrafted player from this year to work his way into the revised first round, Haslem built a pro career on the same things that made him special at Florida: grit. He enjoyed doing the dirty work as an undersized center next to Chris Bosh in Miami, averaging 10.6 points and 8.4 rebounds a night between his second and sixth seasons. In this scenario, he also adds the extra ‘umpf’ that these Mike D’Antoni Suns teams would need, but ultimately never found.
23. Detroit Pistons: Darius Songaila (+27)
Original Pick: Prince
Some players just know how to be productive. Darius Songaila was a semi-stretch power forward that seemed to make more good things happen while he was on the floor. He could take advantage of a second unit matchup, provide solid rebounding and keep the ball moving with better players. Heading to a soon-to-be contending Detroit team would have been beneficial for him—if Larry Brown plays him early.
24. New Jersey Nets: Matt Barnes, UCLA (+22)
Original Pick: Nenad Kristic
The temptation to get Barnes to either the Malice at the Palace Pacers at #14 or the Jail Blazers at #21 was STRONG, simply for the added gasoline to the fire potential alone. However, pairing him with Kenyon Martin and Chris Childs isn’t a bad third place prize either. His versatility, grit and overall IDGAF-ness would’ve mixed in very well for the eventual Eastern Conference champs.
25. New York Knicks (from Nuggets): Steve Logan, Cincinnati (+5)
Original Pick: Frank Williams, Illinois
Man, Steve Logan was poised to be next in the line of star point guards to hit the Association. But a contract dispute with the Golden State Warriors because he was taken in the second round despite technically being the 29th player drafted (Spoiler: Minnesota forfeited their pick), he didn't sign and took his pro career overseas. Logan was a First-Team All-American and led Cincinnati with 22 points per game. It's a shame he didn't get a chance to play but maybe the guarantee of the first-round contract keeps him around for the Knicks.
26. Philadelphia 76ers (from Spurs): Reggie Evans, Iowa (Undrafted)
Original Pick: John Salmons
Although he led the nation in double-doubles and twice led the Big 10 in rebounding, Evans fell completely off the board on draft night. Knowing what we know now, that oversight is being amended. Evans penchant for grabbing boards carried over to the pros, as he grabbed over 5,700 in his career and averaged 13.3 per 36 minutes for his 15-year career.
27. Toronto Raptors (from Lakers): Vincent Yarbrough, Tennessee (+6)
Original Pick: Chris Jefferies, Fresno State
So, Vincent Yarbrough was the man who was on the receiving end of this famous Kobe Bryant 360 dunk. While the isn't much to his career other than that, he was a big guard that most teams were looking for. Being under Vince Carter should improve the trajectory of Yarbrough's career, as the 6'7" guard-forward only played one season in the NBA before heading overseas.
28. Atlanta Hawks (from Kings): Boštjan Nochbar, Benetton Treviso (Italy) (-13)
Original Pick: Dan Dickau, Gonzaga
Nochbar was a tall (6’9") European shooter before many teams knew how to properly integrate them into their offense. After four lackluster years to start his career in Houston and Charlotte, he saved his best seasons for his final two, averaging 9.5 points per game while shooting 39% from three for Lawrence Frank’s Nets.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves: Forfeit
The second of two lost picks for the Timberwolves would have seen them fit in at the 25th overall pick, after going 51-31. For guys that were still on the board, Reggie Evans getting molded daily in practice by KG is a fascinating idea to think through.
Biggest Risers: Reggie Evans (Undrafted), Udonis Haslem (Undrafted), Luis Scola (+40), Carlos Boozer (+31)
Furthest Falls: Boštjan Nochbar (-13), Jay Williams (-10), DaJuan Wagner (-8)
Out of the picture: Nikoloz Tskitishvili (#5), Marcus Haislip (#13), Jiri Welsch (#16)
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