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 2004 NBA Draft started as one thing, but ended up being something completely different. Throughout the entire year leading up to it, UConn star Emeka Okafor was billed as the top pick in waiting, a classic interior force that would follow in the college mold-to-pro footsteps of recent bigs like Elton Brand and Kenyon Martin.
However, we were also still within the prep-to-pro era as well, with LeBron James and Amar'e Stoudemire rejuvenating the idea of elite high schoolers' immediate impact in the NBA. Enter Dwight Howard, a hawking man-child out of Atlanta, who had the skill set to be the next great center in the league’s long lineage of such players. His emergence in the spring spiced things up at the top of the board, where a new entry into the league — the Charlotte Bobcats — traded up to get in on the pair of elite big men.
Looking back 16 years though, perhaps what the class should be best remembered for is not its leading men but rather the sheer quality of depth it created. Andre Iguodala, Tony Allen, Devin Harris, Trevor Ariza and Shaun Livingston played big parts in creating the fabric of championship teams. Lou Williams and Ben Gordon combined to win four Sixth Man of the Year awards. Luol Deng, Al Jefferson, Jameer Nelson, Josh Smith and Kevin Martin all had impressive and consistently strong careers as well.
All said, the defining element of this draft is shared seat. So, here’s a look at the 2004 NBA Re-Draft, with Whitener kicking things off with a familiar face, followed by Till shaking the tree of history early. A reminder, the picks are alternated between our two Re-Draft GMs throughout the first round.
1. Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy HSPhoto by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Original pick: same
Howard’s career would make him one of the more complicated #1 picks of all-time, but regardless he remains the easy pick here. At his peak powers, he was a force around the rim, leading the league in rebounds five times, blocks twice and being named Defensive Player of the Year three times. He became the youngest player to led the league in rebounds and blocks twice, doing so at age 24.
Although he did lead the Magic to the Finals in 2011, there is still a feeling of unfulfilled potential around Howard. He looked the part of being the next great center of all-time but it never quite rounded into that... yet he is still going to be a Hall of Famer, and you can use betonline to wager on such a prop. Perhaps his is more of the journey of an Elvin Hayes or Bill Walton, where he both lived up to, but still fell short of the hype and it was easy to see both why and how. But all-in-all, his 133.9 Win Shares are by far the most of this class.
2. Charlotte Bobcats (from Clippers): Al Jefferson, Prentiss HS (+14)
Original pick: Emeka Okafor
The second-best post player of this class is the man affectionately known as "Big Al." At his best, Al Jefferson was a consistent 20 points and 10 rebounds a game and remains one of the more underrated contributors of this era. Charlotte needs offensive potency and consistency, and a stabilizing rod like Jefferson. Though drafted out of high school like Dwight Howard, he would have boosted the expansion franchise's development.
3. Chicago Bulls: Andre Iguodala, Arizona (+6)Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Original pick: Ben Gordon
The Re-Draft Bulls of this world have gotten pretty deep on the perimeter, selecting Mike Miller, Morris Peterson and Kirk Hinrich over the last few years. However, the chance to add Illinois native Iggy brings an ultra-athletic, defensive presence to a team that needs it. He was a day one starter that became an All-Star and averaged over 17 points four times, before becoming an impact rotational player on three championship teams. The debate on if Iggy covertly became a Hall of Famer is one of the more intriguing, nuanced debates of recent years.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (from Bobcats): Ben Gordon, Connecticut (-1)
Original pick: Shaun Livingston
Gordon has had an interesting decade and a half since his pro career began. In today's game, he would be highly sought after, so understand how good he had to be in 2004 to be drafted in the top five at 6'1". Despite his height, Gordon could score on anyone and was a frequent clutch performer. The Clippers could use the backcourt punch, whether Gordon started or came off the bench. He was the first rookie in history to win Sixth Man of the Year.
5. Dallas Mavericks (from Wizards): Devin Harris, Wisconsin
Original pick: Same
Harris runs it back with the Mavs, who needed his type of scoring presence in the backcourt. In his peak form, Harris was capable of turning in 20 points per night, while being a hawking presence on defense. Overall, he settled in as more of a rotational guy, but one that brought a lot of regular value in any role he was deployed in.
6. Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith, Oak Hill Academy HS (+11)
Original pick: Josh Childress
Smith was selected by Atlanta in this draft IRL, but his early production warrants him moving up 11 spots in our redraft. Super-athletic on both ends of the floor, "J-Smoove" was also a great shot blocker at the forward position. Atlanta needed to play faster and more explosive, and Smith certainly provided that. Fun fact: he is one of eight players drafted in the last 20 years to average 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal for his career.
7. Chicago Bulls (from Suns): Luol Deng, Duke
Original pick: same
Deng fell into the Bulls hands at seven in real life and does so here again. He ended up outperforming the slot too, becoming one of the most important parts of the Bulls resurgence in the early 2010s. His greatest talent was for being unflinchingly steady, as he averaged in double-figures for the first 11 years of his career, while never scoring more than 18 points per night, but fewer than 14 only on the bookend years of the streak. Paired with Iguodala here, Chicago adds the second and third highest career win share totals from this draft class.
8. Toronto Raptors: Emeka Okafor, Connecticut (-6)Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Original pick: Rafeal Araujo
This seems unfair to Okafor, who was the best defensive anchor in college at the time. His limited offensive game and balky back kept him from being a franchise cornerstone but he certainly improved every team he played on. Toronto wouldn't have let Okafor slip past him as they needed interior help in a still-punishing Eastern Conference.
9. Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Childress, Stanford (-3)
Original pick: Andre Iguodala
Admittedly, Childress was a bit better than I remembered. His game was always a bit gawky and awkward, as he had a herky-jerky shooting form and resembled a bit of a microphone himself, with his lanky build and So-So Def afro. But he did score in double figures in each of his first four seasons, while averaging nearly six assists a night. Childress adds a desperately needed frontcourt swingman to a Sixers roster that has next to none right now.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jameer Nelson, St. Joe's (+10)
Original pick: Luke Jackson
High on the list of Nelson's career accomplishments should be that his college teammate Delonte West was also picked in the first round of this Draft. Point guards who can shoot and set others up at a decent level play forever, even if they're shorter than six feet. The 2004 National Player of The Year deserved to be selected in the top ten.
11. Golden State Warriors: Kevin Martin, Western Carolina (+15)
Original Pick: Andris Biedrins
The Dubs need a guard with a taste for putting up buckets and Martin was often insatiable about getting them. Martin’s game would fit in amazingly in the modern NBA game, as he regularly hoisted up threes – and hit 38% of them for his career. He is the most accomplished scorer from the class, averaging 20 points or better six times in his 14-year career, and topping 23 PPG in three of those seasons.
12. Seattle SuperSonics: Sebastian Telfair, Lincoln (Brooklyn) HS (+1)Jim McIsaac, Getty Images
Original pick: Robert Swift, Bakersfield (CA) HS
Around this time, the NBA was still relatively older than it is now. Yes, players were being selected out of high school, but the veterans were still older than they are now. So imagine how good a high school player Telfair was to be selected in the lottery. He's a gifted passer and playmaker like his older cousin Stephon Marbury, though not as athletic. Here, he would still celebrate being drafted like he did in his amazing documentary, "Through The Fire."
13. Portland Trail Blazers: J.R. Smith, St. Benedict’s (New Jersey) Prep (+5)
Original pick: Sebastian Telfair
Say what you will about J.R. — and there is plenty that could be said — but he had the skill set to do anything on offense, even if the mentality to hone it in wasn't there to help to maximize his potential. Landing on this ultra-young, rebuilding Blazers team here would have been an interesting test for which part of his personality would have embraced it as well. Now the question is, does Smith have one more run in him? The betmgm sportsbook is now live and you can wager on such a prop.
14. Utah Jazz: Kris Humphries, Minnesota
Original pick: same
There isn't much to speak of about Kris Humphries' NBA career. He was a double-double machine at Minnesota. He's 6'10" in a league that appreciates big, athletic bodies. But for some reason, he fits here in Utah. I wonder what it is.
15. Boston Celtics: Tony Allen, Oklahoma State (+10)
Original pick: Al Jefferson
Over his 14-year career, Allen received nearly universal approval and praise from his peers as one of, if not the, premier perimeter defenders of his generation. He received six All-Defensive Team nods, with three first-team and three second-team selections. While he hurt more than he helped offensively, he was a prototypical glue guy that fit (and fits) the Celtics needs perfectly.
16. Utah Jazz (from Knicks): Sasha Vujacic, Snaidero Udine (Italy) (+11)
Original pick: Kirk Snyder
Utah also seems to fit the streaky shooting and playmaking of Vujacic. As a big guard with crafty skill, he would be another decision-maker that wasn't a liability shooting the ball. In our redraft, he's the only other true guard on the roster, so he'd have plenty of minutes to be productive.
17. Atlanta Hawks (from Bucks): Anderson Varejao, FC Barcelona (Spain) (+13)
Original pick: Josh Smith
Varejao never shied away from contact and seemed to enjoy the dirty work in the post, during an era where there was plenty go around. At his peak, he earned an All-Defense selection in 2010, but injuries kept him from being active often enough to maximize those abilities. Between 2011 and 2013, he averaged 11 points and 11 boards per night, although it was over a combined 81 out of a possible 246 games.
18. New Orleans Hornets: Kirk Snyder, Nevada (-2)
Original pick: J.R. Smith
Kirk Snyder may not have had much of an NBA career, but maybe a redraft into New Orleans where they're desperate for wing production provides him more opportunity to have a better career. This redraft isn't just about hindsight. It also includes how teams would draft according to need as those re-visionary picks are selected. Snyder gets chosen here because New Orleans needs a wing.
19. Miami Heat: Trevor Ariza, UCLA (+24)
Original pick: Dorell Wright
Ariza is a fantastic fit for this Miami team, as he easily fits in as a quick starter for a Miami team gearing up for a championship run. He is one of the elite plug-and-play guys over the last two decades; a three-and-D wing that fits nearly any scheme. Because of this, he played in 102 playoff games and become one of the go-to veteran presences for teams looking for a contributing character bump as well.
20. Orlando Magic: Shaun Livingston, Peoria (IL) HS (-16)
Original pick: Jameer Nelson
Livingston was this high school class's most talented point guard. At 6'7" and lighting fast, he would allow for many more lineup options at guard and even forward to play alongside him. Having re-draft teammates Mickeal Pietrus and Grant Hill partnering with him on the wing provides for a very long and athletic triumvirate on the perimeter. A horrific knee injury stifled a lot of his athleticism, but he remarkably transformed himself into one of the league's most savvy vets. He was able to have a very productive career and contribute to championship teams.
21. Dallas Mavericks (from Jazz): Andris Biedrins, Skonto (Latvia) (-10)
Original pick: Pavel Podkolzin, Metis Varese (Italy)
Biedrins arrived as one of the youngest international players to reach the league, playing minutes at age 18 in 2004. But he rounded into a solid contributor, averaging a double-double over a three-year span from 2007 to 2009, and led the league in field goal percentage in 2007-08, at .626%. However, he lost an unfortunate battle with the yips in 2010 that torpedoed his free throw percentage down to .160% and subsequently killed his ability to stay on the court.
22. Portland Trail Blazers (from Nets): Andre Emmett, Texas Tech (+13)
Original pick: Viktor Khryapa, CSKA Moscow
Rest in peace to Emmett, a quality wing player who was high energy. With a rise in elite scorers on the wing, a player like Emmett would be vital in slowing the likes of Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady down. He would have been an important cog in Portland's rotation as a cutter, defender and transition wing, similar to Andre Iguodala.
23. Portland Trail Blazers (from Grizzlies): Chris Duhon, Duke (+15)
Original pick: Sergei Monia, CSKA Moscow
The prototypical effective, persistent and smart Duke point guard, Duhon converted a second round shot into a nine-year career. He started 73 games as a rookie, averaging just under five assists and a steal per night. His top season came in 2008-09, when he posted 11.1 points and 7.2 assists per game for the Knicks. A solid career for a savvy player.
24. Boston Celtics (from Mavericks): Luke Jackson, Oregon (-14)
Original pick: Delonte West
Celtics fans would have loved Jackson. He's a sweet shooting 6'10" forward. Maybe in Boston, he would pan out and be productive. He wouldn't need to make plays with Paul Pierce and Leandro Barbosa there. But he would have to contribute to frontcourt scoring due to a lot of big bodies on hand, but very few discernible scorers.
25. Boston Celtics (from Pistons): Rafael Araujo, BYU (-17)
Original pick: Tony Allen
The Celts need some size and Araujo at least has that. Standing at 6’11 and 275 pounds, the Brazilian big was overcast from the beginning as the eighth pick and struggled to get rotational time through his career. However, in a draft that is starved for size, the logic in taking a shot here still stands up – even if he will spend much of his career sitting on the bench.
26. Sacramento Kings: Beno Udrih, Olympia Milano (Italy) (+2)
Original pick: Kevin Martin
Udrih ended up in Sacramento in his career. He's a heady point guard and as previously stated, those play for a long time. A capable shooter, able to take advantage of second-unit guards with his skill, Beno wasn't regular starter caliber, but is a quality rotation player.
27. Los Angeles Lakers: Dorell Wright, South Kent School (Connecticut) HS (-8)
Original pick: Sasha Vujacic
A tall, long-armed shooter that was unafraid to let it go from deep, Wright is another guy that came along a bit too soon. He was a danger from the corners and hit 36% of his threes for his career. His top season came in 2010-11, when he averaged 16.4 PPG. It would have been interesting to see how his career trajectory could have been impacted by being on a roster with Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Andre Barrett, Seton Hall (Undrafted)
Original pick: Beno Udrih
Barrett gets selected here because though undrafted, he managed to play a few years in the NBA. Crafty point guards are highly valued by Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, and Barrett playing next to Ginobili and Duncan might have kept him in the league longer than he was.
29. Indiana Pacers: Delonte West, St. Joseph’s (-5)
Original pick: David Harrison, Colorado
A year after the Malice at the Palace, the Pacers use the final pick in the first round on a guy that would have spiced that mix up even greater had he been on hand. Of course, West’s name is popularized for more, um, controversial reasons due to his stint in Cleveland, but it gets lost in the mix how skilled of a combo guard he was at his best. He fits in brilliantly with this Pacers team, both on the court and in the locker room.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves: Forfeit
This marks the final year of penalties that resulted in the T-Wolves losing three first round picks for salary cap manipulation. Had they been in play, they checked in at the 29th overall slot after posting the best record in the Western Conference at 58-24.
Highest Risers: Barrett (Undrafted), Ariza (+24), Duhon (+15)
Furthest Falls: Araujo (-17), Livingston (-16), Jackson (-14)
Out all together: Swift (#12), Podkolzin (#21), Khryapa (#22), Monia (#23), Harrison (#29)
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