By: Prad, THE New York Knicks Fan
The 2002-2003 NBA season saw the San Antonio Spurs beat the Nets in the NBA Finals, Tim Duncan winning MVP, Tracy McGrady winning the scoring title, and the Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers tied for the worst record in the NBA, both having a 17-65 record. When the 2003 NBA Draft Lottery came along, the Nuggets and Cavaliers each had a 22.5% chance of winning the number one overall pick. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, they didn’t get the first or second pick in the draft eventually dropping to the third pick. The Memphis Grizzlies attained the second overall pick, but because of a 1997 trade with the Pistons for Otis Thorpe, it was awarded to Detroit.
2003 NBA Draft
Today marks the 10th anniversary to the day of the 2003 NBA Draft. Every NBA fan in the country knows who the Cavs selected with the #1 overall pick and how that panned out. LeBron James was considered one of the most anticipated basketball players in NBA draft history, so much that 2003 was dubbed the “LeBron Lottery”. But after that pick, the next four picks were met with uncertainty. Joe Dumars, the Pistons’ President of Basketball Operations, saw a 17 year old Serbian named Darko Miličić workout several hours before the lottery and felt that he could help the Pistons win another title, which hadn’t been done since Isaiah Thomas’ Bad Boy Pistons. Prior to the workout, the projected second overall pick was Carmelo Anthony, a freshmen who just led Syracuse to the NCAA Championship. Anthony fell to Denver with the third pick because of the massive gamble that Detroit took. Chris Bosh was fourth to the Toronto Raptors and Dwayne Wade went fifth to the Miami Heat. Of these first five picks, Wade, the fifth, was the first to win an NBA Finals MVP and led the “Redeem Team” in scoring during the 2008 Summer Olympics. Yet, I don’t believe he should have gone second in the draft if this draft was picked all over again 10 years later.
Initial Pick: #1
10 years later: #1
Every NBA fan and NBA player will say that LeBron should have definitely been picked first overall in this draft with the exception of Cavs fans. He is a four time MVP, two time Finals MVP, two time NBA champion, and nine time All-Star. He is the most successful NBA player to ever come straight out of high school. In his first decade in the league, he has accumulated the most points, assists, steals, and is 7th in rebounds for any prep-to-pro player in their first 10 years in the league. The rebound statistic is impressive considering that for the majority of his career he has played small forward. LeBron’s versatility is unquestionable as he has the ability to play any one of the five positions on the floor at any given time. Although he was scrutinized greatly about his signing with the Miami Heat, people tend to forget that he is still the centerpiece of his team, not Wade. He posted one of the all time greatest stat lines in history this season, but 26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.3 APG, and 1.7 SPG seems pedestrian for his standards. People will continue to challenge his ability to perform when the pressure is on because of his failure to do so earlier in his career, but Game 6 and Game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals will attest to his recent growing dominance in clutch time.
Initial Pick: #2
10 years later: NA
The Detroit Pistons and everybody on their staff from their most senior executive to their assistant coaches were enamored with Miličić after watching him workout the day of the NBA Lottery. They asked him to do certain post moves and drives. They thought it was the best basketball workout they had ever seen and these people had been in basketball for decades. But in hindsight, I’m sure everyone there has thought that they should have seen him play more than once before making him the second overall pick in a star studded draft class. And now, Darko Miličić’s name is added to the list, Sam Bowie, Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Kwame Brown. Miličić might even top this list of North America’s historic draft busts. At least Bowie, who was drafted above Jordan, had a few decent seasons where he averaged over 11 PPG topping at 16. Darko Miličić has never had a season over 9 PPG or 6 RPG. However, he is the first of the first five selections to win an NBA Championship, but hardly had an impact on the title run. He averaged a mere 4.7 minutes per game and 1.4 PPG during that season, coincidentally his rookie campaign. He never played starting minutes in his NBA career. Miličić doesn’t even play in the NBA anymore. A decade later, Dumars and the Pistons surely regret this pick, as Miličić will go down in NBA infamy for being selected above Anthony, Bosh, or Wade, all All-Stars. If he was redrafted with all of this knowledge, I’m certain that he wouldn’t even make for a mid second round pick.
Initial Pick: #3
10 years later: #2
Carmelo Anthony was an exciting prospect that led his school to the NCAA Championship as a freshman. He had an innate scoring ability with a big frame when filled out with muscle could make for a dangerous offensive player. Anthony won the scoring title this year, he’s a six time All-Star, and scored the most points in history in a single game for the US Olympic team (37). When he was with Denver, he single-handedly led them to the Western Conference Finals one season. Anthony shoots a higher career three point percentage (33.4%) than Dwayne Wade (28.9%). Melo and Wade have virtually the same career PPG, Melo has 25.0 PPG and Wade, 24.7 PPG. Of the first five players drafted, Melo is the most statistically clutch when it comes to the last 24 seconds in the game. From 2006-2012, Melo shot 37.5% (15/40), LeBron shot 29.5% (18/61), and Wade shot 18.9% (10/53). The difference however are the titles won. Melo still hasn’t won that elusive ring that haunted LeBron for nine years. Meanwhile, Wade has won three rings in the last ten years. But, the argument can be made that Melo has never had a strong supporting cast to help him capture the ring, while Wade had Shaq in 2006 and of course, LeBron in 2012 and 2013. Clearly, Wade was not the main driver behind the latter two championship runs. Shaq’s support in the 2006 season made a huge difference as he averaged 20.0 PPG and 9.2 RPG to go along with almost 2 BPG. To be fair, Wade too played outstanding basketball in the Finals, scoring at least 35 points in Games 3, 4, 5, and 6, which helped him garner the NBA Finals MVP. Nevertheless, it’s probably my love for the Knicks, but if I were to draft the 2003 class again, Melo would be second overall and not Wade.
Initial Pick: #4
10 years later: #4
Chris Bosh has been under appreciated by all NBA fans his entire career with the exception of Toronto Raptor fans who adored him the seven years he was there. The member of the Big Three who’s always left out, is an eight time All-Star and two time NBA Champ. Of the top five, I believe Chris Bosh is the only one who should stay at the position he was drafted excluding LeBron. This past season, he had a higher true shooting percentage than Carmelo and Wade. He generally averages more rebounds than any of the other top five picks in part because of his size and role as a big man. This season however was a poor performance from Bosh and I expect him to do much better next year. He averaged a career low in rebounds (6.8) and had his lowest scoring output (16.6), since his first year in the league. He has the ability to go inside and drive but shoots perimeter shots as well. He was heavily criticized for this, during this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, where he allowed Roy Hibbert and David West to attain rebounds they wouldn’t usually because he wasn’t boxing them out in the paint.
Initial Pick: #5
10 years later: #3
Pat Riley and the Miami Heat organization were contemplating picking Dwayne Wade or Chris Kaman. Before he declared himself for the draft, Dwayne Wade, as a junior led Marquette to the Final Four while notching a Triple Double, only the fourth in NCAA tournament history. I’m sure Riley is very happy with his decision in picking Wade over Kaman. Wade is noted for his ability to drive hard using his quickness and speed. Wade has won a scoring title, is a nine time All-Star, and has the aforementioned NBA titles on his resumé. For a shooting guard, Wade is very efficient, shooting 48.9% in his career and traditionally averages around 1.5-2.0 SPG. In the Carmelo Anthony segment, I explained my rationale and why I believe that Wade should have gone third overall.
Where 2003 will be in history
1984, 1996, and 2003 will go down as arguably the three greatest draft classes in NBA History. 1984 featured Jordan, Olajuwon, Barkley, and Stockton. There have been only four quadruple-doubles in NBA history and two of them were achieved by people in this draft class, Hakeem Olajuwon and Alvin Robertson. ’96’s class had Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, and Steve Nash. Both of these classes possessed great scorers, rebounders, passers, defenders, and winners. These same great traits are held by members of the 2003 class. There is no doubt though that 2003’s class is already the greatest draft class since the turn of the century. Perhaps, when all is said and done the 2003 NBA Draft class could top the list. This class is special, it’s got more in its tank and is going for history.