Last Thursday, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett from UNLV with the number one pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Yes, a bit of shocker some might say.
Most experts predicted either Nerlens Noel from Kentucky, Alex Len from Maryland, or Victor Oladipo from Indiana to go number one. It seems as though Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has made a habit of making the “stretch pick” instead of what most analysts would say is the “safe pick.” To Gilbert’s defense, it’s worked out pretty well for him and the Cavs so far, drafting young stars Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and now Bennett. Maybe, just maybe, the Cavs will finally move past the “LeBron Era” and actually become a playoff team.
Now moving to the new kid on the block, Mr. Bennett. Anthony, coming from a kid himself who’s never been picked first in anything athletic in his life (that includes pick-up basketball, baseball, football, kickball, and cricket), I personally can’t relate to you in any way or give you any words of wisdom.
However, I can warn you about the dangers of being drafted #1, and the men before you that have played their way onto the wall of shame.
Simply put Anthony, if you can just play better (and last longer) than these five guys, you will never have to worry about the never-ending jokes, ridiculing, and persecution that your fellow draftee’s have had to live with for their entire careers.
Read up young blood.
This one is hard for me, especially because I’m an Ohio State fan and I watched him dominate the college game for a year, but I’m sorry Greg I had to (check out the link below to see some real Oden footage). Greg Oden came to Ohio State as one of the most decorated high school basketball players of all-time. Oden brought with him expectations to dominate the college game. When he was on the court, that’s exactly what he did. He helped lead the Buckeyes to the 2007 national title game, eventually losing to the Florida Gators. After one season in Columbus, he declared for the NBA Draft and the Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the first pick in the 2007 Draft.
Everything from that point on went from good, to bad, to ugly. Oden went on to play just 82 games in the span of five seasons with the Trail Blazers. He hasn’t even played since the 2009 season. The worst part of this pick isn’t even all the problems Oden has had, it’s the fact that the player picked second that year was a guy named Kevin Durant (I’m assuming the Trail Blazers are still pondering that decision). Things hit rock bottom for Greg when he and I crossed paths at a bar in Columbus last summer. Poor guy. The only reason he’s not in the top five is because I’m biased towards my Buckeyes and I still have hope he’ll play one more game in the NBA before he calls it a day.
Anthony, you’re lucky, because this guy wasn’t even drafted number one. Darko was drafted second overall in the 2003 NBA Draft, one pick after LeBron James. I’ll admit, it’s no walk in the park to live up to the “Chosen One,” but Darko was just flat-out awful in his NBA career (and I’m being nice). The 2003 Draft was one of the elite drafts of all-time, but Darko’s career was anything but elite. He was drafted by the Detroit Pistons: picked before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, and David West (just to name a few.) Milicic played with the Pistons for three years before bouncing around the league. He last played for the Celtics in 2012 and was released after only playing one game for the team. Odds are you’ll have a better career Anthony.
Now to the real stuff.
#5 Joe Smith:
Joe Smith was the definition of mediocrity during his 17-year career in the NBA. Smith was selected with the number one pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. He was a standout forward/center at Maryland, averaging 20 ppg and 10 rebounds in his two years there. When he took his talents to the association, his numbers and domination didn’t come with him. He played with the Golden State Warriors for two and half seasons before being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers midway through the 1998 season. From that point on, Smith became an NBA journeyman. He went on to play for 12 different teams during his career, and was never once selected to an All-Star game. His greatest attribute was his longevity. Seventeen years in the NBA is quite a long time, he may have you beat there Anthony.
#4 Danny Manning:
A lot of people might criticize this choice, but Danny Manning was supposed to save the Clippers organization and help them compete with the Showtime Lakers. To Manning’s credit, he was a two-time all-star, but he never lived up to the hype that he had when he played college basketball at Kansas. Suffering from chronic injuries, and the Donald Sterling curse that says the Clippers will never become a successful franchise, Manning went on to become a serviceable center for a number of years. However, he was never the great center Sterling had imagined he would become. While in LA, Manning lacked talent surrounding him, but ultimately he wasn’t the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain so many people thought he would be. Stay in shape and don’t play for Donald Sterling and you should be good Anthony.
#3 Michael Olowokandi:
Well, I’m still wondering about this one, and I think half of LA is too. Most people have probably never even heard of Michael Olowokandi, so I’ll save you the pain of looking up his Wikipedia, cause it ain’t pretty. Olowokandi was a stud at the University of Pacific, a small school in California. After his senior year, the Clippers (notice a theme here) took Olowokandi with the first pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. Olowkandi was a disaster from the start. He never averaged more than 12 ppg in his career and was out of the league by the time he was 31; another example of the Clippers really missing the mark here. Players drafted after Olowkandi include Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Peirce. Ouch.
#2 Kwame Brown:
Finally, a pick that doesn’t mention the Clippers. In a lot of people’s minds, Brown goes down as the worst #1 draft pick of all-time, but I slot him in at number two. Kwame was picked by the Washington Wizards (behind the brilliance of Michael Jordan) with the first pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. Brown came straight out of high school, but unlike the careers of LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, Brown was not a straight out of high school phenom. Between his immaturity, lack of development, and poor play, Brown was marked as a cancer for teams. After four uneventful seasons in DC, Brown hit the road to find that he would never become the player everyone thought he could become. Instead, Brown has become the punch line for all jokes related to draft busts and the go-to example for all newcomers in the league. Don’t follow his lead Anthony.
#1 Sam Bowie:
Good news Anthony, this guy wasn’t drafted with the first pick in the draft either, but in my opinion, he goes down as the worst draft pick of all-time. Sam Bowie was an All-American at Kentucky who was taken with the number two pick in the 1984 Draft, one spot after the great Hakeem Olajuwon. Unfortunately for Bowie and the team who drafted him, the Portland Trail Blazers, the player picked one spot after him was this dude named Michael Jordan. While Jordan went on to become the most decorated basketball player of all-time, Bowie developed terrible knee problems that had actually first nagged him as early as his high school days. We all know how Jordan’s career ended up, but Bowie’s story is quite the opposite. He played for 10 seasons on three different teams, never managing to play a full season in the NBA. His career will always be marked as the “guy drafted before Michael,” which is why he goes down as the worst pick of all time. The best thing Bowie has going for him is that he wasn’t actually drafted number one overall. At least he can say that.
Anthony, may the odds be ever in your favor.