If you went to the hood, walked in a KFC and received absolutely wretched customer service, how would you react? You’d probably just be quietly annoyed, get your food and go on about your day, right? It wouldn’t matter if the teenage cashier sucked her teeth, mumbled, stuck out her hand for your dough and then called “NEXT IN LINE” without saying thank you or making eye contact – when you finally get your sog-city chicken 20 minutes later, you’d just bounce. Why? Because there’s a precedent for that kind of customer service at hood KFCs and that has conditioned your expectations.
That was an awkward analogy for cautioning fans and “experts” on how they should perceive draft picks. A precedent has been set for every pick, based on picks at that number in previous years. There’s always context – the big one being which players are still available at the time of a pick. But, five years from now, when you look at Dion Waiters (the most inexplicable pick of the lottery), judge him by previous No. 4 picks before you designate him a bust.
Folks hear "lottery pick" and jump to the conclusion that any player taken in the lottery -- no matter if he's a No. 5 or No. 13 pick -- should be a star. Not true, at all. But you have to do your research for the reality smack. Russell Westbrook is not a steal because he’s better than we thought he’d be; he’s a steal because he’s outperformed the majority of No. 5 picks. Meanwhile, a dude like Tim Thomas was not a bust. His career falls somewhere in the middle of the pack for No. 7s.
The lottery shakes down like this: You should realistically expect a top five pick to be a star or one of the two best players on a playoff team; Nos. 6-10 should be career starters with, perhaps, a couple All Star "caliber" seasons; and picks 11-14 should be either career starters, significant rotation players or specialists.
This year will be remembered as a deep draft (Royce White, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III were NOT lottery picks), which is the exact opposite of last year’s booty-butt-cheeks crop. And with the Draft in the books, it’s time to look at the lottery picks, set some realistic expectations and predict if we'll be calling any of the young fellas “busts” five years from now.
(Note: previous picks are in parenthesis, listed chronologically, starting in 1995, the year the NBA expanded to its current 29 teams and began organically morphing into the lotteries we see now, dominated by 18 and 19 year olds) ...
1) Anthony Davis, Hornets
(Joe Smith, Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, Michael Olowokandi, Elton Brand, Kenyon Martin, Kwame Brown, Yao Ming, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Andrea Bargnani, Greg Oden, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving)
Best Case: Franchise players Iverson, Duncan, James, Howard, Ming and Rose.
Worst Case: Olowokandi-Brown, busts.
Realistic Expectation: Usually the middle of the pack is the realistic expectation, but in this case, the "Best Case" examples set a realistic standard. Even Uncle Drew seems to be headed that way. You have every right to expect the top pick of the Draft to develop into one of the best players of his era.
Good Pick?: I’m not even close to being sold on Unibrow. Some are calling him the next Duncan. Do we have a perennial All Star, here, though? Maybe.
2) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats
(Antonio McDyess, Marcus Camby, Keith Van Horn, Mike Bibby, Steve Francis, Stromile Swift, Tyson Chandler, Jay Williams, Darko Milicic, Emeka Okafor, Marvin Williams, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Hasheem Thabeet, Evan Turner, Derrick Williams)
Best Case: Durant
Worst Case: Darko, Thabeet.
Realistic Expectation: Barring some of the odd career-developments of previous No. 2s, we should be looking for a notch above Camby/Aldridge-type borderline All-Stars. Before ’95, you had players like Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton and Jason Kidd go in this spot.
Good Pick?: Absolutely. I think MKG will be the best player in this Draft. I see him developing into a pre-injury Grant Hill.
3) Bradley Beal, Wizards
(Jerry Stackhouse, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Chauncey Billups, Raef Lafrentz, Baron Davis, Darius Miles, Pau Gasol, Mike Dunleavy, Carmelo Anthony, Ben Gordon, Deron Williams, Adam Morrison, Al Horford, OJ Mayo, James Harden, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter)
Best Case: All-NBAers Williams and Anthony.
Worst Case: Adam Morrison.
Realistic Expectation: All-Stars Billups, Gasol, Davis and Horford.
Good Pick?: No. His game has been compared to Ray Allen. As far as his career – it won’t be as good as Harden’s. I think we have another Mayo. Which is cool, but not for No. 3.
4) Dion Waiters, Cavaliers
(Rasheed Wallace, Stephon Marbury, Antonio Daniels, Antawn Jamison, Lamar Odom, Marcus Fizer, Eddy Curry, Drew Gooden, Chris Bosh, Shaun Livingston, Chris Paul, Tyrus Thomas, Mike Conley, Russell Westbrook, Tyreke Evans, Wesley Johnson, Tristan Thompson)
Best Case: All-NBAers Bosh, Westbrook and Paul.
Worst Case: Busts, like Fizer and underwhelming performers, like Thomas.
Realistic Expectation: Periodic All-Stars Wallace, Jamison and Marbury.
Good Pick?: A terrible pick here, just like fellow Syracuse alum Johnson. It’s a pick made even worse when you consider Waiters career won’t match at least a half dozen of the players picked behind him. And what’s with the Cavs? They whiffed on Thompson last season, too.
5) Thomas Robinson, Kings
(Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Tony Battie, Vince Carter, Jonathan Bender, Mike Miller, Jason Richardson, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Dwyane Wade, Devin Harris, Raymond Felton, Shelden Williams, Jeff Green, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins, Jonas Valanciunas)
Best Case: All-NBAers Garnett, Wade, Love and perennial All-Stars Allen and Carter.
Worst Case: Tskitishvili and Williams.
Realistic Expectation: Periodic to borderline All-Stars.
Good Pick?: Indeed. Robinson and former No. 5 pick Cousins should beast out for the Kings.
6) Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
(Bryant Reeves, Antoine Walker, Wally Szczerbiak, DeMarr Johnson, Shane Battier, Dajuan Wagner, Chris Kaman, Josh Childress, Martell Webster, Brandon Roy, Yi Jianlian, Danilo Gallinari, Jonny Flynn, Ekpe Udoh, Jan Vesely)
Best Case: All-Stars Roy and Walker and borderline All-Star Kaman.
Worst Case: Forgotten entities Johnson and Wagner.
Realistic Expectation: Career starters Szczerbiak, Childress and Battier.
Good Pick?: Sure. Lillard has some Brandon Jennings in him. He should start for most of his career.
7) Harrison Barnes, Warriors
(Damon Stoudamire, Lorenzen Wright, Tim Thomas, Jason Williams, Richard Hamilton, Chris Mihm, Eddie Griffin, Nene, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Charlie Villanueva, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, Eric Gordon, Stephen Curry, Greg Monroe, Bismack Biyombo)
Best Case: "All-Stars when on a great team," like Hamilton, Deng. Jury’s still out on Gordon, Monroe and Curry.
Worst Case: Griffin.
Realistic Expectation: Career starters with legitimate All-Star potential.
Good Pick?: I think Barnes will be a Caron Butler type. So, he fits right in at this slot.
8) Terrence Ross, Raptors
(Shawn Respert, Kerry Kittles, Adonal Foyle, Larry Hughes, Andre Miller, Jamal Crawford, DeSagana Diop, Chris Wilcox, T.J. Ford, Rafael Araujo, Channing Frye, Rudy Gay, Brandan Wright, Joe Alexander, Jordan Hill, Al-Farouq Aminu, Brandon Knight)
Best Case: Potential All-Star Gay
Worst Case: Quick-exit players, like Respert.
Realistic Expectation: Career starters Kittles, Hughes, Miller, Ford.
Good Pick?: Ross is athletic, with a stroke. But I see him settling in as a bench player for his career. I’m skeptical, here.
9) Andre Drummond, Pistons
(Ed O'Bannon, Samaki Walker, Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Joel Pryzbilla, Rodney White, Amar'e Stoudemire, Mike Sweetney, Andre Iguodala, Ike Diogu, Patrick O'Bryant, Joakim Noah, D.J. Augustin, DeMar DeRozan, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker)
Best Case: All NBAers T-Mac, Dirk, Stoudemire, and even borderline All-Stars Iguodala and Noah. (The No. 9 spot is somewhat of an aberration.)
Worst Case: Invisible men, like O'Bryant.
Realistic Expectation: There's no real precedent.
Good Pick?: The ninth pick is one of those weird ones with an inordinate amount of great players. This seems to be the “steal slot.” And Drummond, teaming up with Monroe, might be another one. Some say his combo of size and athleticism can be matched only by Howard. But if we’re to expect our No. 8 picks to be starters, then you have to like Drummond at No. 9.
10) Austin Rivers, Hornets
(Kurt Thomas, Erick Dampier, Danny Fortson, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Kenyon Dooling, Joe Johnson, Caron Butler, Jarvis Hayes, Luke Jackson, Andrew Bynum, Mouhamed Sene, Spencer Hawes, Brook Lopez, Brandon Jennings, Paul George, Jimmer Fredette)
Best Case: A Hall of Famer, like Pierce, is an aberration. Periodic All-Stars Johnson and Butler were steals and Lopez and Jennings look to be on that path, too.
Worst Case: Sene and Jackson
Realistic Expectation: Starters Dampier, Terry, Bynum.
Good Pick?: I think that, in five years, the five best players from this draft will be (picks in parenthesis) Davis (No. 1), MKG (No. 2), Jeremy Lamb (No. 12), Royce White (No. 16) and Rivers. So, word, this was a great pick.
11) Meyers Leonard, Blazers
(Gary Trent, Todd Fuller, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Bonzi Wells, Trajan Langdon, Jerome Moiso, Kendrick Brown, Jared Jeffries, Mickael Pietrus, Andris Biedrins, Fran Vasquez, JJ Reddick, Acie Law, Jerryd Bayless, Terrence Williams, Cole Aldrich, Klay Thompson)
Best Case: An All Star.
Worst Case: The string of busts listed above.
Realistic Expectation: Rotation players Pietrus, Redick, Jeffries, Bayless.
Good Pick?: I smell a bust.
12) Jeremy Lamb, Rockets
(Cherokee Parks, Vitaly Potapenko, Austin Croshere, Michael Doleac, Aleksandar Radojevic, Etan Thomas, Vladimir Radmanovic, Melvin Ely, Nick Collison, Robert Swift, Yaroslav Korolev, Hilton Armstrong, Thaddeus Young, Jason Thompson, Gerald Henderson, Xavier Henry, Alec Burks)
Best Case: A career starter.
Worst Case: Someone like Radojevic that barely played 20 games for his career.
Realistic Expectation: Rotation players Croshere, Thomas and Henderson.
Good Pick?: To further clarify my note attached to Rivers at No. 10 about the five best players in the Draft – those five will be in this order: MKG, Davis, White, Lamb, Rivers. The Rockets stole Lamb, stole White at No. 16 and then stole Terrence Jones (who will be one of the 10 best players in this Draft at No. 18.
13) Kendall Marshall, Suns
(Corliss Williamson, Kobe Bryant, Derek Anderson, Keon Clark, Corey Maggette, Courtney Alexander, Richard Jefferson, Marcus Haislip, Marcus Banks, Sebastian Telfair, Sean May, Thabo Sefolosha, Julian Wright, Brandon Rush, Tyler Hansbrough, Ed Davis, Markieff Morris)
Best Case: Productive starters Maggette and Jefferson (we won't consider Kobe) or a specialist, like Sefolosha.
Worst Case: Unused cats, like Haislip.
Realistic Expectation: "In-n-out of the rotation" players like Banks and Rusht.
Good Pick?: When it comes to court vision and point guard aptitude, in the last 20 years, only Kidd and CP3 displayed more innate skill than Marshall. Right now, LeBron, CP, Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo are the only human beings that can make the passes Marshall whips around. Put him in that Suns offense and he’s going to be dangerous. The Shadow League has spoken.
14) John Henson, Bucks
(Eric Williams, Peja Stojakovic, Maurice Taylor, Michael Dickerson, William Avery, Mateen Cleaves, Troy Murphy, Fred Jones, Luke Ridnour, Kris Humphries, Rashad McCants, Ronnie Brewer, Al Thorton, Anthony Randolph, Earl Clark, Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris)
Best Case: Starters Brewer, Murphy, Thorton and Ridnour (Peja was an aberration).
Worst Case: D-Leaguers.
Realistic Expectation: Rotation players Taylor and Jones.
Good Pick?: Shot-blocking wings are rare. So, yeah, Henson will spend his career in someone’s rotation.