Sometimes happiness is just a few short picks away.
Winning the draft lottery and locking down the number one pick is usually a cause for celebration (just ask this guy), but take pause, Cleveland, it's not always a gift (and not because your pick abandons your city on a nationally televised circus and then wins two titles with a super-team while you fester away at the bottom of the pack). Sometimes your number one pick doesn't turn out to be the juggernaut you were betting on, and those latter picks leave you wondering about what could have been.
Team: 2007 Portland Trail Blazers
Who They Drafted: Buckeye Greg Oden was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime big man, and the Trail Blazers banked on it. Oden repaid them by sitting his entire first season with a knee surgery. He returned to play 13 minutes against the Lakers in his NBA debut, only to go out again with a foot injury. This saga continued until he was release by the Trail Blazers last March. Oden could still turn into the player that everyone thought he could be, but that would just be a slap in the face to Portland.
Who They Could Have Drafted: Kevin Durant, who turned out to be much more of a “once-in-a-lifetime” player, moving from Seattle and putting a likeable face on an Oklahoma City franchise that was built out of difficult circumstances.
Team: 2005 Milwaukee Bucks
Who They Drafted: Andrew Bogut was another 7-footer with expectations to match his size. The Australian hung around in Utah for a second and upped his draft stock about as high as it could go. Since being drafted by the Bucks, Bogut has not been a complete disappointment (third in Rookie of the Year voting, consistently putting up an impressive number of blocks and boards), but he hasn’t played to the level that number four in his draft has.
Who They Could Have Drafted: Chris Paul repeatedly leads the NBA in steals and assists, dominated 2005’s Rookie of the Year voting, and most importantly, never had this mustache.
Team: 2001 Washington Wizards
Who They Drafted: Kwame Brown, who told the Washington coach at the time, Doug Collins, “If you draft me, you’ll never regret it.” We’re experts at failure, so when we tell you that saying something like that is the quickest way to a career nosedive, believe us. Michael Jordan (ever heard of him?) blamed the lack of cohesiveness between him and the rest of the team (read: Kwame Brown) for Washington’s failure, and Brown bounced around until eventually he was released by the Grizzlies. The 2008 Grizzlies.
Who They Could Have Drafted: Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol sat at pick two and three, bookended between Brown and Eddy Curry. If that’s not an appealing NBA center sandwich, made with two piece of moldy, washed-up bread.
Team: 1998 LA Clippers
Who They Drafted: Michael Olowokandi, who played first for the hilariously name Italian team Kinder Bologna as he was drafted during the 1998-1999 lockout. Once he returned from the team named for what sounds like the worst candy in history, he put up some respectable numbers in year one, but took a nosedive in the playoffs, followed by some injury troubles and generally with “not playing basketball well.” He called it quits at 31 after a 40-point season in Boston.
Who They Could Have Drafted: Lurking all the way down at the ninth pick was Dirk Nowitzki, who is still standing as the best PF that’s not named “Tim Duncan” in the NBA today. A few guys named Vince Carter and Paul Pierce were also available.
Team: 1989 Sacramento Kings
Who They Drafted: Only the fifth number one pick selected in the lottery era, “Never Nervous Pervis” Ellison was only able to play in a bit more than half of the games due to injuries. He had a few serviceable years in Washington, even winning a “Most Improved Player” award, but he immediately hit the bench again due to injury (and maybe a clever attempt to win most improved player again). He eventually retired nine games after signing with the SuperSonics, resulting in city-wide blue balls.
Who They Could Have Drafted: This one hurts: Glen Rice, Mookie Blaylock, Tim Hardaway, and Shawn Kemp.
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