#1 – Derrick Coleman — 1990 No. 1 overall, Nets
Coleman is considered by many to be an NBA disappointment. But he played 15 season with career averages of 16.5 PPG and 9.3 RPG. An NBA team will take that every night, no questions asked.
Sure, the player picked directly after Coleman was Gary Payton — and while Payton was a better player, he never won a championship in Seattle. The rest of the Top 10 in 1990 was Chris Jackson, Dennis Scott, Kendall Gill, Felton Spencer, Lionel Simmons, Bo Kimble, Willie Burton and Rumeal Robinson. So the Nets clearly made an okay pick with Coleman.
#2 – Al Horford — 2007 No. 3 overall, Hawks
Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were the obvious top two picks entering the 2007 draft. So Atlanta was kind of screwed sitting third. But they did about as well as they could do with the pick, taking Horford who has developed into a solid NBA player. Not great. Maybe not even good. But solid. Yes, it’s tough missing out on Durant by one pick but Atlanta could have done worse probably. Right? Sure.
#3 – Akeem Olajuwon — 1984 No. 1 overall, Rockets
If you want a sort-of-okay pick, you want Akeem Olajuwon. Olajuwon turned into one of the greatest centers of all-time with a dizzying array of low-post moves. He also one two championships. The only problem is that he won those two championship because the guy taken two picks after him, Michael Jordan, took time off from winning six NBA championships to play some baseball.
As far as consolation prizes go, though, the player who became Hakeem Olajuwon is as good as they get. YAY!
#4 – Jamal Crawford — 2000 No. 8 overall, Cavaliers
The 2000 NBA Draft was essentially a roll call of crap. Kenyon Martin was picked No. 1 overall and it quickly went downhill from there. Seriously. Look at the draft. Stromile Swift at No. 2? Darius Miles. Marcus Fizer. Turds all. You could take every player in the draft and you still wouldn’t have a competitive NBA team.
But one nice respite from the stink was at No. 8 when the Cavaliers took Jamal Crawford. Crawford has had a long career as a solid scorer. That’s a superstar for this draft. Unfortunately, Cleveland flipped him to Chicago for the awful Chris Mihm. But for the brief time they held Crawford, it was a strong C+ pick for the Cavaliers.
#5 – Marcus Camby — 1996 No. 2 overall, Raptors
Camby was picked immediately after Allen Iverson and immediately before four other players who became All-Stars: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen and Antoine Walker. Yet the case can be made that Camby, who never made an All-Star team, has had a better career than most of those guys. In a way, it wasn’t a sort-of-okay pick — it was a good pick.
Oh, wait. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash were taken later in the first round. Scratch that good pick thing. It was merely sort-of-okay.
#6 – Greg Ostertag — 1995 No. 28 overall, Jazz
Ostertag is generally referenced as a punchline. He was goofy looking and awkward and generally a stiff. Yet Ostertag still started 321 games during his career and was a part of some good Utah teams. So while he was a goofy looking, awkward stiff, Utah only spent the 28th pick on him. Countless NBA teams have used lottery picks to take equally goofy and awkward-looking stiffs.
#7 – Gheorghe Muresan — 1993 No. 30 overall, Bullets
Taking a 7-foot-7 center/actor in the 2nd Round is a worthwhile risk. It ultimately didn’t work out, but Washington’s decision here can be considered to be a fairly reasonable try.
#8 – Latrell Sprewell — 1992 No. 24 overall, Warriors
As a basketball player, Sprewell is one of the better late 1st Round picks of all-time. Probably the only blemish on his record is that he tried to strangle his coach to death.
#9 – Nick Anderson — 1989 No. 11 overall, Magic
Anderson was one of the cornerstones for the 1990s Magic. However, Orlando may have been better served by picking Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp, Vlade Divac or Cliff Robinson, all who were still available. Maybe, maybe not. But at least none of those guys ever single-handedly lost an NBA Finals game by missing four consecutive free throws.
#10 – LeBron James — 2003 No. 1 overall, Cavaliers
The Cavaliers used the No. 1 pick to take a player who turned out to be the best player of his generation. But what do they have to show for it? A resounding defeat in the NBA Finals and a surprise departure via free agency by James that left the city depressed and the franchise in worse shape than it ever was. History will judge Cleveland selection of James as: “Meh.”