If you scrape the bottom of the NBA barrel, you are guaranteed to find the Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. They were the only three teams in the NBA to win fewer than 30 games this year, and there’s really only one identifiable bright spot to the atrocious play they subjected their fans to throughout the season. From their dreadfulness comes the opportunity to have an above average chance at drafting a player who will change the course of their fledgling franchise. With the NBA Draft Lottery taking place today, it is time to scrutinize how well each of these three teams – in the past 10 years – has used the lottery portion of the NBA Draft as a launching pad to propel their franchise toward greatness.
The Grizzlies have had at least one lottery draft pick for eight of the past 10 years, which illustrates point-blank that they have had some difficulty parlaying quality draft picks into team success. While the Grizzlies were in Vancouver, they ran into one huge problem: Absolutely no one wanted to play for them. From 1997-2000, they drafted Antonio Daniels, Mike Bibby, Steve Francis and Stromile Swift. Bibby played three seasons before being traded, Daniels and Swift each played only one season and Francis demanded a trade immediately, voicing his desire to play for pretty much any team in the league other than Vancouver. The new millennium and a fresh start in Memphis have improved the Grizzlies’ drafting strategies. They’ve shown promise in their picks of Pau Gasol, Drew Gooden and Rudy Gay, but the loss of their much-respected general manager, Jerry West, could be tough to bounce back from.
As far as lottery picks in the last decade go for the Boston Celtics, it has literally been hit (Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson) or miss (Ron Mercer, Jerome Moiso, Kedrick Brown). Billups, Pierce and Johnson are all among the top 50 players in the NBA, while Mercer, Moiso and Brown were all out of the NBA by 2005. Interestingly, the Celtics haven’t had a lottery draft pick since 2001, so they might be a little rusty when it comes to picking from the cream of the crop of the college talent pool.
The Milwaukee Bucks are probably glad that the 1990s are behind them because the latter part of that decade was a drafting disaster for the franchise. In 1997 and 1998 they drafted Danny Fortson and Dirk Nowitzki. That doesn’t sound that bad. In fact, it sounds fairly good until it’s noted that they proceeded to trade both of those guys before they ever played a game in Milwaukee for Ervin Johnson and Robert “Tractor” Traylor. They did a fine drafting job with their picks of T.J. Ford in 2003 and Andrew Bogut in 2005, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Bogut is traded straight-up for someone like Martynas Andriuskevicius.
If one thing is for sure heading into the NBA Draft Lottery, it’s that the teams with the best chance of landing franchise guys – Greg Oden and Kevin Durant – definitely have experience with high draft picks. That being said, their track records are certainly far from flawless, so don’t be surprised if you hear Brandan Wright’s name announced first, followed by pandemonium ensuing in Madison Square Garden.