It’s been a minute since we’ve done one of these, so here’s a recap of the rules:
(1) The overarching theme is that while each team has the same roster it had at the time of the draft, they have the added benefit of knowing how each potential draftee will turn out as of today. For example, the Rockets go into this knowing Yao is a multiple-time All-Star, but not knowing that they’re going to someday trade Steve Francis for T-Mac. As far as they know, taking Yao #1 means they’re building a foundation with him and Francis for the long haul.
(2) You can’t predict injuries. This is especially tough in this version given Jay Williams‘ situation. A team looking at him in ’02 will know that he put up about nine points, five assists and one steal per game as a rookie and never reached the All-Star status many predicted for him coming out of Duke, but they won’t know about the motorcycle accident. So in a sense, they’re still drafting based on Jay Will’s potential, just not the limitless potential he had in ’02. Imagine Sebastian Telfair coming into the draft in ’08.
(3) Potential still matters. As of today, we know Chris Wilcox still has the tools to be kind of a beast, almost a mini-Amare. Team drafting again in ’02 will know he’s a 13-point, 7-board guy at 25 years old, but still won’t know how much better (or worse) he’ll get.
(4) You can’t predict how the rest of your roster will turn out. The Warriors had Gilbert Arenas in ’02, but seeing as he didn’t get much burn his rookie year, they didn’t yet know how good he’d become and might still be interested in a point guard at #3.
With that, here’s my 2002 Lottery do-over:
1. Houston — Yao Ming, C, China
Yao has taken his share of hits from critics who want to see him be more dominant and stay healthy, but at the end of the day you’re still talking about arguably the best center in the League, an All-NBA performer who’s good for about 20 points, 10 boards and two blocks a night. And don’t count out the power of the box office. Rockets merchandise moves units because of Yao; the team is so popular overseas that Chuck Hayes has a sneaker deal.
2. Chicago — Amare Stoudemire, PF/C, Cypress Creek H.S. (Fla.)
The Chandler/Curry “Baby Bulls” era was still in its infancy and Chicago needed backcourt help in the worst way (hence the original Jay Williams pick), but in this case you have to just take Amare and find a way to make it work.
3. Golden State — Caron Butler, SF, UConn
Even before Nellie’s return, the Warriors were a sorry defensive team who gave up 103 points per game in ’01-02. Basketball-wise, Caron makes the most sense. And ironically, this would have brought the Arenas/Jamison/Butler trio together that much sooner, with a volume-scoring two-guard in Jason Richardson to boot.
4. Memphis — Carlos Boozer, PF, Duke
With 21-year-old Pau Gasol at the five and 23-year-old Shane Battier at the three, Booz makes for a great front line foundation to build on.
5. Denver — Tayshaun Prince, SF/PF, Kentucky
In full rebuilding mode, the Nuggets’ best returning player was James Posey. Check out this list of characters who suited up for the ’01-02 Nuggets at one point or another: Tim Hardaway, Birdman Andersen, Carlos Arroyo, J.R. Rider, Antonio McDyess, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Mengke Bateer, Kenny Satterfield, Donnell Harvey, Zendon Hamilton, Avery Johnson, Juwan Howard, Raef LaFrentz and Nick Van Exel. If ever a team needed a season-long reality show…
6. Cleveland — Jay Williams, PG, Duke
Were they already making plans to tank and get LeBron in ’03? As stated before, this one is tough given the “You can’t predict injuries” rule. For a team that would trade Andre Miller later that summer (for Darius Miles), and needed someone to distribute the ball to Big Z and Ricky Buckets, they may take a chance on Jay Will even if he’s only putting up 9 and 5 six years into his career.
7. New York — Drew Gooden, PF, Kansas
With Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston on the wings, the Knicks were weak up front; Kurt Thomas was their only serviceable big man. Gooden’s numbers have been good (12 ppg, 8 rpg) throughout his career, and even though he’s come up short on the big stage a few times, he’s had his shining moments here and there.
8. L.A. Clippers — Jannero Pargo, PG/SG, Arkansas
With a core of Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Corey Maggette and Q-Rich, the Clippers needed someone to run the show. Pargo has shown he can do that, plus he’s not afraid to take big shots in crunch-time situations. Or at worst, he’s a firecracker scorer off the bench.
9. Phoenix — Mike Dunleavy Jr., SF, Duke
Seems like a good fit to go along with Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion, Penny, Young Joe Johnson and Old Dan Majerle. And not that the Suns could foresee it, but Little Dun would flourish when Mike D’Antoni came around a year later.
10. Miami — Luis Scola, PF, Argentina
Eddie Jones was the star on a team that would lose Alonzo Mourning to what was believed to be a career-ending kidney ailment following the ’01-02 season (‘Zo would sit out a year and sign with the Nets in ’03). Going by the “best player available” philosophy, Scola gets the nod.
11. Washington — Udonis Haslem, PF, Florida
The Wizards were in a weird place. With Michael Jordan having just completed his first comeback season as a player, they wanted to win now and take advantage of MJ’s presence, but also build for the future since everyone knew MJ wouldn’t be playing that much longer. They had weaknesses all over the place, and after Kwame Brown’s subpar rookie season, were looking for more of an NBA-ready guy. Haslem was a four-year starter at Florida who had played in a national championship game, and knowing that he’d end up being someonw who could be a starter on a championship-caliber team, the Wizards would be smart to take him here.
12. L.A. Clippers — John Salmons, SG, Miami
Further shoring up the backcourt and adding depth, the Clips could do worse than Salmons, who’s been a capable role player and occasionally-dangerous scorer.
13. Milwaukee — Chris Wilcox, PF, Maryland
Glenn Robinson would be traded later that summer to Atlanta for Toni Kukoc, but the Bucks still had Ray Allen and Sam Cassell (although Ray would be traded later in the season for Gary Payton). A young Michael Redd was also on the bench. The team’s biggest holes were in the frontcourt, and Wilcox has been a good pro on the 3-4 days a week he decides to show up. It’s those other 3-4 days where he gives coaches headaches, but maybe someone like Cassell could talk some work ethic into him.
OTHER NOTABLES: Dajuan Wagner, J.C. Navarro, Boki Nachbar, Fred Jones, Roger Mason Jr., Kareem Rush, Juan Dixon, Dan Dickau, Flip Murray, Devin Brown, Smush Parker, Casey Jacobsen, Jiri Welsch, Frank Williams, Steve Logan, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Qyntel Woods, Matt Barnes, Jared Jeffries, Rasual Butler, Nene, Melvin Ely, Nenad Krstic, Dan Gadzuric, Darius Songaila, Reggie Evans.