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2004 NBA Draft Lottery: Re-Drafted
Posted By Tommy Beer On August 23, 2011 @ 9:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA,NBA Draft | No Comments
With the league in lockout mode and the number of legitimate basketball-related topics worth discussing drying up quickly, I have been pouring over previous drafts and “re-drafting” the first round. (Of course, I have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, based on all that we now know of everyone that came into the league years ago.)
Here is how we’ve been approaching this project: Every pick will be made pretending each organization is a first-year expansion franchise and has no other players on its roster, so roster needs as of June 2004 will not be factored into the equation. Selections will be made simply based on pure production – i.e. best player available.
I’ll list each pick, and then post the player that was actually selected in that original draft slot.
As a refresher, here is a link to the actual 2004 NBA draft.
Without further ado, let’s start selecting:
#1 – With the first overall pick in the 2004 NBA Re-Draft, the Orlando Magic select: Dwight Howard
(Actual 2004 pick: Dwight Howard)
An absolute no-brainer here… Not only is D Howard clearly the best player in his class, you could even make the argument that Dwight would be the player many NBA GMs would choose if they could select any one player in the entire league to build their franchise around. Superman is undoubtedly the NBA’s best defensive player and the premier pivot man on planet earth. He is an incomparable rebounder and his offensive repertoire is expanding as well… The big debate in the days and weeks leading up to the 2004 draft was whether the Magic would be better served to use the top pick on the raw but gifted teenager (Howard), or the mature, proven winner coming out of University of Connecticut (Emeka Okafor). Fortunately for the fans in Orlando, the Magic made the right decision in selecting Superman – the rare #1 pick that actually transforms a franchise.
#2 – The Charlotte Bobcats select: Andre Iguodala
(Actual 2004 pick: Emeka Okafor)
While Howard is an easy pick, selecting second is far more difficult. There is a big drop-off after Dwight and the second-tier of talent is tightly packed. You could go in a number of different directions here. Ultimately, I think Iguodala makes the most sense. While he may not be a true superstar, he is an elite athlete and a tremendous all-around player. Iggy has actually dished out more career assists than any player in his class (Devin Harris and Jameer Nelson rank second and third respectively in that category). When ranking this draft class by “Win Shares” AI (53.9) is second only to Howard (79.8). Players that can give you a solid defensive effort and 16/5/5 every night are few and far between.
#3 – The Chicago Bulls select: Josh Smith
(Actual 2004 pick: Ben Gordon)
One of the most exciting and physically-gifted athletes in the league, Smith has been somewhat inconsistent since entering the NBA out of high school, but his upside is undeniable. When playing intelligently (i.e. not forcing long jumpers) and focusing, Smith can be unstoppable. He can jump out of the gym and is a terror in the open floor. He also has great touch around the rim. Smith often makes his biggest impact on the defensive end of the floor, finishing in the top-3 in blocks for four straight seasons (2005-2010). His career average of 2.2 blocks per game ranks him fifth among all active players.
#4 – The Los Angles Clippers select: Al Jefferson
(Actual 2004 pick: Shaun Livingston)
One of the more underappreciated big men in the Association, Big Al came into the league as a raw and unfinished product, but quickly developed into a legit post player. Traded from Boston to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett deal, Jefferson put up amazing numbers on those bad T-Wolves teams. For two straight seasons, Jefferson averaged over 21 points and 11 rebounds, the only NBA player to accomplish that feat from 2007-2009. Durability was an issue during his days in Minnesota, but last season, after being traded to Utah, Jefferson played in all 82 games.
#5 – The Washington Wizards select: Kevin Martin
(Actual 2004 pick: Devin Harris)
K-Mart is the preeminent offensive player in this group – he’s averaged over 20 ppg in each of the previous five seasons. The knock on Martin is his defense (or lack thereof) and a daunting injury history.
#6 – The Atlanta Hawks select: Emeka Okafor
(Actual 2004 pick: Josh Childress)
Okafor was projected to develop into a superstar center after a stellar and successful career at UCONN. He entered the NBA at 22 and was ready to contribute immediately. Emeka averaged 15 points and 11 boards as a rookie, earning him 2004-2005 Rookie of the Year honors. He went on to average a double-double in each of his first five professional seasons. However, his scoring and rebounding numbers have steadily declined. Last season as a Hornet Okafor averaged a career-low 10.3 points and 9.5 boards.
#7 – The Phoenix Suns select: Luol Deng
(Actual 2004 pick: Luol Deng)
During the 2006-2007 season, it appeared Deng was blossoming into an All-Star. Just 21 years of age, he averaged 18.8 ppg and 7.1 rpg and played in all 82 games. Deng was eventually rewarded with a rich contract, but regressed a bit over the next few seasons, as he dealt with a myriad of nagging injuries. However, Luol appears to have found his stride once again as a valuable sidekick to league MVP Derrick Rose. Just as importantly, he was healthy enough to start all 82 games last season. (Interestingly, Deng ranks 3rd in overall Wins Shares amongst members of the 2004 draft class.)
#8 – The Toronto Raptors select: Anderson Varejao
(Actual 2004 pick: Rafael Araújo)
Varejao’s numbers won’t wow you but Andy V is rightly recognized as an undeniably valued commodity to shrewd GMs around the NBA. He is a gritty defender and solid rebounder that isn’t afraid to do the dirty work and underappreciated little things. Still, it will be interesting to see how he responds next season (whenever that is) coming off a major injury.
#9 – The Philadelphia 76ers select: Devin Harris
(Actual 2004 pick: Andre Iguodala)
Seven seasons in, Harris has had a bit of an up-and-down career. When the Nets acquired him from Dallas in the Jason Kidd trade, big things were expected out of the Wisconsin product. And the initial returns were excellent, as Harris even earned an All-Star nod during the 2008-2009 campaign – averaging 21.3 points and 6.9 assists. However, that season appears to be the anomaly. Some pundits claim he isn’t enough of a facilitator to be a true PG, and his shot selection has come into question in recent years as well (Devin has shot under 43% from the floor in each of the last three seasons). Still, Harris is an undeniably talented scorer. Utah, who passed up on a point guard in last June’s draft, appears confident that he can effectively run the show for the Jazz.
#10 – The Cleveland Cavaliers select: Jameer Nelson
(Actual 2004 pick: Luke Jackson)
Despite a stellar career at St Josephs, Jameer slipped all the way to #20 due to concerns about his size. Would the diminutive PG be able to handle the rigors of the pro game? Seven years later, Nelson has proven he can hold his own. Injuries will always be a concern, but Jameer has emerged as a solid scorer and a true floor general in Orlando.
#11 – The Golden State Warriors select: Ben Gordon
(Actual 2004 pick: Andris Biedrins)
Ben Gordon can score. We knew that when he was coming out of UCONN, and he scored plenty in his first five pro seasons in Chicago. The issue is that he doesn’t bring much else to the table; Gordon averages just 2.8 apg and 2.8 rpg for his career. Worse yet, Ben hasn’t even been an effective or efficient scorer for the Pistons since signing a massive contract with Detroit two summers ago. Last season, BG struggled through his worst season since high school, scoring just 11.2 ppg.
#12 – The Seattle Supersonics select: Andris Biedrins
(Actual 2004 pick: Robert Swift)
Biedrins entered the league as a skinny teenager from Latvia. Not surprisingly, it took a while for the youngster to adjust to America and the NBA. He averaged less than four points and four boards over his first two seasons, playing sporadic minutes for Golden State. But Andris took a huge step forward in 2006-2007, his 3rd season, more than doubling his scoring and rebounding output, while also averaging a career-high 1.7 blocks. Over the following two seasons, his progression continued, and he posted doubles-doubles on a nightly basis. He was rewarded with a massive $45 million contract in the summer of 2009. However, Biendris’ play and production has regressed over the last two years. He averaged just five points per game in each of the last two seasons. Worse yet, he has been unable to stay on the floor, missing a total of 72 games over that stretch. (How about this stat: Biendris shot 32.3% from the free-throw stripe in 2010-2011. The real bad news: That was actually a huge improvement over his 2009-2010 percentage: 16.0%)
#13 – The Portland Trail Blazers select: Trevor Ariza
(Actual 2004 pick: Sebastian Telfair)
Ariza has been a tough player to evaluate since establishing himself as a solid NBA player with the Lakers during their championship run in 2008. He left L.A. for Houston after the Rockets lavished him with the full mid-level exception (the Lakers opted to replace him with Ron Artest). The Rockets then traded him the following offseason. The Hornets are the fifth team Trevor has suited up for since Isiah Thomas (then GM of the Knicks) plucked him out of UCLA in the second round of the 2004 draft. Ariza is long and athletic enough to contribute across the board statistically, and is a solid defender; but he is a remarkably inefficient offensive player (his FG% has plunged below 40% in each of the previous two seasons), so his overall value is highly debatable.
#14 – The select: Utah Jazz: Tony Allen
(Actual 2004 pick: Kris Humphries)
I ended up choosing Allen over more gifted and talented offensive players such as J.R. Smith and Delonte West because of Tony’s defense (and due to the fact that Tony is less of headache in the locker room compared to those guys – although Allen is certainly not a boy scout either). Last season, Allen established himself as one of the league’s truly elite perimeter defenders. He consistently guarded the other team’s best offensive weapon, and finished in the top five in the steals per game (1.8). Accordingly, he was named 2nd team All-Defense.
Best of the Rest: Josh Childress, Kris Humphries, J.R. Smith, Dorell Wright, Delonte West, Beno Udrih, Chris Duhon, Sasha Vujacic, Shaun Livingston, Sebastian Telfair
Worst Pick = Rafael Araújo (selected by Toronto 8th overall)
Easy choice here, as Araújo is one of the worst high lottery choices in recent memory… The Raps took a flier on the big man with NBA size after he posted decent numbers as a 23-year-old at BYU. It was evident rather quickly that Rafael would never be a factor in the NBA. He saw some limited minutes off the bench his first two seasons in Toronto, but was clearly outclassed. The Raptors traded him to Utah in June of 2006 and he played sparingly for the Jazz, averaging 2.6 ppg in his final NBA season… The clear winners in the “Raps Rafael Experience” were the Philadelphia 76ers, who were praying that Andre Iguodala would fall to them at #9. When Iggy started slipping and was still on the board when Toronto was on the clock at #8, they were praying that somehow he’d slide down one more slot. After they heard Rafael Araújo’s name called, the excitement was palpable inside the Sixers war room. The rest, as they say, is history…
Best Value = Trevor Ariza (selected 44th overall by New York Knicks)
Although this was a relatively weak draft, there were a couple of solid candidates for “best value.” Kevin Martin near the end of Round 1 and Anderson Varejao at the top of Round 2 were both excellent picks (you could even make a case for Dwight Howard even though he went first overall, simply because he is just that valuable); but we’ll give Ariza the nod here. Anytime you can unearth a starting caliber NBA swingman in the middle of the second round – that is terrific value.
Be on the lookout for a detailed “Re-Draft” of the legendary 2003 LeBron Lottery coming next week…
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