With these reports surfacing over the weekend that Luka Doncic could slide in the draft if not taken #1 overall, it made me want to go back and look at previous drafts to see what other highly projected players ended up taking a dive on Draft Day. Obviously we hear all the time about this in the NFL, with guys like Brady and Rodgers etc both falling well below where they were projected to be taken. I was curious what this looked like for the NBA, and below are some names that came to mind.
Paul Pierce – 1st round, 10th 1998
While being drafted 10th doesn’t seem all that bad, you need to remember how fucking good Pierce was at Kansas. In his final year he averaged a respectable 20.4/6.7/2.6 while shooting 51/34%. He was voted to the 98 All America 1st team and was one of the best players in college basketball that season. If you go back and look at some mocks during that year, almost everyone had Pierce as a Top 5 pick. Some as high as even Top 3. So the fact that he dropped all the way to 10 was a pretty big deal at the time. Especially when a certain unknown named Dirk Nowitzki went right before him at 9. There are stories that the Celtics were going to take Dirk as well, so who knows how far Paul would have dropped had both still been on the board at 10.
Rashard Lewis – 2nd round, 32nd 1998
We’ll stick to the same draft for our next player, Rashard Lewis. His fall was muuuuuch worse than Pierce’s, and as a guy who was projected to go right around midway through the first round, the fact that he slid all the way to the second is a pretty big dip. You look at the top of the draft and you could make a case for a lot of those guys, but looking at some of the names that went ahead of Lewis and it really scratches your head. Radoslav Nesterovic, Mirad Turckan, Ricky Davis, Brian Skinner, Tyronn Lue etc, that had to be tough for Lewis to stomach.
At the same time, Lewis was coming out of high school so maybe that hurt him a little bit. He had this to say about that brutal day
You know I was just a kid. I was just 18 years old, excited about being drafted to the NBA. I felt like all of Houston was watching me. My high school was watching me. I think they had a draft party at my coach’s house. I’ll never forget that day, being in the green room with my family and my agent.”
“As my name was getting passed, I couldn’t even take it no more and I had to leave and go to the restroom because I didn’t want nobody to see how hurt I was. So I started crying in the restroom while nobody was around.”
Safe to say he ended up making a shit ton of money and had a pretty good career (despite the PED stuff) so it all worked out for the best, but man what a feeling to get past up that many times by your hometown team.
Deyonta Davis – 2nd round, 31 2016
Here’s one that’s a little more recent. Coming out of Michigan State, a lot of people were talking about Davis living in the 13-20 range. In the closest mock I could find to the actual draft, NBAdraft.net had him as high as 10th on June 11th. Sure he was raw, but to be the 7th center taken in that 2016 Draft? That was a pretty big fall for a guy who had a ton of potential. I’m sure it made him second guess his decision to come out after just one year in college, but he’s actually showed promise for the Grizzlies in his second year. He’s a guy that I can see as he gets more of an opportunity, teams will feel even more silly about passing on him.
Perry Jones III – 1st round, 28th 2012
Another pretty recent one, Perry Jones came out after his sophomore year at Baylor where they went 30-8. You couldn’t blame him at the time as his value was perhaps the highest it would ever be. At the same you saw everything from a high lottery like 10-11, to middle of the first round. So the fact that he slid all the way to 28th, and then was immediately traded was a surprise. His reasoning is a bit different, as it turned out knee issues were the major reg flag that caused his slide. Things never really worked out in the league for Perry Jones III, so maybe this was a situation where GMs got it right.
Skal Labissiere – 1st round, 28th 2016
Another young big who came out early that a lot of mocks had somewhere close to the Top 10. He was a player that was considered among the best prospects at the start of the college season, had a disappointing year but still had plenty of hype heading into the draft. A big time boom or bust prospect, given the direction the league was heading it was a surprise he fell all the way to 28th in my opinion. Skal was invited to the green room and ended up waiting three hours to be selected, something that doesn’t usually happen with Calipari prospects. I would say through two years he’s been decent, nothing special, but he is just 21 years old. He did play well towards the end of the season, and given the opportunity who knows what he looks like in a few years. Also obviously if SAC ends up with Ayton, we could see Skal moved to a completely different situation.
Garry Harris – 1st round, 19th 2014
With Gary Harris, a lot of people had him towards the end of the Lottery. I saw everything from 10-14 so the fact that he barely cracked the Top 20 was a bit of a shock. With no medical concerns, good size, and a skillset perfect for today’s NBA, Harris’ slide doesn’t make all that much sense. Now that we’ve seen him play it looks even more silly. For example, I certainly wouldn’t have hated if the Celtics took Harris instead of James Young, and I bet if things were redrafted today we’d see Harris probably go where Nik Stauskas went (8th).
Gerald Green – 1st round, 18th 2005
By this time, drafting guys out of high school wasn’t all that uncommon and back in 2005, Gerald Green was one of the best high school prospects in the country. A lot of mocks had him going in the Top 10, I saw as high as 8th. So the fact that he not only slid out of the Lottery but barely broke the Top 20 was a surprise. Green was extremely raw, he could certainly jump out of the gym and had all the athleticism in the world, but no one really knew if he could actually play basketball.
Corey Maggette – 1st round, 13th 1999
Despite playing just one year at Duke, Maggette proved to be an athletic freak. His numbers were modest, just 10/5/2 on 53% shooting in 17 minutes a night but even still Maggette was considered a high lottery pick in a lot of mock drafts back then. NBADraft.net had him as high as #2 overall, so the fact that he barely held on to make the Lottery was a bit surprising. The 1999 Draft ended up being pretty decent in the top 13 picks, so I’m not sure who exactly you would put him over today other than maybe Trajan Langdon, because of those 13 picks, 6 were All Stars and 3 made an All NBA team at some point in their career. Maggette did neither. Still a decent slide at the time though.
This all brings me to this year’s draft. Who can you see having a similar slide? Is it going to be Doncic if he doesn’t go #1? Could a guy like Michael Porter Jr’s back issues scare off teams to the point where he drops to the mid/late lottery? History tells us that someone we all think will be taken early will have a long night in the green room, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Also if there were any big time slides that I didn’t mention, fire those off as well. It’s NBA Draft season, what else are you going to do?