Revisiting the 2001 NBA Draft
After two putrid drafts, the NBA returned to form in 2001 -- but not right away. This draft will forever be known as the day Michael Jordan transformed from the greatest player on Earth to a below average general manager. With the No. 1 overall pick, Jordan held the fate of the Washington Wizards in the same hands that dunked on many of opponent, and he had a rich variety of players for which to don the savior of the franchise.
And he chose Kwame Brown. It really wasn't Kwame's fault. He was the victim of an amazing workout that impressed Jordan so much -- was this thing on video? -- that Air was convinced Brown would emerge as an All-Star. The brutal truth is that this prep player from Georgia faded into one of the biggest busts in draft history, hanging out in the same club as LaRue Martin, Joe Barry Carroll and Michael Olowokandi.
Brown, however, did not represent the actual talent in this draft. This crew produced some superstars, only these gems were buried way down the draft board. Yet, it didn't take long for them to find success.
The Wizards gave Brown a boatload of chances before finally trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Caron Butler, a deal that provided a semblance of compensation for Jordan's mishap. But the harsh reality is that while Brown may have been physically ready for the NBA, he wasn't emotionally or skill wise. He was a kid fresh out of high school with an NBA body and little else to offer, and the Wizards paid a hefty price.
If he had to do it again, Jordan would have traveled to Europe and locked in on a French guard named Tony Parker. Now the diminutive guard was just 19, but he was ready to start in the NBA. The Spurs drafted him 28th and he emerged as the best player in his class. Parker is a three-time NBA champion and barely 27. So Washington gets its franchise point guard by making Parker the first foreign No. 1 pick.
Brown was hardly the lone high school product to rate high with scouts. Tyson Chandler entered Dominguez High School (Compton, Calif.) as a 6-10 freshman with his eyes on the NBA Draft in four years. The Chicago Bulls nabbed Chandler as part of their reclamation project, believing he would emerge as a superior center. What Chicago missed out on was a dynamic guard who would command as much attention with his off-court personality as his on-court brilliance. Only in June 2001, not even Gilbert Arenas knew these details. In hindsight, the Bulls take Arenas as their shooting guard.
The Atlanta Hawks had the third pick and took Spaniard Pau Gasol, and the Hawks will stick with that pick, and trade it to Memphis as they did eight years ago. The Bulls selected fourth and took Eddy Curry, a local prep star who was compared to Shaquille O'Neal. He was supposed to team with Chandler for a frontline -- Unseld and Hayes like -- that would last 15 years. Instead, Chandler was raw and Curry never got in shape.
So in their do-over, Chicago takes Arkansas guard Joe Johnson, a steady scorer. Golden State followed Chicago and took Jason Richardson, a poor man's Jordan with freakish athleticism. Despite knee injuries, Richardson has become a solid starter who sparkles on occasion. The Warriors stick with J-Rich.
Memphis played it safe by taking Duke senior Shane Battier, a defensive ace and tireless worker. This time the Grizzlies take more of a chance on Arizona junior Richard Jefferson, an equal defender as Battier with more offensive punch. The Nets followed by drafting Seton Hall freshman Eddie Griffin, a bad idea that eventually descended into tragedy for the troubled teenager.
New Jersey decides on another freshman entry, Michigan State big man Zach Randolph, who, despite his troubles, has turned into a dependable scorer. Cleveland followed the Nets and took DeSagana Diop, a raw Senegalese who emerged a dependable backup center, but with a career average of just 2.1 points. Instead, the Cavaliers take the more advanced Chandler, who worked himself into a sparkling defensive center.
You wonder how many titles Detroit could have won if it produced better drafts, such as 2001, when the Pistons selected Rodney White from UNC Charlotte. White played 16 games with Detroit before being traded to Denver the next season. The Pistons make up for their gaffe by taking Gerald Wallace, the Alabama freshman who took years to develop but is a standout player for Charlotte.
Boston possessed consecutive picks and took Johnson and an unknown Juco named Kedrick Brown, who played 101 games with the Celtics. Since Johnson is gone, the Celtics take Turk Mehmet Okur and then replace Brown with Seton Hall center Samuel Dalembert.
New Jersey took Jefferson at 13 and this time select New York guard Jamaal Tinsley, who emerged as a starter until recent troubles in Indiana.
The 2001 Draft also featured some proficient second-round picks in Earl Watson, Jarron Collins, Bobby Simmons, Okur, Brian Scalabrine and Trenton Hassell, as well as undrafted gems like Andres Nocioni, Carlos Arroyo, Mo Evans and Jamario Moon.
The way it was:
1) Kwame Brown – Washington
2) Tyson Chandler – Los Angeles Clippers
3) Pau Gasol– Atlanta
4) Eddy Curry – Chicago
5) Jason Richardson – Golden State
6) Shane Battier– Memphis
7) Eddie Griffin – New Jersey
8) DeSagana Diop – Cleveland
9) Rodney White – Detroit
10) Joe Johnson – Boston
11) Kedrick Brown – Boston
12) Vladimir Radmanovic– Seattle
13) Richard Jefferson– New Jersey
The way it should have been:
1) Tony Parker – Washington
2) Gilbert Arenas – Los Angeles Clippers
3) Pau Gasol – Atlanta
4) Joe Johnson – Chicago
5) Jason Richardson – Golden State
6) Richard Jefferson – Memphis
7) Zach Randolph – New Jersey
8) Tyson Chandler– Cleveland
9) Gerald Wallace – Detroit
10) Mehmet Okur – Boston
11) Samuel Dalembert– Boston
12) Shane Battier – Seattle
13) Jamaal Tinsley– New Jersey