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Revisiting the 2003 NBA Draft

Jun 19, 2009 – 12:00 AM
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Gary Washburn

Gary Washburn %BloggerTitle%

LeBron JamesFanHouse fixes a decade of draft-day blunders in Revisiting the NBA Draft.

Well we are here, perhaps the deepest and most pivotal draft in recent NBA memory, filled with so many impact players at the top and some scattered in the middle. This will always be known as the LeBron draft, but its reputation was further enhanced by the stellar careers of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.

This draft was loaded, even with second-round gems such as Luke Walton, Steve Blake, Kyle Korver, Mo Williams, James Jones and Willie Green. Even the international prospect proved worthy such as Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa and Mickael Pietrus.

All except one, however. And it may be one of the bigger regrets in Detroit Pistons history. Joe Dumars thought he had the next dominant NBA center in Darko Milicic, and despite the fact that few had seen him play and he was shrouded in mystery, Dumars took Darko before three potential NBA Hall of Famers. It really wasn't Darko's fault -- he just wasn't that good, a massive Serbian with solid defensive skills but no post game. He has played with three teams in five years, leaving Dumars to lament the total waste of a No. 2 pick.

Now, the only regret Cleveland still has in taking LeBron James is that pearl white suit he sported to the draft, resembling an assistant of Mr. Roarke on "Fantasy Island." The NBA apparently told prospects to tone down their draft attire following LeBron's attempt at fashion, but that moratorium was shattered by Joakim Noah's bow tie five years later.

Even Matt Millen would have taken LeBron first and would do it again. So let's get to what Dumars would have done at No. 2. Now, the Pistons were loaded with a backcourt of Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton, a young Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace in his prime. Michael Curry was their starting small forward during the 2002-03 season. So it's likely the Pistons would have slid Prince to the starting small forward slot and drafted Bosh. Before you say that Wade or Anthony are more talented than Bosh, the Pistons had a pressing need for a big, as they didn't acquire Rasheed Wallace until midway through the 2003-04 season.

Darko MilicicWould Wade have worked out in a backcourt with Hamilton and Billups? Could the Pistons have started both Prince and Anthony? The answers are "not at all," and "no." So Dumars takes Bosh.

Anthony's tenure in Denver, although rocky at times, has worked out well for the most part -- but Wade has brought Miami a title and established himself as an elite player. It's close, but in a re-draft, then GM Kiki Vandeweghe would take Wade and slide him into the shooting guard slot. That leaves Anthony for the Toronto Raptors at four, where he'd become a more than adequate replacement for Vince Carter.

With the fifth pick, the Heat takes Xavier senior David West, who fell all the way to 18 six years ago. West is a two-time All-Star and has helped resurrect the Hornets. The Clippers are next and did nicely with Central Michigan center Chris Kaman, but this time they take the more dynamic Josh Howard, perhaps the biggest oversight of the draft. Howard can be a knucklehead at times, but he can ball.

Seventh is Chicago, and the Bulls took Kirk Hinrich, a satisfactory pick. But after further review, the Bulls take Alabama junior guard Mo Williams, a more physical and better scoring guard. Williams was a second-round pick of the Utah Jazz. It was precariously close between Williams and Hinrich, and the Bucks jump on Hinrich at eighth instead of injury prone T.J. Ford.

The Knicks are next and they took major bust Michael Sweetney, the burly bull from Georgetown who was supposed to be a physical power forward. He played two below average years in New York before being traded to the Bulls in the Jamal Crawford deal. He's been out of the league for two years. New York makes up for this mulligan by taking French swingman Mickael Pietrus.

Washington opted for Georgia junior Jarvis Hayes. While Hayes is a nice player, he has never developed into a starter, strictly a spot-up shooter. Wizards GM Michael Jordan nabs Kaman instead. He is a big man who can run the floor and possesses toughness.

The Warriors took Pietrus and then watched him play his best basketball for the Orlando Magic. So at 11, Golden State will take high school center Kendrick Perkins, not the most gifted but a dirty-work big man who helped Boston to a title. In real life, Perkins had fallen to 27th to Memphis, taken after players such as Reese Gaines, Troy Bell, Zoran Plannic and Ndudi Ebi.

The Sonics are next and they made out well with Nick Collison, a dependable power forward with improving skills. But they go for the speedy Brazilian Leandro Barbosa instead. Barbosa fell to San Antonio at 28 and the Suns acquired him for a future first-round pick.

Memphis finished the lottery by taking Marcus Banks and then traded his rights along with Perkins to Boston for Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones. How did that work out for the Grizzlies?

So instead, the Griz settle on Frenchman Boris Diaw, who was taken 21st by Atlanta and eventually traded to Phoenix. There are a handful of players who could have broken into the lottery such as Travis Outlaw, Green and Korver. But this will always go down as the draft that could have netted the Pistons more than one NBA title.

2003

The way it was:

1) LeBron James –Cleveland
2) Darko Milicic – Detroit
3) Carmelo Anthony – Denver
4) Chris Bosh – Toronto
5) Dwyane Wade – Miami
6) Chris Kaman– Los Angeles Clippers
7) Kirk Hinrich – Chicago
8) T.J. Ford – Milwaukee
9) Mike Sweetney – New York
10) Jarvis Hayes – Washington
11) Mickael Pietrus – Golden State
12) Nick Collison – Seattle
13) Marcus Banks – Memphis

The way it should have been:

1) LeBron James –Cleveland
2) Chris Bosh – Detroit
3) Dwyane Wade – Denver
4) Carmelo Anthony – Toronto
5) David West– Miami
6) Josh Howard– Los Angeles Clippers
7) Mo Williams– Chicago
8) Kirk Hinrich– Milwaukee
9) Mickael Pietrus– New York
10) Chris Kaman – Washington
11) Kendrick Perkins – Golden State
12) Leandro Barbosa– Seattlle
13) Boris Diaw – Memphis

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