Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The 4 Teams that Passed on Drafting Kevin Garnett...and Why They Should Not Have!

On June 28th, 1995 NBA Commisioner David Stern walked to the podium and announced that the Minnesota Timberwolves had selected Kevin Garnett with the fifth overall pick. Garnett, a 19 year old, 6'11" forward from Farragut Academy in Chicago, became only the second player in NBA history to be drafted directly out of high school (Moses Malone was the first in 1976). The Timberwolves organization took a huge risk on a skinny high school All-American...but, after a couple of seasons in the league, it was clear that Garnett was the real thing.

Over the course of his 14 year career, Kevin Garnett has collected a championship ring, 12 NBA All-Star positions, an NBA MVP award, NBA Defensive Player-of-the-Year Award, All NBA 1st team on four separate occasions, an All-Star game MVP and...an Olympic gold medal for good measure. Hindsight has proven that Garnett may have been a huge gamble, however he has paid out time and time again.

If you consider that Garnett was the 5th overall pick in 1995, only then does it becomes quite clear that four other NBA franchises did not take the gamble and therefore are left asking themselves "what could have been?"

The 1st four picks of the 95 NBA Draft went like this:

1st pick: Golden State Warriors selected Joe Smith, a 6'9" sophomore from Maryland

2nd pick: Los Angeles Clippers* selected Antonio McDyess, a 6'9" sophomore from Alabama

3rd pick: Philadelphia 76ers selected Jerry Stackhouse, a 6'6" sophomore from North Carolina

4th pick: Washington Bullets selected Rasheed Wallace, a 6'10" sophomore from North Carolina

* Clippers eventually traded McDyess to the Denver Nuggets before the 95-96 season began

14 years later, not one of those four picks are still with the team that drafted them. Joe Smith is considered a league "journeyman". Antonio McDyess has had chronic knee injury issues and comes off the bench for the Detroit Pistons. Jerry Stackhouse has played for four different teams and has never really met his potential. Rasheed Wallace has a championship ring with the Detroit Pistons and is far and away the most successful of the first four picks that preceded Garnett.

So here is the hypothetical: What if Garnett went 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th instead of 5th in the draft?

Here are the rules of this hypothetical:

A) Each of the 4 teams still pick at their orginal position of 1-4 in 95
B) Los Angeles Clippers select Garnett and do not trade him to Denver
C) The next four draft picks of each franchise from 1996-1999 will be re-examined
D) Of those draft picks from 96-99, there will be no trade scenarios examined
E) Garnett and the next 4 players drafted from 96-99 remain with the team until 99-00 season

The Golden State Warriors

Warriors actual 1st round draft picks from 1996-1999:

1996 - Todd Fuller, 11th pick
1997 - Adonal Foyle, 8th pick
1998 - Vince Carter, 5th pick (traded that nite for Antawn Jamison who was 4th pick)
1999 - Jason Terry, 10th pick (traded that nite to Atlanta Hawks)

If the Warriors were building around Garnett:

1996 - Kobe Bryant was on the board at 11th pick, later picked 13th
1997 - Tracy McGrady was on the board at 8th pick, McGrady was taken with the next pick.
1998 - Paul Pierce was on the board at the 5th pick, later picked 10th
1999 - Manu Ginobili on the board at 10th pick, later picked 57th in 2nd round

1999-2000 Warriors roster:

PG - Manu Ginobili
G - Kobe Bryant
C - Kevin Garnett
F - Paul Pierce
F - Tracy McGrady

The Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers actual 1st round draft picks from 1996-1999:

1996 - Lorenzen Wright, 7th pick
1997 - Maurice Taylor, 14th pick
1998 - Michael Olowokandi, 1st pick
1999 - Lamar Odom, 4th pick

If the Clippers were building around Garnett:

1996 - Kobe Bryant on the board at 7th pick
1997 - Stephen Jackson on the board at 14th pick, later taken at 43rd pick
1998 - Mike Bibby taken with 2nd pick by Grizzlies
1999 - Shawn Marion on the board at 4th pick, later taken with 9th pick

1999-2000 Clippers roster:

PG - Mike Bibby
G - Kobe Bryant
C - Kevin Garnett
F - Shawn Marion
F - Stephen Jackson

The Philadelphia 76ers

76ers actual 1st round draft picks from 1996-1999:

1996 - Allen Iverson, 1st pick
1997 - Keith Van Horn, 2nd pick
1998 -Larry Hughes, 8th pick
1999 - Todd MacCulloch, 47th pick (traded 19th pick in 1st round to Utah Jazz)

If the 76ers were building around Garnett:

1996 - I think you stay with Allen Iverson with the 1st pick
1997 - Tracy McGrady on the board at 2nd pick, later taken at 9th pick
1998 - Dirk Nowitzki on the board at 8th pick, taken by Milwaukee with 9th pick
1999 - Manu Ginobili on the board at 47th pick

1999-2000 76ers Roster:

PG - Allen Iverson
G - Manu Ginobili
C - Kevin Garnett
F - Dirk Nowitzki
F - Tracy McGrady

The Washington Bullets/Wizards

Bullets/Wizards actual 1st round draft picks from 1996-1999:

1996 - Ronnie Henderson, 55th pick (traded 12th pick to Cleveland Cavs)
1997 - God Shammgod, 46th pick
1998 - Jahidi White, 43rd pick (traded 13th pick to Golden State who then traded it to Orlando)
1999 - Richard Hamilton, 7th pick

If the Bullets/Wizard were building around Garnett:

1996 - let's say Bullets kept 12th pick and drafted Steve Nash who was taken with the 13th pick
1997 - Pat Burke still on the board, undrafted in the 97 draft
1998 - let's say Wizards kept 13th pick and took Rashard Lewis who later went 32nd overall
1999 - I think you stick with Richard Hamilton at the 7th pick

1999-2000 Wizards Roster:

PG - Steve Nash
G - Richard Hamilton
C - Pat Burke
F - Kevin Garnett
F - Rashard Lewis

As we all know, none of these scenarios actually happened...but what if they had? The Warriors, Clippers and 76ers teams with Garnett make the imagination run wild with their potential in the playoffs. The Bullets/Wizards are really the only semi weak squad and that is simply because they squandered draft opportunities. I am by no means saying that these teams would have won the NBA championship in June of 2000, but had they drafted Kevin Garnett in 1995 and had the foresight to build a team around him, then the potential for success was staring them right in the face.

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