John Hammond acknowledged the obvious Wednesday afternoon at the Cousins Center when he talked about the Milwaukee Bucks owning the No. 2 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft – that even in a position of strength, even with a "deep" crop of players to pick from, there are no clear cut superstars in waiting.
"You look at this draft today and there isn’t that player that people are talking about well, this is the LeBron-type draft, a number one solid pick, maybe even a Dwight Howard-type player, in this draft," the Bucks general manager said. "There’s a lot of guys that have potential, I think, to be very special in this league."
It’s interesting that Hammond would reference LeBron James, an all-time great that was picked No. 1 in 2003.
Hammond was part of the Detroit Pistons brain trust that made the biggest mistake in the modern lottery era with the second pick of that draft, selecting Darko Milicic over all-stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
(Though, in fairness, Hammond had just completed his first year as the team’s vice president of basketball operations, where his duties were listed as "directing day-to-day operations of the basketball operations department, handling player personnel issues and assisting in roster development." He had previously been the team’s director of player personnel.
While he probably had some input on the draft process and how that pick would fit into the current roster, others in the organization were more directly involved with the scouting of Milicic.)
But, disaster of the second pick of 2003 is not an outlier.
Since the current lottery system was put into place in 1994, the No. 2 pick has largely been disappointing with only six all-stars picked at that spot in 20 years, the last being Kevin Durant in 2007.
As far as truly franchise-changing type talent, Durant is it as the first Most Valuable Player picked at that spot.
Perhaps you can argue LaMarcus Aldridge (2006) has developed, or is still developing, into that type of player, but he’s not there yet.
And for as good as Jason Kidd was, he was still shipped out of Dallas after two and a half years. In his prime years 1995-2004,he averaged 15.6 points, 9.6 assists and 6.5 rebounds.
That’s very good. all-star level. But, that’s not franchise-changing. It’s why he played for four teams.
Other all-stars picked at No. 2 include Antonio McDyess (1995), Steve Francis (1999) and Tyson Chandler (2001). And it took Chandler six years to develop into a defensive force, a guy who averages 9.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Marcus Camby (1996) developed into a Defensive Player of the Year. Keith Van Horn (1997), in his six-year prime, averaged 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds.
But really, outside of the all-stars, there hasn’t even been a worthwhile player picked at No. 2 since Mike Bibby in 1998.
The likes of Milicic, Stromile Swift, Marvin Williams, Michael Beasley, Emeka Okafor and Hasheem Thabeet litter the history of No. 2 overall.
Conversely, the No. 1 spot has produced 13 all-stars, four MVPs and one Defensive Player of the Year in that same 20-year period.
It’s why Hammond is going into this process looking for the best player on their board, regardless of their size, position, and how that fits within the current roster.
"Start with the best player on the board. I don’t think it’s going to come down to position, necessarily. It’s going to be about who’s the best player available with that second pick. The standard things, the important issues, that are going to come along with that – you want a high character person, a guy that you look and say he can be a building block, cornerstone, franchise piece.
"This piece, what we’re looking for, is a piece that’s going to help us move towards a championship-caliber team. Hopefully this will just be one of the key components in that. There will be other pieces along with that, but this is going to be one of those pieces."
Here is a list of the 1-2 draft combinations of the modern lottery era, along with actual best pick of that class:
1994: Glenn Robinson – Jason Kidd
Best pick: Kidd
1995: Joe Smith – Antonio McDyess
Best pick: Kevin Garnett, No. 5
1996: Allen Iverson – Marcus Camby
Best pick: Kobe Bryant, No. 13
1997: Tim Duncan – Keith Van Horn
Best pick: Duncan
1998: Michael Olowakandi – Mike Bibby
Best pick: Dirk Nowitzki, No. 9
1999: Elton Brand – Steve Francis
Best pick: Manu Ginobili, No. 57
2000: Kenyon Martin – Stromile Swift
Best pick: Michael Redd, No. 43
2001: Kwame Brown – Tyson Chandler
Best pick: Tony Parker, No. 28
2002: Yao Ming – Jay Williams
Best pick: Amar’e Stoudemire, No. 9
2003: LeBron James – Darko Milicic
Best pick: James
2004: Dwight Howard – Emeka Okafor
Best pick: Howard
2005: Andrew Bogut – Marvin Williams
Best pick: Chris Paul, No. 4
2006: Andrea Bargnani – LaMarcus Aldridge
Best pick: Aldridge
2007: Greg Oden – Kevin Durant
Best pick: Durant
2008: Derrick Rose – Michael Beasley
Best pick: Russell Westbrook, No. 4
2009: Blake Griffin – Hasheem Thabeet
Best pick: Griffin
2010: John Wall – Evan Turner
Best pick: Paul George, No. 10
2011: Kyrie Irving – Derrick Williams
Best pick: Irving
2012: Anthony Davis – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Best pick: Davis
2013: Anthony Bennett – Victor Oladipo
Best pick: Michael Carter-Williams, No. 11
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.