2008 Draft: Legendary Potential

Fri, 05/15/2009 - 6:38pm

1984. 1996. 2003.

These are the classes by which all drafts will be measured, and while there is no way to know how the Class of 2008 will turn out, their first season suggests a future bright enough to garner a comparison.



Michael Jordan
The best of the best. Michael Jordan. Hakeem Olajuwon. Charles Barkley. John Stockton. No class will ever come close to producing four players that, by career's end, would be one of the top five players ever at their positions. After Year 1, however, only Michael Jordan (28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists) and Hakeem Olajuwon (20.6 and 11.9) screamed "superstar."

Charles Barkley had a solid first season, averaging 14 points and 8.6 rebounds per game after being selected #5 by the 76ers. His numbers would jump to 20 and 12.8 the following year, and he would go on to become the Hall-of-Famer that we've grown to know and love for his career on the court and his soundbites off of it.

John Stockton had a tougher first year. Before becoming the NBA's all-time leader in assists and steal, the rookie couldn't find his way onto the court for Coach Frank Layden, averaging less than 6 points and 6 assists per game in his first year with the Jazz.

Other Notables: Alvin Robertson, a four-time All-Star and the only guard to ever record a quadruple-double, averaged 9.2 pts, 3.4 rebs, and 3.5 asts. Otis Thorpe and Kevin Willis showed signs of solid production to come. Thorpe averaged 12.8 pts and 6.8 rebs after being selected #9 while Willis averaged 9.3 and 6.4 as the #11 pick. Both would make one All-Star game and have five years in which they averaged double-doubles. Sam Perkins went one spot before Sir Charles and averaged 11 pts and 7.4 rebs per game as a rookie. His career averages would be eerily similar.


Hopefully, the Allen Iverson saga this year hasn't changed the fact in your minds that this draft is easily one of the best of all-time. Combined, this class has 4 rings, 4 MVPs, and 51 All-Star appearances.


Kobe Bryant
Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant are first ballot Hall-of-Famers but only one of them looked like a star right away. Iverson averaged 23.5 pts, 4 rebs, and 7.5 assists as a rookie while the 18-year-old Bryant scored less than 8 points in 15 minutes per game.

The #4 and #5 picks in 1996 are currently in the midst of a playoff run with the Boston Celtics. Stephon Marbury showed star potential immediately, averaging 15.8 points and 7.8 assists per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. While his career averages are impressive, he lacks the wins and postseason success of a true star.

Ray Allen was drafted one spot behind him and averaged 13 points and 4 rebounds per game in his first year. He got the ring that had eluded him for years and is one of the best shooters of this generation.

Steve Nash, a two-time MVP, averaged 3.3 points and 2.1 assists per game as a rookie with the Suns. And, while I don't think he deserved either of his MVPs, he's been one of the best point guards in the League over the past decade and has had a very good career.



LeBron James
It's only been six years, but it's not too early to point out that this draft produced two of the best wings to ever play this game. LeBron James will go down as one of the best ever regardless of position, and any draft in which Dwyane Wade is the 2nd best player has to be one of the top crops in history.

LeBron James showed his all-around prowess early on, becoming only the 3rd rookie to average more than 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He just won his first MVP and has been an All-Star every year since 2003. Dwyane Wade went 5th to Miami and averaged 16.2 points, 4 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. He led them to the 2nd round of the playoffs in his first year and would win an NBA title and Finals MVP by Year 3.

Carmelo Anthony put up stellar numbers (21 points and 6.1 rebounds) and helped Denver make the playoffs after going #3. He hasn't yet reached the level of LeBron and Wade, but he has his Nuggets playing better than anyone in the League as they prepare for a date with the Lakers or Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.

Chris Bosh is another that hasn't reached that elite level but has become a perennial All-Star. He'll be one of the most sought after free agents in 2010, but his rise to stardom wasn't deemed inevitable after his first year: 11.5 points and 7.4 rebounds.

David West and Josh Howard were chosen outside the lottery. West is a two-time All-Star who only averaged 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds after being selected 18th. Howard went 29th to Dallas and blossomed into an All-Star talent after producing numbers of 8.6 and 5.5 as a rookie. Mo Williams went 47th overall and earned his first All-Star birth* this year.



Derrick Rose
What does all this mean for the class of 2008? Well, nothing. The reason we study history is so that we can learn from the past. Derrick Rose became the ninth rookie in League history to average 16 points and 6 assists per game. The others? Oscar, Magic, Isiah, Penny, AI, Franchise, CP3, and Damon Stoudamire. Five of those guys are Hall-of-Famers and two were perennial All-Stars before succumbing to injury. Does that mean Rose will be a superstar? Not necessarily, but I'm not betting against him.

Just because Russell Westbrook put up rookie numbers similar to those of guys like Dwyane Wade and Brandon Roy doesn't mean he will be a star like them. Just because Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Elton Brand are the only rookies in the past ten years to post a higher scoring average than OJ Mayo doesn't mean he will be a go-to scorer for the rest of his career. And just because Greg Oden put up worse numbers than Sam Bowie did in his first year doesn't mean he'll also be a bust. But...

It's impossible to project how good a player will be solely by his draft position. A yearlong body of work makes it a little easier. Let's see how some of the other 2008 rookies might turn out, for better or worse.

WARNING: The following contains a great deal of speculation. Read at your own risk.

Michael Beasley - 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in less than 25 minutes per game are solid but didn't wow us like we thought he would. He had some big games that showed what he could be, but it wasn't consistent enough to dub him a surefire star. You saw Charles Barkley's rookie numbers earlier. They didn't scream "superstar" either. I'm not saying he'll be as good as Sir Charles, but if he puts in the work, he can be a star. At worst, I see Beasley with an Antawn Jamison-type of career: 20+ points per game and 9-10 rebounds per.

Brook Lopez - Lopez's rookie numbers are comparable to those of the three best centers in the League today: Yao Ming (13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds), Dwight Howard (12 and 10; less blocks than Lopez), and Amare Stoudemire (13.5 and 8.8). He's not nearly the athlete that those last two are, but the point is that he could end up contributing with comparable numbers. Because I'm not yet sold on him, let's say he'll end up somewhere between Yao Ming and Arvydas Sabonis (14.5 and 8.1 as a 31-year-old rookie).

Anthony Randolph - You saw Kobe's numbers. Randolph is longer and more versatile. Dirk's rookie numbers were 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds, right on par with Randolph's. Randolph is more explosive with a better handle. One of my colleagues that has followed Randolph closely described his potential as "what Lamar Odom should have been." Odom averaged 16.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in 36 mpg as a rookie. Randolph's numbers adjusted to 36 minutes? 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Eric Gordon - In my last piece, some readers didn't like my comparison of the Gordons, but their numbers support it: Ben averaged 15.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2 assists fresh out of UConn. Eric averaged 16.1, 2.6, and 2.8. Both are strong undersized two-guards with deadly three-point jump shots. Until Eric shows he can do other things besides scoring, I see his best years being comparable with Allan Houston's best: 22.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists.

Just because Kevin Love's size and numbers are comparable to Carlos Boozer and Al Jefferson doesn't mean he'll be as good as either of them. Just because Jason Thompson's first year is almost identical to Chris Bosh's doesn't mean he'll ever be an All-Star. Just because guys like Jerryd Bayless and Javale McGee and Nic Batum and Donte Greene put up very little in limited playing time doesn't mean they won't develop into stars.

1984. 1996. 2003. 2008? You never know.
sheltwon3's picture
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The 2008 draft will be one

The 2008 draft will be one of the best. There are still some players that did not play much that will shine. There are also so quality second rounders in this mix as well.

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LOL to the Steve Nash

LOL to the Steve Nash comment...

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Liked the article, very

Liked the article, very interesting

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The 1996 draft also had Peja, Jermaine O' Neal, Big Z, and Derek Fisher. How in the World did 12 other teams pass up on Kobe and then Charlotte trade him. Ignorant. Even if I hate the dude you can't deny talent.

Untouchable J
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When you take into account

When you take into account most of the players w/ potential are 19 or 20, and there are so many of them, its almost impossible that none of them dont get better.

Out of the 11 frosh to NBA players, I say at least 5 become perneial all starts (Rose, Westbrook, Randolph, Beasley, Mayo)

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Class of 2003

The best class by far is 03. With Lebron, Melo, Wade, Chris Bosh, TJ Ford, Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, Collison, Ridnour, Dahntay Jones, David West, Travis Outlaw, Carlos Delfino, Leandrinho Barbosa, kendrick Perkins, Josh Howard, Diaw, Kapono, Walton, Steve Blake, Willie Green, Pachulia, Kyle Korver, Mo Williams, Matt Bonner... This list is amazing cause all of those guys were drafted and are still in the league. Only Delfino is out, but he choose too, but he'll be back with the raptors. That list is so Strong from MVP's, to All-star, to sixth man, to excellent role players, to second rounder All-star, to best shooter in the league, to best player in the league, to youngest to ever, to the most expectation ever. When you look deep in the draft of 03 and compare it to 1984 and 1996 drafts. from top to bottom 03 bet both due to their large number of players. so by far 03 is better.

Question: if you were a GM what draft would you want to select from !984, 1996 or 2003? the draft you selected might answer your as who is the greatest player ever. Jordan, Bryant or James.

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Re: Kobe getting drafted late

I believe that Kobe's agent said that Kobe would not play for anyone but the Lakers, which is why no one selected him until the Hornets did that late, and which is why the Hornets subsequently traded him to the Lakers.

You can't deny talent, but you also can't deny the arrogance of the man, even when he was 17.

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I woudn't call it arrogance

I woudn't call it arrogance but confidance. I mean this kid would beg his coach to post up, go one on one, or drop a trey on any opponent at the age of 17! He had skill and most importantly desire to be great and didn't want to see his talent be wasted on the charlotte hornets.

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Dirk's rookie numbers

Randolph is longer and more versatile. Dirk's rookie numbers were 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds, right on par with Randolph's.Thank you very much...


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