How good was Darko Milicic projected to be?
Back in '03 Detroit looked like they were set with Big Ben, Chauncey, Rip and #2 pick, Darko Milicic who was picked over American college stars like Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Draft scouts like Chad Ford were very high on him. "Darko was just phenomenal. It couldn't have been more perfect in a certain way. At some point the coaches got involved and asked to see particular things. And Darko couldn't miss and was aggressive and rose to the moment with the players watching. I was sitting next to (Dumars). He's not expressive, he plays everything close to the vest. But Darko was just so impressive. It was literally the best workout I've ever seen. I've seen hundreds and it was the best. When you have a 7-1 kid, who is 17 years old, doing the things he was doing, it was a "wow" moment, especially for a team that needed a big man. There was just a buzz afterward." Joe Dumars even went all out and said, "he's better than Dirk. He's going to be an absolute stud."
How good was he projected to be? Who was he compared to mostly back then? A 7'1" big man who can shoot the 3, block shots and score on you down low? Very unique. I saw his first preseason game and you could tell after this one play at the end of the game, he was crushed. It's a shame that it never worked out for him in the NBA.
he is one example of why it can be a red flag when a player decides not to compete against other players at workouts. Basketball is a contact sport.
Most people expected Detroit to take Carmelo. Yes, they had Tayshaun Prince, but both Melo and Prince could play at the 4.
I remember when Tyson Chandler came out of HS they were saying that he could play some SF in the league. It was a joke, they showed one highlight of him hitting a wide open three in a HS game and now he is supposed to be able to play the SF in the highest league on the planet?!
They did the same think with Darko. "He's a center, BUT he can also be a streach 4, AND he could play some SF for your team and take people off the dribble." In the end he couldn't do anything.
Actually Darko was the consensus #2 pick very early on in the draft process. The NBA even amended a rule to allow him to enter the draft, and he represented an area of need for the Pistons. I'm not sure if the old NBAdraft.net 2003 Mock draft is still up on an archive, but they had Darko going 2 forever.
I wonder what the Pistons franchise would have been with melo playing the SF spot instead of Prince
I wonder if they would've won the championship with 'Melo...
Darko had every it took to be a star,except the Desire, Heart and Competitive Spirit.......
Darko actually played well during his Orlando Magics years when he was starting next to Dwight Howard. But was hoping the pistons were going to pick Carmelo or Kaman (due to the fact he was from Central Michigan)
Darko seemed like he was dealing with his own personal demons because darko always seemed depressed our zoned out.
The Dirk Nowitzki comparison was absurd.
Here are some links as to what was being said about Darko leading up to the 2003 draft... Enjoy! :)
2003 Nbadraft.net mock draft:
2003 Nbadraft.net top prospects list:
2003 Nbadraft.net top international prospects list:
2003 CNNSI NBA mock draft:
CNNSI article explaining different talent tiers for 2003 NBA Draft:
Articles about Darko leading up to 2003 NBA Draft:
CNNSI article explaining different talent tiers for 2003 NBA Draft:
Original link wasn't pasted right...
Yeah it would've been great to see how good the Pistons would've been with Melo surrounded by that veteran laden team......Dumars BLEW that pick
I always thought that was a bad pick to begin with. The Pistons already had Ben and Rasheed Wallace as their bigs and knew Milicic wouldn't get much playing time. He only played 96 games while averaging about 5 minutes a game in three seasons.
My question is: had he been drafted by the Raptors, a team that needed a big, would an increase in playing time allow him to develop into an All-Star?
I'm pretty sure Rasheed Wallace was traded to the pistons the year after the draft (aka, the pistons did have a need for a big man)
The Pistons had Turko then I seem to recall and Dumars moved him to give Darko minutes but Larry Brown didn't use him.
Darko Milicic as an 18 year old prospect was quite special. He was around 240lbs of lean muscle with unprecedented footwork for a player of his age that was only expected get better. It appeared to me that he'd pout like a spoiled kid whenever something wasn't going his way by venting to the media, he has slammed, condemned and slandered almost every franchise that he's played on.
Milicic seems content as a back-up center but he had all the tools that any teenage bigman would dream of having.
The Fifth and Sixth pick were also Euros that never contributed in the NBA. Of the three, Darko was by far the best!
Seriously, this was the height of the NBA having no clue how to draft Euros. They still miss more than they hit, but at least now there is some semblance of rationality.
Darko got tons of hype but very little was based on folks who actually watched him in games and game tape wasn't incredibly easy to find back then and he didn't get a ton of play time. The normal excuse that Euro coaches don't play young guys as much was thrown around. But Euro coaches have to win as well, so I think that example gets used too much.
I remember comparisons being something like more athletic Nowitzki, with Kukoc ball handling and passing skills.
Anyways I think it's just too easy to put the blame on Joe Dumars right now as Melo has been a superstar for 10 years and Darko a big bust. The truth is you can't just look who became the better player to judge the pick. I mean it should also be considered what everyone thought and would've done back then, what were Pistons needs and what Pistons accomplished after.
I remember being in love with Carmelo's game after his great season with Syracuse. But everyone projected him as "just" an all-star, the next Glenn Robinson, a great scorer, bad defender, not a franchise player, not a superstar. I remember being mad and thinking that the dude had a real chance to be a superstar, but that's not what GMs and scouts thought back then. So probably almost every GM in the NBA would've chosen Darko with the #2 pick. And certainly every GM would've drafted Darko if they had to run the Pistons, considering what team they were, their game stylr, their coach. I didn't like it, and ended up hating Darko because everyone thought he was the best choice, and started "predicting" he was going to be a bust, but that's basically because I was 16, I was a Carmelo fan boy and I had never seen Milicic playing.
But again, Darko's pick made a lot of sense and I'm not sure things would've been better had they drafted Carmelo. Pistons were a defensive oriented team, with superior team chemistry, probably one of the best any team's ever had in the history of the game, no superstars or ball dominant players, a lot of very good players that put a lot of effort on both ends of the court. Would Carmelo fit in there? I don't think so, he plays lots of iso-s, takes 20 shots per game, and he is an average defender (a pretty bad one coming into the league). Those are all things that could've made Detroit game worse. Probably Larry Brown, after Melo lost his man twice in a row would've benched him. He probably wouldn't have started him. And so on. He went instead to Denver, that was a pretty bad franchise, that needed scoring and just about anything and he could shine in there. But it's not crazy to think Pistons would've had chemistry issues with Melo and probably wouldn't have won the title. One of the reason they chose Darko was that they liked more a raw prospect that wouldn't have required immediate playing time. And at the same time Melo himself could've struggled, like many talented players have in the past after being drafted by the wrong team (does anyone remember that guy Chauncey Billups?). All in all Pistons ended up winning one ring and being a contender, one of the best team in the league and by far the best one in the east coast for some years.
About Darko, he clearly was talented, but he was not ready at all. He had some raw qualities, but needed a lot of polishing. All the hype he generated has a lot to do with the euro-mania that was heavy back then. By that time it was a lot more difficult for NBA teams to scout european prospects than it is now. Many teams didn't have european scouts, because the breakout of european players was too recent and at the same time, as someone has written before, finding the tape sometimes was really difficult. So very often the only way to scout some prospects was just by watching him workout, or seeing some short tapes. Obviously it's not enough to evaluate a prospect, but GMs were just too afraid to be the next one to miss another Dirk, or Peja, or Gasol. That's how Darko's hype was generated, after teams watched him doing wonders in workouts, even though anyone who's actually played basketball knows that workouts and game are two very different things (something you could notice about Darko when it comes to his shooting touch, considering he has a terrible 57% from the free throw line in his career). But again, people remember Dumars for taking Darko over Melo just as much they remember Bucks for taking Big Tractor over Nowitzki. So everyone back then thought that if they were missing the next Glenn Robinson it wouldn't have been much of a tragedy; at least not as much as losing an athletic 7 footer showing shooting touch and great versatility. Darko could've probably developed better had he stayed another year or two in Europe. But there were already teams like Barcelona or Real Madrid following him so that would've meant some big contract thus a big buyout to pay for Nba teams. Probably it didn't help him the fact that he almost never saw the court in his first year and a half. Also he probably was too young coming to the USA in a totally different country and culture.
Anyways, the only player that would've really made sense for the Pistons, that would've fit there was probably Dwyane Wade. But even though right now he looks like the second best player in that draft, back then it would've been considered a reach to draft him 2nd overall. I remember him being projected as a mid first round pick until june and everyone had him going 7th to the Bulls.