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Draft Busts

So. The franchise you’ve been following since your dad was a kid secures the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft and even after suffering through a season that put in the lottery, you feel your hopes start to rise again. This could be it. This could be the pick that changes the course of the franchise over the next few decades. Hell, this pick might inspire a Boston Celtics/Chicago Bulls run at the NBA’s World Champs trophy.

Draft night arrives and your anticipation is off-the-charts high. Thoughts of this much-discussed pick turn to dreams of your team having a Michael Jordan of their own. And then it happens — Commissioner Stern approaches the podium, envelope in-hand. Inside said envelope are all the hopes and dreams of fans like you. They feel the same level of hope and anticipation. Thankfully, the time for waiting has passed.

Commissioner Stern opens and reads the envelope’s contents.

“With the first pick in the (insert year here), the (insert team name here) selects… Michael Olowokandi from the University of Pacific, er wait, I meant, Kwame Brown from Glynn Academy High School.”

And with that, the hopes and dreams of a fevered fan base are crushed.

If you are a fan of the 1998 Los Angeles Clippers or the 2001 Washington Wizards, I must apologize for having to live through something like that — in hindsight, anyway. However, the two players I used in my drawn-out analogy are considered the worst overall top picks in history of the NBA. I can’t imagine having to go through such a fallout after securing what fans believed to be a pick that could turn a franchise around.

Unfortunately for the franchises that drafted either of these players, their product didn’t turn around. In fact, these two picks actually made things worse for their respective teams; the last thing you want to happen if you have the overall top pick.

But what if you could only pick between these two players? Who would you take? Which one was the least worst top pick?

If you look at statistics (Brown, Olowokandi), the answer is clear — the Clippers made the least wrong pick. Granted, they weren’t presented with the same dilemma I issued, but nevertheless. Olowokandi was the better player.

While he was never dominant offensively, he did have two seasons of double-digit averages in points, exceeding Brown (by one). Furthermore, the Kandi man was decent on the boards and as a shot-blocker. In his most complete year, 02-03, Olowokandi averaged 12 points, nine boards and almost two-and-a-half blocked shots.

Conversely, Brown’s best season was his 03-04 stanza, during which, he averaged 10.9 points, seven-and-a-half rebounds and 0.7 blocked shots.

The sad thing is, when you look at the players each franchise passed on when they made their ill-fated selections, it reads almost like an All-Star team. Names like Pau Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Joe Johnson, Richard Jefferson, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas (second round pick) should forever be linked with Kwame Brown.

As for the Clippers, when they took Michael Olowokandi, they passed on players like Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul “Finals MVP” Pierce.

Tell me again what, exactly, these talent scouts get paid to do? Whatever it is, I don’t think it’s actually, you know, scouting for talent.

Maybe it’s just me.

With all that in mind, it’s pretty clear Olowokandi was the best selection out of the two and there was actually a point in his career where it looked like he might turn into a serviceable center. As for Kwame Brown, it just seems like he’s been failing as an NBA player ever since Stern called his name that one fateful summer night in 2001.