If there is a theme in Houston sports for the year 2022, despite the collective greatness of the Astros, it is the Year of Reconstruction. The Houston Texans finally started their rebuild with Deshaun Watson’s trade and what looks to be a great draft in April, and now the Houston Rockets and the NBA Draft are coming tonight.
Following a 2021 draft in which the Rockets brought in four new young players drafted in the first round, headlined by Jalen Green, second overall pick, the team goes into schedule tonight to add three more first round rosters, headlined for this draft class by the third overall pick, widely expected to be Duke striker Paolo Banchero.
Like any draft slot, the third overall pick has its history of franchise saving this and huge misses. If we were to find the gold standard in each of those categories, there would be plenty of reasons for hope and fear. So let’s go back to the history of the draft, and we’ll take the greatest third overall pick of all time, Michael Jordan in 1984, as a starting point. Since 1984, here are the top four and four worst third overall picks in the NBA Draft:
PAU GASOL, Memphis Grizzlies, 2001
In 2001, the first four choices were all straight from high school — Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry — or from overseas, which was the case with Gasol. While Chandler built a distinguished career for a few decades, Gasol eventually became an All Star in Memphis and saw his career soar to the next level as Robin of Kobe Bryant’s Batman in the two Laker title teams in 2009 and 2010. Gasol finished with an average of 17 points per game over 18 NBA seasons, all while making more than $225 million in revenue.
CARMELO ANTHONY, Denver Nuggets, 2003
The 2003 was the antithesis of the 2001 design. While the top of that design was mostly just Gasol with a slew of busts and enigmas, the 2003 design saw a top five that will end up with four Hall of Famers – LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Anthony. Anthony was the third overall pick, fresh off a National Championship in his lone season at Syracuse. Nearly 20 years later, Anthony is still active and earning big for the Portland Trail Blazers after a top ten All Star Game tenure and a career making nearly $265 million.
JAMES HARDEN, Oklahoma City Thunder, 2009
Harden was drafted in 2009 as the third key piece from a young core, including Kevin Durant (second overall pick in 2007) and Russell Westbrook (fourth overall pick in 2008). Harden spent his three seasons in OKC and came off the bench as one of the league’s top reserves, but it was a trade to Houston in October 2012 that unleashed one of the best scorers in the game’s history. Since that transaction, Harden has made ten consecutive All Star games, took six first-team All NBA honors and won the 2018 MVP.
JOEL EMBIID, Philadelphia 76ers, 2014
Having completely missed his first two seasons after being called up in 2014, Embiid has turned into arguably the greatest big man of this era. Embiid has made it to the All Star team five times in a row and has been firmly in the league’s MVP talk for the past two seasons. In 2021-22 Embiid won his first scoring title. Now it’s Embiid’s job, along with Harden, to take the Sixers to the next level and make a deep playoff run to the NBA Finals.
CHRIS WASHBURN, Golden State Warriors, 1986
Washburn was in a sense a walking microcosm of the 1986 draft, a draft in which only 5 of the 24 first-rounders played a double-digit number of seasons. Of course, the biggest tragedy of this draft was Celtics forward Len Bias, the second overall roster, who died of heart failure from cocaine use. Of the players in this draft who eventually saw the floor, the most infamous bust was Washburn, who played only two seasons in the league and got himself into trouble with cocaine.
DENNIS HOPSON, New Jersey Nets, 1987
Of the top 13 players in the 1987 draft, only one played a number of seasons that reached double digits, and it’s Hopson, who played just five seasons before dropping out of the NBA with a 10.9-point pedestrian per game. . average. This mistake by the Nets was compounded by the fact that four of the next eight picks were future All Stars Scottie Pippen, Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant and Reggie Miller.
DARIUS MILES, Los Angeles Clippers, 2000
The 2000 draft was about as unremarkable and disappointing as any group we’ve seen in the history of the sport, with only two All Star Games combined among ALL draftees (Kenyon Martin and Michael Redd, each with one), so Miles’ essentially one of the biggest failures is somewhat muted as there weren’t many other great alternatives to the Clippers in retrospect. A failure is a failure, however, and Miles only played eight seasons in the league, averaging 10 points per game.
ADAM MORRISON, Charlotte Bobcats, 2006
Morrison’s collegiate career at Gonzaga ended with a loss to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament. Here’s the video of the waning seconds of that loss. Fast forward to 3:35 and watch Morrison’s cry after the loss, face down in the center of the floor:
This should have been a red flag for any team Morrison picks. There is no crying in basketball! Morrison lasted three seasons in the NBA, but hopefully his barely reached puberty mustache lives on.
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