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It was June 26th, 2003, and Madison Square Garden was filled with the anticipation of the first draft pick. It was a guarantee, with the hype train following around LeBron James wherever he went during his senior year of high school. The Cleveland Cavaliers straight out stated that they would draft the high school athlete out of Akron, Ohio after winning the draft lottery. The 58 picks that occured on this night drew comparisons with the draft classes of 1984 and 1996, two of the greatest drafts in NBA history in terms of talent.
A McDonald’s All-American and Player of the Year, James was a supernatural freak in his teenage years. The form that brought the nation’s attention to the palm of his hands has continued for what has now been a storied 16 years in the NBA. His statistics speak for the ‘King’, with 4 MVP seasons to go with 3 Finals MVP performances.
A 14-time All-Star, with the streak going back to 2005 to go with 14 All-NBA seasons (12 first team, 2 second team). He has 3 NBA Championships between Miami and Cleveland, with a possible claim to at least one more with the Los Angeles Lakers. You can not deny that James is a bonafide Hall of Fame candidate who has an arguable claim to being the greatest basketball player to ever grace the presence of the NBA.
The #2 selection in Darko Milicic had plenty of potential, but lacked game time and confidence from his coaches that kept him coming off the bench for the majority of his career. Playing 468 games within a 10 year career, Milicic had 2 solid years at Minnesota, but not much else ended up be worth writing home about.
Carmelo Anthony was chosen with the #3 pick for Denver, and the Nuggets took full advantage of the man who lead Syracuse to the NCAA Title in 2003. Anthony bounced around a few teams over his career, however, there is no denying the talent that this man has. A 10 time All-Star, a 6-time All-NBA player, and first team All-Rookie in 2003-04, Anthony has seen and done almost everything in the league.
The one statistic that should showcase his talent more than anything else is that Anthony started all but 8 games during his illustrious career, all of those at Houston during the current season. He is also 3rd among active players in all-time scoring, 22nd overall. Assuming that the trend continues with those inside the top 30, that’s enough for the Hall of Fame.
Chris Bosh was drafted with the #4 pick, and while he was well used in Toronto, he became part of the “Dream Team” in Miami that ran a riot over the NBA. Injuries eventually ended the career of Bosh, but the legacy of his career was set at that point.
An 11-time NBA All-Star to go along with 2 NBA Championships, as well as being All-NBA in 2006-07 with Toronto and an All-Rookie in his first season, Bosh had a career that was slightly shorter than some within the top of this draft. Nevertheless, his career was full of highlights and ended with a potential Hall of Fame case in his grasp.
Dwayne Wade was picked at #5 by Miami, and outside of 2 broken up seasons with Chicago and Cleveland, he has remained in South Florida his entire career. Currently in the top 30 all-time in the NBA for points scored, and 5th in active players, Wade has one last season to make a splash before riding off into the sunset.
A touch over 1,000 games, 900 of those with Miami shows a level of commitment to the team that is rarely seen in today’s basketball. Along with 3 NBA Championships, Wade is a 12-time All-Star, an 8-time All-NBA player, as well as a Finals MVP in 2006 and MVP in 2009-10. That is surely a first ballot Hall of Fame career.
Continuing down the list, only 5 players out of the first round did not play for more than 5 seasons within the NBA. Players like Chris Kaman and Josh Howard were All-Stars, while Leandro Barbosa and Kendrick Perkins were both NBA Champions during their careers.
David West was brought into Golden State as a hired gun for the last 2 years of his career, and retired with 2 NBA Championships to his name. Boris Diaw had a storied journeyman career, being a crucial player off the bench for San Antonio in their 2013-14 season. That is just the first round, with a few players coming out of the second round that shine to this day.
Luke Walton was drafted pretty high up in the second round, with his impact mainly coming in off the bench for the Lakers and later Cavaliers during his 10-year career. He ended up starting for two of those years, however, his career went back to the role as a rotation player after the Lakers Championship in 2008-09. He, of course, is back with the side as the head coach after spending time under Steve Kerr at Golden State.
Zaza Pachulia is another player of note, being picked at #42 by Orlando. A journeyman by his own stature and admission, Pachulia has been somewhat of a hired gun as well over the last few years. He is currently playing in a rotation with Andre Drummond at Detroit with relative success, and is a 2-time NBA Champion with Golden State.
Mo Williams also received plenty of time in the NBA, finishing his career with a title at Cleveland in the 2015-16 season. A journeyman himself, playing with 7 different teams, Williams could do it all on the court. With a career average of 13.2 points per game and a touch under 5 assists, he could distribute and shoot whenever it was needed.
James Jones was a 3-time NBA Champion, playing a bench rotation role with limited minutes for Miami and Cleveland during their title seasons. Potentially a little underrate, Jones still had a serviceable career while winning multiple titles.
Needless to say at #51, Kyle Korver was slept on within the draft and has prospered in the years after. Over 11,000 points in his career, Korver has played in plenty of games over the last season, as well as over the last 16 seasons. He was drafted by the Nets and sold to Philadelphia, played for 5 different teams, and is 5th in all-time in 3-point shots made. He is 2nd in shooting percentage out of all active players in 3-point percentage, only behind Steph Curry. Korver is also an All-Star, in case you forgot.
2003 was easily one of the most talented draft years in the history of the draft. With talk of the 2019 draft class already reaching a fever pitch, could this draft class have the potential to be just as good?
Statistics taken from Basketball-reference.com
Featured Image – NBA