NBA Draft Redo: What Teams With The First Pick Wish They Did

Basketball | 8/12/20

The NBA Draft is a time of hope for teams and fans. After a bad season, the team with the first overall pick has a chance to reset the franchise. And for at least one night, fans are given the opportunity to believe the franchise will turn their bad luck around. For every LeBron James taken by the Cavaliers in this spot, though, there’s a Michael Olowokandi taken by the Clippers. Keep reading to find out who the Clippers should have taken instead, and what other franchises wish they had done with the first overall pick!

In 1995, Golden State Should Have Taken Garnett Over Smith

garnett smith
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images and Sporting News via Getty Images
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images and Sporting News via Getty Images

Joe Smith seemed like the easy choice for the Golden State Warriors in the 1995 NBA Draft. He was considered a generational talent who would revolutionize the game. Two and a half years later the team had seen enough and traded him away.

Now imagine how things would have been different if the Warriors had taken Kevin Garnett. Drafted 5th overall by the Timberwolves, Garnett was otherworldly during his career. In 2004 he was named the NBA MVP, and in 2008 he won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics.

In 1996, The 76ers Would Have Stuck With Allen Iverson

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Kirby Lee/Getty Images
Kirby Lee/Getty Images

During his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, Allen Iverson was the team’s heart and soul. Because of that, it would hard to see the team taking anyone else with the first overall pick in 1996 – even Kobe Bryant.

On a stacked Lakers team, Bryant became one of the best NBA players of all time. Had he been taken by Philly, we can’t say the same thing would have happened. Iverson lifted the 76ers, single-handedly leading them to the NBA Finals in 2001 and winning the NBA MVP that seam season.

In 1997, The Spurs Won The Lottery With Tim Duncan

tim duncan nba
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs tanked in 1996. The team finished with the third-worst record in the league and was awarded the first overall pick in the draft through the NBA lottery. After wasting the season for the reward, they didn’t waste any more time by taking Tim Duncan.

Tim Duncan became the leader of a San Antonio dynasty that had 19 straight 50-win seasons. He won the NBA MVP award twice, the NBA Finals MVP three times, and the championship five times.

In 1998, The Clippers Went With “Unlimited Upside” Over Dirk Nowitzki

nowitzki olokowandi
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images and Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images and Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It’s not hard to understand why the Los Angeles Clippers only recently found NBA success when you consider their past mistakes. Take, for example, the 1998 NBA Draft, when the team drafted Michael Olowokandi instead of Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, or even Paul Pierce.

Looking back, Nowitzki was the clear prize of the draft. He played in the NBA for 20 seasons, won one NBA championship, and established himself as one of the greatest players to ever come from overseas.

In 1999, The Bulls Missed Out On Manu Ginobili

brand ginobili
Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport and Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport and Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

In 1999, the Chicago Bulls took Elton Brand with the number one overall pick, missing out on the best-kept secret in the draft — Manu Ginobili. Of course, the Bulls weren’t the only team to miss this pick. Ginobili fell to the San Antonio Spurs with the 57th overall pick.

Unlike other drafts, the 1999 one wasn’t filled with elite talent. Ginobili would go on to have the longest, most awarded career, but players like Baron Davis or Ron Artest also could have easily been taken by the Bulls without much argument.

In 2000, The New Jersey Nets Took Kenyon Martin Over Jamal Crawford

crawford martin
Chris Trotman/Getty Images and Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Chris Trotman/Getty Images and Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

As with the 1999 NBA Draft, the 2000 version wasn’t a scout’s dream. The New Jersey Nets took Kenyon Martin with the first overall pick, then traded him to the Denver Nuggets four years later. Martin was named an NBA All-Star once but never blossomed into a franchise player.

Jamal Crawford was taken eighth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers and developed into one of the NBA’s most well-rounded sixth men. He was named the Sixth Man of the Year three times, and the NBA Teammate of the Year once.

In 2001, The Wizards Wish They Had Taken Gasol Over Brown

gasol brown
G Fiume/Getty Images and Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
G Fiume/Getty Images and Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards made a huge mistake in the 2001 NBA Draft. In a classed will with talents like Pau Gasol, Richard Jefferson, Tyson Chandler, Zach Randolph, and Tony Parker, the team took Kwame Brown with the first overall pick.

Brown is now considered one of the biggest draft busts of all-time. Pau Gasol, who was taken two picks later, turned into a six-time All-Star and two time NBA champion. The re-draft here is an easy one.

In 2002, The Rockets Made The Right Call With Yao Ming

yao ming rockets
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Yao Ming may have only played in the NBA for eight seasons, but he was an All-Star in every one. Coming to the United States from China, the seven-foot, six-inch tower of a man was an NBA cheat code and easy choice in the draft for the Houston Rockets.

Full of incredible talent, Ming’s undoing was a knack for foot injuries, which ultimately made him miss the 2009-10 season and limited him for the rest of his career. Still, his impact in Houston is undeniable.

In 2003, The Cavaliers Took The King, And They’d Do It Again If They Could

lebron james nba
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Few NBA draft decisions have been easier than the one the Cleveland Cavaliers had to make in 2003. Coming out of high school, local kid LeBron James was a feel-good story for the city and a can’t miss talent wrapped into one.

While it didn’t happen right away, James spent the first half of his career on a mission to bring a championship to Cleveland. After over a decade of trying (and winning two titles in Miami), James finally made his hometown city’s dreams come true in 2016.

In 2004, The Orlando Magic Took The Right Risk With Dwight Howard

dwight howard nba
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Because of how the back half of his NBA career went, it’s easy to forget just how transcendent Dwight Howard was in his prime. Coming out of high school, he was a raw talent, and one the Orlando Magic couldn’t help but take with the first overall pick.

With Orlando, Howard was named to the All-NBA First-Team five times. He was a perennial All-Star and even helped guide the franchise to the NBA Finals once, where the team lost to the Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles Lakers.

In 2005, The Milwaukee Bucks Should Have Considered Chris Paul Over Andrew Bogut

bogut paul
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images and Omar Rawlings/Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images and Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

If you were a GM and could look into the future, would you want to draft a player knowing they were going to be a ten-time All-Star or an NBA Champion? That’s the question between Chris Paul and Andrew Bogut.

In 2005, Milwaukee chose Bogut, who would eventually be traded to the Golden State Warriors and win a championship. Chris Paul was taken three spots later, and as of this writing is a ten-time NBA All-Star who has never reached the NBA Finals. We choose Paul.

In 2006, The Toronto Raptors Couldn’t Have Gotten It More Wrong

bargnani aldridge
David Sandford/Getty Images and Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
David Sandford/Getty Images and Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Here’s a name Toronto Raptor fans probably wish they never had to hear again – Andrea Bargnani. Compared to Dirk Nowitzki coming out of Europe, Bargnani never found his footing, meanwhile, the player taken after him, LaMarcus Aldridge became a perennial All-Star.

Taken by the Trail Blazers with the second overall pick, Aldridge is a seven-time All-Star (so far) who spent the first decade of his career in the Pacific Northwest before being traded to the San Antonio Spurs.

In 2007, The Trail Blazers Chose Greg Oden Over Kevin Durant

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Harry How/Getty Images and Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images and Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers missed from the free-throw line when they drafted Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant with the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Oden had tons of talent, but could never stay healthy and hasn’t played in the league since 2015.

Kevin Durant became a league MVP and two time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors. Originally drafted by the Seattle Supersonics (now OKC Thunder), Durant most recently signed a monster contract with the Brooklyn Nets to bring glory to one of New York’s five boroughs.

In 2008, The Chicago Bulls Made Derrick Rose The Chosen One Instead Of Russell Westbrook

rose westbrook
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images and Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images and Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

This was a difficult one to choose. The truth is, before he tore his ACL, Derrick Rose was everything the Chicago Bulls hoped he would be. He was even named the league MVP in 2011. After he came back from the injury, though, he was never the same.

Russell Westbrook was taken by Seattle with the fourth overall pick. Starting his career alongside Kevin Durant, Westbrook blossomed into one of the best all-around players in the league. He’s been named an All-Star nine times and was crowned the league MVP in 2017.

In 2009, The Clippers Had No Idea Steph Curry Would Be Better Than Blake Griffin

curry griffin
Scott Halleran/Getty Images Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Scott Halleran/Getty Images Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The 2009 NBA was not short on talent. There was Blake Griffin, Steph Curry, James Harden, Jrue Holiday, Demar DeRozan, and Tyreke Evans among others. The Los Angeles Clippers had their pick of the litter at the top and went with Griffin, the most impressive player at the time.

A decade later, it’s now clear the choice should have either been James Harden of Steph Curry, with the advantage going to the Warriors franchise player. Since being drafted by Golden State, Curry has won two NBA MVP awards and three NBA championships.

In 2010, The Washington Wizards Would Stand Pat With John Wall

john wall nba
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Looking back at the 2010 NBA Draft, the first overall pick comes down to two players – Paul George and John Wall. The Washington Wizards chose Wall, and he has been their franchise player ever since. He has also been named an All-Star five times.

Paul George actually has a better resume than Wall. He’s been an All-Star six-times and an All-NBA First-Team player once, but he has also played for three different franchises. Because of Wall’s stability, we give him the edge.

In 2011, The Cavaliers Would Reconsider Irving For Leonard

irving leonard
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images and Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images and Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

In 2011, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Kyrie Irving first overall and he made an instant impact. When LeBron James returned to the Team a few years later, the pair was nearly unstoppable, even winning a title together in 2016.

Unfortunately for Cavs’ fans, Kawhi Leonard, who was taken with the 15th overall pick by the Spurs, has turned into the better player. A two-time NBA champion, Leonard was the prize free-agent acquisition of the 2019 off-season and now has a chance to be the first NBA player to lead three separate NBA teams to championship titles.

In 2012, There Was No One Better Than Anthony Davis

anothony davis pelicans
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The 2012 NBA Draft had its fair share of talent, but no one was as special and Anthony Davis. The New Orleans Pelicans didn’t hesitate to take him with the first overall pick, and he spent the next several seasons carrying the team on his shoulders.

When it became obvious New Orleans was never going to be able to put the pieces around the star player, it traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers, but that’s not his fault.

In 2013, The Cavaliers Really Should Have Picked Giannis Instead

bennett giannis
Jason Miller/Getty Images and Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
Jason Miller/Getty Images and Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers made a head-scratching decision in 2013 when they made Anthony Bennett the first overall pick in the draft. Bennett was considered an oddity by scouts, and by the end of his rookie year was already considered a bust.

At pick 15, the Milwaukee Bucks picked Giannis Antetokounmpo, a raw talent from overseas with untapped potential. In 2019, the “Greek Freak” put all the pieces of his game together and was named the league MVP. At the same time, Anthony Bennett was playing in the G League

In 2014, The Timberwolves Missed The Boat On Joel Embiid

wiggins embiid
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images and Elsa/Getty Images
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images and Elsa/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves passed up drafting Joel Embiid with the first overall pick in 2014 in favor of Andrew Wiggins. Still young, Wiggins has already been traded by the Timberwolves, giving him away to the Golden State Warriors in 2020.

Joel Embiid, on the other hand, has helped turn the Philadelphia 76ers into legitimate title contenders. He has been named an All-Star three times and looks like he will be one of the faces of the NBA for a long time.