2000: Possibly the Worst NBA Draft Ever

As the 2020 NBA Draft wraps up and people who actually follow the college game because they mistakenly believe it provides insight into an NBA player’s potential go nuts over their team’s selections, it’s time to take a moment and look back into the past when great players stepped up to the podium as the beginning of their Hall of Fame journey to greatness…

…nah, forget all that. It’s time to go ahead and dig a prime example out of the vault of why the college game is stupid, the NBA Draft is stupid, and you can’t tell a single thing about an NBA prospect until he actually goes out and plays real NBA minutes.

After all, 2000 gave us a case of an actual team thinking Kenyon Martin had Hall of Fame potential, just one year after another team thought the same thing about Michael Olowokandi.

Although it’s not like Martin (whose 48.0 career Win Shares was good for fifth overall, behind Hedo Turkoglu, Mike Miller, Jamal Crawford, and Michael Redd) was a bust exactly.

Also, Jamal Crawford played like a million years in the league—he actually played one game for the Brooklyn Nets in 2019-20, making him technically still active—and he still only ranked tied for second, his five points and three assists in six minutes for the Nets actually good enough to grant him a tenth of a Win Share in a three-point win over the Milwaukee Bucks on August 4 to push him into that shared silver medal.

If there’s a saving grace to the 2000 draft, it’s that a truly awful player—one who retired with negative Win Shares—didn’t go until Mateen Cleaves went 14th to Detroit after comparisons at the college level to Magic Johnson.

But that denies the undeniable; five of the 13 lottery picks in that draft couldn’t even crack double digit Win Shares, and 10 WS would’ve been good for just sixth in the league in a coronavirus-shortened season and the butt end of the top ten had the league played 82 games. Luka Doncic, at 8.8, placed 10th; it’s not even slightly out of the question that he and the other guys above him—Nikola Jokic, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, and Chris Paul—could’ve tacked on another win share given 10 extra games to do so.

And unlike other drafts, where “at least there were plenty of solid role players” (like the inexplicably good second round in the ’86 draft discussed here yesterday), the 2000 draft was “guys who kinda sucked and guys who completely, utterly, cover-your-eyes” sucked.

Martin was eighth in WS/48 at .100, a stat that favors big men to a degree where .100 for a power forward or a center is generally regarded as junk.

Redd led the class in WS/48. Turkoglu, Brian Cardinal, Eduardo Najera, and Miller rounded out the top five. And the other two guys over the Starter’s Mendoza Line? Etan Thomas and Mamadou N’Diaye.

The mere fact that the NBA was so bad during the Dark Ages that all of those guys played at least five years in the league (even if N’Diaye only played in 69 total games) is enough to suggest that anyone who played the bulk of their career between 1999 and 2007 should be excluded from Hall of Fame consideration. Unless they had a great start to a career before the era (basically, they played against Michael Jordan in games that mattered) or had a solid run after the era was over (most of the Hall of Famers in the ’96 Draft), the Dark Ages should be consigned to the same sports history scrap heap as the steroid era in baseball.

There were so many wretched players picked both high and low.

DerMarr Johnson went sixth; he never cracked more than 8.4 points a game.

Chris Mihm went seventh, and his size (7 feet, 265 pounds) belied the fact that he couldn’t play basketball worth a damn, as he finished an eight-year career with minus-4.3 VORP and $25.4 million in questionably-earned salary.

Hell, Mihm’s most fascinating fact involves a trade in 2004 where Boston shipped him to the Lakers for the draft pick that became Rajon Rondo, then rubbed Mihm’s nose in it when he was still on the Lakers for the 2008 Finals.

Not that it mattered that much, since Mihm played just three minutes in one playoff game in 2008.

Marcus Fizer and his minus-2.6 VORP went fourth. Not the greatest pick the Chicago Bulls ever pulled off, especially since Miller went one pick later.

The second and third picks were Stromile Swift and Darius Miles. Those guys weren’t even good in Dreamcast-era NBA 2K.

Between the 21st pick (Morris Peterson) and the 37th (Eddie House), there was exactly one guy taken who ended up with a positive VORP for his career (Marko Jaric, taken 30th by the Clippers to start the second round.)

Speaking of college players who never panned out, Jake Voskuhl and Khalid El-Amin, of the 1999 national-championship Connecticut squad, went back-to-back with the 33rd and 34th picks. Both stunk. El-Amin only played one season, while Voskuhl averaged just four points a game over nine seasons and put up some of the worst offensive efficiency numbers by a center in the modern history of the game.

The 2000 draft produced just three All-Stars. And while, as mentioned yesterday, three All-Stars does not an atrocious draft make (consider 1997), it does when even the three guys who made the midwinter weekend festivities weren’t even that good.

Jamaal Magloire played in the 2004 game. Martin played in that same ’04 game. And so did Michael Redd.

For all three guys, it was their only All-Star appearance…during, statistically and aesthetically speaking, the worst non-lockout NBA season since at least the ABA merger if not since the old days of the Basketball Association of America.

That’s all the 2000 draft gave us. Three guys who played in one All-Star game that was light on stars. The Rookie Game had a better lineup than the actual All-Star teams.

That’s the legacy of the 2000 (and 2002; more on that tomorrow) draft. A lot has been said about the lackluster draft class in 2020, but even if that talent pool stinks, they’ve got a low bar to clear just to avoid being the worst draft class ever.