The 1997 NBA Draft is one of the worst in the history of the NBA. And that’s what makes this do-over so hard. There was no doubt that Tim Duncan would be selected at No. 1 by the Spurs, but after that it was anyone’s guess. And when you see some of the players taken in the Lottery, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Here’s a reminder on the ground rules: (1) The idea is that while each team has the same roster it had at the time of the draft, they have the added benefit of knowing how each potential draftee will turn out as of today. (2) You can’t predict injuries. (3) Potential still matters. (4) Lastly, you can’t predict how the rest of your roster will turn out.
All clear? With that, here’s my 1997 NBA Draft do-over:
1. San Antonio – Tim Duncan, PF, Wake Forest
You could say Gregg Popovich owes his whole career to David Robinson getting hurt, because after starting 3-15, the Spurs canned Bob Hill and named Pop the coach. They’ve won four titles since. Getting Duncan had a little something to do with that.
2. Philadelphia – Tracy McGrady, SF, Mt. Zion Christian Academy
Led by Allen Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse, you might not think that the Sixers needed another scorer. But had they taken a chance on McGrady, that might have been one of the best trios in NBA history.
3. Boston – Chauncey Billups, PG, Colorado
The Celtics had the right idea by drafting Billups in ’97 – they just shouldn’t have traded him to the Raptors in exchange for Kenny Anderson midway through his first year. Had they given him a chance, Billups’ No. 4 could be destined for the rafters.
4. Vancouver – Stephen Jackson, SG, Butler Community College
In just their second year, the Grizzlies had some nice building blocks for an expansion team, but were desperately in need of one thing: scoring. That’s where Jackson could have come in handy. Originally drafted 43rd overall, he would have paired nicely with Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
5. Denver – Keith Van Horn, PF, Utah
Despite already having LaPhonso Ellis and Antonio McDyess, the Nuggets drafted a big (Tony Battie). Even today, I don’t think that would have changed. If he was still on the board, Van Horn – who played his college ball in the state next-door – would have been a Nugget.
6. Boston – Tim Thomas, SF, Villanova
While I was tempted to have the Celtics still take Ron Mercer, Thomas makes the most sense because he brought a versatility to the table that the Celtics desperately needed.
7. New Jersey – Maurice Taylor, PF, Michigan
If the Nets couldn’t get Thomas (who they took in ’97), they needed the next best big. For guards, they already had Kendall Gill, Sam Cassell, Jim Jackson and Kerry Kittles – all averaging over 16 points per game – so Taylor would have come in and shored up the frontcourt.
8. Golden State – Danny Fortson, PF, Cincinnati
This is where you start to see just how bad this draft truly was. With a nucleus of Latrell Sprewell, Joe Smith, Chris Mullin and Mark Price, the Warriors needed some size upfront. The bruising Fortson would have given them just that.
9. Toronto – Ron Mercer, SG/SF, Kentucky
Mercer was definitely the best talent available, and the potential of a backcourt with him, Damon Stoudamire and Walt Williams’ socks would have been awesome.
10. Milwaukee – Marc Jackson, PF/C, Temple
Although he never played in the NBA until the 2001-02 season, Jackson should have been more highly valued coming out of Temple after averaging 16.1 points and 9.0 rebounds his junior year. He would have fit well alongside Glenn Robinson and Vin Baker.
11. Sacramento – Brevin Knight, PG, Stanford
At the time, the Kings were rolling out Bobby Hurley at the PG spot. Enough said. And he would have been the perfect complement to Mitch Richmond and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
12. Indiana – Derek Anderson, SG, Kentucky
Yes he would have had Reggie Miller playing in front of him, but who better to learn from? The Pacers team went on to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals the next two years and the NBA Finals the year after that. Anderson could have been a key contributor.
13. Cleveland – Anthony Parker, SG, Bradley
When you finish the season 42-40, you take the best player on the board. In this case, that’s the future Cav.
OTHER NOTABLES: Bobby Jackson, Alvin Williams, Mark Blount, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Antonio Daniels, Cedric Henderson, Austin Croshere, Kelvin Cato, Tony Battie, Adonal Foyle, Scot Pollard, Jacque Vaughn, Troy Hudson, Damon Jones
What do you think?
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