The 1996 NBA Draft was a historic one. So many top NBA talents come from this draft. There were some busts, which in a historic draft like this, were even more costly, but this was nonetheless a great draft. Here is how it should have been done.
29 – Chicago Bulls – Vitaly Potapenko
Vitaly Potapenko was another player who didn’t justify his lottery selection, but he enjoyed a semi-lengthy 10 year NBA career. Potapenko averaged 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game, and he started 189 career games as well. Potapenko gives the Bulls a good young player in their front court.
28 – Atlanta Hawks – Randy Livingston
Livingston was sparingly used in his career, but he managed to be a player teams had on roster for an entire decade. Livingston played games for Phoenix, Houston, Seattle, Utah, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles (Clippers,) Golden State, and New Orleans. Livingston averaged 3.8 points and 2.0 assists per game from the third string point guard spot, and he shot 35.1% from three. His decent shooting, and fair size (6’4″ and 209 pounds) give Atlanta a look at point guard at the least.
27 – Orlando Magic – Travis Knight
Travis Knight had a role on a good Lakers team early into his career. Knight started 58 games in three years with the Lakers and Celtics of the late 90s. Knight averaged 3.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game over his career, and he got 7.4 win shares over his first three years. For Orlando, who’s back-up center had -0.2 in the ’97 season, it is a definite upgrade a great value this late into the draft.
26 – Detroit Pistons – Jamie Feick
Jamie Feick was another player with a legitimate role on a team. Feick averaged 11.0 rebounds per game for the Nets in ’99, and 7.1 for his career. He also got 7.2 win shares (.106 per 48 minutes) in three years with the Nets. For the Pistons, who lose a great player in Jerome Williams, they take the most similar available big man in Feick.
25 – Utah Jazz – Moochie Norris
Moochie Norris was able to find a niche in the NBA. He played 7 seasons and 341 games, starting 35 of them, for the Houston Rockets. Norris also played for Vancouver, New York, New Orleans, and Seattle. In nine seasons, Norris averaged 5.1 points and 2.8 assists in 17.2 minutes per game. Norris serves as a replacement back-up guard for the now-taken Shandon Anderson.
24 – Los Angeles Lakers – Walter McCarty
Walter McCarty was ahead of his time in style. He was the 6’10” player who could shoot threes. McCarty made three pointers at a 34.6% clip, and he averaged 5.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game to go along with that. McCarty’s best year came in 02-03, when he got 4.1 win shares (.101 per 48 minutes) for Boston. On Los Angeles, McCarty adds another dimension as a floor spacing big, something which Shaquille O’Neal, Elden Campbell, and Vlade Divac could use.
23 – Denver Nuggets – Samaki Walker
Samaki Walker never lived up to being a lottery pick, especially one taken over Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Peja Stojakovic, and others, but he was good in the right role. Walker averaged 8.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game with Dallas his 2nd season, and 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 17.1 minutes per game for his career. Walker also excelled during the 01-02 season, when he had 5.3 win shares (.153 per 48 minutes) off the bench for the world champion Los Angeles Lakers. On Denver, Walker takes over for an imcompetent LaSalle Thompson (-0.2 win shares in ’97) as the back-up center.
22 – Vancouver Grizzlies – Othella Harrington
Othella Harrington was another player who made it for 11 years in the league. Unlike McInnis, however, Harrington was a front court player. His best year came in 1999-2000 with Vancouver when he averaged 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds on 50.6% shooting, and he played all 82 games that season. Vancouver lost Shareef Abdur-Rahim in the front court with the re-draft, and Harrington is a good replacement this late in the draft.
21 – New York Knicks – Tony Delk
Tony Delk was a rotational guard for many teams. In his nine year career, he started games for all but the last season, and he averaged 9.1 points in 21.5 career minutes per game. Delk’s best season came in 2003, when he averaged 15.8 points per game on 47.4% shooting in the playoffs for Boston. Delk gives the Knicks a young player to be groomed and readied to replace the aging John Starks at shooting guard. The Knicks had three first round picks this season and a 57-25 record, so there aren’t many holes in the line-up.
20 – Cleveland Cavaliers – Jeff McInnis
Jeff McInnis was able to have a semi-lengthy NBA career as a starting and back-up guard for the Nuggets, Wizards, Clippers, Blazers, Cavaliers, Nets, and Bobcats. His best year came in 2001 when he had 12.9 points, 5.5 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game on 46.3% shooting, 36.1% shooting from three, and 6.9 win shares. The Cavaliers had a very limited bench when McInnis was drafted. Bob Sura was excellent, but only center Mark West had more than one win share off the bench.
19 – New York Knicks – Malik Rose
Malik Rose was undersized as a 6’7″ power forward, but he still played a big role for two championship San Antonio Spurs teams. In eight seasons with San Antonio, he averaged 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game. His defensive rating of 96 with the Spurs is excellent as well. New York lost Walter McCarty in the re-draft, so Rose is a good replacement, especially since he is much more NBA ready.
18 – New York Knicks – Shandon Anderson
Shandon Anderson was only able to have a nine year career, but he still was a serviceable back-up in those years, and a starter at one point too. Anderson’s best year came in 1997-1998 when he played all 82 games for the Western Conference champion Utah Jazz, and averaged 8.3 points on 53.8% shooting with 4.2 win shares. Anderson, Harrington, and Delk are a better trio off the bench then the two players who played off the bench for them from this draft John Wallace and Walter McCarty.
17 – Portland Trailblazers – Jerome Williams
Jerome Williams was a premier back-up big man in the league for many years. On Detroit, Toronto, Chicago, and New York, Williams averaged 6.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game on 50.2% shooting. From 1997 to 2002, Williams had offensive and defensive ratings of 115 and 100, including his league-leading offensive rating of 119 in 1998-1999. Williams got 37.9 win shares (.143 per 48 minutes) in his eight year career, and he was a big part of the Raptors and Pistons teams that made the playoffs in the late 90s and early 2000s. On Portland, Williams is a good replacement for Jermaine O’Neal.
16 – Charlotte Hornets – Lorenzen Wright
Lorenzen Wright played for 12 years in the NBA as primarily a starting center for lower end teams. He played for the Clippers, Hawks, Grizzlies, Hawks again, Kings, and Cavaliers. His best years were from 2004-2006 when he got 8.9 win shares. Wright also averaged 11.9 points and 8.0 rebounds from 2000 to 2003, so he was very capable of playing good minutes. On Charlotte, Wright would help shore up a defense that was 22nd in defense the year he was drafted with the 13th pick in the re-draft.
15 – Phoenix Suns – Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher is the ultimate example of a player who maximized his career. Fisher played 17 long seasons in the NBA with the Lakers primarily, and later the Warriors, Thunder, and Mavericks. Fisher only averaged 8.3 points per game on 37.4% shooting from three for his career, but his teams, which almost always were elite to begin with, played even better with Fisher on the court. Fisher’s teams are a career 3.5 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court, and the 2001 Lakers (10.8,) 2011 Lakers (8.5,) and 2003 and 2009 Lakers (7.5 points) were even better with Fisher on the court. There was a lot of transition at point guard on Phoenix, as Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd, Sam Cassell, and Steve Nash all took reps at the position, but with Nash gone in the re-draft, Fisher is the best option available.
14 – Sacramento Kings – Erick Dampier
Erick Dampier played in the NBA for 15 seasons, and he was a big part of the Warriors and Mavericks teams of the 2000s. Dampier averaged 12.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game for the Warriors in 2003-2004 – a season that helped him land a then-huge deal with Dallas. Dampier got 8.9 win shares that season, and 52.7 (.105 per 48 minutes) for his career. On Sacramento, Dampier can be a big young center groomed to replace Olden Polynice, and he could help shore up a defense that finished 21st in the NBA in 1996-97.
13 – Charlotte Hornets – Kerry Kittles
Kerry Kittles had a very short-lived NBA career that ended in an 11 game stint with the Clippers in 2004-2005, but he was a very high level guard with the Nets. On New Jersey, Kittles averaged 14.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game on 43.9% shooting and 37.8% from three. Kittles helped the Nets reach two NBA finals, and he 44.6 win shares with the Nets in seven seasons (.128 per 48 minutes.) On Charlotte, Kittles and Wright provide replacements for the lost Vlade Divac (Kobe trade doesn’t happen in the re-draft,) and Kittles can increase the defensive versatility in the starting line-up alongside Dell Curry and Glen Rice at the guard and small forward positions.
12 – Cleveland Cavaliers – Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker was able to put up amazing box score numbers in the starting line-ups of the teams he was on, even if the efficiency wasn’t there. Walker averaged 17.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for his career, which is great, but he only had 5.7 offensive win shares in his whole career. If Walker produced offensive win shares at a league-average rate, with his minutes load, he would have had 32.8 for his career. That’s a very big difference, but one that would be improved if Walker played off the bench and for a great coach like Mike Fratello, which Walker would get to do on Cleveland.
11 – Golden State Warriors – Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a very good NBA player in his prime. From 2002 to 2006, Ilgauskas had two all-star appearances, and averaged 16.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. A 7’3″ big man with a jump shot is scare enough, let alone one with Ilgauskas’ skill, defensive abilities, and finesse. Ilgauskas had problems staying healthy at the beginning of his career, but he got 66.3 win shares (.139 per 48 minutes) over 13 seasons with Cleveland and Miami.
Ilgauskas can be the final piece of really a high level starting line-up with Mark Price, Latrell Sprewell, Chris Mullin, and Joe Smith. The former three were all all-stars in their prime, and Smith was a high level starter for a long time in the NBA. With Rick Adelman as head coach, the Warriors group could have had playoff potential with Ilgauskas healthy at the five.
10 – Indiana Pacers – Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Shareef Abdur-Rahim was a flat out star in the NBA. Abdur-Rahim was an all-star in 2002, and from 1997 to 2004, he averaged 20.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Abdur-Rahim got 71.2 win shares in his career (.118 per 48 minutes,) and he was truly a special talent that unfortunately had to rot away on some poor teams like the Grizzlies, Hawks, Trailblazers, Kings.
Indiana was already an amazing team in the late 1990s and early 2000s with Mark Jackson, Travis Best, Reggie Miller, Fred Hoiberg, Jalen Rose, Dale and Antonio Davis, and Rik Smits. Adding Abdur-Rahim to the mix adds a whole new element, and one that could allow the Pacers to repeat their triumph over the East in 1999-2000.
9 – Dallas Mavericks – Marcus Camby
Marcus Camby was one of the best defensive centers ever. This was a player who averaged 3.0 blocks per game or more five different seasons, including 3.7 per game with Toronto in 1997-98. During the 1998-99 playoffs, when the Knicks shocked the world by winning the Eastern Conference as an eight seed, Camby led the postseason in offensive rating with 121 (and he also had an exceptional defensive rating of 90 as well,) and win shares per 48 minutes with .280. Camby got 81.6 win shares in his 16 year career, and was an imposing defender throughout.
Camby would have been the perfect compliment to a Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas team, but even if the Mavericks don’t land Dirk in 1998 because of an effect the re-draft has on draft standing that year, Sam Cassell, Michael Finley, Jamal Mashburn, A.C. Green, and Camby is still an excellent starting five in the late 90s. Having Derek Harper, Jim Jackson, George McCloud, and Chris Gatling off the bench makes this team even better, and a high level team in the West.
8 – New Jersey Nets – Stephon Marbury
Stephon Marbury is still dominating on the court in the Chinese leagues, but Marbury was once in an elite tier of players in the NBA as well. Marbury holds career averages of 19.3 points, 7.6 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game 43.3% shooting. He got 77.5 win shares (.117 per 48 minutes) over his 12 year career, and was unguardable at times on the court. Marbury got a bad reputation after Steve Nash took over the Suns and turned them from the borderline playoff team they were with Marbury into the 60 win team that played 7 seconds or less, but Marbury was an elite point guard who could score with the best of them at a semi-efficient clip.
The New Jersey Nets weren’t the best team at this time period, but a starting five of Robert Pack, Marbury, Kendall Gill, Jayson Williams, and Shawn Bradley is very potent, and could be a playoff team with health and a bench.
7 – Los Angeles Clippers – Peja Stojakovic
Peja Stojakovic was an unbelievable small forward in the NBA. Obviously the 1996 draft class was and still is hyped as one of the best ever, but Stojakovic slips from conversation in the mix of the great players. From 2000 to 2005, Stojakovic averaged 21.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game on 47.2% shooting and 40.8% from three. He made three straight all-star games from 2002-2004, and he was the NBA’s 2nd leading scorer in 2004 as well. Stojakovic got 82.6 win shares over his 12 year career, including 13.5 in 2003-2004 and 10.1 in 2000-2001 and 2002-2003. Stojakovic was arguably the best small forward in the league during that 2003-2004 season, but whatever the case, he was very underrated.
There weren’t too many players on the Clippers worth building around in the 90s. Loy Vaught (14.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 6.3 win shares) was decent during this 1996-1997 season, and Malik Sealy (13.5 ppg) and Rodney Rogers (13.2 ppg) could score as well, but the team got good play from its bench. The team got 15.3 win shares from the bench compared to 20.7 from its starters, so there was definitely a balance. Stojakovic could be the number one option on this team going forward.
6 – Boston Celtics – Jermaine O’Neal
Jermaine O’Neal was a dominant center in the NBA for many years, but his career got off to a shaky start when the Trailblazers refused to play him good minutes. Indiana capitalized, and turned him into one of the best two-way big men in the game. From 2001 to 2007, O’Neal averaged 20.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 2.1 assists per game. He made six straight all-star games each of those years, and he got 66 win shares (.116 per 48 minutes) over his 17 year career with Portland, Indiana, Toronto, Miami, Boston, Phoenix, and Golden State.
The Boston Celtics were pretty pitiful in the late 90s, but that’s nothing O’Neal can’t turn around. Surrounding a two way dominant force like O’Neal with capable perimeter players like David Wesley (16.8 ppg, 7.3 apg, 6.1 win shares,) Eric Williams (15.0 ppg,) Todd Day (14.5 ppg,) and Rick Fox (15.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.2 win shares,) and suddenly the Celtics have a complete and balanced starting five with Dana Barros, Dee Brown, Greg Minor, and Dino Radja off the bench. That’s a fair team that can win 35 games at the least with health.
5 – Minnesota Timberwolves – Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace was one of the best undrafted players in NBA history. He signed with the Washington Bullets in 1996, and never looked back. Wallace won the defensive player of the year award four times, appeared in four all-star games, made the All-NBA 2nd team three times, and he made the 3rd team twice, and he won a championship with Detroit in 2004. Wallace is 1st all-time in defensive box plus/minus and 5th all-time in defensive rating. He has 93.5 career win shares (.140 per 48 minutes.) There have been few tougher defensive players than Wallace in NBA history.
On Minnesota, the defensive front court pair of Ben Wallace and Kevin Garnett would be insanely frustrating. These are two historic all-NBA defenders on the same team. No one would be able to score on the Wolves. Throw in Tom Gugliotta (20.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 6.7 win shares) and this team has its front court set for years. The backcourt needs work, but that front court aloneis enough to win at least 40 games.
4 – Milwaukee Bucks – Ray Allen
Ray Allen was something special. From 1999 to 2007, Allen averaged 23.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on 44.9% shooting and 40.2% three point shooting. Allen was a ten-time all-star, and is currently the all-time leader in three pointers made with 2973. Allen is also 25th all-time in career win shares with 145.1, 18th all-time in offensive box plus minus with 4.2, and he is a two-time champion.
The Bucks took Allen in the original draft, and there’s no reason not to take him again. Allen, Glenn Robinson, Vin Baker, and others teamed up to take the Bucks to multiple playoffs and an Eastern Conference finals, no player left on the board could these efforts in being repeated more so than Allen.
3 – Vancouver Grizzlies – Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson was something else. Since the beginning of the three point era, no player with Iverson’s limited size was able to dominate quite like he did. Iverson averaged 26.7 points, 6.2 assists, and 2.2 steals per game in his career, and he averaged 30 points per game or more four different seasons. Iverson was an eleven-time all-star, the 2001 NBA MVP, 7th all-time in points per game, and 4th all-time in usage. Iverson had 99.0 win shares over his relatively short 13 year career.
No player could put a team with such limited talent on his back quite like Allen Iverson. He put the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers on his shoulders, and carried them to the Finals behind an MVP regular season, and playoff averaged of 32.9 points, 6.1 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per game. The Grizzlies were really building from the ground up on their team, and were only in the 2nd year of their franchise’s existence. A starting line-up of Greg Anthony, Iverson, George Lynch, Othella Harrington, and Bryant Reeves would be fun to watch if Iverson gets the ball in his hands.
2 – Toronto Raptors – Steve Nash
Steve Nash was one of the greatest improvement stories in NBA History, this was a player who couldn’t bring the ball up past half court at one point in his amateur career, and he became one of the best floor generals ever. Nash won more MVP awards than anyone else in this historic draft class with two, and he was a great point guard for so many years. From 2004 to 2012, Nash averaged 16.3 points, 10.9 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game on 51% shooting, 43.7% three point shooting, and 91.2% free throw shooting. Nash made his teams 7.5 points per 100 possessions better on the court, and he had 129.7 win shares (.164 per 48 minutes.) for his career. Nash was an eight-time all-star, 3rd all-time in assists with 10335, 10th all-time in offensive rating at 118.2, 9th all-time in three point percentage (42.8%,) and 1st all-time in free throw percentage at 90.2%.
The Toronto Raptors already had Damon Stoudamire at point guard, but they traded him within a few years anyways, and one does not simply pass up on Steve Nash. With Stoudamire (20.2 ppg,) Doug Christie (14.5 ppg, 7.0 win shares,) Walt Williams (16.4 ppg, 5.4 win shares,) and 9.0 win shares from their power forwards, Toronto is really one center away from being a special team with the Canadian-born Nash running the point.
1 – Philadelphia 76ers – Kobe Bryant
This pick is just obvious. Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players of all-time. Even in this great draft class, there is no one better than him. It helps that Kobe is from the state of Pennsylvania.
A team with Kobe, Jerry Stackhouse, and Derrick Coleman would be oh so fun to watch, even if it would be driving Bryant nuts with the lack of defense being played. If the 2006 Lakers could make the playoffs, however, so could this 76ers team with Kobe. He was just that good.