The Best There Has Ever Been: 10th Anniversary of the Best NBA Draft Class Ever
By Donnell Suggs
With this year’s NBA draft fast approaching (June 27, 2013, to be exact) I decided to revisit what I consider to be he greatest draft class in league history, the 2003 class. Now I know I am leaving the (internet) door open for people to say, ‘What about the ’84 class with Jordan, Barkley, Olajuwon, Stockton?’ It’s hard to argue with a class that has four first ballot Hall of Fame players so I won’t. I will just use this forum to state the case that the 2003 class had more players in it that will ultimately (if there careers continue on the path they are presently going, of course) to have as many players inducted into Springfield, if not more.
The draft of ten years ago will always go down as the ‘Lebron James draft’ and rightfully so. The Akron native and undisputed best basketball player on the planet Earth, was a 18 year old prodigy out of St. Vincent-St. Mary high in Akron when his name was called on stage as the first overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Playing ball in college would have been a waste of time for him and everyone else. James’ skill set was on display via nationally televised games since his junior year (not tot mention his being on the cover of a few national magazines his last two years in school). He was NBA-ready and proved it from game one in Phoenix. Four MVP trophies, three finals appearances and a title later he has surpassed any expectations we could muster for him.
Despite Detroit botching the second overall pick by selecting Darko “way over my head” Milicic, the draft continued to be filled with players that would become immediate superstars like the third overall pick out of Syracuse, Carmelo Anthony. Denver having continually missed the playoffs before the drafting Anthony, never missed them while he wore their uniform. The next two picks, Chris Bosh out of Georgia Tech and Marquette guard Dwayne Wade, would be go to be pretty decent players in their own right. There is no doubt in my mind that all will be first ballot selections upon the end of their careers. What makes this draft truly special is the players selected late in the first round and into the second round. This is what separates 2003 from the vaunted 1984 class.
Veteran guard Kirk Hinrich was the seventh pick by the Chicago Bulls, T.J. Ford out of Texas went next to Milwaukee. Both guards played well throughout their time in the league. Ford has to prematurely retire due to back and neck injuries while Hinrich is still contributing having recently performed well in this years post-season fiorst against Brooklyn in a seven game war and then in defeat to Miami.
Mickael Pietrus (11th-Golden State), Nick Collison (12th-Seattle), Luke Ridnour (14-Seattle), Carlos Delfino (25-Detroit), Kendrick Perkins (27-Memphis, immediatley traded to Boston), Leandro Barbosa (28th-San Antonio) and Josh Howard (29th-Dallas) rounded out the first round and all have or are having decent if not solid careers.
If you’re paying attention that’s 16 players I named out of 29 picks. If more than half of half of a first round worth of draftees can become assets you have one heck of a draft. I neglected to list one player in particular to better illustrate 2003′s power.
David West probably came out of the womb with muscles. The current Indiana power forward and impending free-agent, demonstrated his power and skill throughout this year’s playoffs. The Knicks (Indiana defeated them in six games) and Heat got plenty of bumps and bruises from West before james and the Heat dispatched Indy in seven games. West was selected 18th by New Orleans in 2003. Hindsight being what it is, he could have been a top ten pick (it’s safe to say that he turned out to be better than Kris Kaman, who went six overall to the Clippers or Mike Sweetney, ninth by New York).
The second round saw plenty of future veteran role players selected. players like Luke Walton (32nd-L.A.L.), Steve Blake following a good career at Maryland (38-Washington), current starting point guard Mo Williams (47-Utah), shooters James Jones (49-Indiana) and Kyle Korver (51-New Jersey), Willie Green (41-Seattle), Zaza Pachulia (42-Orlando), Keith Bogans (43-Milwaukee) as well as Matt Bonner (45-Chicago) rounded put the second round. All nine of the players listed above are active, seven of which participated in some fashion during this year’s playoffs.
No disrespect to the ’84 class but 2003 ten years later has players well into great careers (James, Anthony, Wade, Bosh, West) and still climbing. I’ll be the last man to knock anything having to do with Michael Jordan and basketball. I’m crazy, not stupid. But props are due on the ten year anniversary of what should be considered the best draft class ever in league history. Do your research.