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NBA Redraftables Reevaluations: The Historically Awful 2000 Draft

The best, worst, and Knicksiest moves from a class whose best player is anybody’s guess

Draft season is here, even if the NBA season isn’t, so we’re taking a look back at some of the most interesting lotteries of the past 24 years. On the Book of Basketball 2.0 feed, Bill Simmons and a rotating cast are redrafting every pick 1-13/14, starting with 1996. Here, we’re going deep on what actually did happen by choosing the best, worst, and Knicksiest move of each class with the gift of hindsight, and also looking at how the numbers would re-rank the lottery board today. (For reference, here’s how the 2000 draft played out.)

Best Move

Hedo Turkoglu to the Kings, no. 16

The best player in the 2000 draft never made an All-Star Game, never won a ring, was kind of a running joke for his last six seasons, and a reserve for most of his first four. But Turk did have a moment. He was the second-best player on the Magic’s Finals team in 2009, and his ability to shoot and handle the ball at his size helped pave the way for the point forwards of today. Stan Van Gundy even compared Turkoglu’s unique skill set to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s in an interview last year with The Ringer’s Kevin Clark: “We celebrate Giannis—and we should celebrate Giannis—and Hedo didn’t have the physical strength or talent of Giannis, but this was a 6-foot-10 guy who handled and passed like a point guard and shot the 3.” A touch strong, but when your closest competition is Mike Miller and Kenyon Martin, it’s enough to get you to the top of this draft class.

Worst Move

Marcus Fizer to the Bulls, no. 4

There’s a lot of competition for this distinction—only nine players from this draft accumulated 25 or more win shares, and one of them is Eduardo Nájera. Stromile Swift is by far the most famous bust, because, at no. 2, he was the one that was drafted highest. But the more the NBA has sized down, the more you can make a case that Swift hit the league at the wrong time. Swift was an undersized center in an era when the paint was ruled by Godzillas. Picture him now, using all of his athleticism as a bouncier, shorter version of Clint Capela. Imagine being the big forced to stop this guy chugging to rim off a James Harden screen:

Fizer, meanwhile, probably couldn’t have cut it in any era. Here’s what the TNT booth said about him on draft night:

So in between talking up his low-post play, we’ve got: (a) the Bulls will have to play him out of position at small forward because they already have Elton Brand; (b) he’s not a great rebounder; (c) he’s not much of a defender; (d) he’s a great scorer 15-18 feet and in—a.k.a., he can’t shoot; (e) he’s a great fit for the Triangle. What could go wrong! They then cut to Mike Fratello reporting live in Chicago.

“Ernie, this seems like an unusual pick for me,” he begins. OK, then! “It wouldn’t surprise me to see them move Fizer on to someone else.” Fizer lasted in Chicago for four seasons, and just two more after that.

Most Underrated Move

Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson to the Clippers, nos. 3 and 18

Michael Redd vaulting from the no. 43 pick to All-Star and Redeem Team member is a worthy selection, but in just two years together, Miles and Q-Rich spawned an iconic celebration, helped the Clippers become relevant for the first time, and, eventually, launched a podcast that landed Kobe Bryant as a guest. This isn’t even a bit. Miles’s career famously flamed out because of injuries and general Darius Milesness, and Richardson was mostly a specialist, but the cultural cachet they built up in such a short amount of time had more impact than virtually any of the players in this draft did on winning. The SLAM cover with Miles, Brand, and Lamar Odom swapping jerseys is right up there with the Iverson ’fro for the most memorable NBA magazine fronts of the era (this season’s Clippers recently recreated it). Everyone did the head tap, even though no one knew what it meant (this season’s Clippers recreated that, too). They also helped Jordan Brand go mainstream; I remember obsessing over a long-forgotten ESPN doc series that chronicled their lives in Los Angeles (I think it was called Sidelines: L.A. Hoops) and reciting Miles’s line “I’d rather wear Mikey than Nike,” even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t know the difference. They made the Clippers cool—which is especially hard when your team is run by a slumlord. Even the recent editions haven’t exactly been thrill rides. Chris Paul elevated the Clippers to contenders but his drill sergeant demeanor turned Lob City into a bunch of sourpusses. The Kawhi Clippers may have the best roster in the NBA, but we spent most of January trying to figure out their listlessness. The early-2000s Clippers weren’t very good, but they managed to become a defining team of that era. That matters.

Best What-if

What if they just skipped the 2000 draft and merged it with 2001?

This draft didn’t produce a single player who was selected to multiple All-Star Games. Just three made it to one: Kenyon Martin, Jamaal Magloire (quite possibly the least deserving All-Star in history), and Redd. And only Redd made an All-NBA team. It’s probably the worst draft in recent history. So let’s say the league just punted, via a force majeure clause for extreme awfulness, and combined this class with the next one. How many players from 2001 would be picked before we get a single one from 2000? Here’s the top 15 from 2001 based on win shares:

1. Pau Gasol
2. Tony Parker
3. Tyson Chandler
4. Richard Jefferson
5. Joe Johnson
6. Zach Randolph
7. Shane Battier
8. Gerald Wallace
9. Jason Richardson
10. Mehmet Okur
11. Samuel Dalembert
12. Gilbert Arenas
13. Troy Murphy
14. Brendan Haywood
15. Vladimir Radmanovic

Gasol, Parker, and Iso Joe all definitely go before I’m taking Turkoglu. Probably Chandler, too. Randolph, Arenas, and Jefferson are in the conversation. Battier, despite basically unlocking small ball for the entire NBA, is probably the cutoff. So that’s five to seven players from a solid but not spectacular draft before we get to the best player from 2000. And I don’t think you get to another 2000er—Martin or Miller or Jamal Crawford—until you get to 10. I think you’d struggle to get even double-digit 2000 players into the first round.

How the Knicks Fucked Up

New York was hardly the only team to fuck up the 2000 draft, but fuck up they did. The Knicks, coming off a second straight conference finals appearance, effectively punted on the first round, shipping the no. 22 pick (Donnell Harvey) and John Wallace, one of our 1996 Knick fuck-ups on his second run in New York, to Dallas for veteran guard Erick Strickland and 2000’s Mr. Irrelevant, Pete Mickeal. Here’s where it gets especially bad: After only 28 games, the Knicks then flipped Strickland for Othella Harrington. As part of the trade, GM Scott Layden also sent to Vancouver a first and a second in the following year’s draft (which would later become Jamaal Tinsley and Antonis Fotsis). So, in total, the Knicks gave up two firsts and a second for a backup big man. They were bounced in the first round of the 2001 playoffs and have never made it back to the conference finals.

In-Hindsight Draft Board

Using a mix of two all-encompassing statistics—Basketball-Reference’s win shares and FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR wins above replacement—we calculated the peak and career value for each player drafted (and undrafted) since 1996. (Peak value comprised the top five seasons of a player’s career.) Then, for each class, we ranked the players in three ways: by peak value, by career value, and by an ultimate blend of the two, using baseball’s JAWS model as an example. The first chart shows the top 13 players according to these rankings, while the second looks at the lottery picks that didn’t make the cut. An important caveat is that all of these rankings address regular-season performance only; feel free to mentally adjust placements based on playoff exploits.—Zach Kram

The New Lottery Order

Player Pick Career Rank Peak Rank Blended Rank
Player Pick Career Rank Peak Rank Blended Rank
Hedo Türkoğlu 16 1 1 1
Michael Redd 43 4 2 2
Mike Miller 5 2 3 3
Jamal Crawford 8 3 4 4
Kenyon Martin 1 5 7 5
Morris Peterson 21 6 6 6
Quentin Richardson 18 7 5 7
Eduardo Nájera 38 8 9 8
Desmond Mason 17 11 8 9
Marko Jarić 30 10 11 10
Speedy Claxton 20 12 10 11
Eddie House 37 9 14 12
Joel Przybilla 9 13 12 13

The Lotto Picks Left Behind

Player Pick Career Rank Peak Rank Blended Rank
Player Pick Career Rank Peak Rank Blended Rank
Stromile Swift 2 17 18 18
Darius Miles 3 18 15 16
Marcus Fizer 4 59 41 57
DerMarr Johnson 6 22 23 23
Chris Mihm 7 26 25 26
Keyon Dooling 10 15 17 17
Jérôme Moïso 11 33 34 34
Etan Thomas 12 20 22 20
Courtney Alexander 13 36 36 36