There are good drafts, there are bad drafts and then there’s the 2000 NBA draft class.
The returns were, charitably speaking, ugly. To wit:
- The 2000 haul combined for just three All-Star appearances, all of which came in 2004, when Michael Redd, Kenyon Martin and Jamaal Magloire represented the Eastern Conference—ahead of first-year phenom LeBron James, no less. By contrast, between 1980 and 2010, only one other class has thus far logged single-digit All-Star selections (the 2010 class, with five).
- Of the 58 players selected that year, only 15 went on to spend at least a decade in the Association.
- The 2000 class featured just one All-NBA performer, Redd.
- From the opening of the preps-to-pros pipeline in 1995 to its closing in 2005, no draft was less productive, statistically speaking, than the one from 2000:
By some accounts, the 2000 draft stands out as the worst of any era.
There’s no quick or easy way to explain the outcome of this or any draft, regardless of overall quality—only the stories of those who comprised a particular class.
What follows are the tales of some of 2000’s most noteworthy entrants. Some carved out solid pro careers. Most fell short of their initial promise, whether due to injuries, problems adjusting to the league or a host of other factors that can derail and have derailed many a prospect in years past.
All of them contributed to the legacy of this millennium’s introductory crop, for better or worse.
The 2000 NBA Draft, at a Glance
|1||Nets||Kenyon Martin||30||Clippers||Marko Jaric|
|2||Grizzlies||Stromile Swift||31||Mavericks||Dan Langhi|
|3||Clippers||Darius Miles||32||Bulls||A.J. Guyton|
|4||Bulls||Marcus Fizer||33||Bulls||Jake Voskuhl|
|5||Magic||Mike Miller||34||Bulls||Khalid El-Amin|
|6||Hawks||DerMarr Johnson||35||Wizards||Mike Smith|
|7||Bulls||Chris Mihm||36||Nets||Soumaila Samake|
|8||Cavaliers||Jamal Crawford||37||Heat||Eddie House|
|9||Rockets||Joel Przybilla||38||Rockets||Eduardo Najera|
|10||Magic||Keyon Dooling||39||Knicks||Lavor Postell|
|11||Celtics||Jerome Moiso||40||Hawks||Hanno Mottola|
|12||Mavericks||Etan Thomas||41||Spurs||Chris Carrawell|
|13||Magic||Courtney Alexander||42||SuperSonics||Olumide Oyedeji|
|14||Pistons||Mateen Cleaves||43||Bucks||Michael Redd|
|15||Bucks||Jason Collier||44||Pistons||Brian Cardinal|
|16||Kings||Hedo Turkoglu||45||Kings||Jabari Smith|
|17||SuperSonics||Desmond Mason||46||Raptors||DeeAndre Hulett|
|18||Clippers||Quentin Richardson||47||SuperSonics||Josip Sesar|
|19||Hornets||Jamaal Magloire||48||76ers||Mark Karcher|
|20||76ers||Speedy Claxton||49||Bucks||Jason Hart|
|21||Raptors||Morris Peterson||50||Jazz||Kaniel Dickens|
|22||Knicks||Donnell Harvey||51||Timberwolves||Igor Rakocevic|
|23||Jazz||DeShawn Stevenson||52||Heat||Ernest Brown|
|24||Bulls||Dalibor Bagaric||53||Nuggets||Dan McClintock|
|25||Suns||Jake Tsakalidis||54||Spurs||Cory Hightower|
|26||Nuggets||Mamadou N’Diaye||55||Warriors||Chris Porter|
|27||Pacers||Primoz Brezec||56||Pacers||Jaquay Walls|
|28||Trail Blazers||Erick Barkley||57||Hawks||Scoonie Penn|
|29||Lakers||Mark Madsen||58||Mavericks||Pete Mickeal|
Second to Many: Stromile Swift, No. 2
After a breakthrough sophomore season at LSU, Stromile Swift and his camp consulted with Stu Jackson at the league office to gauge his draft prospects.
“He said if he wasn’t going to be in the top five, he was going to come back,” said Butch Pierre, who recruited Swift to LSU. “I’m looking at him like, ‘My, I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not.'”
Swift’s mother had different reservations. According to Pierre, she wasn’t convinced her son was mature enough to leave behind the comforts of home and family for the NBA’s cold professionalism.
Like many teams around the league at the time, the Vancouver Grizzlies, owners of the second pick, weren’t enthused by the crop of prospects on offer.
“It’s not a draft where it goes five-deep or nine-deep or six-deep or 10-deep,” said Dick Versace, the Grizzlies’ president of basketball operations at the time. “It’s 30 teams, and this (draft) in terms of sure bets went one deep.”
But Swift had thrived in LSU’s free-flowing style of play and struggled to pick up more complex NBA concepts on offer in Vancouver.
“He was just like you read about some of these guys going into the NFL,” said Versace. “Things are a great deal more sophisticated for them because where they came from, they kind of catered to a guy with the skill level.”
Still, the physical tools were all there for Swift. He put on a show at the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend in 2001, losing out to fellow rookie Desmond Mason, but making a mark nonetheless.
Despite his gifts, Swift had considerable difficulty separating himself from the other big men on the Grizzlies roster. Pierre encouraged Swift to train in Houston with John Lucas II, the former NBA player and coach-turned-offseason guru, but Swift insisted on spending his summers in Louisiana to be near his family.
Swift’s banner year came in his second season, when he averaged 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 26.5 minutes per game. Swift would never meet or exceed those numbers in the seasons that followed.
While teammate Pau Gasol blossomed into the Grizzlies’ franchise cornerstone at power forward, Swift settled in as a second-stringer. Once his rookie contract came due in the summer of 2005, Swift inked a four-year, $22 million deal with the Houston Rockets, leaving Memphis as the last remnant from the Grizzlies’ dark days in Vancouver.
Swift soon became a basketball vagabond. The Rockets traded Swift back to Memphis less than a year after signing him.
“He was just at a point in his career in 2007 where sort of the luster that he brought into the league as a young player had worn off,” said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace. “At that point, he was just another player in the league.”
After brief stops in New Jersey and Phoenix and a training-camp stint in Philadelphia, Swift took his talents to China, where he signed with the Shandong Lions.
Miles from Nowhere: Darius Miles, No. 3
LUCY NICHOLSON/Associated Press
Like Swift, Darius Miles had the tools and skills to be a transformational talent in the NBA. But rather than bide his time in college, Miles decided to skip straight to the pros.
According to his coach at East St. Louis High School, Bennis Lewis, Miles had no desire to go to college and, as a result, wouldn’t have approached the experience properly had he gone. “He made the right decision,” Lewis said.
Miles went third overall to the Los Angeles Clippers, the earliest a high school prospect had ever been drafted into the NBA at that point. Elgin Baylor, then the Clippers general manager, was enamored with Miles’ obvious ability.
“I remember they thought when watching [Miles at predraft workouts] that this kid was going to be a superstar,” said Ralph Lawler, the longtime voice of the Clippers.
“I remember sitting there with Elgin Baylor and some of our scouts watching him and just marveling at how well he could handle the ball at 6’8″, 6’9″, whatever he was. Very, very long. Didn’t have a really good shooting stroke yet, but you felt like that would come.”
Miles didn’t wait for his jump shot to come around to take flight. His rookie numbers (9.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.5 blocks) weren’t particularly glitzy, but the importance of his role on the up-and-coming Clippers was unmistakable. Miles became the first preps-to-pros player to crack the All-Rookie First Team and, along with Lamar Odom and fellow rookie Quentin Richardson, established himself as a face of L.A.’s youth movement.
“You really felt like you were building something and thought that it was a team with a future, and a year later, they had a terrific year,” Lawler recalled. “They had ESPN following us around all season long doing a weekly TV special. They sensed the special nature and personality of this young ballclub. We really thought that, three or four years down the road, this was going to be a championship team.”
The Clippers fell short of the playoffs in 2002, but still managed to improve to 39 wins, up from 31 in 2001, and 15 in 2000. Along the way, Miles became a popular personality, along with friend Quentin Richardson, a fellow 2000 draftee and Chicagoan. Their practice of tapping their heads with encircled fists after three-pointers snowballed into a cultural phenomenon that transcended the NBA.
“I still see high school kids doing that, and they probably don’t even know why they’re doing it,” said Lawler. “They just know it looks cool. And it was only because of those two guys that it became a cool thing.”
Still, Miles struggled to find minutes at forward, with Lamar Odom, Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and franchise staple Eric Piatkowski in heavy rotation.
L.A. had a clear hole at point guard to fill, and in Cleveland’s Andre Miller, a native Angeleno and the league’s reigning assist leader, the Clippers thought they’d found the perfect fit. To get Miller, though, L.A. had to give up Miles.
Miles never quite found his footing outside of L.A. He stayed in Cleveland long enough to witness the start of LeBron James’ rookie coronation with the Cavaliers. In January 2004, Cleveland traded him to Portland.
Miles put up his best numbers with the Trail Blazers, including a career-high 47-point game, and signed a six-year, $48 million deal in the summer of 2004. But Miles clashed with head coach Maurice Cheeks and missed the entirety of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons after injuring his right knee.
Where once Miles was the poster child of great promise in L.A., he had since become another of Portland’s infamous “Jail Blazers.”
As Miles worked his way back, the Blazers tried to erase the $18 million they owed Miles by getting the league to recognize Miles’ knee injury as career-ending. The rebuilding Grizzlies took a chance on Miles in 2008-09, despite his injury and an impending 10-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Memphis would sign Miles for the season, enabling him to recoup the money Portland owed him.
“I think he should’ve went back and hugged Jerry West for I don’t know how long, because he enabled him to get the rest of his contract,” said Lewis.
Growing Pains: Marcus Fizer, No. 4
TED S. WARREN/Associated Press
What the Chicago Bulls, at No. 4, had in mind for Marcus Fizer was unclear, at least to the Iowa State product himself.
Tim Floyd, the coach who recruited Fizer to Ames out of Arcadia, Louisiana, had been tapped as the Bulls’ successor to Phil Jackson two seasons prior to the 2000 draft. Floyd already had a flood of young talent to manage, particularly at power forward (Fizer’s preferred position), where the previous year’s No. 1 pick—and co-Rookie of the Year—was already entrenched.
“With Elton Brand being there, we just didn’t think that they would draft another power forward,” said Fizer. “The draft came down, and it happened, so we all were totally surprised. Definitely happy being reunited with Tim Floyd, but we never thought that was coming at all.”
The Bulls, with general manager Jerry Krause in control of basketball operations, had decided to start from scratch in the aftermath of the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen-Phil Jackson era. Chicago’s roster in 2000-01 featured seven rookies, five of whom were plucked out of the 2000 draft, in addition to three sophomores (Brand, Ron Artest and Michael Ruffin) and three third-year players (Brad Miller, Corey Benjamin and Bryce Drew).
“We were the first team to go young,” said Floyd. “We were the youngest team in the history of the NBA at that time, and we were the lowest salary-cap team.
“If you’re either one, you’re going to have an issue. We were both.”
Fizer had his own problems within that quagmire. The Bulls saw Fizer, a bruising forward in college, as a wing in the making.
Fizer was in no condition to make that transition. He came into training camp his rookie year overweight—in Floyd’s estimation, by as many as 30 pounds.
“Your body is an investment. It’s a temple that you have to take care of,” Fizer said. “I just didn’t take care of it.”
He had neither the frame nor the skill set to thrive at small forward and was already stuck behind Artest, who’d made a similar switch the year before.
The team’s terrible results on the court only made matters worse. The Bulls knew they were going to be bad and confirmed as much throughout a 15-67 campaign in 2000-01.
“We were young and had a lot of money, so that took our minds off the losing,” Fizer said. “We didn’t have the guidance, the direction.”
On draft day in 2001, Krause traded Brand to the Clippers for one high school big man (Tyson Chandler, the No. 2 pick) and used the Bulls’ own lottery selection to land another (Eddy Curry, at No. 4). Krause pictured a future at small forward for the 7’1″ Chandler and one at power forward for the 7’0″ Curry, with Dalibor Bagaric, a 7’1″ Croatian taken 24th overall by Chicago in 2000, slated to defend the likes ofShaquille O’Neal at center.
None of those projections boded well for Fizer.
“Playing with those two guys [Chandler and Curry], that hurt my progression a lot,” said Fizer. “I wasn’t going to be unprofessional. I was going to be a professional about it. I was going to come to work each and every day and try to do the things that I could to continuously get better.”
Fizer did get better. Despite Chicago’s frontcourt logjam—and two midseason coaching changes—Fizer played in 76 games, started 20 and averaged 12.3 points and 5.6 rebounds. Year three got off to a slow start, but by mid-December, Fizer was stringing together double-digit scoring games, with a smattering of double-doubles therein.
But on the final day of January 2003, during the Bulls’ trip to Portland, Fizer’s right ACL snapped.
With the guidance of Tim Grover—who also trained Jordan, Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, among others—Fizer worked his way back to health. He played just 46 games for Scott Skiles in 2003-04 but put together some productive performances nonetheless. By mid-April, Fizer found himself in the starting lineup, though not everyone was happy about it.
“Actually, Tim Grover begged me not to play those last couple games.Begged me not to play,” Fizer said. “But I wanted to be the professional, going into the last year with the organization that drafted me. If I was going to re-up with them or if I was going to go somewhere else, I just wanted to feel strong.”
Fizer was at his strongest during the second-to-last game of the season. He put up career highs in points (30) and rebounds (20) while playing all but one minute during a nine-point loss to the Magic in Chicago. Two nights later, he tallied 21 points and 16 rebounds in Indianapolis while playing most of the game with what turned out to be a repeat tear of his right ACL.
Two teams and another ACL tear after that, Fizer was out of the NBA and on his way to a tour of lesser leagues around the globe.
“If LeBron went through three ACL surgeries, we would never know what he would’ve been in his career,” Fizer said.
Lost in Translation: Mateen Cleaves, No. 14
CARLOS OSORIO/Associated Press
Mateen Cleaves was arguably the most decorated member of his draft class: a three-time All-American, twice the Big Ten Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the 2000 Final Four, wherein he led Michigan State to the national title as a senior.
“If I was the last pick in the draft, man, I would’ve been happy,” said Cleaves, who now works as a broadcaster and spends much of his time giving back to communities in Michigan through his 1 Goal 1 Passioninitiative in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club. “I was just a kid from Flint, Michigan, that just wanted to get his foot in the door.”
Cleaves did more than that. He’d anticipated being a top-15 pick and got the call from his home state Detroit Pistons at No. 14. It was a dream come true for Cleaves—not only to play in the NBA but also to do so with the same team for which his childhood idols, Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, had starred.
But despite his prior accolades and local heroics, Cleaves found himself buried behind Chucky Atkins and Dana Barros on the depth chart of a team that went 32-50 in the wake of Grant Hill’s departure.
“I didn’t really understand the business of it early,” Cleaves recalled. “This was a business. This was not like fun in high school and college.”
In September 2001, the Pistons traded Cleaves to the Sacramento Kings for Jon Barry and a first-round pick.
Cleaves found even less playing time in Sacramento than he had in the Motor City. He averaged fewer than five minutes in 44 games across two seasons with the Kings while biding his time behind Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson. What Cleaves did find, though, was the sort of team success and camaraderie to which he’d become accustomed in high school and college.
“I was so much of a winner,” said Cleaves. “I wanted to play as a competitor, but we were winning, so what do you do? You kind of just go along with the flow.”
He did what he could to contribute to Sacramento’s success. He dogged Bibby, an old acquaintance from high school camps, and Jackson in practice, hoping to toughen them up for the real competition to come. All the while, Cleaves soaked up the experience of playing with Chris Webber, a legend in his home state, and Vlade Divac, who’d once starred alongside Magic Johnson, a favorite of Cleaves’ father.
Still, by his mid-20s, Cleaves’ NBA career was on the outs. He spent time in the D-League with the Huntsville Flight, got called up for a cup of coffee with the Cleveland Cavaliers during LeBron James’ rookie season and caught on with the Seattle SuperSonics for two seasons, though he appeared in just 41 games there.
Cleaves hopped between Russia, Greece and the D-League, hoping perhaps to crack the NBA again but mostly feeding his basketball appetite.
“I never knew why I was in the NBDL, but I was having a great time,” said Cleaves. “I loved every minute just playing basketball and competing because you had a lot of guys that were trying to get to the NBA, so the games were competitive. It was fun, man.”
Cleaves came close to returning to the Association in 2008. He shined in training camp with the Denver Nuggets, but the club’s cap crunch left him on the outside looking in. Instead, Cleaves wound up back in the D-League, where a broken hand became the final straw to end his basketball career.
Miller Time: Mike Miller, No. 5
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“How do you make it a long career?,” Miller wondered when he first arrived in Orlando as a pro. “It was getting really good or really great at one thing or being really, really good at a lot. So I locked myself in a gym and started shooting more.”
It’s strange to think that Miller wasn’t a born shooter, especially since he ranks among the top 20 most accurate three-point shooters in NBA history.
But long before his triumphs as a lethal long-range threat by LeBron James’ side in Miami and Cleveland, Miller was one of several promising pieces in what looked, at the time, to be a budding basketball dynasty in the Sunshine State. The Orlando Magic tapped Miller, then a versatile wing/forward out of the University of Florida, with the No. 5 pick, prior to landing Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady in free agency.
“He was multipositional,” said John Gabriel, who was the GM of the Magic at the time. “He had played some point guard for the Gators. He had point guard and he had 2-guard talent attributes, and that was maybe only the first or second year that we were playing without Penny Hardaway, who was very tall for his position and had good size.”
Despite his skills, Miller seemed set for an uneventful debut season, with Hill, McGrady and Darrell Armstrong already entrenched around the perimeter. But Hill’s ankle problems changed everything.
With the former Pistons cornerstone out for all but four games in 2000-01, Miller eventually slipped into a starting spot in Orlando next to McGrady, who made the first of his seven consecutive All-Star appearances that season.
“I was lucky,” Miller said. “I tell people, luck is the same thing, taking advantage of an opportunity.”
Miller took full advantage of his. Once he stepped into a starting role the day after Christmas, he averaged better than 14 points per game while knocking down 41 percent of his threes.
The Magic went on to win 43 games that year, with Miller taking home Rookie of the Year honors. Orlando, the East’s No. 7 seed, fell in four games to Milwaukee in a best-of-five series in the opening round. Miller, though, exploded for 22 points in the deciding contest.
“To be lucky enough to be on a team that’s in the playoffs is a big enough accomplishment,” Miller added. “To start and be a part of that and have good numbers is something.”
For Miller, though, the goal wasn’t to have just one good year in the NBA. He wanted to last, so he kept shooting—in Orlando, as McGrady’s sidekick; in Memphis, during the franchise’s first three playoff appearances; in Minnesota, after arriving in a draft-day swap involving Kevin Love; in Washington, just prior to the demise of the Gilbert Arenas era; and in Miami, where he won two titles with the “Heatles.”
Crossing Over: Jamal Crawford, No. 8
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
“For me, the goal wasn’t just to make it to the NBA,” said Jamal Crawford. “I’m not saying there were other guys who were, but for me, I just always thought big picture and always saw myself making a career out of it, not just being satisfied with going to the NBA.”
Crawford’s never been an All-Star, but he is the only player in NBA history to be named the Sixth Man of the Year with two different teams (the Atlanta Hawks and Clippers)—and will finish his career with well over $80 million in earnings to boot.
It didn’t come easy.
Like so many young players who landed in Chicago in 2000, Crawford struggled to carve out a comfortable niche with the Baby Bulls. Crawford had been a scoring guard by trade, averaging nearly 17 points per game during his abbreviated freshman season at the University of Michigan. But the Bulls wanted him to run the point in the remnants of the triangle offense.
“[Crawford] didn’t really want to play in that offense,” said Floyd. “He’d probably be the first to tell you that at that time.”
Crawford started coming into his own in year four—long after Floyd had been fired—when he averaged 17.3 points and 5.1 assists in Chicago. But it would be another five years, with stops in New York and Golden State, before the skinny dude with the crazy crossover found his calling as the league’s most lethal bench weapon in Atlanta.
“I was like, ‘I don’t care. I’m tired of just being a good player on bad teams,'” Crawford said this past November. “And that’s how people kind of labeled me. So I was like, ‘I’ll sacrifice, come off the bench, it’s no problem.'”
Crawford’s contributions reflected that. He shined for the Hawks, racking up his first Sixth Man trophy and first playoff experience in the same season. A two-year stint in Atlanta gave way to a single-season stop in Portland before Crawford found his way to L.A., the city of his birth, to take over as the leader of the Clippers’ second unit.
His time with the Clippers has been fruitful for both parties, to say the least. Crawford’s three seasons in L.A. double as the most bountiful stretch in the history of the NBA’s least successful franchise, with 56 or more wins per year since his arrival. Crawford, for his part, has taken home another Sixth Man of the Year award and become a fan favorite for the Clippers, all while extending his record for four-point plays.
Potential and Pain: Kenyon Martin, No. 1
BILL KOSTROUN/Associated Press
“He was the best player in the country by a landslide,” said Bob Huggins, Martin’s college coach at the University of Cincinnati. “By a landslide.”
Kenyon Martin was, by all accounts, a fantastic prospect. In the minds of many front offices around the NBA, he was the obvious choice to go No. 1 in the 2000 draft.
“It was really a one-person draft,” said Dick Versace, whose Memphis Grizzlies had the second pick that year. “There was only one sure guy, and that was Kenyon Martin.”
He had been the unquestioned leader on a loaded Bearcats squad that spent most of the 1999-2000 NCAA season as the No. 1 team in the country. He averaged a shade under 19 points, 10 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game in his senior season and came away as the consensus National Player of the Year.
But more than the accolades, box-score production and physical attributes, what impressed scouts and executives about Martin was his competitive spirit.
“We loved the personality,” said Rod Thorn, then the general manager of the New Jersey Nets, who drafted Martin with the No. 1 overall pick. “We felt that we were a team that was not a very physical team, lacked a toughness, if you will. His career had been that he’d gotten better every year, culminated by being named as the best player in college basketball.”
Martin’s initial year in New Jersey was uneven, at best. He flashed some of his tantalizing potential under first-year coach Byron Scott but was slow to find his footing coming off a horrific leg injury suffered at the end of his senior season. Not long after Martin finally hit his stride came the unthinkable: another broken leg.
But Martin recovered resiliently. He was named to the All-Rookie first team in 2001 after averaging 12 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 68 games.
His career and his team’s trajectory both took off during the 2001-02 season, Martin’s second as a pro. The summer prior, the Nets pulled off a blockbuster trade, swapping Stephon Marbury and some spare parts to Phoenix for Jason Kidd and Chris Dudley.
Martin quickly became Kidd’s favorite option on the Nets’ devastating fast break, with 2001 draftee Richard Jefferson filling the other wing.
“We had two unbelievable closers, and Kidd would always find the right guy,” said Thorn, who put together those back-to-back Eastern Conference champions.
Martin was the second member of his draft class to play in the NBA Finals, following Mark Madsen, who’d won a title in 2001 with the same Los Angeles Lakers that went on to sweep the Nets in 2002.
“[Martin] was great for us,” Thorn added. “A big voice in the locker room, tough, always gave you a tremendous effort and a very, very good player.”
Perhaps too good, at least for the wallet of new Nets owner Bruce Ratner. Rather than match Denver’s seven-year, $92 million for Martin, New Jersey traded him to the Nuggets for three first-round picks.
Martin never made it back to the NBA’s biggest stages. Subsequent knee injuries sapped much of Martin’s athleticism but left his leadership and toughness intact. “George Karl called him the Secretary of Defense,” said Huggins.
He started on the Nuggets squad that took the Lakers to six games in the 2009 Western Conference Finals and caught on with the Clippers in 2012 and New York Knicks in 2013, when each advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
This past season, Martin spent five-and-a-half weeks with Milwaukee, where he was reunited with Kidd, the Bucks’ new head coach.
All told, Martin’s career accomplishments fell toward the lower end of those put up by No. 1 picks from his era. If not for the more than 300 games he missed, mostly due to injury, Martin—despite being undersized for his position at 6’9″—might’ve been better able to replicate those early successes he enjoyed in New Jersey.
Martin, though, can claim at least one key distinction: He’s the last college senior to be the first pick in the draft.
Diamond in the Rough: Michael Redd, No. 43
Darren Hauck/Associated Press
“It was hard to watch those guys who got drafted above me play that whole [rookie] year,” said Redd. “The Speedy Claxtons and Q Richardsons and Desmond Masons and DeShawn Stevensons, I knew that I was better than those guys.”
Redd’s road to NBA stardom got off to an inauspicious start. The Columbus native could’ve been a lottery pick had he left Ohio State after his freshman or sophomore seasons. Instead, Redd returned to school as a junior, hoping to bring an NCAA title to his hometown.
By the time Redd declared for the draft, his game had been poked, prodded and picked apart. There were concerns in league circles about what position Redd would play as a pro. Some saw him as a “tweener” on the wing: too slow to be a 2, too small to play the 3. Others had their questions about Redd’s upside—specifically, how much he had left after spending three years in school—and whether his unorthodox shooting mechanics would aim true in the NBA.
Those concerns dogged Redd into the second round, where the Milwaukee Bucks, for whom he hadn’t worked out prior to the draft, snatched him up with the 43rd pick.
“I heard my name called, and all the anxiety and worry just kind of left,” Redd went on. “My dad said, ‘It’s just time to go to work.'”
Redd put in the effort behind closed doors but rarely got to showcase his results in public as a rookie. He appeared in just six games during the 2000-01 season while biding his time behind Ray Allen, Lindsey Hunter and Tim Thomas.
All the while, Redd worked diligently to transform himself from a slasher into a sniper during the summer after he was drafted and spent much of his rookie season sharpening his shot to match the lethality of his teammates’ strokes.
“I would shoot with Ray Allen after practice every day,” Redd recounted. “We’d have shooting games with him and Sam Cassell. It had gotten to a point where I started to beat them in some of the games toward the end of the year.”
Through it all, Redd’s teammates and coaches praised his hard work and encouraged him to do more, even while on-court opportunities were hard to come by.
“I was the first one to practice and the last one to leave every day the whole year my rookie year,” said Redd.
His rise from second-round filler to the longest-tenured player in Bucks history began in earnest in his second year, when Milwaukee traded Hunter to L.A.
Even then, Redd had to fight for his minutes.
“When I got there my second year, Coach [George] Karl said to me, ‘You had a great summer, you had a great training camp, but you’re only going to play five minutes a game this year,'” Redd remembered.
He played four minutes in the season opener at Utah. Two nights later, he scored just four points in Denver but was on the court for 18 minutes during a win over the Nuggets.
“All I needed was a small window, a small crack, and I was going to bust through there,” Redd said.
Redd shattered that window on Feb. 20, 2002, when he hit a then-record eight three-pointers in one quarter during a 39-point blowout of the Houston Rockets. Exactly a year later, the Bucks traded Allen—along with Flip Murray, Kevin Ollie and a first-round pick—to the Seattle SuperSonics for Gary Payton and Desmond Mason.
“We were both kind of sad because we both were close, and I was his understudy, and we had played games together where he had 30 at the time, and I had 30,” said Redd. “It was similar to a [Stephen] Curry-[Klay] Thompson situation sometimes, where both of us would get hot. It was just fun playing with him.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
With that, Redd was an understudy no longer. He finished the 2002-03 season as Milwaukee’s starter at shooting guard. The following year, Redd was picked as a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Stars in 2004, as was Martin, the No. 1 pick in 2000. Unlike Martin, Redd bookended that campaign with an All-NBA nod—the only such selection any member of the class of 2000 would earn.
Redd went on to average better than 20 points per game for six straight seasons—more than the rest of his draft class combined—and was also the lone 2000 draftee to take home Olympic gold, as a member of USA Basketball’s “Redeem Team” in Beijing in 2008.
“It was amazing to see, from draft night, having anxiety and crying and disappointed, to now, I’m on the biggest stage in the world, receiving a gold medal with Dwyane Wade crying his eyes out next to me, and me and LeBron hugging,” Redd recalled. “I’m with these great players. It was a journey. It was an incredible journey.”
That journey came to a close sooner than expected. Two ACL tears practically spelled the end of Redd’s time in Milwaukee. He recovered from both and latched on with Steve Nash’s Suns in 2011-12, long enough to prove to himself that he could still compete at the highest level.
All told, Redd made a remarkable career for himself by assuming the identity (and the skill set) of a sharpshooter.
“I fooled the NBA for 12 years because after a while, people started knowing me as a three-point shooter,” said Redd. “That never was the case. I was a scorer first who happened to shoot threes.”
Rhyme or Reason
BRIAN KERSEY/Associated Press
“Even with all the work and all the stats and all the interviews and all the workouts, it’s still an educated guess 90 percent of the time,” said Geoff Petrie, the former general manager of the Sacramento Kings who drafted Hedo Turkoglu with the 16th pick in 2000.
This holds true for the 2000 draft as a whole. Nobody could’ve predicted that so many gifted, young players would’ve succumbed to injuries, been buried on benches and/or fit so poorly with the teams that drafted them.
This, despite the ever-expanding abundance of and access to information on the mystery boxes from which these young prospects emerge.
“We’ve just never had more tools, more technology, more manpower and money devoted to the process, and we’ve got the wherewithal of the workouts,” explained Chris Wallace. “We’ve got that there, that didn’t exist a long time ago. Yet, if you take drafts and turn them upside down with the benefit of hindsight, then they’re as accurate as they ever were.”
Or, in the case of 2000, as inaccurate as ever.
“Like a lot of things in life, [drafts] are never usually as good as you think they’re going to be and never usually as bad,” said John Gabriel, who’s now in charge of pro scouting and free-agent recruiting for the New York Knicks. “There’s bright spots in them. Sometimes, players are just not the right fit for a team and later they go on to have better careers than they did with the original team. Guys who had to cut their teeth and learn the ropes of being a pro.”
“It’s a fine line between being really, really good and having a long career and not making it,” said Jamal Crawford. “It’s just weird how that works sometimes.”