The Miami Heat and Seattle SuperSonics (currently the Oklahoma City Thunder) won 35 games combined during the 2007-08 NBA season. The SuperSonics had a 20-62 record . The Heat had a 15-67 record. Four seasons later, both franchises were No. 2 seeds who represented their conferences in the 2012 NBA Finals. They combined for 93 regular-season victories in a strike-shortened 66-game season. The Heat won their second championship (first since 2006) with a five-game series victory.
The Heat and Thunder should both be championship contenders for the remainder of this decade. The interesting part about these teams' turnarounds is the emphasis that each team placed (or didn't place) on the NBA Draft. Here is a list of draft picks from each organization from 2007 through 2011.
Oklahoma City Thunder NBA Drafts (2007-2011)
2007: Kevin Durant, Carl Landry, Glen Davis
2008: Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Walter Sharpe, Trent Plaisted, DeVon Hardin, Sasha Kaun
2009: James Harden, Rodrigue Beaubois
2010: Eric Bledsoe, Craig Brackins, Quincy Pondexter, Magnum Rolle
2011: Reggie Jackson
Miami Heat NBA Drafts (2007-2011)
2007: Daequan Cook
2008: Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers
2009: Marcus Thornton, Robert Dozier
2010: Dexter Pittman, Jarvis Varnado, Da'Sean Butler
2011: Norris Cole
Almost the entire nucleus from Oklahoma City's roster was composed from the draft whereas the Heat have only drafted one impact player since 2004: Mario Chalmers. Despite the poor drafting, the Heat have proven that a team can overcome weak drafts if they have a significant presence in free agency. They were fortunate that Wade's companionship with Chris Bosh and LeBron James pulled them together.
Most teams wouldn't be as fortunate (e.g. New York Knicks). The following picks have been some of the worst during the 21st century. This doesn't mean that they're the worst players to come from any given draft. They're not even necessarily bad players. This list considers how unproductive they've been as a top-three pick, how quickly they were disposed of by the team who drafted them, and how many other quality players and All-Stars were available when they were picked.
Memorable Picks: Derrick Rose (1st), O.J. Mayo (3rd), Russell Westbrook (4th), Kevin Love (5th), Eric Gordon (7th), D.J. Augustin (9th), Brook Lopez (10th) and Roy Hibbert (17th).
Summary: The Heat chose Michael Beasley with the second pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. After just two seasons, Beasley was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for two second-round draft picks and cash considerations. The 23-year-old forward will reportedly join his third team in five seasons as Beasley has reached a verbal commitment with the Phoenix Suns.
The ironic part about this story was that the triumvirate of James, Wade and Bosh might have never occurred had Beasley lived up to the media's hype following an impressive freshman season with the Kansas State Wildcats. The same logic could've applied had Russell Westbrook (4th), Kevin Love (5th) Brook Lopez (10th) or Roy Hibbert (17th) been chosen instead of Beasley.
Memorable Picks:Kevin Durant (2nd), Al Horford (3rd), Mike Conley, Jr. (4th), Joakim Noah (9th) and Marc Gasol (48th).
Summary: The Portland Trail Blazers used the first-overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft to take Greg Oden. The SuperSonics (Thunder) took Kevin Durant with the second pick. The Atlanta Hawks chose Al Horford with the third pick. The Memphis Grizzlies took Mike Conley, Jr. with the fourth pick. Conley was Oden's teammate with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Oden's rookie season was ended when he had microfracture surgery on his right knee in September 2007. Since then, Oden has only appeared in 82 games because of four knee surgeries. He is still trying to work his way back into the league. In May 2012, Oden reportedly underwent a controversial knee procedure that Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez had used years ago.
The irony behind this is how Durant is arguably one of the NBA's top-five superstars. He was taken just one pick after Oden. Likewise, the Trail Blazers chose Sam Bowie with the second pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. The Chicago Bulls chose Michael Jordan with the third pick. Due to injuries, Bowie only appeared in 139 games through five seasons with Portland. Jordan won six championships from 1991-93 and 1996-98.
Memorable Picks:Andrew Bogut (1st), Deron Williams (3rd), Chris Paul (4th), Raymond Felton (5th), Andrew Bynum (10th), Danny Granger (17th) and David Lee (30th).
Summary: The Atlanta Hawks have become that middle-of-the-road team who is constantly getting bounced out of the postseason during the first or second round. They don't have that go-to player who'd put them in the elite category of Eastern Conference powerhouses. Joe Johnson isn't that type of player. Johnson was traded to the Brooklyn Nets this offseason.
The Hawks also sent Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz. The Hawks had originally drafted Williams with the second pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. The 26-year-old Williams has been a productive player who has barely averaged over 10 points per game since 2009. However, imagine where Atlanta could be if they drafted Deron Williams (3rd) or Chris Paul (4th). Both players are point guards who would've improved the players around them. They also would've had more pull in free agency.
Memorable Picks:LeBron James (1st), Carmelo Anthony (3rd), Chris Bosh (4th), Dwayne Wade (5th), Chris Kaman (6th), Kirk Hinrich (7th), David West (18th), Kendrick Perkins (27th), Josh Howard (29th) and Mo Williams (47th).
Summary: Just look at the "Memorable picks" section. The Detroit Pistons could've had any of those players (excluding James) with the second pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. They could've added Wade or Bosh to a team that already had Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and one of the NBA's deepest benches. That lineup was good enough to make back-to-back NBA Finals appearances from 2004 to 2005, winning in 2004.
The Pistons took Darko Milicic, a seven-foot center who started two games and averaged fewer than seven minutes per game in three seasons. The journeyman has played for the Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks and Timberwolves.This pick was one of the reasons that the Pistons regressed from being an annual championship contender in the mid-2000s to being one of the NBA's most-dysfunctional franchises in the early-2010s.
Hasheem Thabeet (2009)
Adam Morrison (2006)
Kwame Brown (2001)
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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