Over the weekend, after the conclusion of the NBA Finals, Brian Windhorst of ESPN published an oral history of the 2003 NBA Draft. The timing was perfect seeing that three prominent names from that draft class — LeBron, Wade and Bosh — had just repeated as champions. It’s also relevant because this week, Darko Milicic — the second pick of that draft after LeBron — announced his retirement. Windhorst’s piece serves almost as a cautionary tale for general managers, scouts and media who provide coverage of the draft. There are too many great tidbits to share here, but the one that struck me the most was how Pistons GM Joe Dumars admitted that the drafting of Darko and his subsequent failure to become a competent player in the league forced him to reevaluate the entire drafting process, making sure that he spent much more time in research and being sure.
All of that is great because the draft is really just a huge exercise in due diligence. You rely on the players’ performance at the college (or previously, high school) level, on their pre-draft workouts and on experienced scouts who’ve been doing this for decades. And yet, the entire thing is still a crap shoot. If we did the 2003 draft again with the knowledge we have now, Darko may not even be drafted at all. Yet if we did the 2003 draft again, without prior knowledge but with more extensive research and background checks by scouts, general managers and team execs? Darko might still land with a franchise in the number two spot. Which is to say, no matter how much we think we know, we know nothing when it comes to the draft. Anyone else who tells you otherwise probably has a lot riding on a mock draft site that he or she needs to monetize.
Below, with the help of many on Twitter and email threads that have bounced around all day, is just a small sample size of my favorite NBA scouting reports, meaningful at the time, hilarious in retrospect:
Darko Milicic: “Oh my God, look at this guy.” One dribble from the foul line, dunk. Lefty hook. Quick feet. He had great lateral quickness for a big. He had spin moves. It was unbelievable. He was a freak athlete at 17. He runs like a deer. He jumps. You were saying “wow.” You could check off everything on the list.
DeSagana Diop (h/t Jordan White): “Two or three years from now you’ll look back and think: How could Jordan have not taken Diop No. 1? Diop is the one athletic freak in this draft. Diop is the only man alive age 18 or above with the potential to be better than Shaquille O’Neal. Diop will soon make Thornwood’s Eddy Curry look like just another overhyped Chicago-area high school phenom … Here is a physically mature man-child with the feet, touch and timing of a young Hakeem Olajuwon. All Diop needs is time.”
Marvin Williams: “The most developed part of Marvin’s offensive game right now is his almost flawless jumpshot. It’s a very natural shot and he shows great form for his size. His shot looks almost effortless and each shot is nearly identical with his elbow tucked in, arms straight, good follow-through and height … The most impressive part about Marvin Williams, and we can’t stress this enough, are his intangibles. Ask any of his current or former coaches and they will all tell you Marvin has an incredible attitude, motor, work ethic, and understanding of basketball. His basketball IQ is extremely high (he grew up watching Dean Smith instructional videos). He understands what to do and where to go at all times, and is extremely unselfish. Marvin plays with a passion and desire that is hard to find these days and is very driven but not consumed by basketball. For a player his age, he has shown that he is very mature. The fact that he never once complained about his role or playing time his freshman year and the fact that he understood and embraced his role speak volumes about his maturity. He plays within the team and within his abilities at all times.”
Nikoloz Tskitishvili: “Unlike many young players his age he is blessed with a great sense of the game that simply can’t be taught.”
Joe Alexander: “Talented wing player with a winner’s mentality and high motor … An above the rim athlete capable of highlight dunks and spectacular finishes … Has a warrior’s demeanor, unafraid of contact and likes to mix it up with inside guys and crash the boards … Developing a strong court sense, rarely in a rush or forcing things … Has a great attitude and is extremely coachable … Has the chance to be a special player as he appears to have a ton of untapped potential …”
Kwame Brown: Just read this entire profile. If not, just look for the words “excellent crossover dribble.”
Maciej Lampe (h/t Trevor Magnotti): “The steal of the draft. The Knicks seriously thought about taking him at No. 9. Contract buyout issues really killed his draft stock at the end. But how big of a deal were they. He had a big buyout, but his agent should be able to challenge it with FIBA. He’s a great pick for the Knicks. But when will he be able to play?”
DeShawn Stevenson: “NBA Comparison: Michael Jordan.”
Again, this is just a very small sample size. Share with us in the comments your personal favorite scouting report.