The ‘93 Draft produced no MVPs and only two All-NBA First Team selections, but was deep enough to yield seven All-Stars and a couple of huge post-lottery steals.
As was the case with the 1992 Draft, the first pick had the best career and two players picked outside of the top 20 had top-five careers.
Here are the top 10 picks, retrospectively re-ordered to reflect each player’s NBA accomplishments:
1) Chris Webber (picked No. 1 by Orlando, traded to Golden State)
831 games, 37.1 minutes, 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 blocks, 47.9% FGs, 20.9 PER.
Best season: 2000/01 – 70 games, 27.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.7 blocks, 48.1% FGs, 24.7 PER, 55-27 record, All-NBA 1st team, 4th in MVP voting.
Most memorable moment: Behind-the-back dunk on Barkley.
The Rookie of the Year, a 5-time All-Star and a 5-time All-NBA selection, Webber never quite fulfilled his otherworldly potential or won a championship, but remains one of the most athletic, skilled and best passing big men the game has seen. Over his prime seasons (’99 to ’03, his first five with the Kings), he averaged 24, 11 and 5, and came within a Robert Horry three of making the Finals.
Microfracture surgery in 2003 stole much of C-Webb’s athleticism and ended the Kings’ title hopes, but he still became one of just nine players to amass 17,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 3,500 assists. The others: Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett.
2) Anfernee Hardaway (picked No. 3 by Golden State, traded to Orlando)
704 games, 33.7 minutes, 15.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 45.8% FGs, 17.4 PER.
Best season: 1995/96 – 82 games, 21.7 points, 7.1 assists, 51.3% shooting, 24.6 PER, 60-22 record, All-NBA 1st team, 3rd in MVP voting.
Most memorable moment: The “Frozen Moment” Lil’ Penny ad.
Penny had an immediate impact, teaming with Shaq to lead the Magic to their first playoff appearance in ‘94 and their first Finals appearance in ‘95. His ‘95/96 season was perhaps the finest of any ’93 draftee – witness his ridiculous 38-point, 15-for-21 shooting performance against the Bulls in the Conference Finals. He was the future of the league, a smooth 6’7” scoring point guard with elite athleticism and a penchant for posterizing big men whenever he pleased.
Other impact players in this draft had greater health and longevity, but for three years, Penny was a legitimate franchise player – the most exciting young talent in the league, an immensely marketable superstar, and the best all-round player on his team. Alas, injuries ruined his career; he would undergo a total of five knee surgeries (the first in November ’96), playing 80+ games only three times in 14 seasons.
He still showed flashes of brilliance post-’96 — his back-to-back 42 and 41-point games against the Heat in the ’97 playoffs for example — but by the time Webber was reaching his peak in 2001, Penny was becoming an NBA afterthought. With two good knees, he may have wound up No. 1 on this list. Even with the injuries, his early career was too brilliant for him to fall lower than No. 2.
3) Sam Cassell (picked No. 24 by Houston)
993 games, 30.0 minutes, 15.7 points, 6.0 assists, 45.4% FGs, 33.1% 3pt FGs, 19.5 PER.
Best season: 2003/04 – 81 games, 19.8 points, 7.3 assists, 48.8% FGs, 39.8% 3pt FGs, 22.8 PER, 47-35 record, All-NBA 2nd team.
Most memorable moment: Game-winning shot in Game 3 of the ’94 Finals.
A responsible shoot-first point guard, Cassell was never quite a star, but was easily the most durable and winningest player in this draft – and perhaps the only black player in NBA history to idolize Jeff Hornacek. Serving as Kenny Smith’s backup, Sam I Am had some huge moments off the bench to help the Rockets win back-to-back titles, including a 31-point gem in Game 2 of the ’95 Finals.
After being traded four times in three years, he then settled in as the starting point guard in Milwaukee in ‘99 and established himself as one of the finest midrange shooters and post-up point guards in the league. Though not as physically gifted as any other player in this list, Cassell possessed a high basketball IQ and was a master at creating space off the dribble. He averaged 19 and 7 on 47% shooting over his four full seasons as a Buck, and led them to within one win of the Finals in 2001.
When he joined the Timberwolves as a free agent in 2003 he helped transform them into a contender to earn his first All-Star appearance. He hit big shots throughout their run to the Conference Finals and, crucially, introduced the NBA to the Big Balls Dance, a celebration since stolen by Kobe Bryant among others. Cassell continued to prove his worth as a savvy clutch shooter in the twilight of his career, leading the Clippers to their first Conference Semifinals since they left Buffalo, and topping it off by winning a third ring as a bit-part reserve for the ’08 Celtics.
4) Nick Van Exel (picked No. 37 by the Los Angeles Lakers)
880 games, 32.9 minutes, 14.4 points, 6.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 40.5% FGs, 35.7 3pt FGs, 15.8 PER.
Best season: 1994/95 – 80 games, 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 42.0% FGs, 35.8% 3pt FGs, 16.3 PER, 48-34 record.
Most memorable moment: Two ridiculous threes to tie up and win Game 5 of the ’95 Conference Semifinals.
My personal hero and favorite all-time player, Nick the Quick’s career is deserving of far more words than I can fit into this space.
A great ball-handler, nifty passer, brazen competitor and notorious clutch shot maker, NVE was twice top-three in the league in assists and made one All-Star team. His celebrations after big shots defined cool in the mid-to-late-‘90s. The fact he earned a league-record fine for shoving a referee into the scorers’ table only adds to his legend. He was always a little rough around the edges, but his heart was in the right place.
He ranks first in the class in assists per game, third in minutes played and fourth in total points. He is also the only ’93 draftee immortalized in a Jay-Z lyric on a No. 1 hit record: “The ROC handle like Van Exel, I shake phonies man you can’t get next to.”
5) Vin Baker (picked No. 8 by Milwaukee)
791 games, 32.5 minutes, 15.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 48.5% FGs, 16.3 PER.
Best season: 1996/97 – 78 games, 21.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 50.5% FGs, 20.1 PER, 33-49 record, All-NBA 3rd team.
Most memorable moment: Game winner versus Jordan’s Bulls in Nov. ’97.
Baker is widely remembered for the alcoholism and weight issues that plagued the second half of his career but if we had re-done this draft in ‘96, he would have gone second behind Penny.
A skilled post player with great hands, soft touch and good quickness for his size, he established himself as one of the top five power forwards in the league. For three seasons he averaged 20 and 10 – albeit on a bad Bucks squad that never sniffed the playoffs – before being sent to Seattle in the Shawn Kemp trade.
As a Sonic he replaced 90% of Kemp’s regular season production on a 61-win team and was named an All-Star for the fourth straight season, but flamed out in the ’98 playoffs as a George Karl team once again fell to a lower seed. That failure, combined with the ‘98/99 lockout and the pressures of his $86 million new contract, sent Baker into meltdown. Having ended his career as damaged goods, Baker can go no higher than 5th.
6) Allan Houston (picked No. 11 by Detroit)
839 games, 33.7 minutes, 17.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 44.4% FGs, 40.2% 3pt FGs, 14.9 PER.
Best season: 2002/03 – 82 games, 22.5 points, 2.7 assists, 44.5% FGs, 39.6% 3pt FGs, 17.7 PER, 37-45 record.
Most memorable moment: Series-winning shot in the ’99 first round.
Houston made two All-Star teams and was vital to the Knicks’ run to the ’99 Finals, knocking the Heat out with a last second runner and submitting a gem of a shooting performance to eliminate the Pacers in the Conference Finals. He had his finest scoring season in ‘02/03 – memorably scoring 53 against Kobe and the Lakers – but was always a below-average defender and rebounder for his size. Knicks fans will remember him as overpaid by a 6-year, $100 million contract (a Scott Layden special), especially considering he did not play in either of the final two years of that fully-guaranteed deal due to injuries.
Though his all-round stats are slightly inferior to Jamal Mashburn’s, Houston effectively played three more seasons worth of games than Mash and was a significantly more efficient scorer. Possessing one of the smoothest strokes in the history of the game, he is one of only four players to score more than 1,300 threes on 40% shooting, and more than 2,500 free throws on 85% shooting. The others: Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Brent Barry.
7) Jamal Mashburn (picked No. 4 by Dallas)
611 games, 37.3 minutes, 19.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 41.8% FGs, 15.7 PER.
Best season: 2002/03 – 81 games, 21.6 points, 5.6 assists, 42.2% FGs, 18.0 PER, 47-35 record, All-NBA 3rd team.
Most memorable moment: Scoring 50 points on Scottie Pippen in Nov. ’94.
Mash could put the ball in the hoop. Armed with a potent back-to-the-basket game and 3-point range, by his second season in the league he was a top-five scorer (24.1 PPG). Injuries derailed a promising career, and midway through his fourth year the Mavs traded him to Miami, where he struggled to find his niche alongside Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning and earned a reputation for no-showing in the playoffs even before his 3-for-15 clunk-fest in Game 7 versus the Knicks in 2000.
He bounced back as the leading scorer on the Hornets in the early 2000s, though he again struggled in the postseason. In ’01, Charlotte was 3-2 up on the Bucks in Round 2 before Mash went a combined 12-for-45 in Games 6 and 7, and in ’02 he sat out their first round defeat with a curious case of vertigo. He finally earned his first and only All-Star berth in ’03, giving his 11-year career an unusual arc: his peak seasons were his first three and his last three. He played 80+ games only twice and due to a chronically injured right knee did not play past the age of 31.
With better health, he would have cracked the top-50 all-time scorers list; he managed nearly 12,000 points in just 611 games. Yet his playoff disappointments and lack of efficiency – three times he shot below 40% for a regular season – hurt his legacy too much for him to go any higher here.
8) Shawn Bradley (picked No. 2 by Philadelphia)
832 games, 23.5 minutes, 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 45.7% FGs, 16.0 PER.
Best season: 1996/97 – 31.3 minutes, 13.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, 44.9% FGs, 16.5 PER.
Most memorable moment: Cameo appearance in Space Jam.
“Bradley,” the New York Times reported on draft night, “has not played competitive basketball since 1991, after spending the past two seasons on a Mormon mission in Australia.” Curiously, this did not put the Sixers off drafting him No. 2.
The 7’6” Bradley never developed a post game, never averaged more than 13 points, was routinely outmuscled by opposing centers and posterized by opposing swingmen, and even had his work ethic openly questioned by teammates.
The bust of the draft did possess one elite skill, however: rim protection. He was a top-three shot blocker for six seasons and is ninth all-time in blocks per game for his career – many of them coming in weak-side help situations. He blocked 7.8 per cent of all opponent shots when he was on the floor – second only to Manute Bol among players who played at least 500 games. The only other players to average at least 8 points, 2.5 blocks and a block percentage of 6% or more: Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning.
9) Isaiah “J.R.” Rider (picked no. 5 by Minnesota)
563 games, 31.7 minutes, 16.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 44.3% FGs, 14.7 PER.
Best season: 1994/95– 75 games, 20.4 points, 3.3 assists, 44.7% FGs, 15.6 PER, 21-61 record.
Most memorable moment: Winning the ‘94 Dunk Contest.
An explosive finisher around the basket and one of the strongest post-up guards in the league, the broad-shouldered Rider averaged 19 points a game four different times, had as many 30-point games as Penny did (40), and is 4th in the class in scoring average.
Yet his career goes down as a giant disappointment, plagued by a series of off-court issues, beefs with coaches and teammates, and an inability to turn up on time for practices and team flights. He was a member of the title-winning Lakers team in 2001 but was left off the playoff roster, and was out of the league altogether by the age of 30.
In one of my personal favorite stories in NBA history, Mutombo was forced to travel with bodyguards at the 2000 All-Star Weekend in Oakland after then-Hawks teammate Rider threatened “to have his boys take him out” as a result of Dikembe snitching on him to the league for his excessive marijuana use. J.R. was certainly a character. He also hit one of the most ridiculous shots in NBA history.
10) Rodney Rogers (picked No. 9 by Denver)
866 games, 25.3 minutes, 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 45.1% FGs, 14.4 PER.
Best season: 1999/00 – 82 games, 13.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 48.6% FGs, 17.1 PER, 53-29 record, Sixth Man of the Year.
Most memorable moment: Scoring 9 points in 8 seconds as a rookie versus Utah.
Rogers, now paralyzed from the neck down due to a horrific dirt biking accident, began his career as a reserve on a Nuggets team that famously became the first 8th seed to win a playoff series, establishing himself as a sneakily athletic multi-purpose forward who could spread the floor. He earned a starting spot by his second year and somehow the Clippers decided to trade the No. 2 pick in the ’95 Draft (Antonio McDyess) for him.
Naturally, Rogers left the Clippers as a free agent and eventually found his niche as the sixth man on the Jason Kidd-led Suns and later the Paul Pierce-led Celtics. He never quite did anything at an elite level and always looked slightly overweight but was a reliable pro and the second best lefty in this class behind NVE.
Honorable mentions: Lindsey Hunter (picked No. 10), Ervin Johnson (picked No. 23) and Bryon Russell (picked No. 45).