The ’93 Draft, which was revisited here last week, was deemed “not great” by esteemed readers of the blog. 1994 was certainly worse, producing no MVPs, just five All-Stars, and a No. 1 pick whose career was underwhelming.
However, it did yield one of the all-time greats at his position (Jason Kidd), one of the original “next Michael Jordan” candidates (Grant Hill), the largest ever rookie contract (Glenn Robinson), and the first ever $100 million player (Juwan Howard).
Here are the top 10 picks, retrospectively re-ordered to reflect each player’s NBA accomplishments:
1) Jason Kidd (picked No. 2 by Dallas)
1,391 games, 36.0 minutes, 12.6 points, 8.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 40.0% FGs, 17.9 PER.
Best season: 2002/03 – 80 games, 18.7 points, 8.9 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 41.4% FGs, 22.2 PER, 49-33 record, All-NBA 2nd team.
Most memorable moment: 30-point, 10-assist performance in Game 3 of the ’02 Finals.
A 10-time All-Star, he was twice the best player on a Finals team, once finished second in MVP voting and ranks first among the ’94 class in total games, minutes, points, rebounds, assists and steals. A superb passer who could see the floor as well as anyone since Magic Johnson, he led the league in assists five times and is statistically the greatest rebounding guard ever with 6.3 RPG for his career. He is third all-time in career triple-doubles and at 6’4” was able to defend both guard positions effectively, earning All-Defensive honors nine times.
Perhaps most remarkably of all for a player originally known as “Ason” (because he had no J), Kidd ended his career as something of a 3-point specialist, taking five a game and making 38% of them over his last six seasons, winding up as third on the all-time makes list.
Though he was dubbed a “malcontent” and traded from the Mavs during his third season in the league, he eventually returned to Dallas and won his only title there in 2011, still averaging 8.2 APG at age 37.
2) Grant Hill (picked No. 3 by Detroit)
1,026 games, 33.9 minutes, 16.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 48.3% FGs, 19.0 PER.
Best season: 1996/97 – 80 games, 21.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 49.6% FGs, 25.5 PER, 54-28 record, All-NBA 1st team.
Most memorable moment: Facial dunk on Alonzo Mourning.
The clean-cut Hill was a ready-made star, averaging 20, 6 and 5 his rookie year, winning co-Rookie of the Year with Kidd, and exciting fans so much with his effortless athleticism that he was the leading All-Star vote getter. He was a marketing dream and quickly became the face of Fila and Sprite.
He averaged 22 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists over his first six seasons, numbers that only Oscar Robertson can touch. He was named to the All-NBA first or second team five straight years, was third in MVP voting in ‘96/97, and even made the teal Pistons jersey a fashion item. Hill, proclaimed SLAM Magazine, was “just like Mike, only better.”
In actual fact Hill was probably more Pippen than Jordan, but sadly we never got the chance to see how good he could become. A misdiagnosed ankle injury sustained towards the end of the ‘99/00 season ended up costing him his prime years; he played just 47 games over four seasons after signing with Orlando for max money in 2000. He and Penny are the biggest “what if?” cases of the ‘90s.
Still, he was a 7-time All-Star who was good enough pre-injury to drag a collection of below-average teammates to the playoffs and still good enough at age 32 to average 20, 5 and 3 in his only healthy season with the Magic.
3) Juwan Howard (picked No. 5 by Washington)
1,208 games, 30.3 minutes, 13.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 46.9% FGs, 14.6 PER.
Best season: 1995/96 – 81 games, 22.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 48.9% FGs, 17.0 PER, 39-43 record.
Most memorable moment: Becoming the first ever $100 million player.
Howard, equally able to hit the midrange jumper and attack the basket with authority, teamed with Fab Five buddy Chris Webber to form a promising frontcourt in Washington. By his second year he was an All-Star and closed out the season by putting up averages of 29.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 53.8% shooting over the last 11 games, winning the April ’96 Player of the Month award. That was enough to entice Pat Riley to sign him to a 7-year, $100 million deal that was controversially voided by the league two weeks later for violating salary cap rules.
Juwan wound up staying in Washington for the same money. The next season he led the Bullets to the eighth seed but it was all downhill from there as they changed their name to the Wizards, traded C-Webb to Sacramento and became one of the worst teams in the league. Howard, who was probably never cut out to be “the guy” despite his mouth-watering skillset, was never able to live up to being the first ever $100 million player was traded to Dallas midway through the ‘00/01 season in an essential salary dump.
Freed from expectations of being a franchise player he became a trusty veteran on winning teams – averaging 13 and 8 on the 51-win Rockets in ‘04/05 – and established himself as an inspirational locker room presence. Eventually he signed for real with the Heat and won two rings as a part-backup, part-motivational speaker. He put up 16,000 points over a 19-year career and finished second in the ’94 class in games, minutes and rebounds. Perhaps most impressively, his always immaculately-kept haircut and goatee remained exactly the same for the entire 19 years.
4) Glenn Robinson (picked No. 1 by Milwaukee)
688 games, 36.8 minutes, 20.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 45.9% FGs, 17.5 PER.
Best season: 2000/01 – 76 games, 22.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 46.8% FGs, 20.1 PER, 52-30 record.
Most memorable moment: 45-point night versus Golden State in Feb. ’01.
Nicknamed “Big Dog” for his ability to manhandle opponents in college, Robinson was the consensus top choice in the draft and was according to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Newman “the most complete NCAA Player of the Year since Larry Bird.”
After being drafted, he became engaged in a contract dispute with the Bucks that lasted until the eve of the season, when he signed for a record rookie deal of $68 million over ten years. The record still stands today, notes Basketbawful, “mostly because Robinson’s deal freaked people out so much that the league instituted a salary cap for rookies the very next season.”
On the court, he could certainly put the ball in the hoop. A supremely smooth mid-range jump-shooter, he came in and averaged 22 PPG in his rookie season. There was just something missing about his career. He never really improved, never really played any defense and never really rebounded well for his size. By ’99 he was getting to the free throw line just 3.4 times per game – a shockingly low number for a player of his athleticism and usage rate. He was out of the league by age 32 and was ultimately a disappointment for a No. 1 pick. Perhaps that may be why ESPN misspelt his name on screen during the 2014 Draft:
However, he still made two All-Star teams, leads the class in career scoring average and is the only player besides Kidd and Hill to put up a PER of 20+ for a season. He nearly made the Finals when he, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell formed a “big three” in Milwaukee in ‘00/01; his back-to-back 29-point nights in Games 6 and 7 helped the Bucks overcome a 3-2 deficit in the second round before they eventually lost to Philly in seven games in the Conference Finals.
5) Eddie Jones (picked No. 10 by the L.A. Lakers)
954 games, 34.4 minutes, 14.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.7 steals, 43.7% FGs, 16.7 PER.
Best season: 1999/00 – 72 games, 20.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.7 steals, 19.9 PER, 49-33 record.
Most memorable moment: Dunk on Andrew Lang from a step inside the free throw line.
Great value at No. 10, Eddie was an instant hit in L.A. as he joined forces with ’93 draftee Nick Van Exel to lead the Lakers to a surprise second round appearance in his rookie year. A fan favorite for his explosive dunks and unassuming demeanor, he was an All-Star and 17 PPG scorer by his third season. Friend of the blog nonplayerzealot’s definitive Eddie dunk compilation should be compulsory viewing for all.
Jones was not the most efficient shooter, had some offensive struggles in the postseason early in his career and was better suited to being a third option than a leader, but he always brought intelligence, selflessness and terrific defense to the table. Like Kidd, he was traded twice in the middle of his prime (first for Glen Rice and then for Jamal Mashburn) and never won a title, but I will remember him as a winning player. Perhaps revealingly, in his 20 highest scoring individual games, his teams went 17-3.
6) Jalen Rose (picked No. 13 by Denver)
923 games, 30.3 minutes, 14.3 points, 3.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 44.3% FGs, 15.3 PER.
2000/01 – 72 games, 20.5 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 45.7% FGs, 17.8 PER, 41-41 record.
Most memorable moment: Scoring 32 points in Game 5 of the 2000 Finals.
A 6’8” combo guard/forward and nifty ball-handler with good post-up skills, the left-handed Rose created mismatches on a regular basis and showed enough promise in his first two seasons for Indiana to trade starting point guard Mark Jackson for him.
Jalen was never an All-Star but probably should have been at least once. He led the Pacers in scoring two straight seasons and averaged 23 PPG in the Finals where they lost 4-2 to the Lakers. He is one of just seven players to play over 60 minutes in a game – a double-OT affair in Houston in which he put up 39, 11 and 9 – and also claims to have stolen Patrick Ewing’s television set.
He is second in assists, sixth in points and fifth in minutes played among the class.
7) Donyell Marshall (picked No. 4 by Minnesota)
957 games, 26.2 minutes, 11.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.9 blocks, 43.5% FGs, 16.8 PER.
Best season: 2003/04 – 82 games, 14.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, 46.1% FGs, 18.9 PER, 33-49 record.
Most memorable moment: Hitting a record-tying 12 3-pointers in one game.
Marshall was a versatile Ludacris lookalike, able to play both forward positions whilst spreading the floor a little on offense and cleaning the glass on defense. He is one of just five players to put up 1,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, 900 made threes and 800 blocks for his career. The other four: Dirk Nowitzki, Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace and Cliff Robinson. That said, he only averaged 15 PPG once and shot below 42% in nine different seasons.
He was traded by the T-Wolves midway through his rookie season and wound up playing for no less than 8 teams in 15 seasons. He shot 40% from downtown for two straight years in Toronto and the Cavs rewarded him with a 4-year, $25 million contract that did not turn out to be great value for money. In Cleveland he infamously checked into a game without his jersey, scored just 5.9 PPG over 32 playoff games and missed the last-second shot in Game 1 of the ‘07 Conference Finals that left everyone asking “why didn’t LeBron shoot?”
All in all, he has to be considered a disappointment for a No. 4 pick, and would not have made the top 10 list for either ’92 or ‘93. Alas, the ’94 Draft was not the strongest so he sneaks into the top 7 here.
8) Brian Grant (picked No. 8 by Sacramento)
756 games, 28.3 minutes, 10.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 49.0% FGs, 14.9 PER.
Best season: 2000/01 – 82 games, 15.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 47.9% FGs, 17.5 PER, 50-32 record.
Most memorable moment: 30-point, 21-rebound game versus Seattle in Nov. ‘00.
Grant, who sadly now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, was a very good post defender and dirty work specialist who knew his role, never required plays run to be run for him, and always played with great heart.
Signing with Portland at the end of his rookie contract, he established himself as one of the better offensive rebounders in the league, matching Shaq board for board in the Blazers’ first round loss to the Lakers in ’98. He also earned a reputation as an antagonist for his run-in with Karl Malone in ’99, but the two recently became friends as the Mailman joined him on an Alaskan fishing trip to raise funds for Grant’s foundation – one of my favorite off-court stories in recent NBA years.
9) Lamond Murray (picked No. 7 by the L.A. Clippers)
736 games , 25.1 minutes, 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 43.0% FGs, 14.1 PER.
Best season: 2001/02 – 71 games, 16.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 43.6% FGs, 16.7 PER, 29-53 record.
Most memorable moment: 40-point, 16-for-23 shooting night in Jan. ’02.
Murray got his on a bad pre-LeBron Cavs squad after being traded by the Clippers for Derek Anderson, who, you’ve guessed it, left as a free agent after one season in Los Angeles.
Lamond was a decent outside shooter and sneaky good athlete, putting down one of my favorite tip dunks of the ‘90s:
We’re scraping the barrel now though.
10) Aaron McKie (picked No. 17 by Portland)
793 games, 24.2 minutes, 7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 43.8% FGs, 12.8 PER.
76 games, 11.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 47.3% FGs, 15.1 PER, 56-26 record.
Most memorable moment: 22-point performance in Game 7 of the ’01 Conference Semifinals.
Like John F. Kennedy, Aaron’s middle name is Fitzgerald. He won the Sixth Man of the Year award in ‘00/01 and moved to the starting lineup in the postseason, where he put up 16.3 points and 6.7 assists in their 4-3 Conference Finals win over Milwaukee. He was such a good teammate that Allen Iverson chokes up at the mere mention of his name.
Honorable mentions: Wesley Person (picked No. 23), Howard Eisley (picked No. 30) and Voshon Lenard (picked No. 46).