Monthly Archives: December 2013

NBA MVP Race

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    We are off to the races in the 2013-14 NBA season where it is never too early to announce our predictions for season accolades. The Most Valuable Player award is the most coveted in all of sports, the recipient must display a high level of play while being the leader of his respected teams. We often get lost in statistics rather than looking at the overall picture.  As we enter the second quarter of the league schedule, here are your early candidates for Most Valuable Player award.

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4. Paul George

    As an emerging superstar in the NBA, Paul George is off to an amazing start during this early part of the season as he is the catalyst to the Indiana Pacers owning the best record in the Eastern Conference. Averaging 23.8 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game, the Pacers have put their faith in George to lead them to the promise land which is the NBA Finals. However, the overall success of the team can possibly deflate his chances to win the MVP trophy due to the strong supporting cast surrounding him. There are nights where George is not the best player on the floor for his team. Not a terrible thing to have in a team, but this can hinder his MVP argument at the end of the year.

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3. LeBron James

      LeBron James continues to display his dominance in the Eastern Conference as he attempts to lead the Miami Heat to a third straight NBA Championship. The four-time MVP is shooting the ball at a career high 60% from the field. On the other side, his numbers across the board have dropped in rebounds, his assists have decreased while his turnovers are at a career high 3.8 per game. James continues to lead the Heat this season, but has to improve his play in order to win a 3rd straight MVP trophy.

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2. Kevin Durant

     Kevin Durant has expressed his strong feelings regarding himself being labeled as the 2nd best player in his short career. Ironically, he remains 2nd in the MVP race. Durant has shown growth in his game by adding different elements to his repertoire as he averages career highs in assists, dishing out nearly 5 assists per game and rebounds grabbing 8.3 rebounds per game. With that being said, he must continue the transition from fitting in to standing out. Having Oklahoma City Thunder one game behind out of first place, Durant has to find a way to separate himself from the other candidates to overtake the No. 1 spot.

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1. LaMarcus Aldridge

     Many people continue to under value and under appreciate what an outstanding power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is for the Portland TrailBlazers. With the best record in the NBA, Aldridge is averaging career highs in points and rebounds with 23.5 points per game and 10.9 rebounds per game. He does not amaze you with you amazing highlights, but rather leads by example with terrific play on the court for Portland. He has become the dark horse and epitomizes what it is to be the Most Valuable Player to his team.

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MJ Mondays- Father’s Day Title Game

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    After a three year hiatus from the NBA Finals, the Chicago Bulls would reach the promise land against Gary Payton and the Seattle Supersonics where they would go on to clinch the series to reclaim the 1996 NBA Finals Championship. It was not just Michael Jordan’s fourth NBA championship ring, but the first without his father by his side.

     July 23, 1993 is the day Michael Jordan’s father, James Jordan Sr. was murdered in the state of North Carolina. Later that year, Jordan made the decision to walk away from the game of basketball in order to fulfill his fathers dream of playing professional baseball.

  On June 16, 1996, the day would belong to Michael. Coming into the series up 3-0, Seattle would win two straight games to make it an interesting series. Jordan would put on a scintillating performance for the Chicago faithful crowd as he scored 22 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished 7 assists, and picked an opposing player’s pocket twice during the course of 43 minutes in a 87-75 victory. He would lead the Bulls to their 4th NBA title in a 6 year span, also capturing his fourth Finals MVP becoming the only player to accomplish such a task (’91-’93).

However, the emotions hit Jordan after winning his first title without his father by his side. When the final buzzer would sound, Jordan would go on to lay on the United Center court where he would lay for several seconds as teammates celebrate around him. Moments later, he would get up and run to the locker room where he continued to sob.

Michael Jordan would have a difficult three years before this day upon him. His father being killed, a brief retirement from basketball, a failed attempt at baseball, and a return back to the hardwood floor that would end in a early defeat in the postseason.

“This is probably the hardest time for me to play the game of basketball,” Jordan said. “I had a lot of things on my heart, on my mind.

“I just had a lot to think about and maybe my mind wasn’t geared to where it was. But I think deep down inside it was geared to what was most important to me, which was my family and my father not being here to see this.”

Best of the West: Pacific Division

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     With the first quarter of the season over, it has been an interesting start to the year. The Western Conference has been the cream of the crop for being a competitive conference over the past few years as teams improve every year. However, the Pacific Division is one to keep an eye on this season. Player transactions and acquisitions along with head coaches landing jobs with new teams has changed the landscape of what this division had in store for us this season.

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Los Angeles Lakers

All eyes will be on Kobe Bryant during the 2013-14 campaign as the aging veteran overcomes the hurdle of the dreaded Achilles injury. While many write the Lakers off, as many believe they are looking forward to the off season where we will see a re-innovated roster. Despite this LA franchise being voted to finish in 12th place by ESPN, you can not count Los Angeles out just yet. With expectations deflating from last season, expect the Lakers to make a run for a playoff spot with various contributions on the offensive end due to the success of the Mike D’Antoni system. Lakers must continue to develop team chemistry and stay healthy in order to overcome the odds and early season adversity.

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Golden State Warriors

It has been a roller coaster start of a season for Golden State Warriors, located in the bay area, as they are off to a slow start. While winning 4 of their last 11 games, Golden State is relying on its reinforcements to bounce back from injuries such as Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and Jermaine O’Neal. The starting five with the feature of the “Splash Bros.”, in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, will have to carry the load of the team. The supporting cast on the bench will be asked to do more as well.

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Sacramento Kings

Under new ownership, there is a new pulse in Sacramento as they look to improve. The debut of head coach Michael Malone will be one to keep an eye on as he will continue to develop the team with scoring threats DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas leading the way. Cousins is having his best season, averaging a career high in points, 22.6 points per game. However, in the association thus far his lack of maturity has been the main concern. The Kings have assembled pieces around Cousins including 7th overall pick Ben McLemore and newly acquired star player Rudy Gay and former 2nd overall pick Derrick Williams. Sacramento has plenty of athleticism on the offensive side of the court that teams have to match every night. The key for them will be to improve on the defensive side of the ball and find an identity going forward.

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Los Angeles Clippers

     It was a busy off season for the Los Angeles Clippers as they were able to keep Chris Paul in Lob City and acquire former Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. With the additions of JJ Redick, Jared Dudley, and Darren Collison, many claim the Clippers not only as division champions, but also predicting them to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. Yet, the script has not went according to plan. The Clippers defensive woes continue to show primarily in the frontcourt between Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. With injuries to Redick and Matt Barnes, Los Angeles will look to the new signing of free agent Stephen Jackson to pay dividends as he is expected to bring perimeter shooting and toughness that is well needed if the Clippers want to succeed.

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Phoenix Suns

It is safe to say that nobody could foresee the early success of the Phoenix Suns coming this season. Led by first year head coach Jeff Hornacek, the rambunctious Suns are becoming a fun team to watch featuring a dynamic backcourt duo of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Also, they have terrific twins in Marcus & Markieff Morris. Will Phoenix overcome the odds and make the postseason? No. However, they can play the role of bracket busters as the season starts to end.

What is easily forgotten over the course of the year is that the 82 game is not a race, better yet a marathon. Teams begin to peak in the latter half of the year when players and coaches begin to work cohesively, rather than individually. Nothing is predictable in the NBA as you have to put injuries and transactions into consideration. The shootout for the Pacific Division in the wild wild west has just began.

Mamba Mondays- Top 10 Kobe Bryant Moments

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    After a 8 month hiatus sidelined by an achilles injury, Kobe Bryant made his return to the Lakers hardwood floor. It was not his best performance to date, but Bryant’s return to the floor is a step closer towards being the new & improved Black Mamba we are not accustomed to seeing. As he embarks on a new chapter in his career, let’s take a look at the top 10 memorable moments of Kobe Bryant’s legacy.

10. 1997- Kobe leads Lakers in scoring for first time in career vs. Detroit Pistons

Coming off the bench in the early part of his career, Kobe Bryant would lead the Lakers in scoring with 21 points in a lost 100-97. It would become a significant moment for Bryant as he would establish himself as an opposing threat in the league.

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9. 1997- Slam Dunk Contest Champion

Kobe Bryant would capture many people’s eye for his leaping ability in the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Competing against guys such as Ray Allen and Michael Finley, Bryant would do his best Isaiah Rider impression of the between the legs dunk that would elevate him into being first place.

 

8. 2006- 30 points in the Third Quarter vs. Utah Jazz

Some NBA players can say they have scored 30 points in a half. However, very few can say they have done it, let alone in a quarter. It was not Thanksgiving, but the Black Mamba would show us why Lakers fans would be thankful for him. On November 30, he would score 30 points in a quarter leaving the Utah Jazz hopeless as they searched for answers. Los Angeles would secure the victory 132-102 with Bryant scoring 52 points that night.

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7. 1997- Kobe vs. MJ Part One

In a matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Chicago Bulls, the marquee matchup to watch was between Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant. Chicago would go on to win by 21 points behind Jordan’s 36 points. However, Bryant would not go away with his head down, scoring 33 points against His Airness. Bryant put many on notice that he was next in line to dethrone the king of the NBA.

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6. 2006- Game 4 vs. Phoenix Suns

Going into Game 4 of the 2006 NBA Playoffs, Los Angeles Lakers had a 2-1 series lead against the higher seeded Phoenix Suns led by Steve Nash. Down by 8 and no timeouts, the Lakers were down and out at home. With seconds remaining in the game, former Lakers point guard Smush Parker would come up with an unexpected steal with a pass to Kobe Bryant that would lead to the unbelievable game tying layup, which would send the game to overtime. In the last moments of overtime, Bryant would get to his hot spot sinking the game winning shot over two defenders to win the game and ultimately taking a commanding 3-1 series lead. Interesting enough, Bryant would not be the leading scorer of this game as it was Lamar Odom with 25 points.

5. 2003- Kobe Bryant vs. Vincent Yarbrough

On a fastbreak, the only thing separating Kobe Bryant and the basket was Denver Nuggets’ Vincent Yarbrough. Displaying his greatness with his talents, Bryant would go behind the back and finish with a 360 slam dunk that would excite the Staples Center crowd as one of the best moments of the season to watch. The play was a pleasure to witness as we mourn for Yarbrough being a victim to the list of those who attempted to “stop” Bryant.

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4. 2005- Kobe Bryant scores 62 points through 3 quarters vs. Dallas Mavericks

In the previous game, the Lakers would manage to score only 74 points which ultimately left Kobe Bryant frustrated with his teams play. The next game, he would have a performance that many of us will never forget. In a matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant would showcase his scoring abilities once again. Scoring 62 points through three quarters, he would outscore the Dallas Mavericks with 61 as the Lakers would capture the victory.

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3. 2003- Kobe vs. MJ Part Two

The latest saga between Kobe Bryant vs Michael Jordan would all end well for Bryant. During the early part of the game, Michael Jordan would appear to take the game in his own hands. However, over the course of the game, the pupil would school the teacher. The younger and more exuberant Bryant would take over the game as he would finish the game scoring 55 points in a win vs. the Washington Wizards. Many can and will argue the fact that Jordan was in his later days in his career. With that being said, this is a significant moment in the NBA as we would see the torch being passed to Bryant from MJ this day.

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2. 2009- 61 point game vs. New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden

In the mecca of basketball on the biggest stage of them all, Kobe Bryant was the prime ticket to see on Broadway. At Madison Square Garden, the Mamba would put on the greatest performance that would convince doubters that he was the best player in the world. On this night, he would drop 61 points in a demanding win over the Knicks that left the NBA world on standby for what was next. Bryant holds the record for the most points to be scored by any player in MSG, leaving legendary director Spike Lee to create a documentary in his honor.

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1. 2006- 81 point game vs. Toronto Raptors

Coinsedently, on the date of the return of the Mamba against the Toronto Raptors, Kobe Bryant would have the greatest game that we have ever witnessed in our generation. With a roster of Chris Mihm and Smush Parker, Bryant would have to carry the team on his back in order to get a win and remain in the hunt for the NBA Playoffs. He would ONLY have 26 points as the team would have 42 points collectively. Bryant would take matters into his own hands as he would erupt in the second half scoring 55 points. Kobe would walk off the floor in the final seconds receiving a standing ovation as the Lakers would win the game 122-104. He would finish with 81 points, becoming the second highest point total by a player in a single game shooting over 50% from the field.

We may not see the old Kobe Bryant filled with exciting highlights, astronomical numbers, and extraordinary plays. On the bright side, we should all be appreciative for what he has done during his time in the association.

Top 10 NBA Centers of All Time

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      We live in a NBA era where the Center position has became almost impossible to find on a NBA roster. In the early years, championships were won in the low post during the era of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Fast forward to the new school, defenses where defenses are not allowed to crowd the paint to stop a dominant force like Shaquille O’Neal. Majority of today’s NBA Centers role’s on the hardwood have diminished because they are not a focal point in the offense. They are only being used for screens and rebounds. Let’s pay homage to the greats as we reflect on the top 10 NBA Centers of all time.

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10. Willis Reed

The legendary New York Knicks big man will be remembered for his historic performance in game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. However, he does not get enough recognition for his accomplishments in the association. In his first seven seasons, Reed was an All Star while receiving the Rookie of the Year award in 1965. He was also a two time NBA Finals MVP in ’70 & ’73. Those are the only years the Knicks have won the world championship in franchise history.

 

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9. Patrick Ewing

Following in the footsteps of Willis Reed, Patrick Ewing also won the Rookie of the Year award in 1985 over draft classmates Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, and Joe Dumars. Despite that accomplishment, he was never able to generate the overall success of winning it all in the Big Apple coming up short multiple times in the postseason. Granted that he did not have the talent surrounding him that Reed had, he was able to take the Knicks to the NBA Finals losing in seven games to the Houston Rockets.

 

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8. David Robinson

     David Robinson was a man respected for his performances on and off the court. Drafted first overall in 1987, Robinson delayed his stint joined the NBA to be apart of the Navy. In his rookie season, Robinson would go on to win Rookie of the Year averaging 24.3 points, 12 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game. Making the all-star team in 10 of his first 12 seasons, he would go on to win the MVP award in 1995 while finishing his career winning two NBA championships in ’99 & ’03.

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7. George Mikan

George Mikan is the first great Laker big man in franchise history. Many believed he was the first NBA superstar by his accomplishments on the court, leading the Minneapolis Lakers to five championships in his first six seasons in the league. Because of Mikan, the basketball court was stretched from six feet wide to 12 feet wide while also forcing the NBA to implement the shot clock.

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6 Moses Malone

Moses Malone played like a man amongst boys during his time in the league. As one of the first to make the jump from high school to the pros, he would show people around the league why he made his decision by making the NBA all-star team 13 times Malone would display his greatness by winning league MVP three times, including a championship in 1983 with the Philadelphia 76ers.

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5. Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon may be the best complete center the league has ever seen. Olajuwon is second all time in blocks and eighth all time in steals with the next closest center being Clifford Robinson at No. 45. His post game was immaculate with his dream shake that was near unstoppable to defend. Along the way, he has shared his talents with NBA superstars such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard. The Dream would go on to win back to back NBA Finals with the Houston Rockets while Michael Jordan stepped away from the game of basketball.

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4. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain will arguably go down as, literally and statistically, the biggest offensive threat in NBA history. Over the course of his rookie season, he would score 37.6 points and grabbing 27 rebounds per contest. Chamberlain is well known for scoring 100 points in a single game as he would go on to average 50 points in a season, which is a record that still stands to this day. Chamberlain would retire from the NBA as the all time leading scorer and rebounder during his time as blocks were not recorded as an official stat. It is safe to assume he would have that record also.

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3. Shaquille O’Neal

Over the course of the 90’s and early 2000’s, Shaquille O’Neal would become the most dominant force that the NBA has ever seen. No man could guard, the man with many nicknames, one on one in the low post. Therefore, coaches would double and triple team him. Even those tactics were not effective at times. O’Neal wasn’t the greatest free throw shooter during his years in the association, but he would manage to average at least 26 points per game over a 10 year span with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers. The Big Diesel was proclaimed as one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players just after four years in the league.

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2. Bill Russell

Bill Russell will go down as the ultimate winner in NBA History. He never averaged more than 19 points in any season over the course of his career, yet he still managed to win 11 championship rings with the Boston Celtics including two as a player coach. Russell was the anchor during Boston’s championship run, but also had great players surrounding his talents such as Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, and Bill Sharman. He would finish his career ranked behind Wilt Chamberlain in rebounds.

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1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem was not the physical dominant force like most centers on this list, but he was the most consistent throughout his illustrious NBA career. Abdul-Jabbar would average nothing less than 20 points per game through his first 17 seasons. Winning six MVP’s and 19 all-star selections, he would retire as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and will be best remembered for his trademark shot that we call the “sky-hook” that was impossible to stop and could never be duplicated.

MJ Mondays- Air Jordan Brand

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      As we look at the latest kicks on the basketball court, players have the tendency to go with the Nike brand. At the top of the shoe chain, superstars such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James have solidified themselves atop basketball shoe supremacy that is influenced by athletes today. However, Michael Jordan will always and forever reign as number one for opening the doors for others.

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     During the 1984-85 NBA season, Nike decided to debut the Air Jordan line with the debut of the Air Jordan 1. Most notably, the black and red sneaker was banned by Commissioner David Stern for violating the “uniformity of uniform” rule. By wearing this shoe, Jordan was risking a $5,000 fine from the league. It is safe to say, the risk was worth it.

Before the release of the Air Jordan shoe, basketball shoes were solely white. The franchise has became legendary and is notorious for their high performance shoe. Also, they became culturally iconic of Jordan and would start the revolution of sneakers being made.

     Since 1985, there has been a significant shoe annually released from the Jordan brand that is highly anticipated through media and the buying public. As of today, the brand of the jumpman continues to grow as a franchise by re-releasing retro sneakers and creating various footwear going forward into the future. Adding players to the brand such as Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, expect to see the legacy of Air Jordan to continue to take off. 

Top 10 NBA Draft Busts of the Decade (2000-2010)

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     We have seen NBA Drafts where general managers and player personnel have the fate of the franchise futures in their hands with lottery picks. Every player selected in the top half of the draft is going to be a superstar. However, you are held to a higher standard than other players when your name is called upon on by the commissioner. You will see players who were once “can’t miss” prospects to “where are they now?” players. Here are your top 10 NBA Draft Busts we have recently seen.

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10. Marvin Williams- No. 2 pick in 2005 NBA Draft

Marvin Williams has never been able to live up to his lofty expectations as a NBA player. Coming into the 2005 NBA Draft, he averaged 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman standout for the North Carolina Tar Heels. Many scouts believed Williams offensive potential would increase. After 8 seasons in the league, his game has remained grounded.

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 9. Sebastian Telfair- No. 13 pick 2004 NBA Draft

Sebastian Telfair’s greatest highlight reel was the documentary of his high school senior season with “Through the Fire”. With endorsements from Jay-Z and many supporters, he never was the player he was expected to become in the association. Telfair was one of the best point guards to come out of the historic Lincoln High School in New York where he drew comparisons to his cousin Stephon Marbury. Telfair has averaged 7.6 points while handing out 3.8 assists finding himself on many teams in a short span.

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8. Eddie Griffin- No. 7 pick 2001 NBA Draft

The former Seton Hall standout had sky-high expectations to become a special player in the NBA. Eddie Griffin draft status had dropped where he was taken 7th overall by the New Jersey Nets and suddenly traded to the Houston Rockets for the draft rights of Brandon Armstrong, Jason Collins, and Richard Jefferson. Griffin’s career was cut short due to alcohol then later lost his life in a car crash. May his soul rest in peace.

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7. Eddy Curry- No. 4 pick 2004 NBA Draft

A lot of promise and potential was shown in Curry with his size at 7’0 295 pounds. His career did not pan out as well as many people believed it could have. With career averages of 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest, many would consider him a bust with how early he was taken. It all started to go downhill when major injuries from 2008-2010 kept him sidelined, only playing a total of 10 games.

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6. Stromile Swift- No. 2 pick 2000 NBA Draft

Stromile Swift had high hopes coming in to the then Vancouver Grizzlies organization in 2000. The 6’10 big from LSU was anything but outstanding, averaging 11.8 points and 6.3 rebounds which would turn out to be his best stats in his 9 season stint in the league. Swift was out of the NBA after playing a total of 19 games with the Phoenix Suns and New Jersey Nets.

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5. Nikoloz Tskitishvili- No.5 2002 NBA Draft

Can you name this guy (without looking above)? Better yet, can you pronounce his name? I don’t blame you. Nikoloz Tskitishvili had a brief stint in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors making his exit out by 2006. Tskitishvili, 7’0″ 225 pounds best career average came during his rookie season with 3.9 points per game. He would go back to Russia where he would continue to play professionally.

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4. Darko Milicic- No.2 2003 NBA Draft

Darko Milicic is considered to be one of the worst draft picks to be selected in NBA history, being drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. In his first three seasons in Detroit, the big man from Montenegro averaged 5, 6, and 7 minutes on the floor where he was able to produce 1.4, 1.8, and 1.5 points a game. His best season was in Minnesota where he produced 8.8 points along with 5.2 rebounds per contest in 24 minutes. Milicic is currently out of the NBA where many Pistons fans are filled with overjoy.

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3. Kwame Brown- No. 1 2001 NBA Draft

Kwame Brown is arguably the worst pick of the decade and might go down as the worst pick of the century. Hand picked by Michael Jordan himself, only averaged double figures once in his career with 10.9 points per game. Brown was a detriment to his team as he could not finish around the hoop, could not rebound nor play defense. After recently being released by the Philadelphia 76ers, many became skeptical of how he remained in the league for 13 seasons. Congrats to Kwame Brown for collecting a paycheck from a NBA team over the past years.

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2. Hasheem Thabeet- No. 2 2009 NBA Draft

Many questioned the Memphis Grizzlies decision to draft Hasheem Thabeet. Coming out of Connecticut his senior season, he averaged 13.6 points and 11 rebounds a game, showing his upside to NBA teams. In his first two seasons in the league, Thabeet averaged 2.3 points and 2.7 rebounds that led him to being the highest draft pick to be sent down to the NBA’s Development League. Now in Oklahoma City, Thabeet is trying to find a spot in the Thunder’s rotation where his days could be numbered as a NBA player.

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1. Adam Morrison- No. 3 2006 NBA Draft

The player who was once considered the greatest college basketball player who has now became a never was. After he sobbed following a defeat by the UCLA Bruins in the NCAA Tournament, Adam Morrison was the third player selected in the 2006 NBA Draft by none other than Michael Jordan. The 6’8 forward was once considered the second coming of Larry Bird. Morrison has became the biggest disappointments by NBA standards, while officially being labeled a bust. The former National Co-Player of the Year was fortunate to be a part of the back to back championship team of the Los Angeles Lakers. However, nothing was the same for Morrison as he is now out of league.