It’s been nine years to the date, June 26, 2003, from one of the best NBA drafts of all time. Here’s a look at the top nine players from that draft, in the order they were drafted, including career updates and what scouts/analysts thought of them going into the draft.
No. 1, Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James
The expectations were sky high for James from the get-go as ‘The Next Jordan’ labels started in middle school. One NBA Scout called him the “Best high school player I’ve ever seen. He is a freak.” after only his sophomore season in high school. James has lived up to the hype, with three NBA regular season MVP’s, six All-NBA First team selections, and 32 triple doubles, fourth all time, so far.
No. 3, Denver Nuggets – Carmelo Anthony
Going into the draft, NBA Scouts were drooling over Anthony’s scoring ability. He hasn’t let them down, developing into possibly the NBA’s purest scorer. Scouts did call him out for his perimeter defense pre-draft, and nine years later, Melo hasn’t improved much. Still, Anthony figures to have a spot in the NBA Hall of Fame, even if he doesn’t win an NBA Championship in his career.
No. 4, Toronto Raptors – Chris Bosh
NBA draft analysts thought the talent pool went very thin after the top three, but many players selected fourth or after went onto become NBA All-Stars like Chris Bosh. He has developed into a 20-10 player, and with another championship or two, should be a Hall of Famer.
No. 5, Miami Heat – Dwayne Wade
Scouts thought Wade was too short (6-4) to play shooting guard in the NBA. Pat Riley wasn’t sure on Wade, and wanted Chris Kaman on draft night. Wisely though, he opened up the decision to a vote by his scouting staff and one name kept coming up: Dwayne Wade. So Miami surprised many and took Wade early at No. 5. (projected to go as early as No. 8) Wade led Miami to the 2005 NBA Championship in his third year in league, and won NBA Finals MVP that year.
No. 6, Los Angeles Clippers – Chris Kaman
Just the Clippers’ luck, they pick right after four future Hall of Famers are selected. Still Kaman developed into a solid NBA big man with career averages of 11.9 points per game and 8.3 points per game, with one All-Star appearance.
No. 7, Chicago Bulls – Kirk Hinrich
ESPN’s Jay Bilas listed Kirk Hinrich above Dwayne Wade in his ‘Best Players Available’ list before the draft. So much for that. Hinrich though has developed into a solid point guard and exactly what he said he would be when EA Sports asked him, “The team that drafts you – what are they going to get?” before the draft.
“They’re going to get a hard worker, a competitor, and a guy that’s going to come in and try to immediately help their team. A total team player who is very coachable and just cares about one thing, and that’s winning,” Hinrich said.
Hinrich has career averages of 12.5 ppg, 5.4 apg, and 37.8% three point percentage and would be a good veteran free agent pick up for many teams this offseason.
No. 18, New Orleans Hornets – David West
ESPN’s Chad Ford gave the Hornets a ‘C+’ in his draft day grades primarily for this pick. West though was a draft day steal at No. 18. He played the role of Chris Paul’s sidekick to perfection when New Orleans earned the No. 2 seed in the West. In nine seasons, he has made two All-Star games and has career averages of 16 ppg and 7.2 rpg.
No. 29, Dallas Mavericks – Josh Howard
The Mavericks hit big when they landed Howard at No. 29, who was talented enough to go much higher. From 2005 – 2009, he averaged over 16 ppg, made an All-Star appearance, and helped Dallas make an NBA Finals run.
No. 47, Utah Jazz – Mo Williams
Most second round draft picks are out of the league in a few years. Williams was an absolute steal at No. 47 who no one saw coming. He has developed into a solid point guard so far, with an All-Star appearance and career averages of 13.8 ppg and 4.9 apg.
No. 8, Milwaukee Bucks – T.J. Ford, No. 21, Atlanta Hawks – Boris Diaw, No. 27, Memphis Grizzlies (traded to Boston Celtics) – Kendrick Perkins, No. 28, San Antonio Spurs (traded to Phoenix Suns) – Leandro Barbosa, No. 31, Cleveland Cavaliers – Jason Kapono