For the third straight year, we're hearing people talk about how weak a draft class is. In 2011, people questioned whether Kyrie Irving should have gone No. 1 and openly laughed at the quality of the international players at the top of the draft. In 2012, most knew Anthony Davis would be great, but there were major question marks about everyone that followed him.
Now, in 2013, we're hearing that this is the worst draft since 2000. There's no consensus No. 1 pick, three of the top seven prospects are injured and several great high school players await in 2014.
Maybe this draft really does suck. Or, maybe, our standards are too high.
In this era of Synergy, archived game film, Twitter and more, every prospect is put under the microscope in a way they weren't 30, 20, even ten years ago. Every element of a prospect is analyzed by professionals, smart basketball thinkers and amateurs alike. (I am guilty, too). We look for weaknesses in top prospects and strengths in lesser ones in an attempt to find the next sleeper. And then, when it's all said and done, we look back in three years and realize that almost every draft has stars and useful players, as well as busts and disappointments. It all makes me wonder if our over-analysis has caused a chilling effect in how we view drafts.
It's funny, too, because this is the ten-year anniversary of one of the most historic drafts of all time. What follows is an attempt to apply our 2013 over-analytical scouting methods to a 2003 draft that produced so many superstars. Here's what a skeptical 2013 scout might think of that draft.
1. LeBron James
"The talent is there, but some scouts and general managers question the people around him. Are they really working in his best interests, or are they just trying to profit off his future fame? LeBron seems to have a great head on his shoulders, but he has to understand that they work for him, not the other way around. Teams will have to deal with that baggage one way or the other."
2. Darko Milicic
"That workout that I saw with Joe Dumars was incredible, but can he do that in an actual game? Too often, it just felt like he disappeared in key stretches. Then again, his guards sometimes struggled to get him the ball, and he was a key cog on the under-16 championship team. Maybe he just needs a team that has good veterans around him."
3. Carmelo Anthony
"Is he a two-way player? He was great offensively, but that zone allowed him to get away with not playing defense. Can he defend Kobe, Tracy McGrady and Paul Pierce one-on-one? Can a team live with him being that much of a defensive liability when there are so many great wing scorers?"
4. Chris Bosh
"If he was so good, how come his team was so bad? How come he deferred so much to B.J. Elder and Marvin Lewis?"
5. Dwyane Wade
"The numbers are impressive, and the tournament run was great, but he's also already 21, older than your typical sophomore. Was he just dominating because of physical advantages he won't have at the next level? His inability to shoot from three-point range also has me worried. How will he adjust when he doesn't have the ball in his hands?"
6. Chris Kaman
"He took three years to become an impact player at Central Michigan, of all places. Why did that happen? The NBA is not the MAC. He's not going to be able to score over smaller defenders like he did in college. Seems like a stiff."
7. Kirk Hinrich
"Is he really a point guard? I don't really buy it. It's telling that his shooting percentages went way down as his offensive load increased. If he's not an efficient scorer and isn't much of a passer, how is he a lottery pick? As a third guard, he's great, but can he start? How would we feel about him if he didn't play for Kansas?"
8. T.J. Ford
"Tiny, inefficient and turnover-prone. That's a starting point guard in this league?"
9. Michael Sweetney
"These are some monster numbers, which raises the question: why are people down on him? There must be a good reason."
10. Jarvis Hayes
"That jumper is beautiful. B-E-A-Utiful. But isn't it weird that his three-point percentage jumped ten points between his second and third years at Georgia? Could be a fluke, but if he really is that good of a shooter, he's going to be in this league a long time, even if he only shot three free throws a game in college.
11. Mickael Pietrus
"This guy intrigues me. He's a winner overseas, and while the French league isn't great, it's not too far off from the ACC. If Ron Artest can find a niche in this league, so could this guy. Jarvis Hayes might be a better shooter, but this guy is going to help you in many more ways."
12. Nick Collison
"What you see is what you'll get. Nice kid. Coach's son. All that is true. But he's not going to move the needle, and the Sonics need a needle-mover to go with Ray Allen."
13. Marcus Banks
"This guy's got a ton of talent, but he's still a little rough around the edges. Can score from anywhere on the court and is a better passer than people realize. He's turnover-prone and his jumper isn't great, but the same could be said for Tony Parker, and look what happened there. Only thing is he's turning 22 in November and has already played for two colleges."
14. Luke Ridnour
"Overrated. The Steve Nash comparisons are lazy. Benefited from playing in an up-tempo system that never held him accountable defensively. Wait until he gets a load of Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Baron Davis and those other big point guards at our level."
15. Reece Gaines
"He's a perfect Rick Pitino player, but he's stuck between positions at this level. Not sure how he's going to work playing with Tracy McGrady. I would have taken Troy Bell."
16. Troy Bell
"This guy should have won ACC Player of the Year. 20-point scorer for three straight years, and efficient too. He's not really a 1 or a 2, but he's a basketball player. If he's taken in the lottery, you worry more about positions. This late in the draft, you have to take someone like that."
17. Zarko Cabarkaba
"He wasn't as productive as David West was, but he played professionally in Europe and will be more ready to play next season. That's a tougher league than the Atlantic 10. I don't know where the minutes are with Amar'e Stoudemire also there, but the Suns are building something here and should want to supplement their core with a useful piece."
18. David West
"I don't see superstar potential there, but he'll be a decent player. Problem is, the Hornets are stuck on the treadmill of mediocrity and don't really have any superstar young players there to take them to the next level. I'd understand it if they swung for the fences on someone like Ndudu Ebi."
19. Sasha Pavlovic
"A major project. Did alright in Europe, but it wasn't in the best league. At least he has time to develop at 19."
20. Dahntay Jones
"One of the few rookies I think that could have played in last year's playoffs. Tough, hard-nosed. I bet the Lakers wish they had someone like him to stay with Tony Parker on all those pick and rolls. A bit of a jerk, and I like that. I like that he became a better perimeter shooter this year, because that's going to be a key to his improvement."
21. Boris Diaw
"It's called basketball, not run and jump."
22. Zoran Planinic
"I loved him a couple years ago when he won his league's MVP, but not as much now. Still, the Nets could use a good backup to Jason Kidd, and all the other good ones are gone. You could do worse."
23. Travis Outlaw
"This is the guy I would have gambled on in the teens. He's long, athletic and can shoot over the top of most 3s. It'll take a while, but Portland has so much depth that they can afford to gamble on someone like Outlaw."
24. Brian Cook
"He's supposed to be a good shooter, and he hit 30 percent of his threes?"
25. Carlos Delfino
"Manu Ginobili should get a percentage of his paycheck. He's the reason Argentina won gold in 2002. Delfino was just a spot-up shooter along for the ride."
26. Ndudi Ebi
"He sounds awesome. I'm rooting for him."
27. Kendrick Perkins
"I watched him play a couple times and I don't really understand how he does it, but the dude was a winner in high school and led his team. Great offensive player. I wonder about his defense, but he's in high school and has time to figure it out."
28. Leandro Barbosa
"How good is the Brazilian league, anyway? This isn't Europe. He'll be in for a rude awakening."
29. Josh Howard
"I'm skeptical. He was great last year, but you always have to worry about seniors suddenly raising their game after being inconsistent in their first three years. Usually, it's because everyone else gets younger and now they're men playing against boys. His rebounding is nice, but he commits more turnovers than assists and isn't a great perimeter shooter. Can't shake the feeling that he's simply a great college player that will struggle to find a niche at the next level."