Welcome back to the “Looking Back” Basketball Insiders series!
We have already discussed how the first and second overall picks have fared since 2009, so naturally, the next pick up is the third overall pick. As with the first two, we categorize these players based on whether they are hit, miss, middle, or role players. We have also set criteria for what defines a player as a “hit”.
On paper, if you have the choice between choosing the second whole and the whole whole third in the concept, you will choose the second, right? By doing simple math, it gives you a higher chance of getting talent that changes franchising, or rightfully so. But, if you look at the history of the overall third pick and compare it with the second overall pick since 2009, you will see that the third overall pick not only brings more star players to the league, but the quality of star players is better than choosing No. 3 instead of No. 2
That might sound like a heat uptake, but if you see who falls into what category for the third and compare it to the second, you might see a difference.
James Harden – Oklahoma City Thunder – 2009
When you are one of the top candidates for MVP for five of the last six years, it’s safe to say that you are famous. Game Harden might not be too fun to watch for other fans, but there’s no denying that the guy controls the game when he has the ball.
Harden is one of the few players in the league who will find a way to score in the most ridiculous way. He is also one of the few players who must be watched every second he is on the floor – because when he gets a similarity during the day, he is lost. Watching a Harden take a free throw can make the mind bored, but a man who does everything to get points on the board deserves respect and must be respected.
Harden has done so much that there isn’t much left for him to prove. Yes, except get rid of one monkey from behind: win the championship. Opportunity Harden has had the opportunity for the past few years, and they have escaped his fingers. With the Golden State Warriors coming down for counting, and having to continue this season, this is a golden opportunity for him to finally guide his team to the promised land. Harden has done several mediocre playoff shows over the past few years. This is his chance to forget that.
Lastly, stop making fun of his defense. Harden has become a strong defender because the Houston Rockets ceiling made another jump. If you still give him sadness because of that, then you have not seen it.
Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards – 2012
John Wall recovering from two serious injuries in a row has been a hole for the Washington Wizards, but at least there is a positive side to all of it this season – Bradley Beal’s rise, or better yet, Furthermore increments: 30.5 points, 6.1 assists, and 4.5 rebounds are phenomenal numbers no matter which team you are on. The wall came out clearly, and unfortunately, brought more losses. Case in point – because Wizards are a tick below average at best, it doesn’t make Beal an All-Star nod.
We have known Beal is a hit since almost a year he entered the league. What we don’t know is how good he is. Again, Wizards are not good, which can build the argument that the numbers are a classic case of good statistics / bad team syndrome. Whether it’s true or not, Beal has at least proven that he’s more than a sniper.
His printing ability is impressive, but playing ability is perhaps the most surprising wrinkle. Playing next to a floor general as well as Wall might prevent Beal from showing how good a passer is, but now that he’s running the show, he’s putting up figures of help that we don’t think can. Not to mention he did that with a crew that was worse than the Wall when the Wizards were the Eastern Region powerhouse.
Beal really deserves to be chosen when Washington takes it. We know from the last two seasons that he is a bigger hit than we could have dreamed of.
Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers – 2014
This author has written about why Embiids are gems. Come on friends, who doesn’t know that?
Instead of repeating what has already been said, let’s go have some fun in the NBA what if it’s nothing to talk about: What if Joel Embiid wasn’t hurt during pre-concept training? Before the 2014 draft, Embiid was believed to be the number one consensus choice. Suffering from a stress fracture before the draft combined with the history of the well-known injury team feared far from taking Embiid.
But say it never happened. The Cleveland Cavaliers chose number one that year. Did they trade pick plus Anthony Bennett for Kevin Love knowing that LeBron James was on his way back? If they do, what are the rates for the Minnesota Timberwolves with Embiid? How good are they with Embiid and not Andrew Wiggins? More importantly, will they take Karl-Anthony Towns next year if they still have the first choice in 2015?
Even crazier, what if the Milwaukee Bucks uses Embiid? That won’t happen because the team has extended Larry Sanders the year before, but imagine if that happens! The combination of Greek Freak and Embiid will be an amazing combo on paper, but how well it will work depends on how Milwaukee will compensate for the distance of the porous floor between the two.
Now as we all know, Embiid goes to Philly and has embraced himself as the poster boy “The Process.” Remembering what could be futile, but just fun. The fact that the league’s views can be seismically different if he lands somewhere else only serves as proof of how amazing Embiid is.
Jaylen Brown – Boston Celtics – 2016
The Celtics were greatly ridiculed when it was announced that they had used a third pick on California graduate Jaylen Brown. Part of that is because fans want them to trade picks in hopes of getting stars no matter what. Part of that is that no one really knows what to expect from Brown since the 2016 draft is seen as nonsense outside of Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. Four years later, the Celtics are quite clear nail down pick.
Outside of that period last year when he looked lost on the pitch, Brown gradually improved his game every year he was in Boston. This year is easily his best year on the pro. His tighter grip, higher IQ, and better printing ability gave him a lot of All-Star consideration. So much so that he has a case for being the biggest pug.
Add to him that he has become a good shooter, an airtight defender, and of course, his incredible jumps, and that has made him one of the league’s most promising wings. The NBA respects people who can stretch the floor and maintain multiple positions. Brown’s skills bring those qualities to the table. His goal-scoring skills with those things should make him an All-Star consideration for the next few years. We still don’t know if he reached the peak either.
The ceiling is not superstar level, but more like the second or third option that is capable of a championship caliber team. Luckily for Boston, they didn’t need it because that person came next year in the exact same place.
Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics – 2017
Remember when everyone thought Boston was crazy for trading Markelle Fultz to their division rival for Tatum? Let it be a reminder of people: the NBA team knows more than us. Of course, nobody knew what would happen to Fultz, but that didn’t matter.
Tatum is the new face of the Celtics basketball. We already believe that when we saw him putting up one of the most impressive individual playoff campaigns by a beginner. Sure, the next season isn’t as beautiful as we thought, but the future superstar that many believe is Tatum has finally arrived.
Having a very thin body above excellent body control will make anyone a difficult covering on the floor. In Tatum’s case, his shooting ability, especially one on one, made him tougher than the overall cover. Boston knew that if they would take the next step towards contention, Tatum’s evolution was what would bring them there. Before the season was stopped, the evolution of Tatum must be near.
Oh, and his offensive evolution has been completely overshadowed that his defense has also come very well this season. For many years now, the famous Celtics-Nets trade from 2013 has been discussed as one of the most lopsided trades ever agreed. “The Jays” have made it clearer than before.
Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks – 2018
Usually when your franchise loses the best player ever, it has to take quite a lot of time to get it back to where it was in its prime. Usually. Especially when the player is one of the 20-30 best players who have ever played basketball. For Mavericks, there is literally no time at all. That’s because from the ashes which was the era of Dirk Nowitzki came a new and very bright Luka era.
The Slovenian Wonder did not take time to announce the league. Look at the shooting percentage from anywhere in the three-point line. He can score from almost anywhere in that parameter and can take over the game at any point. The average wound is 29/9/9, and he’s only 21. His rookie year is no accident. Luka Doncic is a superstar in the making.
Usually it also takes time for young talent to translate team success. But not Luka. Dallas has been in the playoffs since the first day of the season, and we all know the best is yet to come from him and other Mavericks squad members.
Watching Luka, it seems unbelievable that the two teams will actually follow it, but it must be shown that Luka’s unimpressive athleticism makes it seen as a booming or failed prospect. Two years later, he has proven himself very much explosion, and maybe not long before the rest of the league becomes a desolate wasteland.
Jahlil Okafor – Philadelphia 76ers – 2015
Poor Jahlil. It’s not his fault he entered the NBA when people like him began to be removed from the league. It was also not his fault that he was designed by a team that had no intention of developing it unless all other plans failed. As exciting as seeing the league being as fun and entertaining as it is today, it is sad to see Okafor, a player who was once considered a superstar prospect only half a decade ago, barely survived to remain in the NBA.
What happened to Okafor because he has a national audience is something we may never see again. Back in 2014, he was appointed as a franchise player. The next great league great man. He is now almost a rotation player on the fringe playoff team.
Some highly praised prospects disappoint in turning into day laborers, but usually, it is because they lack the work ethic and / or talent to fulfill their potential. Okafor is guilty of having several big holes in his game, but it’s not like saying, Anthony Bennett, you can clearly see that he has NBA caliber skills in his game. When the skill is no longer valued – compounded by its apparent defensive deficiencies – the harsh reality is that it will never live up to the expectations that have been placed on it.
Even with everything that happened to him, Okafor struggled to maintain a place in the league. That’s good to see, but the former third overall pick shouldn’t struggle just to stay in the NBA in their fifth NBA season. If they do, they will surely fail.
Middle of the road
RJ Barrett – New York Knicks – 2019
Not much to look forward to in New York for some time. This season is more the same. The brightest place among the others is the promising RJ Barrett game. Before Zion Williamson and Ja Morant enlightened the world, Barrett was the top prospect in his class for a reason, and he honestly had looked like a building block in the field.
He hasn’t lit the world in his first season in New York, but he has shown that he has a lot of tricks on the offensive end. Average 14/5 / 2.5 cool first season in the league is quite impressive. That’s better than what Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina did in their first year in the league, or really whatever year they were in the league in general. There is room to grow too. He must improve the deep ball if he wants the opponent to take it seriously as the top scorer.
He has time to develop into something more, and he must get more scoring opportunities over the next few years. Time will tell whether he will be successful or if he will be a role player. Now, Please, New York, don’t mess this up like you did with the last good prospect you have.
Favors Derrick – New Jersey Nets – 2010
Favors might go down as the most underrated player in the 2010s. After playing briefly with the Nets, Favors was traded to Jazz Utah, where he was surpassed by people like Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. After both of them ran away, Favors were soon defeated by Rudy Gobert. If he had just played in a team where he was not behind a big man who was better than him, Favor might have a better reputation around the league.
Favor has never been the one to put up extraordinary statistics, but he has become a very well-liked teammate and can take slack if big is more prominent in the down team – watch the Clippers-Jazz series from 2017 for reference – and he sticks to what is he is good at.
He is a very good defender, can devour boards – he’s averaged nearly 10 boards this season, career-high – and he’s even able to do dunk highlights. If there is one player whose career is worthy of passing, it’s Fave. He came to the NBA flowing with raw potential. He hasn’t been completely disappointed, but maybe he can do more if he plays for a team that asks more from him.
Enes Kanter – Utah Jazz – 2011
It was funny before that we talked about how people like Jahlil Okafor were really extinct in the NBA because the dominant offensive postal players with defense problems proved to be of little use in the current league climate. Kanter is pretty much in the same ballpark as Okafor, so why is Kanter considered a role player while Okafor gets a bust label? Because one is the dominant amplifier, and the other is far from it.
That looks like over-simplified generalization, but it’s true. Kanter was rather disappointed to see how his defense was so bad that one of his coaches said, “can’t play Kanter” during the playoffs because of that. However, on top of his offensive skills, he became one of the most dominant rebound players in the league when playing.
Even with its shortcomings, what Kanter did well made him a nuisance. He has the talent to get offensive rebounds and put the ball back. Its toughness inside also attracts lots and-too. The ludicrous defense, which is most definitely in pick and roll, does indeed limit how much impact it has on the floor, but Kanter all carries the burden.
Don’t play him against players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Otto Porter Jr. – Washington Wizards – 2013
Although Porter is the best upper class complement, calling him a role player, which will make him fail compared to some of the others here, selling it rather short. Would it sound better to say that Porter was the third best player in the top 10 in the 2013 draft? Keep in mind that 2013 has one of the worst classes ever, and Porter has very little to do with it.
When he was on the floor, Porter was one of the better three-and-D wings in the league. Its length can be difficult for opponents on the floor because it is difficult to get as many kicks as it is difficult to block. He also became a valuable contributor to good teams, like he was Washington before the team slowly disintegrated. Does he get paid more? Of course, but he was definitely not one of the players who took his money and ran.
Asking if Porter will get $ 27 million on the open market again is quite ridiculous. He is a fantastic player especially with what the NBA asks from his complementary player, but he is not a star. All things considered, he is the ideal third / fourth choice in a team with title aspirations. That’s far from bad for a third overall choice.
As you can see, the third choice has produced many good young talents. When you compare how the overall third take was done with the second take since 2009, it really feels like No. 3 outperformed No. 2. This has not been a recent development if you look further.
Deron Williams clearly has a better career than Marvin Williams. Carmelo Anthony badly defeats Darko Milicic. Chauncey Billups does more than Keith Van Horn. We can keep going but it will take time.
As they say: Three is a magic number.