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Draft Reviewing: The Best Players Available at #10

Paul Pierce was the #10 overall draft pick in the 1998 draft.
Paul Pierce was the #10 overall draft pick in the 1998 draft.

I hate to be an optimist, but when the Bucks are on the clock this June, there will be a player or two still waiting who turns out to be a pretty good NBA'er.

We know who has been drafted tenth overall in the past, we know who the Bucks have drafted in the past, and we know in glorious chart form how all of the different lottery picks in the past measure up.

But what type of players are available at the tenth overall draft pick?

Because if the Bucks are going to make this basketball thing work, John Hammond must make not just draft picks, but make positively great draft picks moving forward. Milwaukee cannot attract top-tier free agents or depend on its current core. And they cannot wait for luck in the lottery, because the team bottomed out this season and still only managed to nab the tenth choice.

The point here is that the Bucks will have a chance to pick someone who becomes a good NBA player. And they need to do so. The team is working against so much, and so they cannot be resigned to drafting the average #10 pick. They need to choose the player who will ultimately prove to have been the very best player available.

Only first round draft picks are included on this list, because you can only fault a team so much (conversely, you can fault every team so much) for failing to pick a player that is so far off the radar that every other team also passed him over. I have listed two players at #10 for each year, along with the actual #10 pick. The first two drafts of the 15 examined illustrate the highs and lows of post-top-nine draft classes.

13. Kobe Bryant
15. Steve Nash
(10. Erick Dampier)
Not often can you land a superstar in the double-digits of the draft, but in 1996 you had the option of two future MVPs and arguably the two greatest offensive guards of their generation in Bryant and Nash. Instead, Dampier, Todd Fuller, and Vitaly Potapenko went 10-12 respectively. In addition to Bryant and Nash, this draft featured some other pretty good options still on the board at 10, including Peja Stojakovic (14), Jermaine O'Neal (17), and Derek Fisher (24).

16. Brevin Knight
21. Anthony Parker
(10. Danny Fortson)
A few greats in the top ten, with Tim Duncan (1), Chauncey Billups (3), and Tracy McGrady (9), but not a whole lot else anywhere. Remember Paul Grant (20), Wisconsin fans? Knight and Parker are not clear-cut top choices here though, with Bobby Jackson (23) having played some important roles on those early 2000s Kings teams. And I liked Fortson, but he fell from grace as an enforcer type, having called executive Stu Jackson a "gangster" after accumulating fines in excess of $200,000.

10. Paul Pierce
25. Al Harrington
(10. Paul Pierce)
At 9, the Bucks drafted Dirk Nowitzki in what was part of a prearranged swap with Dallas for Tractor Traylor (6). Then the Celtics grabbed the best 10 of the era in Paul Pierce. At 11, Bonzi Wells was plucked out of unheralded Ball St. Bonzi and was a really, really nice player early in his career with Portland, but ended up in China and was last seen playing in Puerto Rico. No, Michael Olowokandi was not the strongest top overall draft pick.

16. Ron Artest
10. Jason Terry
(10. Jason Terry)
I chose a defensive star and an offensive force in Artest and Terry, but I could have gone with a different defensive star and offensive force in Andrei Kirilenko (24) and Corey Maggette (13). James Posey (18) was a good pick. Cal Bowdler (17), not so much.

16. Hedo Turkoglu
18. Quentin Richardson
(10. Keyon Dooling)
The infamous class of 2000. Turkoglu and Richardson are not among the very best on this list, but they are actually among the very best in this entire draft class, not just outside the top nine. Putting aside Michael Redd as a second rounder, Kenyon Martin (1), Mike Miller (5), and Jamal Crawford (8) are the only players who can even make a case that they have had a better career than Turkoglu. In any event, even in the worst draft of these 15 considered, a good player or two was still sitting around at 10.

10. Joe Johnson
28. Tony Parker
(10. Joe Johnson)
Zach Randolph (19) has not always been so en vogue as he is now, but he has always been an ultra-talented offensive force. Richard Jefferson (13), Troy Murphy (14), Gerald Wallace (25), and Samuel Dalembert (26) highlight an absolutely, positively loaded bottom two-thirds of the first round.

10. Caron Butler
23. Tayshaun Prince
(10. Caron Butler)
Milwaukee's Marcus Haislip (13) was not the only bust, and not the biggest bust, as Nikoloz Tskitishvili (5) and Dajuan Wagner (6) seemed like good ideas at the time. I gave Prince the nod, but John Salmons (26) has carved out a pretty nice career, if not a pretty nice 2010-11 season (to clarify: not a pretty 2010-11 season).

18. David West
28. Leandro Barbosa
(10. Jarvis Hayes)
Not necessarily superstar quality, but all sorts of quality from 10-29 in this one, including Mickael Pietrus (11), Nick Collison (12), Luke Ridnour (14), Travis Outlaw (23), Carlos Delfino (25), Kendrick Perkins (27), and Josh Howard (29) in addition to West and Barbosa.

15. Al Jefferson
17. Josh Smith
(10. Luke Jackson)
Jackson was among the worst picks at 10 of all, and to make matters worse, there were a lot of better options, including this absurdly mercurial bunch: Andris Biedrins (11), J.R. Smith (18), Jameer Nelson (20), Delonte West (24), Tony Allen (25), Kevin Martin (26), and Beno Udrih (28). Characters, the lot of them.

17. Danny Granger
10. Andrew Bynum
(10. Andrew Bynum)
Two immensely talented centers named Andrew who have suffered through untimely injuries in Bogut (1) and Bynum (10). And two immensely talented point guards picked in between in Deron Williams (3) and Chris Paul (4). Outside the top 10, Granger (17) was a great choice and David Lee (29) is a rather fantastic final pick of the first round.

21. Rajon Rondo
13. Thabo Sefolosha
(10. Mouhamed Sene)
J.J. Redick (11) was widely panned as a bust-to-be, but he's instead turned out to be one of the better choices. I seemed to think that Qunicy Douby (19) was going to be something once upon a time. Is Chris Douglas-Roberts following in the footsteps of Rodney Carney (16)? Talented scorers coming out of Memphis, both measuring around 6-7 and 200 pounds. Ocassional flashes but mostly similar numbers through a few years in the pros. Never seem to be favorites among coaches, and never play on good teams. Even a physical resemblance. Carney was most recently waived by the Warriors last January, so I think and hope CD-R has a better future in store.

12. Thaddeus Young
15. Rodney Stuckey
(10. Spencer Hawes)
The Bucks fell for the lottery hype with Yi Jianlian (6) while big men including Milwaukee native Carl Landry (31) and Spanish star Marc Gasol (48) fell to the second round. Meanwhile, there was a fair amount of sometimes maddening talent with Stuckey, Al Thornton (14), Wilson Chandler (23), Rudy Fernandez (24), and Aaron Brooks (26). Arron Afflalo (27) got good this year.

10. Brook Lopez
17. Roy Hibbert
(10. Brook Lopez)
In addition to Lopez and Hibbert, J.J. Hickson (19), Ryan Anderson (21), Serge Ibaka (24), Nicolas Batum (25), and George Hill (27) are also valuable pieces of their respective teams. The Bucks win points for drafting the best player of the second in Luc Mbah a Moute (37), and he was the fourth in a row of players who have made varying degrees of impact that include Mario Chalmers (34), DeAndre Jordan (35), and Omer Asik (36).

17. Jrue Holiday
21. Darren Collison
(10. Brandon Jennings)
Jennings might be the best guard in this draft. Or he might be the seventh best point guard in this draft. And I'm not being dramatic in either of those sentences. Tyreke Evans (4), Stephen Curry (7), Holiday (17), Lawson (18), and Collison (21) all can make a case right now. Even Jonny Flynn (6) and Jeff Teague (19) cannot be dismissed in the long term. But I wanted Jennings at 10 on draft night, and I'm not ruing that day quite yet.

10. Paul George
15. Larry Sanders
(10. Paul George)
Is it too early to say that Luke Babbitt (16) is quite probably quite awful? No, but it is too early to conclude much else.