“That Guy We Drafted,” 1997
November 30th, 2009

Re-drafting the impactful 1997 NBA Draft Lottery picks

Continuing the whereabouts round-ups of all recent NBA drafts, this is the fourth instalment of the series. The first three:


As always, if the player in question is still in the NBA, I’ll probably write some rant that in some way relates to them in some way. Don’t think too much of that. They’re not what this post is about. This post is about Chris Crawford’s stables business and the like. Let’s get to it.


First round

– 1st pick: Tim Duncan (San Antonio) – Tim Duncan is still with the same team that drafted him. Only two players have been with their current teams longer than Duncan has been with the Spurs; Kobe Bryant and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. If e’er there was such a thing as a lifer in the NBA these days, then Tim Duncan is that man. He’s slowing down these days, and the question of how many years he has left is a valid one. But the question of whether he was a power forward or a centre? That was not a valid question. It wasn’t interesting or productive. Let’s pretend it never happened.


– 2nd pick: Keith Van Horn (Philadelphia) – Van Horn has not appeared in an NBA game since game five of the 2006 finals. He’s been in the league since then, what with that whole Jason Kidd sign-and-trade thing, but he didn’t play a game amid that semi-comeback and he never really intended to ever embark on. (It was briefly reported that he would work out with the Nets, but that was probably a lie. Remember, this is a man who retired because he wanted to be with his family, not because no one wanted him.)

It’s hard to trace what Van Horn is doing now; he was alive as of two weeks ago, when he went to a badly-attended Utah Utes game. But there’s not a lot else out there. He did build a quite magnificent trout stream, though.


– 3rd pick: Chauncey Billups (Boston) – As it’s turned out, Chauncey Billups is entirely befitting of being drafted third overall. It took six years, but the point guard with the uncanny knack for getting to the free throw line eventually rounded himself into a strong all-around player, and didn’t bust after all. However, Billups still had to suffer the indignity of being traded during his rookie season, the first time in 19 years that that had happened. Good trivia. (Note: it has since happened to Drew Gooden as well, and maybe some others.)


– 4th pick: Antonio Daniels (Vancouver) – After 11 years, Daniels is now out of the league and looking for work after the Timberwolves bought him out of his contract during training camp. They did so for a saving of $736,420, which, not coincidentally, is the same amount as Nathan Jawai is getting paid this year. Daniels was rumoured to be a target for the Cavaliers, but Cleveland decided against that. And it’s not a glowing endorsement of Daniels that when his former team the Washington Wizards needed an emergency point guard, they went for Earl Boykins instead.


– 5th pick: Tony Battie (Denver) – Battie is currently a member of the 0-16 Nets, having been included as an important expiring contract in the Vince Carter deal. He has not played this year due to a knee injury, and missed all of the 2007-08 season with rotator cuff surgery, but he is supposed to return next week.

Did you know that Tony Battie is the one who saved Paul Pierce’s life after Pierce’s near-fatal stabbing back in 2000? You probably did. I didn’t, though. Battie was the one who drove Pierce to the hospital as he lay in the back bleeding copiously. That’s pretty intense stuff. Not sure how I didn’t know this.

At this point, you might well be thinking “how were Antonio Daniels and Tony Battie the fourth and fifth picks in the same draft?” Well, they were. And here’s a little fact; in a combined 1,624 regular season NBA games, the highest that either of the duo has ever scored in a game is 30, totalled by Daniels back in 2004. It’s not all about offence, of course, but it’s still a cool fact. Particularly since one of the guys that’s about to be mentioned used to average more than that in a season.


– 6th pick: Ron Mercer (Boston) – Ron Mercer did not play after being the Nets’ amnesty clausian in August 2005. He was only 29 at the time, yet that was the end of his career. His main contribution to the news after that was being involved in an assault at a strip club in August 2007; after an argument with one of the girls, Mercer’s friend stabbed a bouncer that told them to leave, and Mercer then punched him. (Mercer pleaded guilty and received probation.) At the behest of new Kentucky head coach John Calipari, Mercer has signed up to join a program at the university that helps former players complete their degrees. More on this in a minute.


– 7th pick: Tim Thomas (New Jersey) – Bought out by the Bulls earlier this summer for a $1.6 million saving – incidentally, we’ll overlook for the moment quite how badly they need a floor-spacing big man – Thomas later signed with the Mavericks for the minimum. He lost about $300,000 in salary from making that swap, but he joined a team that wants him and plays him, so it’s not all bad. Also, in taking that buyout, Thomas also became the first player to ever be bought out twice by the same team after having been acquired twice from the same team. This will quite possibly never happen again.


– 8th pick: Adonal Foyle (Golden State) – Foyle is back with the Magic, re-signing this summer to a one-year minimum salary deal. If I were to guess, I’d guess that this is probably his last season. This isn’t too outlandish of a prediction, though, since

a) Last year was rumoured to be his last season as well, and
b) Foyle has not played this year due to arthroscopic knee surgery.

This season almost marks the last year that the Warriors will have to pay him any salary.


– 9th pick: Tracy McGrady (Toronto) – Rumour has it that the Rockets intend to leave McGrady inactive and claim he’s still injured so that they can pick up the insurance payments on his mahoosive contract. But since McGrady claims to be healthy – and since the Rockets haven’t done a great job of disguising the news that they just flat don’t want him any more – that looks like a plan destined to end up with one hell of a grievance. As for his list of potential suitors, how about the Bulls? Find a way to construct a deal that sees the Bulls give out Brad Miller and Jerome James, while also taking on no more than $500,000 in salary for this season and no salary for next season, and you might have the workings of a solid idea.


– 10th pick: Danny Fortson (Milwaukee) – Fortson has not played since his final 14-game stint for the Sonics back in 2006-07, where he totalled 40 points, 43 rebounds and 38 fouls in 158 minutes. He played in only 440 games in ten full NBA seasons, a testament to how injured (or suspended) he always seemed to be, and he averaged only 2 0mpg for his career due to all the fouls. Since his contract ended, Fortson has been about as quiet as you can be, although he did commit to attending a “fantasy camp” held by Bob Huggins this past summer.

Danny Fortson fact: in the 2004-05 season, Danny Fortson averaged 7.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 0.1 assists, 1.5 turnovers and 4.3 fouls in only 16.9 minutes per game. For per-36 minutes fans, that’s 15.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 3.1 turnovers and 9.1 fouls. Even more impressively, Fortson shot more foul shots (258) than field goals (225), which almost never happens. And most impressively of all, Fortson shot 88% from the foul line for that season, totalling a ridiculous true shooting percentage of .682 in 62 games.

Only Danny Fortson could do that.


– 11th pick: Tariq Abdul-Wahad (Sacramento) – Tariq played in only 67 games this entire decade. He played 29 games in 2000-01, 24 games in 2001-02 and 14 games in 2002-03. His last NBA game was April 14th 2003, and he never played outside of the NBA. He had a tryout with Climamio Bologna in the 2006 preseason, but he did not make the team, and that was it. Nevertheless, he got paid huge amounts of money during that time in exchange for services not rendered, and he’s been investing it into the entertainment industry. Abdul-Wahad owns a French TV channel called 3A Telesud, is a partner in whatever this is, and is a partner in this clothing company.


– 12th pick: Austin Croshere (Indiana) – Justin Frazier was in the NBA last year with three different teams; first re-signing with the Pacers for training camp, then being claimed off of waivers by the Bucks, and finally signing a ten-day contract with the Spurs. He didn’t play especially well at any of the three, though, and did not sign anywhere anew this offseason. He now does TV work for the Pacers, and is presumably retired.


– 13th pick: Derek Anderson (Cleveland) – Anderson’s last basketball employment was with the Bobcats back in 2007. He has not signed anywhere since, and nor has he been linked to anyone. Anderson recently signed up to the same University of Kentucky program as Ron Mercer did above, and will return to school to finish his degree.


– 14th pick: Maurice Taylor (L.A. Clippers) – Taylor fell out of the NBA in January 2007, after the Kings waived him in order to bring back Justin Williams, whom they had originally waived to open up room for Taylor. (Taylor played poorly in between those two transactions.) Maurice then spent two years out of basketball, and it appeared that he had retired, but then he resurfaced last January. Freshly armed with an Italian passport – courtesy of his grandmother’s Italian roots – Taylor signed with Armani Jeans Milano, a strong Italian team, and played 21 games with the team. He had originally been signed only to play in EuroLeague games, but he played in only four (totalling 15 points, 13 rebounds and 9 fouls in 54 minutes) before Milano were knocked out of the competition. After that, Taylor played in 17 Serie A games with the team, averaging 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds and shooting 42% from three-point range, but his option for this season was declined during the summer. This very morning, however, it was announced that Taylor has signed with Shanxi in the Chinese league for the upcoming season, roughly the 12th ex-NBA player to have done so thus far. [Chinese league transactions are seriously difficult to verify.] This can only mean one thing – numbers, numbers, numbers. We’ll bring them to you in a couple of months.


– 15th pick: Kelvin Cato (Dallas) – Cato has not played professionally since his 22-point, 31-rebound, 0-assist 2006-07 season with the New York Knicks. He fell off outrageously quickly between the ages of 31 and 33 and hasn’t been seen since. I have scoured t’internet for any post-2007 Kelvin Cato news, but, apart from a 24-year-old Tulsa resident of the same name, I’ve found nothing. So, in lieu of any Kelvin Cato news, here’s a clip of Kelvin Cato shopping for hats.

Did you know that Kelvin Cato has written at least two children’s books in his time? Me neither. You can buy one of them here, for only $39.99.


– 16th pick: Brevin Knight (Cleveland) – Knight was a part of one of the most joyfully pointless trades of all time last summer, when the Clippers traded him to the Jazz for Jason Hart straight up. Gotta love it. Knight spent the year in Utah, but wasn’t at his best, and he didn’t get signed anywhere for this season. He is out there still, waiting for the phone to ring. It may yet still do.


– 17th pick: Johnny Taylor (Orlando) – Taylor played in only 59 games in the NBA over three years, totalling a PER of 8.6. He signed in training camps with the Bulls in 2000 and the Blazers in 2001, but made neither team. His post-NBA career has been lengthy, incorporating stops in Japan, Spain, Korea, Israel, Belgium, Russia, Philippines, Lebanon and Italy, and he’s still going. Newman is signed for a second season with Al Ahli Manama in the Bahrain league, where last year he averaged the slightly astronomical numbers of 22.3 ppg and 19.7 rpg. That’s Bahrain for you.


– 18th pick: Chris Anstey (Dallas) – Anstey played three years in the NBA; two for the Mavericks and one for the Bulls. He was pretty good in his one year for the Bulls, performing decently amongst a destitute team of fail, yet he never again came back to the NBA. Of the ten years hence, Anstey spent three in Russia with UNICS Kazan (as documented in Paul Shirley’s book), and has spent the other seven back in his native Australia, where he has superstarred. Anstey averaged 18.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.7 blocks for the Melbourne Tigers last year, with the blocks and rebounds averages ranking second in the league. He is signed there for this year as well, but has not played through the first 11 games of the season due to hip surgery.


– 19th pick: Scot Pollard (Detroit) – Pollard last played in the NBA with the championship-winning 2007-08 Celtics. He didn’t play in the postseason and barely played during the regular season, but he got a ring and a million for sitting around and putting up with a year of ankle pain, so it’s not all bad. He now works for NBA TV, where he’s already created one of the more awkward moments in television history.


– 20th pick: Paul Grant (Minnesota) – Despite being a first-round draft pick, Grant played only 16 games in the NBA. He spent the whole of his first season on the injured list with a fake injury (those were the days), and played in only 13 minutes of six games in his second season. Grant was then traded to the Bucks and waived, and began a training camp cycle that included the Grizzlies (2000), the Nets (2001) and the Jazz (2002 and 2003). He didn’t make the team on any of those occasions, but the Jazz brought him back for two ten-day contracts in January 2004, during which time Grant played spot minutes of ten games. (He did however suffer the indignity of being waived early from his ten-day contract. That almost never happens. Can’t feel good.) Grant had played in the CBA, ABA, NBDL and Yugoslavia amongst his continued efforts to get back into the NBA, but those two ten-dayers with the Jazz represented his last basketball employment. He is now an assistant coach for the MIT men’s basketball team. Not sure how well an assistant coaching job at a Division III school pays. Maybe he’s doing a concurrent degree there. That’s just a guess, though.


– 21st pick: Anthony Parker (New Jersey) – As you no doubt already know, Parker did little during his first NBA gig, and went to Europe for a few years. Any repeat viewer to these lists will know that that’s not unusual. But it’s kind of unusual for an NBA dropout to go to Europe and star, and of the few that do, it’s very rare that they then come back to the NBA. Yet Parker is one of the few that did, and he’s now in year four of his NBA redux, starting for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s fallen off a bit over these four years, but given that he’s now 34, that was to be expected.


– 22nd pick: Ed Gray (Atlanta) – Gray played two seasons for the Hawks, 30 games in each. He put up a PER of 13.0 in his rookie year, and a PER of 4.8 in his sophomore season. In that time he was arrested for DUI and drug possession, and twice suspended for missing medical appointments. He was also late for team functions six times in one year, which is not bad going. After flopping out of the NBA, Gray played in the CBA for two years, then became a Globetrotter. Then he joined the London Towers, but left before playing a game. That was back in 2003. He hasn’t been heard of since.


– 23rd pick: Bobby Jackson (Seattle) – Jackson announced his retirement last month after 12 years. He has since become an ambassador for the Kings, his last and foremost NBA team.


– 24th pick: Rodrick Rhodes (Houston) – Rhodes played 58 games in his rookie season, yet only 14 more after that. He was traded halfway through his second season and then again in the offseason before being waived by the Magic. The Sixers immediately picked him up for 1999 training camp, but he didn’t make the team, and he was later picked up for the last game of the season by the Mavericks. That was the last game of his NBA career, as training camp gigs with the Blazers in 2000 and the Cavaliers in 2001 proved unsuccessful. Rhodes also played in Cyprus, Greece, Philippines, France and Puerto Rico in his career, and finished up with the USBL’s Brooklyn Kings in 2003. Upon retiring, he went back to school at USC, and then went into coaching. He started as an assistant at St. Edward’s University in Texas, then moved on Idaho State for a year. Then he spent a year as assistant to the head coach and director of player personnel coach at the University of Massachusetts. Then he spent a year as an administrative assistant coach at Seton Hall. And now he’s spending at least one year as an assistant coach at the University of Texas-Pan American.

(That was the most boringly normal story there can be. It’s like a template for basically every other story on these lists. How formulaic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, though. It’s good to have structure.)


– 25th pick: John Thomas (New York) – Thomas played 148 games in his first three years, for both the Celtics and the Raptors. He was traded by the Knicks to the Celtics midway during his first-ever training camp, and then traded again to Toronto at his first-ever trade deadline, neither of which seems consistent with the Billups trivia above. Thomas spent two-and-a-half years with the Raptors before his contract expired, and then he disappeared from the NBA. Between the years 2000 and 2004, Thomas played in the Dominican Republic, the CBA (China), the other CBA (America) and Spain, with at least one gap year in amongst that somewhere.

Thomas then strangely reappeared in the NBA for the 2004-05 season, signing with the size-starved Timberwolves and averaging 2.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 44 games. He spent the 2005-06 season with three NBA teams – the Nets, the Grizzlies and the Hawks – appearing in 16 total games and rocking a PER of 3.4. After that, he didn’t play in the 2006-07 season, spent the 2007-08 season in the D-League (which is rare for a 32-year-old) and spent last season in Syria.

He’s still playing, too, signing for Hapoel Holon in Israel this summer. On the season so far, Thomas is averaging the highly laudable numbers of 12.0 points and 10.6 rebounds in 29 minutes. Those rebounding numbers particularly stand out on a man who averaged 6.9 rebounds per 36 minutes for his NBA career.


– 26th pick: Charles Smith (Miami) – Charles Smith’s career is basically the mirror image of John Thomas’s above, except a bit more stop-starty. Smith was in the NBA for two years, then out of it for two years, then back in it for two years, then out of it for two years, then back in it for one, then out of it for four. He last played in the NBA in the 2005-06 season, playing 22 games with the Blazers and playing one game with the Nuggets after a midseason trade.

In between all the stops in the NBA, Smith has played most of his time in Italy, and has been a huge scorer over there. He led Serie A in scoring on two occasions, and was also a 20 ppg scorer in the EuroLeague at one time. Nonetheless, Smith kept turning down European stardom for NBA minimum salary contracts, trying to stick in America in preference to being one of Europe’s better scorers. It never really worked out, as the multi-year contract always eluded him, but playing bit-parts of five NBA seasons is no mean feat.

Smith spent two seasons between 2006 and 2008 with Real Madrid, and then joined Turkish powerhouse Efes Pilsen. He’s still there, currently averaging 13.0 points per game in the Turkish league (and 10.8 points per game in the EuroLeague) for a rather strangely constructed team. Efes have plenty of talent, but a starting line-up that features all three of Smith, Igor Rakocevic and Bostjan Nachbar has potential ball-sharing problems. Efes have seven players that average more than eight points per game, which is somewhat of a good thing, but even with all that talent they’re only 2-3 in the EuroLeague.


– 27th pick: Jacque Vaughn (Utah) – Vaughn is unsigned and looking. After spending the last two years with the Spurs, he was jettisoned in favour of…well, no one really. The Spurs decided to keep only two point guards, filling the rest of the roster with wingmen and bigs. Vaughn is about to turn 35 and has been declining for about eight years, but he oozes heady veteranness, and teams like heady veteranness.

Jacque Vaughn fact; Jacque Vaughn started the 2001-02 season in an 0-26 shooting slump, which is almost Duhon-like. Strangely, that ended up being the best shooting season of his career; Vaughn finished the season shooting 47%/44%/83%, with a true shooting parentage of .547%. He hit 24 three-pointers that season. He’s hit 22 in the seven seasons since.


– 28th pick: Keith Booth (Chicago) – Keith Booth’s playing career mimicked the teams he played on. For the title-winning 1997/98 Chicago Bulls, Booth played only six games and 17 minutes; for the God awful 1998/99 Bulls, Booth played 39 games (out of 50) and 432 minutes. Those were the only two seasons of his NBA career, and any more news of his playing career is hard to come by (although he did attend an NBDL tryout camp in 2001). His playing career did not last long, and Booth returned to Maryland in 2003 to finish up his almost-completed criminal justice degree. Booth briefly worked as a baseball coach at a Baltimore middle school, and then became an assistant coach at Maryland in July 2004. He’s still there. Here’s his Twitter.


– 29th pick: There was no 29th pick. And here’s why.

The team that were originally scheduled to pick 17th – the Washington Bullets, as were – were made to forfeit their first-round pick as a part of the move to re-sign Juwan Howard to a $100 million deal in the summer of 1996. Howard had opted out of the six-year contract that he signed upon entering the league after only year two, and signed a seven-year, $98 million contract with the Miami Heat. However, that contract was vetoed by the league, for they deemed that it had violated the rules of the salary cap; the Heat ruled that Miami already had an agreement with Alonzo Mourning, and, since verbal agreements are binding, this left Miami without enough room under the salary cap to sign Howard as well. (According to the NBA, at least.) Also, the league ruled that performance bonuses for both Tim Hardaway and P.J. Brown should have been counted against the salary cap, yet weren’t.

The Heat protested both charges, and Pat Riley was not a happy bunny. After the Heat’s contract was voided, Howard re-signed with the Bullets for a few million more than the Heat had tried to give him, and that made Riley an even less contented leporine. The league had the right to impose severe penalties if they deemed Miami to have deliberately flouted the salary cap rules – namely, a $5 million fine and a year’s suspension for Pat Riley – and they maintained that they had proof of Mourning’s commitment. Similarly, Riley and the Heat maintained that there was no agreement with Mourning and that they had not done their sums wrong, and so they sought a reinstatement of the contract Juwan had signed with them. They’d spent a long time clearing out cap room to be able to sign him in the first place, after all, and so they really wanted this to go down.

(By the way, while all this was going on, Washington had renounced Howard and used the opened-up cap space to sign Tracy Murray and Lorenzo Williams, and trade for Rod Strickland and Gary Grant. More on this later.)

The case was set to go to arbitration for a ruling as to whether the Heat’s initial contract was valid. The Heat wanted the deal reinstated and Washington punished, the league wanted the Heat’s contract voided, and Washington just really wanted to overpay Howard. However, it never got that far, as a settlement was reached before the hearing. Juwan’s contract with the Heat was indeed voided, yet no further sanctions were levied against the Heat. (This did not pacify Riley, who was extremely upset after having traded all of Kevin Willis, Billy Owens, Bimbo Coles, Glen Rice and Matt Geiger in the previous year, just to try to get a shot at Howard.) Howard’s new contract with the Wizards was allowed to stand, and amazingly they were also allowed to keep the four aforementioned players that they had acquired to replace him with the money his departure had opened up. However, they could only do so if they forfeited their first-round draft pick the following year.

And so that’s why there were only 28 first-round draft picks in the 1997 NBA draft.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can now safely conclude the following:

1) Miami dodged a bullet (totally intended that pun).
2) Having Scot Pollard for three years and $2.8 million is WAY more preferable to having Juwan Howard for $100 million and no first-round pick.

(One further extremely nerdy note: when the 17th pick was vetoed, all players picked in the second round stayed where they were, thus officially listed as being drafted in the positions listed above. For instance, the 30th pick below was only the 29th player chosen, yet was still listed as being the 30th pick, with the vetoed pick counted as #29. The same happened in 2001 and 2002, when the Minnesota Timberwolves were forced to forfeit their first rounders in the Joe Smith fiasco. But in the year of the Wolves’ other forfeited first rounder – 2004 – the second rounders were all bumped up one spot. With 30 teams in the league at that point, the first pick of the second round (Anderson Varejao) became the 30th pick, and the last pick in the second round (Rashad Wright) became the 59th. This fascinatingly important detail came in direct contravention to the trend set by the previous three vetoes. And why? To make your BRAIN EXPLODE, that’s why.)


Second round

– 30th pick: Serge Zwikker (Houston) – Zwikker’s professional career essentially did not exist. After his reasonably successful four year career at UNC, he signed with the Rockets and stayed with the team for a whole year, but didn’t play a single game. The following year he played seven games for Tau Vitoria, but was released quickly due to being out of shape. He saw out that season in Italy, was loaned back to Spain the following year (averaging a pedestrian 4.1 ppg and 3 rpg), and then signed back in his native Holland for the 2000/01 season. Playing for a club named Conesco Den Helder, Zwikker went scoreless in three games, and then announced his retirement that October, citing a lack of motivation. He has since worked in IT, and is currently the senior manager of IT infrastructure at Salix Pharmaceuticals in Raleigh, North Carolina. Party on, Serge! Party on, Wayne!


– 31st pick: Mark Sanford (Miami) – Sanford never played in the NBA. He signed with the Heat for training camp 1997, but didn’t make the team. He spent the next two years playing in Belgium, the CBA and for the Globetrotters (going by the name “Airplane”), before signing with the Kings for training camp 2009. Bizarrely, he was known as Tywan Sanford at that time; Tywan is his middle name, and Mark is short for “Eumarkjah.” No, I’m not making that up.

Between 1999 and 2002, Sanford – now known as Mark again – played in France, Denmark, the ABA and Japan, before signing one last time in training camp with the New Jersey Nets in 2002. After failing to make that team as well, Sanford hit the road again, and has since played in Israel, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Spain, Philippines, Australia, Philippines, Lebanon, CBA, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Korea, and finally Chile, where his one-month contract expired two weeks ago. Sanford has scored big at basically all of these last places; he averaged 15.0 ppg in the CBA, 20.6 ppg in Chile, 16.7 ppg in Australia, 24.6 ppg and 28.8 ppg in the Philippines, 30.2 ppg in the Dominican Repubic…etc. Now aged 33, Sanford is still playing and still scoring big, and has probably racked up some air miles in his time.

Mark’s a cool name. Don’t be ashamed.


– 32nd pick: Charles O’Bannon (Detroit) – O’Bannon is still playing as well, but mercifully his career is far easier to describe. He played two years with the Pistons, playing in 48 games and putting up a PER of 11.7, before being waived halfway through his second season. Outside of a training camp contract with the Blazers in 1999, he never troubled the NBA again. O’Bannon spent the 1999-00 season in Poland, and then went to Japan in 2000 to play for a team called Toyota Alvark. He has been there ever since, with his only departure being a 12-game stint with Benetton Treviso in early 2003. To have stuck with the same foreign team for a decade is extremely rare for an American (EXTREMELY rare), and it’s been made possible by O’Bannon’s star-like numbers. This season, he’s averaging 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in only 17.1 minutes per game. The standard in Japan is not great, but for a man who turns 35 in two months, that’s still some fine production.


– 33rd pick: James Cotton (Denver) – Cotton is more Zwikker than Sanford. He spent his first two professional seasons in the NBA with the Sonics (see below), but appeared in only 19 games and 92 minutes. The Sonics then traded him to the Bulls in the 1999 offseason along with Hersey Hawkins for Brent Barry, and the Bulls waived him. Cotton never again appeared in the NBA, and his whole basketball career lasted only two more seasons. He spent the 1999-00 season in the CBA, then split the 2000-01 season between Poland, the IBA and Australia, and then retired. Cotton returned to Long Beach State the following year to complete his communications degree, and is now a real estate agent for Pro Max Real Estate in Long Beach.

James Cotton fact; Cotton’s rights were traded by the Nuggets to the Sonics on draft night, along with a 1998 second-round pick, for the rights to Bobby Jackson (#23 above). That 1998 second-round pick turned out to be Rashard Lewis. Therefore, Seattle can accurately claim that James Cotton was an essential vehicle in them acquiring both Lewis and Barry.


– 34th pick: Marko Milic (Philadelphia) – Milic was traded by the Sixers one month into his rookie season to the Suns in exchange for Tom Chambers. At this point, you should probably go ahead and ignore that earlier Billups trivia. Milic played 44 games over two years with the Suns, putting up a PER of 14.9 and a career field goal percentage of 56%, numbers both warped by the 216-minute sample size. After leaving the NBA in 1999, ne’er to return, Milic has spent the last decade in Europe. Apart for brief sojourns in Spain and Turkey, he has spent of his time either in his native Slovenia with Olimpija Ljubljana, or in Italy with Scavolini Pesaro and the Bologna teams. Most recently, Milic was in France playing for Entente Orleans, a team that’s in the EuroLeague this year. However, he left the team earlier this month by “mutual consent,” after Orleans decided he wasn’t the type of player that they were looking for. How they managed to not know the type of player that Milic was after 10+ years in the European limelight, I don’t know.


– 35th pick: Bubba Wells (Dallas) – Wells spent one year in the NBA, appearing in 39 games for the Mavericks, the most notable of which was the game in which he fouled out in three minutes while deliberately fouling Dennis Rodman. In the 1998 close season, Wells was a throw-in in the trade that took Steve Nash to Dallas, and then later on was a throw-in in the trade that took Luc Longley to the Suns. The Bulls then waived him, and Wells spent one year in the CBA, one in the ABA, two in the Philippines and two with the Globetrotters before quitting. He is now an assistant coach at his alma mater, Austin Peay.


– 36th pick: Kebu Stewart (Philadelphia) – Stewart played one year for the Sixers, appearing in 15 games and posting a PER of 14.0. If only PER existed in the public’s conscience in the late 1990’s. He went to training camp in 1998 with the Hawks (a training camp with actually took place in January 1999), and then went to training camp in 1999 with the Mavericks, but he played in no more NBA games. The rest of the stops in his career has been as follows: CBA, Puerto Rico, CBA, Puerto Rico, Israel, Russia, Poland, Spain, Serbia, Italy, South Korea, and finally Latvia, where he last played in November 2007. I don’t know what he’s done since then.


– 37th pick: James Collins (Philadelphia) – The Sixers traded Collins’ draft rights to the Clippers in exchange for a 1998 second-rounder (Jelani McCoy), and Collins played one year with the Clips. He put up a PER of 15.1 in 23 games. That’s pretty good, you know. Nonetheless, the Clippers didn’t re-sign him, and a few more training camp stints with the Suns (1998), the Wizards (1999) and the Grizzlies (2001) didn’t amount to anything. Collins spent a few years in the CBA, and made brief trips to France, Spain and Venezuela, before spending the last five years of his career in Italy. His last stint came in the 2006-07 season with a team called Indesit Fabriano in Italy’s LegaDue (the second division). From personal experience, let me assure you that Indesit washing machines are amazingly unreliable. Or at least they were in the late 90’s. Or at least, the one in my old house was.

James Collins fact: James Collins was once arrested for misdemeanour stalking, which hopefully sounds worse than it was. Cannot find what became of the charges.


– 38th pick: Marc Jackson (Golden State) – Marc Jackson enjoyed a seven-year NBA career and many millions of dollars, but unusually that career did not start until the 2000/01 season. (His rookie season was his best season by miles. That doesn’t happen often.) Of the three years between drafting and signing in NBA, Jackson spent two in Turkey and one in Spain, and in the three seasons since falling out of the NBA, Jackson has played in Greece, Russia and Spain again. This season, for Xacobeo Blusens in the ACB, Jackson is averaging 15.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, scoring 122 points on 82 shots, but Blusens are still second-last in the ACB with a 3-7 record.


– 39th pick: Jerald Honeycutt (Milwaukee) – Honeycutt signed with the Bucks for two seasons, playing 38 games in his rookie season and three in his second, before being traded to the Sixers at the 1999 trade deadline. He played 13 games for the Sixers, shot 26%, and never played in the NBA again. (Honeycutt did get a camp invite to the Blazers in 2003, but it didn’t amount to anything.) When not in the NBA, Honeycutt has played in the CBA, Puerto Rico, the ABA, Russia, Greece, the Philippines, Venezuela, Korea, the Lebanon and Japan, where he has spent the last five seasons. This year for the Panasonic Trians (what’s a Trian?), Honeycutt is averaging 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game.


– 40th pick: Anthony Johnson (Sacramento) – Johnson is currently the third-string point guard for Orlando Magic, and is having a pretty ordinary season, save for one awesome night against the Hawks. Here’s the thing; how unlikely is it for the Magic to play J.J. Redick and Vince Carter together when Jason Williams is out of the game, with Carter doing the lion’s share of the ball-handling and the playmaking with Redick guarding the point guard? Is that not possible? I reckon it would work.


– 41st pick: Edner Elisma (Seattle) – Elisma didn’t sign an NBA contract until training camp 2000, when he failed to make the team. The Sonics brought him back for training camp 2001, but he didn’t make the team then either. His last NBA attempt was with the Celtics back in training camp 2003, yet he missed out there too, and never played in an NBA game. He has played professionally the whole time, though, and is still going to this day. Since leaving Georgia Tech, his career has involved the following stops: Israel, Italy, Belgium, Sonics, ABA, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Sonics, Israel, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, NBDL, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Celtics, China, Puerto Rico, Philippines, China, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Iran, Kuwait, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Iran, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and finally Mexico, where he signed last month and currently averages 10.0 points and 7.5 rebounds. I feel I should point out at this moment that Ednar Elisma is a Dominican Republic passport holder.


– 42nd pick: Jason Lawson (Denver) – The Nuggets traded Lawson’s rights to the Magic in exchange for a pick that we’re yet to get to and a 1999 second-rounder (Kris Clack). Lawson played only 80 minutes for the Magic, though, in his only season in the NBA. He had training camp stints with the Hawks in ’98, the Wizards in ’99 and the Clippers in 2000, but he failed to make any of the teams. Lawson’s worldwide basketball showcase incorporated all manner of places, ranging from France and Greece to the NBDL and the CBA. He last played in Mexico in the 2006 season. (A tryout in Jordan in January 2008 did not result in a contract.)


– 43rd pick: Stephen Jackson (Phoenix) – Well, now. I think you know where Stephen Jackson is.

It took a while for his NBA career to get started; Jackson never made the Suns roster, and while the Grizzlies signed him for 1999 training camp, he didn’t make their roster either. In the years between his being drafted and finally getting into the NBA in 2000 with the Nets, Jackson played in the CBA, Israel, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. He then ground out a season in the Nets’ rotation, getting 40 starts and averaging 8.2 ppg, and was picked up by the Spurs for the 2001-02 season. He barely played for them in his first season, appearing in only 227 minutes of action, but then on November 20th 2002 he hit eight three-pointers in a game against the Lakers. And the rest is not quite history.


– 44th pick: Gordon Malone (Minnesota) – Malone never played in the NBA. The Timberwolves brought him to 1997’s training camp, waived him, and that was that. He’s not stopped playing, however, and in the last 12 years has played in the following places; CBA, Poland, Puerto Rico, Argentina, USBL, Greece, CBA, IBL, IBA, Dominican Republic, Argentina, ABA, USBL, China, XBA (whatever that is), EBA, USBL, Globetrotters, USBL, ABA, CBA, Chile, and the ABA. He’s currently signed in Canada with the Halifax Rainmen. No one other than Ivan Chiriaev ever plays in Canada, but, with the demise of the CBA and the purposelessness of the ABA, I guess Canada now counts as one of America’s premier minor leagues. (No offence.)


– 45th pick: Cedric Henderson (Cleveland) – Henderson played five seasons in the NBA from 1998 to 2002; four with the Cavaliers and one with the Warriors. His output got steadily worse throughout those five seasons, dropping from 10.1 points and 4.0 rebounds in his rookie year down to 3.0 points and 0.3 rebounds in his last year. Training camp stints with the Bucks in 2002 and the Jazz in 2004 followed, but Henderson did not get back into the NBA. Once out of it, he played in the Lebanon, Ukraine, the NBDL and South Korea, before finally winding up in Cyprus. He played seven games in the Cypriot league in October 2007 before being released. Aside from some charity and guest-speaking appearances, I cannot find him since.

Fun fact – the Cavaliers had four players on the 1997 All-Rookie first and second teams. Brevin Knight (#16) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (#20, 1996) made the first team (Z had missed the whole 1996/97 season with his broken foot), while Derek Anderson (#13) and Henderson (#45) made the second team. This has not happened before or since.


– 46th pick: God Shammgod (Washington Bullets) – The man who opened so many joke opportunities for my internet nickname, Shammgod played one year in the NBA before embarking on a minor league career that still occasionally splutters into life. Shammgod played in 20 games for the Wizards in his rookie season, and was brought back for 1998 training camp, but did not make the team again. He has since played in a variety of places ranging from Croatia to the CBA, most notably spending five years in China. He is currently unsigned, but this summer he spent time with two IBL teams – the Portland Chinooks and the Oregon Wave. Nope, me neither.


– 47th pick: Eric Washington (Orlando) – Washington was the player that was traded for Jason Lawson (#42 above). He played 104 games in two seasons for the Nuggets, averaging 6.9 points per game, and then fell out of the NBA. After that came a year in Greece, two years in Italy, a gap year, another training camp spot with the Nuggets, a year in Israel, two years in the CBA, and then the last four years in Finland. The Finnish basketball league is insignificant on the world stage and does not pay well, yet Washington must be having some kind of fun there (many people do) if he keeps going back. So far this year he’s averaging 22.4 points and 8.3 rebounds.


– 48th pick: Alvin Williams (Portland) – Williams was assumed to be retired in early 2004, when his troublesome ankle finally gave up the ghost and prevented him from playing any more. But that wasn’t quite it; Williams missed the whole 2004-05 season, but managed to get 10 minutes of one game in November 2005 with the Raptors (who then bought him out, unable to get an injury exemption), and Williams played two games on a 10-day contract with the Clippers the following season. That really was it, though, and Williams never played again. He is now an assistant coach with the Raptors.

Alvin Williams will always have a special place in my heart because of the 2003 offseason. I drafted Alvin Williams with one of the last picks of my fantasy league’s draft, and traded him before the season started straight up for Antawn Jamison. Then at the deadline, I was able to trade Jamison straight up for Shaq using a highly convincing argument about free throw percentage. Alvin Williams averaged 9/4 that season in only 56 games, while Shaq averaged 22/12. I prefer to brag about this good bit of business rather than acknowledge the epic fail of my current fantasy league team. A few too many Nets on it, really.


– 49th pick: Predrag Drobnjak (Washington Bullets) – Drobnjak last played in the NBA in the 2004-05 season with the Atlanta Hawks. He left the NBA to sign a lucrative three-year deal with Tau Ceramica, but played badly in season one and left the team. He then played in Serbia in the 2006/07 season, Spain in 2007/08, and was a member of Efes Pilsen in Turkey last season, though he played only 31 minutes all year. This season, Drobs is with PAOK Thessaloniki in Greece, where he’s enjoying a slight second wind, averaging 12.4 points on the season. But he’s still not rebounding.


– 50th pick: Alain Digbeu (Atlanta) – Digbeu never signed in the NBA, and therefore Atlanta still technically owns his draft rights. Apart from the first half of last season, which is spent in Greece, Digbeu has spent all of the last 18 years in Italy, Spain or his native France. (Mostly France.) He’s currently with IG Strasbourg alongside Terrel Harris and Ben McCauley, averaging 11.1 points per game on a team with a 2-7 record.


– 51st pick: Chris Crawford (Atlanta) – About a year ago, we launched a very underwhelming campaign to track down Chris Crawford, since he had not played or been heard of since 2004. What did we find?

a) He worked out for the Nets in 2006.
b) He lives in Galesburg, Michigan.
c) He owns a company called “Slam Dunk Stables,” a thoroughbred racing stable that either is or was part-owned by Donald Sterling.
d) An overhead shot of his house (which, obviously, I’m not reproducing.)

The internet – it’s faaaaaaantastic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to also get arrested for stalking.


– 52nd pick: Dejuan Wheat (L.A. Lakers) – Wheat – middle name “Shontez” – is still playing. He managed only two years in the NBA, playing 34 games in his rookie season with the Timberwolves (after the Lakers waived him), and then being in the Vancouver Grizzlies rotation for the whole following season, but he didn’t play in the NBA after 1999. (He signed training camp contracts with the Suns in 2000 and the Blazers in 2001, but made neither team.) Wheat’s career since then has mainly been in central America, and he’s been with Soles de Mexicali in Mexico since 2005. Now 36, Wheat’s averages had dropped to 10.4 points per game this season, but let’s cut to what’s important; here’s a video of Dejuan Wheat taping his ankle.

As the slogan says; NBA news that doesn’t really matter.


– 53rd pick: C.J. Bruton (Vancouver) – With the exception of a brief trip to Venezuela in 2001 for some summer money, a brief CBA stint in late 2000, a training camp stint with the Blazers in 2002 (who bought his draft rights from the Grizzlies), and two years at Indian Hill Community College between 1995 and 1997, C.J. Bruton has spent his entire basketball life in Australia. He was there even before he was drafted, and he’s still there to this day. This season for the New Zealand Breakers – who play in the Australian NBL, despite the name – Bruton averages 16.3 points (eighth in the league) and 4.1 assists (eighth). He has also been a member of the Australian national team for pretty much the entire stretch, and you may have seen him in the Olympics as a result. If any Australian readers have any extremely interesting C.J. Bruton trivia, then chip in.


– 54th pick: Paul Rogers (L.A. Lakers) – Paul Rogers’ story is basically the same as Bruton’s. He too never played in the NBA – although he did spend the strike-shortened 1998/99 on the Raptors injured list – and he has spent pretty much his whole working life in Australia. Rogers played in Spain between 2003 and 2005, but apart from that it’s been Australia all the way, mainly with his current team, the Perth Wildcats. Rogers has played only 19 minutes this year, and has lost his captaincy role, but it’s entirely ordinary for a 36-year-old to get a bit worse over time. It hasn’t detracted from Rogers’s strong Australian career, which featured two trips to the Olympics and an NBL MVP award. And, as with Bruton; if there’s any good trivia out there, then bring the noise.


– 55th pick: Mark Blount (Seattle) – Blount continues to flounder on the Timberwolves’ inactive list. The team gave him permission to seek a trade, but Blount couldn’t find one, and while Minnesota would like to agree a buyout with him, Blount won’t take one because no team will sign him as a free agent. So this situation will probably drag on until at least the deadline, at which point Minnesota will either find a taker for his huge expiring salary, or release him. Blount has almost certainly played his last NBA game.


– 56th pick: Ben Pepper (Boston) – Making it three Australians in four picks, Ben Pepper is another NBL lifer. He never signed in the NBA, and apart from a very strange trip to the ABA in 2002, Pepper played in the NBL between 1996 and 2008. My Aussie mate Geordie insists that The Sultan played for the New Zealand Breakers last season, but I can’t find anything that corroborates that, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that Geordie is insane.


– 57th pick: Nate Erdmann (Utah) – Erdmann never played in the NBA, not making it out of his first ever training camp. After spending the 1997-98 season in the CBA, Erdmann spent five straight years in Italy, and then spent the 2003-04 season in France. Following that was a year in Spain, then two years in Poland, and then retirement.


– 58th pick: Roberto Duenas (Chicago) – Duenas never played in the NBA, and is now retired. His career was very simple – Barcelona from 1994 to 2005, then Akasvayu Girona from 2005 to 2007, and then retirement. However, his draft rights were traded twice, first from the Bulls to the Hornets in exchange for a 2001 second-rounder (Sean Lampley), and then as a completely arbitrary inclusion in the biggest trade in league history that sent Rasual Butler and Kirk Snyder to the Hornets in 2005. The Hornets’ role in the deal was to take on those two salaries, and they didn’t want to give up a player, so they gave up the most inconsequential thing they had. For that reason alone, Duenas has had more impact on the NBA landscape than almost all of the 1997 NBA Draft second round combined.

Of the 58 players in the 1997 NBA draft, 10 are still in the NBA. Foyle, Battie, McGrady and Blount may not have played a game between them this year, but dammit, they’re here. Of the 58 players in the 1996 draft, there are nine. And of the 1995 draft, there are seven. We’re slowly trending upwards.

Posted by at 11:50 PM