When the draft lottery began in 1985 the league had 23 teams; 16 made the playoffs. The 7 teams who did not make the playoffs- the Hawks, Knicks, Pacers, Supersonics, Clippers, Kings and Warriors- comprised the first lottery. Four more seasons would go by. Then the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets joined the NBA bumping the total NBA teams to 25. The lottery expanded to nine teams.
The first ever #8 pick in the draft lottery was Randy White. He was a 6-8 power forward from Louisiana Tech. He averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds and 40% shooting. He played in 281 games. The following year, 1990, with the #8 pick the Clippers drafted Bo Kimble. Bo Kimble was a sentimental story. He was a three point shooter whose tragic loss was caught on camera. He had been on the court when his best friend and teammate, Hank Gaithers, was fatally stricken by a continuing heart disorder. He died on the court. Bo was supposed to be the perimeter player that would allow Danny Manning space inside. Except for this. Bo Kimble couldn’t shoot. He made 29% of his threes. He lasted 105 games. Only 9 lottery players in the 28 year lottery history have played fewer than 100 games. The next year, 1991, the #8 pick was Mark Macon, another guard who couldn’t shoot. He lasted 251 games.
In 1995 the Blazers drafted Shawn Respert, a shooting guard from Michigan State. He was the #8 pick in the draft lottery. He averaged 5 points and played in 172 NBA games. Nine years later, when Dwight Howard was drafted # 1, Toronto drafted a 6-11 center from BYU with the #8 pick. His name was Rafael Araujo. He played in 139 games. He averaged 3 points and 2 rebounds and played 3 NBA seasons. In 2008 the Milwaukee Bucks drafted Joe Alexander from West Virginia with the #8 pick. He had a 67 game career. In lottery history only 3 players played less games than Joe Alexander. (Alexsander Radojevic played in 15 games; Yaroslav Korolev played in 34 games, Mouhamed Sene played in 42 games).
NBA scouts are paid to make sure players like Randy White and Mark Macon and Joe Alexander are not in the draft lottery but are second round picks. So part of the blame is not on the player; he is what he is. But the error falls onto the organizations who missed and missed badly. When the Mavericks selected Randy White at #8 they could have taken Shawn Kemp who was not drafted until #17. Instead of drafting Bo Kimble, the Clippers could have drafted Dee Brown who played in six times as many NBA games than Bo Kimble. Instead of Marc Macon the Nuggets could have selected Terrell Brandon who made an All Star team. Imagine if Toronto had taken Al Jefferson instead of Rafael Araujo. Boston would not have had the trading piece to acquire Kevin Garnett. Or if Milwaukee had selected Nicolas Batum instead of Joe Alexander, they may be in a different place now.
In the history of the draft lottery only one player drafted at #8 has made the All Star team. Vin Baker was a 6-11 power forward who was drafted by Milwaukee and played there for four years and then was traded to Seattle and played for George Karl. In his first five years he missed 4 games. He was All-NBA two years in a row. He was an All-Star four years in a row. When he was traded to Seattle the pressure to match and exceed the triumphs of Shawn Kemp was too much for Vin Baker and he developed an alcohol crutch in order to cope with the stress. It impacted the consistency of his career. Still, even as he played for six teams his career average was 15 points and 7 rebounds.
Lottery players selected #8 have not been All-Stars. But many have not been busts. Most are in the middle. Role players or average contributors or specialists who are unworthy of what a lottery pick implies: a talent with the potential to be an All Star, a player who can be the best or second best player on a championship team. In 1989 George McCloud was the #8 pick. He played in 766 games. His best year was in 1995-96 when he averaged 19 points a game for Dallas. Larry Hughes was drafted #8 in 1998 and was a shooting guard whose reputation was as a perimeter defender. In 2003-04 he averaged 19 points a game for the Wizards. The next year he averaged 22 points a game. The next year he averaged 16. He would play in 727 games and averaged 14 points over his career which was cut short due to injuries. Rudy Gay was the # 8 pick in 2004. He has underachieved for most of his career but his numbers are eye catching: 18 points and 6 rebounds. His basketball i.q. is what is most often questioned. When he leaves a team they suddenly get better. He can never be the best player on a team or even the second best player.
One All-Star in 28 years of lottery selections is abysmal. It is the players who cannot live up to the billing. It is the organization who expects something that can never be delivered. Because it happens year after year, decade after decade, both are to blame and at the end of the day blame doesn’t matter. You only have one chance to get it right. So far, teams picking 8th in the draft lottery have been wrong almost all of the time.