Life couldn’t have been easy for James Earl Ray (the basketball player) growing up with that name in the South in the 1960s. After all, that name is associated most often with the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. While I won’t exploit that coincidence, I won’t ignore it either. After being named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Ray was taken by the Denver Nuggets with the 5th overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, he failed to live up to expectations and tallied only 334 points and 228 rebounds in 103 career games (i.e. 3.2 ppg and 2.2 rpg). As an underperforming high draft pick, James Ray begins the countdown of Top 10 NBA Draft Busts at #10 on the list.
Oscar Robertson arguably was one of the top five or ten players in NBA history with extraordinary talent as a scorer, rebounder and passer. As an indication of his all-around ability, he is the only player to have averaged a triple double for an entire season. Less well known, but perhaps even more impressive, was his achievement of averaging double digit points, rebounds and assists over the first five years of his career. As an aside for stat junkies, he was 0.05 rebounds per game away from doing it through his first six seasons. For as incredible as Robertson’s “triple-double season” was, however, it might be overrated. To start, the infrequency of triple doubles today (on average, one occurs every 36 games) skews our perspective of it. Furthermore, the concept didn’t exist until five years after his retirement so the accomplishment was the product of retroactive data mining. If the NBA had recognized the stat in the 1960s, who knows how many triple doubles Robertson would have recorded. Then again, who knows how many other players (e.g. Wilt Chamberlain) would have had as well.
Heading into the 2018 NBA Draft, the prohibitive favorite as the #1 pick is Arizona’s Deandre Ayton. From there, the likely #2 to #4 picks are Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson and international phenom Luka Doncic, respectively. Despite any excitement surrounding these players, the free agency of LeBron James and trade request by Kawhi Leonard will dominate fan interest going into the 2018-19 NBA season. This year’s draft lacks a guaranteed superstar so each and every team should be willing to use their picks to get into the James/Leonard sweepstakes. I don’t have the foresight to predict all of the possible iterations so I’ll simply offer my 2018 NBA Mock Draft based on the current draft position of each team.