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A Look Back at the 2002 Draft

June 24, 2003 Columns No Comments

A Look Back at the 2002 Draft

by Zach Van Hart

With the 2003 NBA Draft merely days away, it’s time to revisit how the First Round draft picks from the 2002 NBA Draft held up during their rookie seasons. To finish off, we will honor our choices for All Rookie Team and Rookie of the Year.

No. 1 Pick -Yao Ming, Houston Rockets

Not only did Yao turn into the international superstar the NBA was hoping for, he also produced a very successful season on the court. He finished the year averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, leading the team in both boards and rejections. He also proved to be a deft passer and has the potential to control a game on the inside.

No. 2 – Jay Williams, Chicago Bulls

The former Duke guard had a so-so rookie year, which is all but forgotten now, as the question of Williams’ healthy is all that matters. After his motorcycle accident last week, the speculation is he will miss all of the 2003-04 season and possibly could never play again. Last year he averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 assists per game, but seemed uncomfortable at times in the Bulls’ triangle offense. Only time will tell how he recovers from his injuries.

No. 3 – Mike Dunleavy, Golden State Warriors

The other former Dukie showed some signs of hope with limited playing time during 2002-03. The small forward played nearly sixteen minutes a game, averaging 5.7 points and 2.6 rebounds. At times he appeared to be lost and every bit of his 22 years of age, at others he gave the appearance of a seasoned veteran. Like Williams, he is on a young team and factors to be a big part of the Warriors for years to come.

No. 4 – Drew Gooden, Memphis Grizzlies

Started the season with the Grizz, before a late-season trade sent him to the Orlando Magic. Gooden played a solid season with Memphis, but he then cranked it up a notch with the Magic. He started all but one of the nineteen regular season games he started with Orlando, then started every game of the team’s first round playoff series against Detroit. Showed he can score inside or out and his ability to rebound. Averaged fourteen points and 12.7 rebounds against defensive juggernaut Ben Wallace during the playoffs.

No. 5 – Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Denver Nuggets

Last year’s first European player selected played in all but one game all season, starting eighteen. Struggled with his shot most of the season coming off the bench, as well as on the glass. Tskitishvili averaged 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, while shooting only 29.3 percent from the field during the year.

No. 6 – Dajuan Wagner, Cleveland Cavaliers

Looked promising during the 47 games he played in before injuries cut short his season. Only a year removed from playing in high school, Wagner averaged 13.4 points per game and showed the same explosiveness he did during his freshman year at Memphis. Will likely share the backcourt duties with soon-to-be Cav LeBron James. Continued work on his jump shot and staying healthy will be the keys for Wagner next year.

No. 7 – Nene Hilario, New York Knicks

This Brazilian was traded to the Nuggets on draft night and turned into a pleasant surprise and an inside force for Denver. Hilario started 53 games, averaging 10.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. He showed his ability to score effectively, shooting 51 percent from the field, along with his quickness; ranking sixteenth in the NBA with 127 steals on the season. Could very well end up being the player Denver builds around underneath. (Or at least one of two players, hint hint Carmelo.)

No. 8 – Chris Wilcox, L.A. Clippers

Did not get much PT on the talented but like usual troubled Clippers. Also suffered from nagging injuries all season, forcing him to play in only 46 games during the year. The former Maryland power forward figures to see more playing time this season when the team will likely clear house. For the year, Wilcox averaged 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

No. 9 – Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns

Stoudemire was easily the steal of the 2002 Draft. He won Rookie of the Year honors, averaging 13.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He was a force inside, towering over his opponents for thunderous dunks and offensive rebounds. The only high schooler drafted a year ago, he ranked sixth in the league in offensive rebounds. Held his own against the NBA’s best big men and looks like a future All-Star.

No. 10 – Caron Butler, Miami Heat

Played the entire season proving wrong all the teams who passed on him. He led all rookies in scoring, netting 15.4 points per game. The former UConn forward also displayed his all-around ability, grabbing 5.1 boards per game and ranking seventh in the NBA in steals, averaging 1.8 swipes per contest. Would have been the Rookie of the Year if not for Stoudemire and is already one of the leaders for the Heat.

No. 11 – Jared Jeffries, Washington Wizards

Former IU forward saw his rookie season cut short after tearing his right ACL during late December. Jeffries played in only 20 games all year, averaging four points and 2.9 rebounds per contest. Was an effective scorer during his limited playing time, shooting 47.6 percent from the field. Looks to be back for the start of next year.

No. 12 – Melvin Ely, L.A. Clippers

Like his rookie companion Wilcox, Ely struggled through an injury-riddled first year, which was coupled with playing for the Clippers. The former Fresno State big man averaged 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game and was a legitimate scoring threat when he got a chance to touch the ball. Has a big upside, hopefully he will get a chance to develop his ability for a team with a chance at winning.

No. 13 – Marcus Haislip, Milwaukee Bucks

After playing very little during most of the regular season, Haislip played significant minutes down the stretch for the Bucks. He also started Game 1 of the club’s First Round playoff series against the Nets. The former Tennessee big man averaged 4.1 points and 1.4 boards during the year, while only playing in 39 games.

No. 14 – Fred Jones, Indiana Pacers

Never found his way into the Pacers rotation and then sat out 26 of the final 28 games of the season with a knee injury. Jones only averaged 6.1 minutes per game and played in nineteen games all season. Still has the potential to be a factor for Indiana, but has yet to show it off.

No. 15 – Bostjan Nachbar, Houston Rockets

Nachbar rarely left the Houston bench last year, appearing in only fourteen games and playing barely more than five minutes each game he did play in. The Slovenia native had a difficult time adjusting to the NBA and maybe the head coach change will benefit Nachbar.

No. 16 – Jiri Welsch, Golden State Warriors

This Czech Republic native also never found himself in the regular rotation for the Warriors. He only appeared in 37 games on the season, averaging 6.3 minutes per contest. Could earn more playing time next season if Gilbert Arenas departs.

No. 17 – Juan Dixon, Washington Wizards

Dixon produced when he played, he just did not play all the time. The shooting guard for the 2002 National Champion Maryland Terrapins, Dixon averaged 6.4 points per game last season, while participating in 42 games. With you-know-who retired, expect to see more Dixon in 2003-04.

No. 18 – Curtis Borchardt, Orlando Magic

Was traded to Utah the night of the draft. Known as an injury-prone player during his career at Stanford, Borchardt broke his right foot before the season started and did not appear in one game all season. While the foot should be healed by next season, the Jazz have to wonder when the next time he gets hurt will be.

No. 19 – Ryan Humphrey, Utah Jazz

After being traded away to the Magic right away, he was then sent to Memphis as part of the Drew Gooden traded. Had similar numbers at both sites, averaging a little more than nine minutes a game. The former Notre Dame forward contributed when he played, averaging 1.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.

No. 20 – Kareem Rush, Toronto Raptors

Also traded away the night of the draft, Rush played significant minutes for the L.A. Lakers. The former Missouri guard played in 76 games during the regular season, then played in nine of the team’s twelve playoff games. He averaged three points during the regular season and 3.3 during the playoffs.

No. 21 – Qyntel Woods, Portland Trailblazers

Small forward saw limited action at the small forward position, while learning from Portland’s deep and veteran club. Woods played in 53 games, averaging 2.4 points per game.

No. 22 – Casey Jacobsen, Phoenix Suns

While Jacobsen did not produce a rookie season as prolific as his fellow teammate, he contributed solid play throughout the year. He averaged nearly sixteen minutes a game and scored 5.1 points per contest. He struggled somewhat with his outside shot, making only 31.5 percent of his attempts from downtown.

No. 23 – Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons

Prince had an interesting rookie year. He only appeared in 42 games and averaged merely 10.4 minutes and 3.3 points during the regular season. But during the playoffs, he became one of the Pistons’ marquee players. He played more than 25 minutes and averaged 9.4 points per game. He even started three of the team’s four Conference Finals games.

No. 24 – Nenad Krstic, New Jersey Nets

Krstic played the 2002-2003 season in Europe, honing his skills for the upcoming season. At 6-foot-11, Krstic figures to be the future at the center position for the Nets, especially with Dikembe Mutombo on the decline.

No. 25 – Frank Williams, Denver Nuggets

Traded away to the Knicks on draft night, Williams only appeared in 21 games during the season. Never found his way into the rotation, only averaging eight minutes per game when he did play. Will have to compete to get more playing time next season.

No. 26 – John Salmons, San Antonio Spurs

Another draft day trade away, Salmons was sent to Philadelphia where he played in 64 regular season games and six playoff games. The former Miami (FL) guard played 7.9 minutes per game and displayed a decent shot for a guard, making 41.4 percent of his shots from the field.

No. 27 – Chris Jefferies, L.A. Lakers

While hindered to 51 games because of injury, Jefferies proved to be a pleasant surprise at the bottom of the first round of the draft. The former Fresno State guard started ten games, averaged more than thirteen minutes and scored 3.9 points per game for the Raptors, who traded for Jefferies on you guessed it, draft day.

No. 28 – Dan Dickau, Sacramento Kings

Dickau, who was traded on draft day to Atlanta, played in 50 games for the Hawks. He missed a few games during the early going due to knee surgery, then played sparingly the rest of the way. Despite only playing 10.3 minutes per game, he averaged 1.7 assists.

All-Rookie Team

Yao Ming
Drew Gooden
Dajuan Wagner
Amare Stoudemire
Caron Butler

Rookie of the Year

Amare Stoudemire


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