While it doesn’t carry as much significance as the NFL Draft in terms of shaping a franchise, the NBA Draft more frequently provides those crucial pieces to push teams from mediocrity to that next level. With the influx of high school kids jumping to the League and teams not doing enough homework, there were a number of players who wound up being steals after opting for the cash instead of calculus.
Likewise, the International influx that hit the League over the last decade also yielded teams a number of diamonds in the rough (as well as Nikoloz Tskitivili’s and Darko Milicic’s) due to small International scouting budgets in the early 2000’s. There’s also the collegiate player who may not have the picture perfect J, ideal height, or athleticism for the League.
Michael Redd to Milwaukee with the 43rd pick in 2000, Gilbert Arenas with the 31st pick in 2001, Mo Williams 47th ’03, Kevin Martin 26th 2004, and Monta Ellis 40th in 2005 were all outstanding draft picks for their respective teams. But they all had one common denominator: They didn’t win (until Mo joined Bron & Co.). In a game where the ultimate goal is to be hoisting the trophy at the end of the year, this made our decision pretty easy.
And the winner of the best draft pick of the last decade is: Tony Parker.
Playing for a bottom of the barrel team in France’s Pro A league, Parker wasn’t exactly killing like fellow Euro playmaker Ricky Rubio. However, he showed some nice tools and had a great showing at the 2000 Nike Hoop Summit in Indy, where he gave the business to Omar Cook to the tune of 20 points and 7 assists. That game was enough to get him on the NBA radar he saw himself get snagged with the 28th and final pick of the 2001 NBA Draft just after his 19th birthday.
Initially, Parker spent the early portion of his rookie campaign backing up journeyman Antonio Daniels as the team’s lead man. But the Spurs’ brass saw early on that the third French player ever to get drafted had some serious game. TP was made the starter by the all-star break and the rest is history.
With career averages of a pedestrian 16.7 points and 5.6 assists per game, one may question this pick with the star studded guys that were mentioned earlier in the piece. In a league where the point guard is often the catalyst for the team’s entire foundation, Parker came in and did more than the stat sheet can even begin to possibly show. He got his first NBA Finals crown before he was able to legally have a beer, showing unparalleled leadership at such a young age.
Eight playoff appearances in eight years, three All-Star games, and three rings later, this is a no-brainer for best pick of the decade. The Spurs could have opted for the more highly touted Omar Cook or the seasoned veteran Earl Watson from UCLA, but decided to go with the slender kid from Paris and haven’t looked back one minute.
For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.