As LeBron James continues his unprecedented NBA journey, it seems like an appropriate time to do the definitive redraft of the 2003 NBA Draft. Along with the 1984 and 1996 drafts, the 2003 draft has a legitimate claim as the best draft class ever, producing four surefire Hall of Fame players and a number of high-end role players — but also producing arguably the biggest bust ever.
Original pick: LeBron James, Saint Vincent-Saint Mary High School
This pick was a no-brainer the night of the lottery, the night of the draft and every single day thereafter — a perpetual no-brainer and an appropriate anecdote for LeBron James’ entire career. In his 15th season, he is playing the best basketball of his life and in the midst of probably the best playoff performance in NBA history. James is the obvious redraft choice here for both his game-to-game ceiling as well as his inhuman longevity. Even if Cavaliers fans knew he would break up with them on national television and leave them for four years, they’d still want LeBron here. They’d be dumb not to.
Original pick: Darko Milicic, Serbia
The most amazing part about the Pistons selecting one of the biggest busts in NBA history is not that every other pick in the top five became a future Hall of Famer — it was that the Pistons won the championship that year . Wade is the redraft pick here over Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony because his peak was higher. Wade could be the best player on a championship team whereas Bosh and Anthony at their respective peaks could not. Even though the Pistons already had Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton and a need at small forward at the time, Wade was simply a better player than Anthony, and you don’t draft based upon “need” with the No. 2 pick of the draft.
Original pick: Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse
The Nuggets would run it back with Carmelo Anthony at pick No. 3. Anthony immediately made the Nuggets a playoff team and later led the team to within two wins of an NBA Finals appearance in 2008-09. Drafting Carmelo means that you are getting a 10-time All-Star who will get your team 25-30 points and six to seven rebounds per game for most of his career. Hindsight being 20-20, the Nuggets probably don’t trade for Allen Iverson early in Anthony’s career and, instead, try to get him a Chauncey Billups-type point guard earlier in his career.
Original pick: Chris Bosh, Georgia Tech
Although he took a little longer to develop into a star and played a secondary role during his prime, Chris Bosh was an incredible basketball player. Selecting Bosh gives your franchise a cornerstone player who was capable of playing high-level offense and elite defense. The Raptors run it back with Bosh and, while we’re revising history, draft LaMarcus Aldridge or Brandon Roy instead of Andrea Bargnani with the top pick of the 2006 draft.
Original pick: Dwyane Wade, Marquette
The poor Heat are the biggest victim of the redraft as they lose out on drafting Wade and end up with David West. This, of course, is no disrespect to West. The power forward is a two-time All-Star and still gets minutes for the Warriors as a role player in 2018. West would have been a super-Udonis Haslem for the Miami Heat.
Original pick: Chris Kaman, Central Michigan
Josh Howard had a peculiar career that abruptly ended in the middle of his prime with an ACL injury and some “medicinal” problems. In his best season, he averaged 20 points and seven rebounds per game and was a solid defender. If you played his career out 10 times, he likely blossoms into a five-time All-Star more often than not.
Original pick: Kirk Hinrich, Kansas
Kirk Hinrich also saw his numbers take a significant dip during his prime but for different reasons than Josh Howard. Hinrich averaged 17 points and six assists as a 26-year old but was moved to the bench two years later when the Bulls won the 2008 lottery (despite having the ninth-worst odds) and drafted Derrick Rose. Thus, even though his statistics are less impressive than a guy like Mo Williams, anyone who saw Hinrich before the Rose era knows that he was an above-average starting point guard who distributed the ball well and played hard on both ends of the floor.
Original pick: T.J. Ford, Texas
At his best, when he was in shape, Boris Diaw was somewhat similar to Nikola Jokic. His vision and feel for the game were unique for a big man. Although they needed a point guard, drafting Diaw would have given the Bucks a high post distributor to set up shots for Michael Redd.
Original pick: Michael Sweetney, Georgetown
Not the sexiest pick for the Knicks, but Chris Kaman was an above-average center in the NBA during his prime and even made an All-Star team in 2010. The Knicks would take that over what they got out of Sweetney.
Original pick: Jarvis Hayes, Georgia
Kyle Korver ended up being everything the Wizards hoped for in Jarvis Hayes and then some. Drafting Korver means your team gets one of the top three-point assassins in NBA history and a tireless worker and consummate teammate.
Original pick: Mickael Pietrus, France
Having just lost Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, the 2003-04 Warriors had a dearth of scoring. Enter Mo Williams. Whether he was a sixth man, point guard or shooting guard, Williams could always be counted on to get buckets but still adequately distribute, averaging 13 points and five assists per game in his 13-year career.
Original pick: Nick Collison, Kansas
The Brazilian Blur gets drafted by the SuperSonics? This would have been perfect. At his best, Barbosa was an elite sixth man who constantly kept opponents on their heels with his speed and efficient shooting. What if a team like the Supersonics handed him the keys to the offense early in his career?
Original pick: Marcus Banks, Nevada
Speaking of speed, before his scary spinal injury suffered toward the end of his rookie season, T.J. Ford was one of the faster players in the NBA. Although he had a solid five-year run after the injury, without his high-end speed the flaws in his game (namely, his shooting) were exposed, and he was out of the league by 28. The Grizzlies pick Ford here assuming that his career plays out a little differently without the injury.
Original pick: Luke Ridnour, Oregon
Because they redrafted a non-traditional point guard at No. 12 in Barbosa, the SuperSonics settle on a versatile small forward who could make up for some of their playmaking deficiencies and select Marquis Daniels. Daniels, who went undrafted in 2003 and signed with the Mavericks late in November, played so well in 56 games that he made Second Team All-Rookie.
Original pick: Reece Gaines, Louisville
Mickael Pietrus spent two of his best years as a three-and-D wing with the Magic, helping them reach the NBA Finals in 2009. His frame and skill set (think Robert Covington) were a little ahead of his time, but he would have been a coveted role player in today's NBA. The Magic grab him at No. 15 to help lighten Tracy McGrady's burden as the only legitimate wing on the roster.
Original pick: Troy Bell, Boston College
Armed with picks 16 and 20, the Boston Celtics desperately needed a point guard to get their franchise player, Paul Pierce, easy looks. Instead of taking a huge swing and miss (via trade) on Marcus Banks, they smarten up and take the steady and efficient Jose Calderon out of Spain. Calderon's pass-first mentality (averaged eight-pluse assists four different seasons) and spot-up shooting (career 41 percent from three) would have played right into Pierce's strengths as a scorer and playmaker.
Original pick: Zarko Cabarkapa, Serbia
In all reality, the notoriously cheap Jerry Colangelo probably would have traded this pick for cash in the redraft. Since we're operating in a hypothetical, let's say he keeps the pick and takes a bruising, defensive-oriented center to help protect his young star forwards Amar'e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion. This draft was pre-Mike D'Antoni, so Kendrick Perkins still would have fit in with the Suns' plans at the time.
Original pick: David West, Xavier
With David West going No. 5 in the redraft, the New Orleans Hornets take the next closest thing to him: Udonis Haslem. Like West, Haslem was an undersized, gritty big man with a nice pick-andppop jump shot. Like West, Haslem probably would have a needed a couple of years to develop and would have had a breakout season with the arrival of Chris Paul in 2005. Tough trade-off for the Hornets, but at least they recoup about 75 percent of what West gave them in Haslem.
Original pick: Sasha Pavlovic, Montenegro
Instead of catching the back end of the "Jail Blazers" era, the aptly named Travis Outlaw gets scooped up by the Jazz in the 2003 redraft. The Jazz were deep at the wing position in 2003, so Outlaw would have been allowed to develop at an appropriate pace for a player coming out of high school. By the time Deron Williams was handed the keys to the offense, the Jazz would have had quite the roster with two top-end athletes (Andrei Kirilenko and Outlaw) at wing and two gifted big men (Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur).
Original pick: Dahntay Jones, Duke
Instead of ending up with Marcus Banks and Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics come away with Jose Calderon and Nick Collison. While it's not the ridiculous haul today's Celtics fans are used to, they definitely benefit from hindsight in the redraft. Collison brings a steadying presence to a team was anything but during the early to mid-2000s. In retrospect, having Ricky Davis, Vin Baker, Antoine Walker, Delonte West, etc., cycle through your roster probably wasn't the smartest thing in the world.
Original pick: Boris Diaw, France
Getting Luke Ridnour instead of Boris Diaw seems like a bad trade-off for the Hawks, but people forget that Atlanta traded Diaw as a throw-in in the Joe Johnson sign-and-trade in 2005. Thus, Ridnour is a nice pick here as he brings a pass-first mentality to a team with a number of shoot-first players like Jason Terry and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Original pick: Zoran Planinic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Know what would have been hell for opposing teams' guards? Going up against Jason Kidd for 35-40 minutes a game and then having a "psycho competitor" who isn't afraid to throw hands at anyone back Kidd up for the other 10 minutes. Drafting a backup point guard here may seem like a reach, but this is a case where it's better to draft based upon "need" over "talent."
Original pick: Travis Outlaw, Starkville High School
The Blazers were in need of a wing who could contribute a little quicker than Outlaw, who only played eight games in 2003-04. That way, they could have moved off of some of the wild cards they were employing at the time like Ruben Patterson, Bonzi Wells, Darius Miles and Qyntel Woods. Enter Jarvis Hayes. Hayes' career got off to a nice start, making the All-Rookie Team and averaging 10 points per game his first two seasons. Injuries derailed his career a bit, but when healthy, he was a solid NBA wing.
Original pick: Brian Cook, Illinois
The Lakers ended up drafting Luke Walton at No. 32, so why not just take him here in the redraft? At his peak, Walton averaged 11 points, five rebounds and four assists per game and was an ideal role player next to Kobe Bryant. Anything is better at 24 than the tease that was the sweet-shooting big, Brian Cook.
Original pick: Carlos Delfino, Argentina
Although it would have been more appropriate at No. 25, something tells me that the Pistons still would not have selected Darko Milicic here (eye roll emoji). Instead, they run it back and take Carlos Delfino again. This time around, however, they make sure that Larry Brown actually develops him and gives him playing time early in his career (if there's one thing Larry Brown won't stand for, it's foreign-born rookies). Delfino had a nice career as an early three-and-D wing once he left Detroit.
Original pick: Ndudi Ebi, Westbury Christian High School
Considering the T-Wolves got absolutely nothing out of Ndudi Ebi, any type of contributor would have helped them in the redraft. How about Willie Green? While he was never anything flashy, he scrapped his way through 12 years in the NBA, averaging at least 14.5 per game minutes in every season. Ebi, if you were wondering, played in only 19 career games.
Original pick: Kendrick Perkins, Clifton J. Ozen High School
Raise your hand if you thought Zaza Pachulia would be one of the last players standing from this draft class? Yeah, me neither. The Grizzlies, who traded Kendrick Perkins in a deal to get Troy Bell, could have used a tenacious, mean big man like Pachulia to protect a young Pau Gasol.
Original pick: Leandro Barbosa, Brazil
Somebody had to take a risk on Darko Milicic — why not give Gregg Popovich a shot at developing the then-17-year-old Serbian prodigy? Even though he barely played in his league overseas, scouts were enamored with Milicic's potential and tossed out all kinds of lofty NBA comparisons after watching him dominate a workout versus a chair and some cones in an empty gym . Instead of going to a Finals contender with a notoriously stubborn head coach in Larry Brown, Milicic gets to develop and learn from Tim Duncan while being freed from the burden as the No. 2 pick in the redraft. There's a good chance his career turns out much differently in the redraft scenario.
Original pick: Josh Howard, Wake Forest
The Mavericks conclude the first round of the 2003 redraft by selecting the Red Mamba, Matt Bonner. Bonner would have fit in well as a sweet-shooting big man off the bench for the Mavericks. He shot an absurd 41 percent on three-pointers over the course of his 12-year career.