But more than that, young players are always a crapshoot. Even ones that seem like “transcendent talents” in college, as Pelinka might say, might not have games that translate to the N.B.A., where the three-point line is farther, the players are bigger, and on-court schemes are more complex.
The vast majority of high draft picks don’t end up meeting their hype. This seems especially the case with second picks. (This statistical oddity has avoided the top draft pick: In the last 10 years, the first pick has yielded Ben Simmons, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, and John Wall: all exceptional players.)
In this decade alone, not a single No. 2 pick is with his original team. (This excludes Marvin Bagley, who was a rookie last year with the Sacramento Kings.) Evan Turner, drafted in 2010 by the Philadelphia 76ers, has been on three teams since then. He last started full-time in 2013 and has never made an All-Star team. Starting in 2011, Derrick Williams, drafted at No. 2 by the Minnesota Timberwolves, played six unremarkable seasons with six different teams and hasn’t played in the N.B.A. since 2018.
The only All-Star drafted this decade with the No. 2 pick was Victor Oladipo, selected in 2013 by the Orlando Magic. But it took five seasons and three teams to get there. The other No. 2 picks of the 2010s: Jabari Parker (2014, Milwaukee Bucks) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012, Charlotte Bobcats). Both are essentially role players — but Kidd-Gilchrist is at least still with his original team (now the Hornets).
The 2000s weren’t much better: There is one surefire Hall of Famer. Kevin Durant, drafted second behind Greg Oden in the 2007 draft by the Seattle SuperSonics (R.I.P.). LaMarcus Aldridge — a University of Texas alum like Durant — was picked at second the year before Durant by the Bulls before being traded to the Portland Trailblazers. He’s a seven-time All Star who will likely make the Hall of Fame too.
The other names of the decade, however, are a Who’s Who of underachievers and busts, like Swift and Milicic. One had a promising career derailed by a serious injury: Williams. Some became solid contributors, but not stars: Marvin Williams (2005, Atlanta Hawks), Emeka Okafor (2004, Bobcats) and Michael Beasley (2008, Miami Heat). Tyson Chandler (2001, Bulls) won defensive player of the year in 2012 and made the All-Star team the year after.
This is a marked shift from the 1990s. Take a swing through some of these names: Gary Payton (1990, Supersonics), Alonzo Mourning (1992, Hornets) and Jason Kidd (1994, Dallas Mavericks) are all in the Hall of Fame.