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Historic or Hysteric? A Look Inside the NBA's #6 Draft Pick

I'm not sure if you've heard, but the Sacramento Kings have been awarded the sixth pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Let's see how that might work out for them, shall we?

Jan Vesely was selected with the sixth pick of the 2011 draft. I bring this up for no real reason.
Jan Vesely was selected with the sixth pick of the 2011 draft. I bring this up for no real reason.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Good players can be found virtually anywhere in the draft lottery. Heck, great players can be found anywhere in the draft lottery. Hall of Fame players, though much harder to come by, can be found almost anywhere in the draft lottery. Certainly, the higher you pick, the greater the odds that you will land a good/great player. But a higher pick does not assure you that you will avoid a bust, and a lower pick is not a guarantee that your player will be bench fodder.

Let's take a look at the last twenty five years, first in handy-dandy chart form. "On the Horizon" denotes the players with the best shot of moving up the list, and some of them (Lillard, Paul, George) may already be sitting in the 2nd position).

Pick # Best Pick(Yr.) Next Best(Yr.) On the Horizon(Yr.) Worst Pick(Yr.)
1 L.James(03) T.Duncan(97) A.Davis(12) G.Oden(07)
2 A.Mourning(92) J.Kidd(94)/G.Payton(90) K.Durant(07) J.Williams(02)
3 C.Billups(97) P.Gasol(00) J.Harden(09) A.Morrison(06)
4 D.Mutombo(91) C.Paul(05) C.Paul(05) M.Fizer(00)
5 K.Garnett(95) D.Wade(03) D.Cousins(10) N.Tskitishvili(02)
6 B.Roy(06) D.Lillard(12) D.Lillard(12) D.Wagner(02)
7 S.Curry(09) R.Hamilton(99) J.Randle(14) B.Hurley(93)
8 R.Gay(06) A.Miller(99) B.Knight(11) J.Alexander(08)
9 D.Nowitzki(98) T.McGrady(97) G.Hayward(10) P.O'Bryant(06)
10 P.Pierce(98) P.George(10) P.George(10) S.Sene(06)
11 A.Houston(93) T.Hill(90) K.Thompson(11) F.Vazquez(05)
12 V.Radmanovich(01) T.Young(07) S.Adams(13) A.Radojevic(98)
13 K.Bryant(96) D.Davis(91) Mk.Morris(12)/K.Olynyk(13) M.Haislip(02)
14 P.Stojakovic(96) T.Murphy(01) THIS SPACE AVAILABLE S.Haskin(93)

OK, that #1 pick can be pretty nice. I mean, when either LeBron or Duncan is the 2nd best pick at that position and Shaq falls to the cutting room floor, that's some nice talent. As great as Anthony Davis is/will become, he will have to be a generational talent to even have a chance at displacing either of those guys. (Note: If anyone wants to make a case for Duncan over James, you'll get little argument out of me - they are both the best players of their respective generations, and I have not forgotten about Kobe Bryant.)

The 2002 draft was pretty crazy. The #2, #5, #6 and #13 picks were the worst at their respective slots over this 25 year period. Meanwhile, Yao Ming (1) had a Hall of Fame career, and Mike Dunleavy (3), Drew Gooden (4), Nene (7), Amar'e Stoudemire (9), Caron Butler (10), Jared Jeffries (11), Tayshaun Prince (23), John Salmons (26), Roger Mason (30), Dan Gadzuric (33), Carlos Boozer (34), Matt Barnes (45) and Rasul Butler (52) all punched out careers of ten years or longer. This draft is the poster child for "nobody knows anything" when it comes to draft prospect prognostications.

Best pick ever when you consider the talent and the draft slot: Kobe Bryant at #13. Sometimes a team goes out and makes its own luck.

Worst pick: Way too many to choose from. There have been more than a few burned #1 picks, from Oden to Michael Olowokandi to Kwame Brown. Morrison and Tskitishvili are really bad. But I'll go with Fran Vazquez, the only lottery pick over this period to never set foot on an NBA floor. It wasn't a franchise crushing pick, but there were fourteen players selected after Vazquez that were still playing in the NBA this season, including the likes of Danny Granger, David Lee, Monta Ellis, Lou Williams and Marcin Gortat.

As the Kings have secured the #6 pick in the 2015 NBA draft, let's focus on that.

Year Pick
1990 Felton Spencer(Min)
1991 Doug Smith(Dal)
1992 Tom Gugliotta(Was)
1993 Calbert Cheaney(Was)
1994 Sharone Wright(Phl)
1995 Bryant Reeves(Van/Mem)
1996 Antoine Walker(Bos)
1997 Ron Mercer(Bos)
1998 Robert Traylor(Dal)
1999 Wally Szczerbiak(Min)
2000 DeMarr Johnson(Atl)
2001 Shane Battier(Mem)
2002 DuJuan Wagner(Cle)
2003 Chris Kaman(LAC)
2004 Josh Childress(Atl)
2005 Martell Webster(Por)
2006 Brandon Roy(Min)
2007 Yi Jianlian(Mil)
2008 Danilo Gallinari(NYK)
2009 Jonny Flynn(Min)
2010 Ekpe Udoh(GS)
2011 Jan Vesely(Was)
2012 Damian Lillard(Por)
2013 Nerlens Noel(NO)
2014 Marrcus Smart(Bos)

It's about what you would expect, a mix of good, meh and ugly. Brandon Roy or Damian Lillard? Yes, please. Yi Jianlian or Jonny Flynn? Not so much. But such is the tenuous nature of the draft in general, amplified as you get farther and farther away from the #1 pick. Flynn was seen by many as being a fine player, certainly not one that would pretty much wash out of the league. Guys like DeJuan Wagner and DeMarr Johnson were knocked off by injuries and bad luck. On the other hand, Roy (traded on draft day essentially for Randy Foye) is the gold standard for the #6 slot, at least until fellow Trailblazer Damian Lillard wrests the crown from him.

As it pertains to the Kings prospects for mining a good prospect this year, let's take a look at the six best 1st round players from each of the last ten reviewable drafts (meaning that we won't review 2013 and 2014, as it is way too soon to make that call...even 2012 is on the edge of the envelope). Oh, and the rankings of these players is 100% subjective and eye test approved, so feel free to tear into it.

2003: L.James(1), D.Wade(5), C.Anthony(3), C.Bosh(4), D.West(18), B.Diaw(21). A player like Diaw would be an OK pick up, though far short of the five players above him.

2004: D.Howard(1), L.Deng(7), A.Iguodala(9), E.Okafor(2), A.Jefferson(15), K.Martin(26). Or include Josh Smith, Jameer Nelson or Ben Gordon if you so desire. This draft had a ton of available talent at #6, though not franchise-altering talent.

2005: C.Paul(4), D.Williams(3), D.Granger(17), D.Lee(30), A.Bogut(1), M.Williams(2). Or Nate Robinson or Jarrett Jack or Francisco Garcia or Raymond Felton or Jason Maxiell. You get a player at #6 here, but nothing to do back flips over.

2006: L.Aldridge(2), B.Roy(6), R.Rondo(21), K.Lowry(24), R.Gay(8), J.Redick(11). A pleasant reminder of two all-star point guards that were selected after Quincy Douby...but I digress. After Redick, you're looking at Andrea Bargnani. So again, you get help here at #6, but not an elite player.

2007: K.Durant(2), A.Horford(3), J.Noah(9), M.Conley(4), J.Green(5), T.Young(12). Pretty much the same script here, as you get help but not fireworks. A lot of good role players left on the board, too: Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, Tiago Splitter, Corey Brewer, Jared Dudley, etc.

2008: R.Westbrook(4), D.Rose(1), K.Love(5), S.Ibaka(17), B.Lopez(10), N.Batum(25). Or feel free to add Roy Hibbert, Danilo Gallinari, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, or Ryan Anderson to the list. This is probably the strongest draft of this bunch so far, and a guy like Batum would be a huge get for the Kings at #6.

2009: S.Curry(7), J.Harden(3), B.Griffin(1), T.Lawson(18), J.Teague(19), D.DeRozan(9). Or Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison, Taj Gibson or DeMarre Carroll. Another draft where a very, very good player can be had at #6. And yes, the Kings got hosed in the lottery that year. And yes, they still could have had Steph Curry.

2010: J.Wall(1), P.George(10), D.Cousins(5), G.Hayward(9), D.Favors(3), G.Monroe(7). Eric Bledsoe misses the cut for me, but others might have him as high as fourth on this list, and that's fine, too. Also, I've ranked these guys based on their careers to date. If these guys were all in the draft today with George's recent injuries, Cousins (and perhaps others) vault him. Bottom line, you get a very good player here at #6, be it Monroe or Favors or Bledsoe.

2011: K.Leonard(15)...grumble, grumble, grumble...J.Butler(30), K.irving(1), K.Thompson(11), K.Walker(9), K.Faried(22). Or Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Brandon Knight, Nikola Vucevic, Markieff Morris, Iman Shumpert, Nikola Mirotic, Reggie Jackson. Sigh. What a horrific draft this was for the Kings. But for the purpose of this exercise, a good to very good player could be had at #6.

2012: A.Davis(1), D.Lillard(6), A.Drummond(9), B.Beal(3), M.Kidd-Gilchrist(2), T.Jones(18). I'm a bit of a Terrence Jones fan boy, so no offense taken if you prefer Harrison Barnes or Jared Sullinger. This list is bound to shift a bit over the next few years (though probably not at the #1 and #2 slots). At this point, a good-but-not-great player can be had at #6.

Recapping the inventory of #6 players: Boris Diaw, Kevin Martin, Marvin Williams, J.J. Redick, Thaddeus Young, Nicolas Batum, Demar DeRozan, Greg Monroe, Kenneth Faried and Terrence Jones. Overall, a list of helpful players, most of whom would be among the top five players on the current Kings roster.

We can kind of see an overall valuation coming into shape when we look at the actual #6 picks over the years and the best six players from the ten drafts that we reviewed here. The #6 slot seems to be a place where good players exist, and on rare occasion, extraordinary players. But tire fires also rage all around - the #6 pick is far from a sure thing. This is the backdrop from which offers will come to the Kings, and the backdrop from which the Kings will determine whether to consider or reject such overtures.

Based on current prognostications, the Kings could be looking at such players available at #6 as Justise Winslow, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kristaps Porzingis, Mario Hezonja and Stanley Johnson. Some of these guys could vault into the top four, which would mean that others would fall. Other players such as Frank Kaminsky or Myles Turner or others could make a statement at their workouts. This is the mine field that the Kings must traverse, figuring out if there is a player on their list that they simply have to have, or if there is a trade offer on the table that is simply too good to ignore.

For me, I see a lot of potential talent at #6, and I'd be happy with several of these prospects. But none of them have my heart fluttering to the point that I would take the pick off of the trade table. Time is of the essence for the Kings. While that does not mean that it's time for an act of desperation, it does mean that all roads should be open as it pertains to the utilization of the #6 draft pick.