Bigger is better
Getting bigger in NBA Draft fastest way to get better
Posted: Wednesday June 30, 1999 03:48 PM
By Ryan Hunt, CNN/SI
Having the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft definitely is a good start to making a sizeable turnaround.
After all, of the last 33 teams that have made the first pick, 16 improved by at least 10 games the following season.
But perhaps the key word is sizeable.
Of the 16 No. 1 picks who have led their teams to a 10-game, one-year turnaround, only two were smaller than 6-foot-9 -- Philadelphia's Doug Collins (1974) and Milwaukee's Glenn Robinson (1994).
Then again, Collins' Sixers didn't have anywhere to go but up. Philly went 9-73 the season before Collins arrived, the worst record in NBA history, and improved to 25-57 in 1973-74.
But for the Chicago Bulls, the team holding the No. 1 pick this year, perhaps the notion that bigger is better is true -- the six biggest turnarounds were engineered by big men.
The Bulls can look no farther than this year's NBA champions as proof of that.
San Antonio built its powerhouse -- the Twin Towers -- by virtue of holding the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Spurs drafted both David Robinson and Tim Duncan with the top picks in 1987 and 1997, respectively.
Duncan led the Spurs to a 36-game turnaround in his rookie season, helped also by a once-again healthy Robinson. (Robinson played in only six games in San Antonio's 21-61 season in 1996-97). The 36-game improvement is the best of any top draft pick.
But Duncan's impact was even greater in his second year -- the Spurs won the NBA championship.
San Antonio selected Robinson in 1987. In Robinson's first season, which was in the '89-90 season after finishing his two-year Naval commitment, the Spurs won 56 games. The year prior to The Admiral's arrival, San Antonio won a mere 21 games for a 35-game turnaround.
Lew Alcindor is the only other No. 1 pick to lead his team to an improvement of more than 25 games. Alcindor, later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, helped the Bucks to a 28-game turnaround in 1969-70.
In the NBA Draft, though, 22 of the 33 No. 1 picks have been taller than 6-9. And not all have had instant success.
Portland's Mychal Thompson is at the opposite end of the impact spectrum. The Trail Blazers were 13 games worse in his first season, dropping from 58 wins to 45.
Neither Pervis Ellison nor Michael Olowokandi could pull the Kings or Clippers, respectively, out of their doldrums. Even in Patrick Ewing's first season, the Knicks were one game worse.
But more times than not, bigger has been better for NBA teams holding the No. 1 pick.
So, if history is any indication, the Bulls' best bet for immediate gratification would be Rhode Island's Lamar Odom.
Odom is, after all, the only prospect among the top five taller than 6-9.