AP Sports Writer
In honor of Thursday night's NBA draft, The Associated Press takes a look at the best and worst all-time picks for each of the league's 30 franchises.
The starting point for this exercise was 1966, when the territorial pick system went away and the draft began to look more like it does today. We're judging picks not on how sensible they seemed at the time, but on how much they ended up being worth to the selecting team -- taking into account where each pick was in the draft and who else was available.
When it came to trades, we tried to use common sense, crediting whichever team was actually making the selection.
Best Value: Doc Rivers, No. 31 pick, 1983. Plenty of teams passed on Rivers, who was part of a draft that also included talented point guards Derek Harper and Darrell Walker. Rivers played eight solid seasons in Atlanta.
Worst Value: DerMarr Johnson, No. 6, 2000. The second Cincinnati product to go in the top six that year behind No. 1 pick Kenyon Martin, Johnson played two seasons with Atlanta before breaking his neck in a car crash. After missing the entire 2002-03 season, he was able to play again in the NBA -- but his career with the Hawks was over.
Best Value: Larry Bird, No. 6, 1978. Red Auerbach drafted Bird in the first round even though it would be another year before the Indiana State star became a professional. Worth the wait, to say the least.
Worst Value: Chauncey Billups, No. 3, 1997. The most tragic pick for the Celtics was Len Bias, whose death shortly after the 1986 draft transcended the game, but in terms of mismanagement, Boston's handling of the third pick in '97 probably still stings a bit. Billups was a perfectly reasonable pick, but he had not even played a full season before the Celtics traded the future Finals MVP for Kenny Anderson.
Best Value: Buck Williams, No. 3, 1981. Williams is still the franchise's career scoring leader thanks to an impressive eight-year run in New Jersey.
Worst Value: Dennis Hopson, No. 3, 1987. The No. 3 pick wasn't as kind a few years later. Hopson played only five seasons in the NBA, three with the Nets.
Best Value: Emeka Okafor, No. 2, 2004. This young franchise has never picked No. 1 overall. Okafor gave Charlotte five solid seasons before being traded to New Orleans.
Worst Value: Adam Morrison, No. 3, 2006. Morrison averaged 11.8 points as a rookie, but a knee injury cost him the whole 2007-08 season and he was traded in 2009.
Best Value: Michael Jordan, No. 3, 1984. No surprise here -- and we'll have plenty more on the '84 draft a little later.
Worst Value: Jay Williams, No. 2, 2002. The Bulls were already running in place a bit after drafting Marcus Fizer in 2000 and Eddy Curry in 2001. Williams, the charismatic point guard from Duke, played only one season in the NBA before a career-ending motorcycle accident.
Best Value: LeBron James, No. 1, 2003. The Cavs won the NBA draft lottery, parlaying that good fortune into the selection of James, who single-handedly resurrected a flopping franchise. James led the Cavs on their most successful run -- five straight playoff appearances and a Finals trip in 2007. Obviously, this story took a dramatic, disappointing turn for Cleveland, but his seven years there will never be forgotten.
Worst Value: Dajuan Wagner, No. 6, 2002. One year before taking James, the Cavs went out on a limb and took the 19-year-old Wagner. It broke. He had a solid rookie season (13.4 ppg) but couldn't stay healthy and was released after three years.
Best Value: Dirk Nowitzki, No. 9, 1998. Milwaukee technically drafted Nowitzki, but that was part of a prearranged deal with Dallas. It was viewed as a risk because of the possibility Nowitzki might stay in Europe for a couple years, but he came to Dallas for that first season and quickly emerged as a star for the Mavs.
Worst Value: Bill Garnett, No. 4, 1982. Garnett averaged only 5.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in four seasons -- two with Dallas and two with Indiana. The first three picks in '82 were James Worthy, Terry Cummings and Dominique Wilkins.
Best Value: Carmelo Anthony, No. 3, 2003. The Nuggets had eight straight losing seasons before Anthony came on board. They went 43-39 in his first season, with Anthony averaging 21 points as a rookie. Denver made the playoffs seven straight seasons with Anthony leading the team before he was traded to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster 2011 deal.