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In his third year in the league, in which promising players often make brash leaps from benchwarmer to starter, from starter to star, Avery Bradley took a big step back. But his regression might be deceptive. When he returned to the Celtics’ lineup on January the 2nd after two in-season months recovering from offseason shoulder [...]
Here’s a question that is undoubtedly not keeping NBA observers up at night.
Last Overall, First Overall. We May Have A Sitcom Here.
But it should be of primary interest to Boston Celtics fans – except they’re not paying attention to it either.
This question, of course, is:
Is Semih Erden Destined To Become The Greatest Last Overall Draft Pick In NBA History?
Certainly, it’s awfully early to make any kind of bold proclamation about Erden’s place in the game’s legacy. The Turk has only played 31 games in his fledgling NBA career, all of them on a bad shoulder, while learning a new language, for a coach notorious for his unwillingness to give rookies major burn.
Which is why Erden is so awesome.
Because he’s already making a strong case for himself as one of the greatest talents to come out of the last position of any NBA draft ever. Assuming you’ll take my proclamation at face value, you can safely nod your agreement and skip down to the previous article.
But if you’re one of those pesky types that requires “evidence”, then come join me after the jump.
The 6’11″ Erden is averaging 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds a game, has increased his scoring average every month and looks increasingly like a guy who might find a way to put a career together as the second or third big off the bench. He looks – like a real NBA player.
But before we can complete our analysis, we must first conduct additional “research” and put Erden’s “competitors” into some sort of “palatable chart form.” Only once we’ve gone through that hassle can we safely discuss whether the Erden statue outside the TD Garden should tower majestically over the Red Auerbach statue, or merely dwarf it.
As you can see, we can safely disregard the vast majority of players selected at the end of the NBA Draft as their candidacies for G.O.A.T. are hampered by the fact they never actually played any NBA games. That leaves only a few candidates to seriously challenge Semih.
The big dogs here are Sean Higgins, he of the robust 6.3 points per game, and the durable Don Reid, who stuck around for 403 NBA games. Zeljko Rebraca brings more offensive firepower than Reid at 5.9 points per game, but comes off as little more than a poor man’s Higgins based on my facile but ultimately incontrovertible analysis. Still, we’ll keep all three in the running.
But what, you say, of the players drafted before 1988? Is there one there who may join the elite Higgins-Erden-Reid-Rebraca quartet?
The truth is that in the years before 1988, the total number of players selected in the NBA draft stretched upwards to over 200 selections in some years, making the final overall pick even more of a crapshoot than it is today. The vast, vast majority of these players were not NBA-worthy.
Possibly because they did not exist.
For example, there were 226 total players selected in the 1983 draft. The Celtics took Andy Kupec of Bentley College with pick #226. I can only assume that Celtics GM Auerbach, upon looking at the remaining talent pool, took a long puff of his cigar and made up a name to see if anyone was still paying attention. After all, he had secured the rights to Greg Kite with the 21st pick of the first round. And how many rookies were the C’s really supposed to play?
Basketball Reference (and other sources) are somewhat ambiguous on this topic, but it appears there is really only one last overall pick prior to 1988 that made it to the NBA. That is Roland West, drafted by the Baltimore Bullets in 1967. West played 4 total NBA games.
Sorry Roland. Semih’s got you beat already.
But alas, here is where Erden falls tragically shy of his three competitors. He finishes fourth in the running, simply because he doesn’t (yet) have the experience, the numbers, or, in the case of Higgins, an awesome website, where you can find this:
Don Reid also has the numbers to make Semih green with envy. According to nba.com, he had the following accomplishments:
Registered a career-high 25 points (10-13 FG) and a team-high 9 rebounds against the Charlotte Hornets on 4/12/99.
Grabbed a career-best 17 rebounds on 03/07/01 vs. Detroit.
Appeared in 11 career NBA Playoff games, scoring a total of 21 points in 75 minutes.
Scored 11 points, in his first start of the 1996-97 season, against the Toronto Raptors on 1/4/97.
And Rebraca? Well, his moves speak for themselves:
In summary, we can now assert that with scientific certainty that Erden is the fourth greatest last overall pick in NBA history. Plus, should any of the top-3 fail to fulfill their duties, he is ready, willing and able to slide into a medal position.
And even if that doesn’t happen, those top three better be wary.