If you’ve been tuning in, Basketball Insiders has been looking into how each lottery pick has fared in the league since 2009. We’ve categorized each player as a hit, miss, in between or a role player. We started at the top with the first overall pick and we’ve been making our way down since. At the top of the draft, the criteria for what makes a pick a hit was tougher. Being picked at the top or near the top means you’re supposed to be the face of a new era of basketball for your franchise. Now that we’re going lower and lower in the draft, the bar starts to lower. In short, the lower the pick, the lower the expectation.
That brings us to who we’re looking at today — the eighth overall pick. Midway through the lottery, the eighth overall pick is expected to be good, but the likelihood nor the ceiling is nearly as high as those taken earlier. And that couldn’t be more apparent when taking a gander at how the eighth overall picks have fared since 2009.
In short, it’s far from impressive.
This particular group of players had some who were out of the league at one point but have since either found their place in the league or look they are about to. There are others who were on an upward trajectory then came crashing down. The eighth overall picks really are something to behold when you put them all together. Let’s take a look.
Terrence Ross – Toronto Raptors – 2012
If the standards were higher, Ross probably wouldn’t be considered a hit as much of an in-between type — more proof of how mediocre this group has been. Anyway, Ross came into the league as an explosive athlete, which made for some very entertaining highlight reels. But, as fun as it was to watch him jump out of the building, it seemed at first as if that’s all he was good for. And being described as “fun” is not always the same as being described as “good.”
But, while he was the former with Toronto, Ross could be described as both since being traded to Orlando.
A fair amount of guys fold when they have more opportunities with the ball in their hand. But Ross hasn’t been one of them. Over the last two years, he’s put up career numbers with the Magic, averaging nearly 15 points per game. While he’s not one of the league’s premier go-to scorers, Ross has shown that he can alter the game by himself when he’s feeling it.
The shame of it all is that Orlando puts the middle in “middle-of-the-pack”. So, while his contributions have been strong, they’re not going into a particularly special product right now. If he were on a better team, his numbers probably wouldn’t be as good, but he’s done enough to prove that he could change a team’s chances.
It’s good to see Ross find his niche in the NBA. Reading it again, however, his claim to fame as a hit from this group is that he’s evolved into one of the league’s better sixth men. Good for him. Bad for pretty much everyone else this list.
Collin Sexton – Cleveland Cavaliers – 2018
No matter how well this group had turned out, Sexton would be labeled a hit no matter what. He hasn’t taken the league by storm since coming in, but he has done his part since arriving in Cleveland. This season alone, Sexton is averaging nearly 21 points on 47/38/86 splits. Factoring in the turmoil the Cavs went through this season, it’s hard not to be impressed by his progress.
It also makes you wonder how the issues going on behind the scenes affected Sexton’s production on the court. Did the internal tension between the players and John Beilein hinder Sexton from being better or are his stats just another example of good-stats/bad-team numbers? The more we see from the Cavaliers post-Beilein, the better picture we’ll get.
Sexton came into the NBA with a good amount of excitement centered around both his speed and his scoring abilities. He’s proven that he can definitely score at an NBA level. It’s the rest of his game that needs some fine-tuning. His assist-to-turnover ratio is horrid, while his defense, much improved in his first two seasons, is still going to need significant work.
Those issues aside, Sexton’s biggest task ahead is simply winning games. Cleveland had seen some good stretches this season, even more post-Beilein, but they need to see it on more of a consistent basis. And that starts with Sexton.
And hey, all things considered, at least something good came from the Kyrie trade.
Jordan Hill – New York Knicks – 2009
Was Hill a miss or more of a role player? He had an eight-year career in the NBA, which is solid. But, as the eighth overall pick though, he never played good enough to justify the selection. It doesn’t help that he was taken one spot ahead of DeMar DeRozan, either.
Hill put up solid numbers for a couple of seasons here and there, his best coming with the Los Angeles Lakers between 2012 and 2015. But, at arguably the lowest point in the history of the franchise, does that production really count for anything? Or were his numbers simply inflated because somebody (read: anybody) had to go out there and play.
The only good teams he played a somewhat prominent role were with the Lakers and the Indiana Pacers, and they didn’t really play him that much when the stakes were higher. It was tough to label him as a miss, but he just didn’t really leave much of a legacy on the NBA.
Nik Stauskas – Sacramento Kings – 2014
We already dove into why Stauskas busted in Sacramento. So, without trying to repeat what’s already been said, let’s start with this: the Kings taking Stauskas made absolutely no sense back in 2014, while the pick has looked even worse in hindsight. Not only had Sacramento taken a sharpshooter the draft prior in Ben McLemore, but, looking back, Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson or Bogdan Bogdanovic (whose rights they already owned), would have been better choices at shooting guard.
Getting back to Stauskas, it’s safe to say that he basically became Jimmer Fredette 2.0 in Sacramento, if not worse. A sharpshooter that proved to not really have the sharpest NBA shot. Unlike Jimmer, Stauskas was only with the Kings for one season, and he never really got his game going even when the opportunity to prove himself came with other teams.
Much like Jimmer, you have to wonder if maybe Stauskus’ career turns out differently if it didn’t start with the Kings period.
Stanley Johnson – Detroit Pistons – 2015
Johnson is another example of why entrusting a young prospect with raw potential is never a foolproof plan. No one had any qualms with Detroit taking Johnson when they did in 2015. He even looked like his career had a fair amount of promise following an okay rookie campaign. That predicated from his excellent defense, which was on full display when he matched up against LeBron in the playoffs that same year.
“If he could just learn to shoot” was always what followed any discussion around Johnson — and he had the potential to play an elite 3-and-D role. Sadly, his rookie year was as good as it got for him. The complete lack of any progress in his offense saw Johnson’s numbers stagnate. Soon enough, it had him shipped out of Detroit entirely.
Johnson now resides at the end of the Toronto Raptors’ bench. And, while getting another go-round in the NBA next season isn’t completely out of the question for him, the odds wouldn’t appear to be in his favor for sticking it out longterm.
Frank Ntilikina – New York Knicks – 2017
Frank Ntilikina is to Knicks fans what Dante Exum was to Jazz fans. Those who believe in him believe that he has the potential to be special but he just hasn’t been given the opportunity to prove himself. Those who don’t believe in him think that the lackluster numbers he’s put up speak for themselves.
The similarities between the two are quite stunning, actually. Both are good defenders whose question marks specifically come from the offensive side of the ball. Both occasionally flash on that side of the ball, but their inconsistency has prevented their teams from trusting them completely.
The difference between them — aside from Exum’s demonstrably higher expectations — is that Exum played for a franchise that knows what it’s doing and has always had a good direction. The Knicks, suffice it to say, do not know what they’re doing. Of course, there is nowhere to go but up; if their next head coach can chart a new course and elevate the team’s play Ntilikina just might turn it around.
The Middle of the Road
Brandon Knight – Detroit Pistons – 2011
Knight’s career, to some degree, is a tragedy that doesn’t get talked about enough. When his name was brought up in his early days as a pro, he was usually the butt of the joke because of how often he was involved in several rather unfortunate plays. Not too long after that, injuries took him off the court for what seemed like an eternity. He’s since gotten past that, but now he is barely still in the NBA. All of that has overshadowed the fact that, at one point, Knight’s potential career looked promising.
Before Giannis Antetokounmpo became the MVP we see today, it could be argued that Knight was the Milwaukee Bucks’ best player. Not only that, but he was the best player on a playoff team, a team that regressed after they traded him to Phoenix for Michael Carter-Williams and used the money saved to sign Greg Monroe.
Since then he’s been a ghost. He was brought onto a dysfunctional Phoenix Suns organization, suffered a slew of injuries, and has been a journeyman over the last year and a half, going from the Houston Rockets to Cleveland and back to Detroit. At every stop, he made minimal impact. It just doesn’t sound possible for a man’s career to fall this far at 28-years-old.
Had he stayed healthy, Knight could have been the best pick in this group. Of course, there’s still time for him to reclaim the title. Since returning to Detroit, he’s started to look like his former self, so that’s something. Unfortunately, it’s Detroit.
Marquese Chriss – Phoenix Suns – 2016
For a while there, it looked like Chriss was the worst-case scenario for a boom-or-bust prospect. His potential impressed enough scouts at the combine that he could have been picked third overall in 2016. Unfortunately, that potential never came to fruition — he bounced from Phoenix to Houston and Cleveland, playing so poorly that he appeared to be quick flameout.
Since the Golden State Warriors brought him in, however, optimism surrounding Chriss has been revived.
The Warriors brought in Chriss as a no-harm, no-foul experiment, one that could’ve gone in any direction. For Chriss, it has been a rebirth. Before the league’s hiatus, he’d put up arguably the best numbers of his career, averaging 9.3 points, 1.9 assists and 6.2 rebounds a game. He’s also been incredibly efficient from the field, shooting 54.5 percent.
If you at his play at more of a game-by-game basis, there’s even more progress from Chriss. Since Jan. 20, he’s come along quite nicely, having averaged 13.6 points and 7.5 rebounds and shot 61 percent from the field.
What’s led to the uptick in production? It could be a number of different factors. Perhaps the move from power forward to center full-time, where Chriss rarely played in his earlier years, has something to do with it. And, for both Chriss and the Warriors, the best could be yet to come; Chriss has yet to play with Klay Thompson yet, while sharing minimal time with Stephen Curry. Next season, we might begin to see what Chriss truly is made of.
Jaxson Hayes – New Orleans Pelicans – 2019
Speaking of ultra-athletes, New Orleans definitely got two in the 2019 draft. We all know how good one of them is going to be, or, if we’re being fair, how good he already is. Then there’s Hayes.
There’s a lot to like about Hayes physically. He is long, athletic and can jump out of the gym. There may not be a player in the league who has made dunking look as effortless as Hayes has, though his own teammate Zion Williamson certainly could make a case.
Speaking of Williamson, prior to his return from injury, Hayes played a much more prominent role with the Pelicans. Since, however, Hayes has, for the most part, been riding the pine behind Williamson and Derrick Favors. As time goes on, we should see more and more of what Hayes is capable of. But the Pelicans, justifiably so, are playing the more talented rookie and the more dependable veteran.
That’s not a shot at Hayes. He’s young and oozes potential. Anyone with eyes can see that. There’s only one question. Can he and Zion mesh in the long-term if neither develop into floor spacers? If they don’t, New Orleans will have to make some changes, but that’s thinking way down the line.
The Role Players
Al-Farouq Aminu – Los Angeles Clippers – 2010
Aminu was another one of those players that had some trouble finding himself in the league. It didn’t help that in that time, Paul George, who was taken after him in their draft, had blossomed into one of the league’s best wings.
We know Aminu’s never going to justify that decision by the Los Angeles Clippers. But, eventually, he was able to prove his worth as a defensive specialist. His breakthrough with the Dallas Mavericks in 2014 led to a nice payday the following summer with the Portland Trail Blazers.
His defense, along with a freshly developed three-pointer, played a part in stabilizing the Blazers after they had lost everyone that made them a pseudo-contender the previous two seasons. And, considering the crazy contracts Portland handed out the next summer, Aminu was definitely worth his price.
Aminu fits with the modern NBA. What he does helps his team. Let’s just hope that next season, Aminu can continue to do so after a knee injury cut his most recent season short.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Detroit Pistons – 2013
Want to know something strange? Look at Caldwell-Pope’s numbers over the course of his career. They were better when he was in Detroit, and his scoring numbers were better his first two years with the Lakers than this year. Yet, everything would seem to indicate that the 2019-20 season was when he figured it all out.
Lakers’ fans didn’t take to Caldwell-Pope because of his salary and his questionable shot selection — his continued employment with the team was viewed as a sunk cost because of their affiliation with Rich Paul via LeBron James. Of course, if that’s what it cost to bring in James in the first place, it’s worth it, but that’s neither here nor there.
And, even if it once was the reason they kept him despite the price tag, it would no longer seem to be so. Efficiency wise, the 2019-20 season was the best of Caldwell-Pope’s career. The 47/39/78 splits, combined with the much-improved shot selection, have allowed him to play a role with the team. On the other end, he’s certainly been a factor for the Lakers and the league’s top defense.
As James and Anthony Davis gear up for a postseason run, they’re going to need every other hand on deck. And, so far, Caldwell-Pope has done his part.
The eighth overall picks have underwhelmed as a whole since 2009 — they haven’t done themselves any favors, either. Most of the players either didn’t start out well, haven’t done well or have been strictly average. You wouldn’t expect that from a lottery selection, but that’s where we are.