In the pre-draft player rankings (not the mock drafts but the rankings) it was UConn guard Ray Allen who was ranked first and Hoyas point guard Allen Iverson that was ranked second. Allen Iverson was drafted first though, as most teams are drafting also based on team needs and not just on player rankings.
The 42nd pick of the draft, Randy Livingston, was the player with the most hype coming out of high school of anyone in the draft. The point guard Livingston won co-player of the year his junior year in high school along with then senior, Jason Kidd. He was ranked ahead of Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace in the class of 1993. He ran into a lot of knee injuries in college, and never lived up to his expectations.
Allen Iverson is officially ranked as the shortest number pick in NBA draft history. At 6’0, he is two inches shorter than the next shortest number 1 pick, Sihugo Green. Sihugo Green measured in at 6’2 and was the number 1 pick of the 1956 NBA draft.
Of all the names announced at the 1996 NBA Draft, it was Jermaine O’Neal picked at number 17 to receive the biggest applause. Why exactly would high schooler Jermaine O’Neal, who was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers, get the biggest applause in a New York City crowd? It was because local forward John Wallace had significantly slid in the draft, and New Yorkers were getting nervous that New York would draft O’Neal instead. When the Blazers picked O’Neal at 17, that meant that Wallace would be available for the Knicks to pick at 18.
And speaking of the Knicks and their 1996 draft pick, Wallace was actually mocked to be picked in the top 5 before the draft. After poor individual team workouts and unimpressive player interviews with management, many teams were uninterested in drafted him. Wallace ended up falling 13 slots before being selected.
And another interesting note to add to the Knicks pick: on one pre-draft mock, Kobe Bryant was the New York’s mock draft pick at number 18. Many prior to the draft were unsure what to make of Bryant and his future potential, and some draft experts felt it was fair to list Bryant at 18.
By far the biggest bust of the 1996 NBA draft has to be Greek power forward Efthimios Rentzias who was selected at number 23. The 6’11 forward was drafted by the Denver Nuggets but then opted out of playing in the US and stayed in Europe instead. He didn’t officially play in the NBA until six years after being drafted, where he logged in 35 games as a Philadelphia 76er. He averaged 1.5 points a game and that was the end of his NBA career. Greek forwards have come a long way since…….
Now that the careers of every 1996 draft pick are over, who was the steal of the second round? Has to be North Carolina junior guard Jeff McInnis. Most of the second round players didn’t compile great numbers in their careers, but McInnis led them all with career averages of 9 points, 2 rebounds and 4 assists over a 7 year career. He was selected by the Denver Nuggets. The second best statistical second rounder was Hoyas center Othella Harrington.
Santa Clara senior guard Steve Nash had an interesting player comparison on draft night. Nash was described as a “poor man’s John Stockton” in 1996. Their career averages are not that much different as Nash averaged 14/3/8 over his career whereas Stockton finished his career 13/2/10. Not a bad comparison after all, except that Nash was not the poor version in the end.
Here is one 1996 NBA draft comparison that was completely wrong: Antoine Walker. Prior to the NBA draft, Walker was seen as a “Magic Johnson type player” who would pass the ball and facilitate the offense. Walker was seen as a great rounder (as Magic was) and was looked at as a great all around player. All that changed when Walker got to the pros, as he turned into a volume shooter and scorer and not the passer everyone expected. Walker averaged just 3 assists per game as a player, but 17 shots a game in his career.