What better draft to start looking back on than the start of modern NBA basketball? Earvin “Magic” Johnson entering the league helped catalyze a new era that along with Larry Bird changed pro-basketball forever. Without them, the NBA as we know it isn’t possible and it all started with the 1979 draft.
Top 10 Re-Draft
- Los Angeles Lakers- Earvin “Magic” Johnson (Original: #1 Overall)
The Los Angeles Lakers stole the 1979 first overall pick and used it to change their franchise forever. Thanks to some, let’s just say unique trade circumstances, the team that already had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the roster was a coin flip versus Chicago from winning the pick. That win was the first of many, many, many wins with respect to Magic Johnson and the purple and gold. It’s safe to say Magic was born to be a Laker. In just 13 NBA seasons, the pride of Michigan State helped the Lakers to five titles and upon retiring was the unanimous best point guard of all-time.
Original Pick: Magic Johnson
2. Chicago Bulls- Sidney Moncrief (Original: #5)
The Chicago Bulls were a joke for more or less their entire existence until they drafted some guard out of North Carolina in 1984. In this draft, they originally took David Greenwood who was a solid, dependable forward in his six seasons as a Bull. Given another chance though, the Bulls select perennial All-Star and Hall of Famer, Sidney Moncrief instead. His career was cut short due to injury but at his peak, Moncrief was one of the best defenders in the league during his time in Milwaukee. He was the Bucks first star since Kareem in real life but in our draft, he heads to Chicago to save the Bulls instead.
Original Pick: David Greenwood
3. New York Knicks- Bill Laimbeer (Original: #65)
If Magic Johnson was born to play in Los Angeles, Bill Laimbeer was born to play in Detroit. You know Laimbeer, the star of every highlight pack of 80’s ‘defence’. The absolute king of the hard foul, in today’s game Laimbeer would’ve been kicked out of the league in about ten minutes. However, staring for the Bad Boy Pistons, Laimbeer became the face of arguably the most hated team in basketball history. Victims of his famous cheap shots include legends like Larry Bird and Michael Jordan because no one, I repeat no one, was above Laimbeer and the Pistons. This rough and tumble style of play certainly will translate to New York as an original third round pick goes third overall in this re-draft.
Original Pick: Bill Cartwright
4. Detroit Pistons- Vinnie Johnson (Original: #7)
Vinnie “Microwave” Johnson was one of the originators of the off the bench bucket machines like Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford we know in today’s game. Back in the 80’s Johnson was the Bad Boy Pistons spark plug who regularly swung games when he came in. Although more was probably expected from him as a top seven selection originally, Johnson had anything but a disappointing career as a key contributor in back-to-back titles. It’s only fitting in the re-draft he ends up playing in the Motor City once again.
Original Pick: Greg Kesler
5. Milwaukee Bucks- Mark Eaton (Original: #107)
Although in this re-draft they don’t get arguably the third best Buck of all-time, Milwaukee still gets a multiple time All-Star in Mark Eaton. The seven-foot four-inch behemoth is best known for his unbelievable shot blocking ability. Eaton holds the record for most blocks in a season (456), an average of 5.56 a game during 1984-85! Instead of sending shots back in Utah, Eaton will have to settle for Milwaukee as the five-time member of the All-Defensive team will be welcomed by a franchise in search of a big man to replace Kareem. Although he wouldn’t do that and he isn’t even Moncrief, Eaton is still a really good player.
Original Pick: Sidney Moncrief
6. Seattle SuperSonics- Bill Cartwright (Original: #3)
Coming off a championship, Seattle somehow managed to swing two top seven picks. With the first one, they select original number four pick Bill Cartwright. Cartwright was a solid starting centre in his time in the league, most remembered as the starter in the original Bulls three-peat. Much like a series of other bigs in this time, Cartwright’s career and what it could’ve been will always be in question thanks to foot injuries. Once he returned in 1985 after missing an entire season he was never the same player that averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds a night in his first five seasons. Still though, he managed three rings and almost a thousand games played, nothing to scoff at if you’re the Sonics with the number six pick.
Original Pick: James Bailey
7. Seattle SuperSonics- Calvin Natt (Original #8)
With their second pick of the first round, Seattle gets a really good player in Calvin Natt that averaged over 18 points a game in his first six seasons. A one-time All-Star with Denver back in 1985 Natt would only muster up one more relatively healthy season after that. From 1986-1990, Natt managed to play in just 66 games. Still though, when he was healthy his scoring ability can’t be denied. Not a flashy pick for Seattle but a very good player when he was able to step on the floor.
Original Pick: Vinnie Johnson
8. New Jersey Nets- James Donaldson (Original: #73)
Another solid player, James Donaldson had quite the career for a fourth round pick. Coming out of Washington State not much was expected of the centre but 957 games including 659 starts. There’s no doubt the one time All-Star definitely got the last laugh. Donaldson’s peak came playing with Mark Aguirre and the Dallas Mavericks of the mid-80’s. After originally selecting Natt in this spot, the Nets will have to settle for Donaldson instead.
Original Pick: Calvin Natt
9. New York Knicks- Cliff Robinson (Original: #11)
The original player taken here, Larry Demic, managed just 206 NBA games. Instead, the Knicks select journeyman Cliff Robinson who compiled 629 games over his 11 NBA seasons. Robinson’s scoring was never something in doubt and after selecting defensive stalwart Bill Laimbeer earlier, they get a scorer here with pick 9.
Original Pick: Larry Demic
10. Detroit Pistons- Jim Paxson (Original: #12)
Well, the original version of this pick couldn’t have gone worse. Roy Hamilton was who the Pistons grabbed with their first try at this pick however this time, they get Jim Paxson instead. Although not as good as his brother turned out to be, Paxson had a solid NBA career with two All-Star appearances in the early 80’s. Paxson’s 627 games with Portland, the team that originally drafted him is a slight upgrade over the 73 games Detroit got out of Roy Hamilton.
Best Pick- Magic Johnson
There may never be another pick more perfectly suited for his franchise and city than Magic was for the Lakers and Los Angeles. Now looking back over forty years later, it’s impossible to imagine Magic donning anything other than Laker purple and gold.
Biggest Bust- Roy Hamilton
Roy Hamilton is a member of a club no one that gets drafted in the top ten ever wants to be a part of. Hamilton is one of just 46 players in league history to go in the first ten selections and manage fewer than 80 games played for their career. This achievement hasn’t been accomplished since 2008 and I’m willing to guess exactly no one wants to see it happen again.
Biggest Steal- Bill Laimbeer
The fact the Pistons found a way to steal Laimbeer from the Cavaliers in 1982 still has to drive Laker, Celtic, Bull and let’s be honest every fan not from Detroit in the 80’s crazy. He would go on to star for a franchise that made ruining dynasties look easy in the 80’s and goes down as one of the most memorable non-Hall of Famers in league history. Pretty good for a third-round pick.
Class Grade- B
This draft produced eight All-Stars, two Hall of Famers and arguably the best point guard in basketball history. It’s not the flashiest class ever but it’s certainly one worth remembering.