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RE-DRAFTING THE 1981 NBA DRAFT

Top 10 Re-Draft

1. Dallas Mavericks- Isiah Thomas (Original: #2 Overall)

Isiah Thomas continues to be one of the most underrated all-time greats in sports history. Somehow, despite leading the Detroit Pistons to three straight NBA Finals and knocking off on the way (all in their prime) Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, Thomas still doesn’t get his due. Thomas remains the only player under six foot three to be the best player on a title team and, was one of the great closers of his era. Zeke should be remembered as one of the greatest spot pickers in league history as he always knew when it was his time to shine. Thanks to that uncanny ability and his elite basketball IQ, it only makes sense that Thomas was a champion at both Indiana and in the NBA. He is the no doubt best player from this draft.

Original Pick: Mark Aguirre

2. Detroit Pistons- Tom Chambers (Original: #8 Overall)

Tom Chambers story is as old as sports history. A great player of his time but, for whatever reason, doesn’t have the staying power to be remembered as generations change. In a four-year span, Chambers averaged 24 points and seven rebounds a game and yet, I bet many NBA fans today have never heard his name. Probably the biggest reason is by the time he was on a team good enough to reach the finals, Chambers was just a bench player when he played on the biggest stage in the 93 Finals. Sill though, for a four-year run, he was a unanimous top 15 player in the league thanks to two All-NBA second team selections, more than good enough to be the second player selected in this re-draft.

Original Pick: Isiah Thomas

3. New Jersey Nets- Larry Nance (Original: #20 Overall)

Much like Tom Chambers, Larry Nance is another classic NBA story. A consistently good player who didn’t always get the full recognition he deserved. Think of Paul Millsap, a really good NBA player and fringe All-Star year in and year out, that was Nance in the 80’s. A high level shot blocker and overall defensive stopper, Nance was the type of power forward from a foregone era. His presence was often overwhelming and when paired with Brad Daugherty in Cleveland, they gave a young Michael Jordan problems getting to the rim. Nance is a funny case because people know him now as Larry Nance Jr’s father when the truth is senior was far better of a player. He was the type of player worth a top three pick in this re-draft.

Original Pick: Buck Williams

4. Atlanta Hawks- Mark Aguirre (Original: #1 Overall)

Mark Aguirre’s career should be a case study in understanding who you are in the NBA. To start, Aguirre was a high-level scorer capable of dropping 25 to 30 points any night but, that’s really all he was. He was an okay passer and defender but what made him was his offensive game. The reason he should be a case study though, is that he was never good enough to be the main scorer on a championship level team. Instead, he went to Detroit and was a key contributing role player on a mini dynasty to close the decade. Most guys would’ve refused to take a back seat but Aguirre in doing so earned multiple rings. Sometimes it’s important to understand who you are and where you fit in the grand scheme of things and, the number four player in this re-draft had the self-awareness to do so.

Original Pick: Al Wood

5. Seattle SuperSonics- Danny Ainge (Original: #31 Overall)

Before Danny Ainge was schooling your favourite team’s general manager in the art of making a one-sided trade, Ainge was a specific type of player every championship team needs. The one guy every team has that everyone on the other team (and their fanbase) wants to fight. Ainge was the kind of guy who understood his role and wreaked havoc every second he was on the floor. From Matthew Dellevadova to Patrick Beverley, players like this thrive in every era and the difference between Ainge and those two even was he had skill to go with his hard style. Not only was he the dude you wanted to fight over effort and never backing down, he was able to back it up with solid scoring and playmaking. Simply put, Ainge was a winning player, so it only makes sense he’s a winning executive.

Original Pick: Danny Vranes

6. Chicago Bulls- Buck Williams (Original: #3 Overall)

Buck Williams was a classic 80’s big-man. A bruiser downlow who for the duration of his prime gave you 17 points and 12 rebounds every night. From his prime in New Jersey, though, Williams found a way to transition to a more secondary role and was a key piece in multiple Portland Finals runs. You’d be hard pressed to find a more consistently available player as in his first 14 seasons, Williams missed just 26 games. Williams was slightly over drafted initially as he was expected to be the All-Star who carries you and although he made some All-Star games, that was never his future. He was the player who shows up ready to play every night, something any team can use.

Original Pick: Orlando Woolridge

7. Kansas City Kings- Rolando Blackman (Original: #9 Overall)

Paired with Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman and the number one pick of this draft used to give defences fits when in Dallas. For the duration of his time in Dallas, Blackman averaged 19 points in ten plus seasons. By the time he finally left at age 33, Blackman was one of the great Mavericks of All-Time. His consistency year in and year out made him an ideal second player in the eighties thanks to his efficient scoring ability. There is no doubt that at seventh overall, getting a multiple time All-Star and worthy second option is a fantastic investment for any franchise.

Original Pick: Steve Johnson

8. San Diego Clippers- Orlando Woolridge (Original: #6 Overall)

Orlando Woolridge’s career is full of mixed reviews. At times he was a solid scorer capable of averaging 20 a game however, his one-dimensional style made him a difficult player to play with. The type of guy who needed the ball to be effective but wasn’t quite good enough to warrant having it at all times. This was his ultimate un-doing and the reason the Bulls moved on from him due to the fact he couldn’t fully mesh with a young Michael Jordan. Still though, Woolridge was a capable scorer and solid player, worthy of the eighth selection in the re-draft.

Original Pick: Tom Chambers

9. Dallas Mavericks Eddie Johnson (Original: #29 Overall)

Eddie Johnson put up a lot of points in his career. How many points you ask? Well, at his retirement, Johnson had 19,202 points, good for 22nd on the all-time list! What’s crazier is he accomplished that without ever making an All-Star team or receiving an All-NBA selection. The lone award in his career came as a sixth man in 1988-89. A pretty remarkable thing to think about is someone putting up the numbers he did without receiving any type of accolades. Johnson was also a classic member of the came too soon club in that his three-point ability largely went un-utilized thanks to the era. We believe in accolades at Air-Ball for players who earn them so here Eddie is the number nine selection in the 1981 re-draft.

Original Pick: Rolando Blackman

10. New Jersey Nets- Kelly Tripucka (Original: #12 Overall)

Kelly Tripucka may be one of the most forgotten twenty-point scorers in NBA history. During his seasons in Detroit, paired with Isiah Thomas, Tripucka averaged over 21 points a game. But, by the end of his fifth season he was shipped to Utah where he struggled with his newfound role as the third option behind John Stockton and Karl Malone. After just two years he ended up in Charlotte where he re-found his scoring touch. For a time, Tripucka was an automatic 20 points however he fell on this list due to the players in front of him simply being more willing of new roles. That being said, there is more than just a place in the NBA for a guy who almost automatically averages 20 points a game.

Original Pick: Albert King

Best Pick: Isiah Thomas

Let’s not over think this, Thomas is the greatest Piston ever and a top five player ever at his position. His selection was the first of a long line of great moves that built a dynasty.

Biggest Bust: Al Wood

Al Wood managed just six seasons in the league and saw the team that selected him fourth overall bail after just 19 games. That trade was the sign to come for a disappointing career.

Biggest Steal: Danny Ainge

Sure, he was more of a baseball player in college, but Danny Ainge deserved more than a second-round selection. His contributions to two titles in Boston is the stuff of Celtic legend.

Class Grade: C+

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