We have witnessed some all-time great NBA players come out of the draft. With legends such as Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, and LeBron James all coming into the league from college; teams scramble every year to make the right draft decisions that may ultimately shape the future of their success. Furthermore, it is only natural to compare how each player fares against other similar players in terms of position or playing style.
It is truly amazing how some current NBA players closely resemble legends of the game, and how one player’s impact can truly shape how future players play the game of basketball. It is time to revisit some of the Draft Night Comparison between some of the most notable NBA players in NBA history. While some were extremely accurate, others seemed to be completely off the mark.
Here are the most crucial Draft Night Comparisons, starting with the great Magic Johnson and LeBron James.
LeBron James - Magic Johnson
Coming into the NBA, LeBron was closely compared to Magic Johnson. They were both very large players physically and were gifted passers of the basketball. As a matter of fact, they are probably the two best passers in NBA history when it comes to getting easy shots for their teammates. LeBron was just a man-child, a physical specimen that we have never seen before. While it was unfair to compare Magic’s physicality to LeBron’s speed and size, they were both larger players with exceptional passing skills.
Magic Johnson, for his position, could see over any point guard and completely dominated the game with his floor leadership. Similarly, LeBron James is quicker and stronger than almost any NBA player in history, and his passing makes him a truly unstoppable force.
Looking back at this first draft night comparison, it is safe to say that this one was right on the money. Both players control the game with their passing, and their size gave them the advantage of being two of the NBA’s greatest team players.
Carmelo Anthony - Glenn Robinson
Another interesting draft comparison was Carmelo Anthony and Glenn Robinson. Robinson was a high scoring swingman who ended up playing 11 seasons, mainly with the Milwaukee Bucks. Upon entering the NBA, Carmelo Anthony was closely compared to Robinson due to his ability to score the ball and average of 20 PPG in his sleep.
Looking back, this was a solid comparison. Robinson averaged over 20 PPG for 8 seasons in his career and made 2 All-Star appearances as a member of the Bucks. Melo averaged over 20 PPG for 14 seasons and made 10 All-Star Appearances. Clearly, Melo was a far more dominant offensive player but the original comparisons were quite accurate.
Chris Bosh - Tim Duncan
Entering the NBA, Bosh was closely compared to the Spurs Tim Duncan. After all, they both played the power forward position and scouts considered them to be All-Star quality scorers. By the time Chris Bosh joined the league, Duncan had already won an NBA championship and could dominate the game on both ends of the floor.
Bosh took the Toronto Raptors on his back, consistently remaining a double-double threat every night. Looking back, this comparison wasn't the best. Bosh was a finesse player who did his damage from mid-range and eventually from the three-point line, while Duncan was a defensive specialist who preferred to have his back to the basket.
Dwyane Wade - Gilbert Arenas
Dwyane Wade was closely compared to Gilbert Arenas on draft night. Perhaps due to their size and scoring ability, this made some sense. But clearly, their careers went different paths and they also turned out to be very different players. Before Arenas dealt with suspension and injury, his game was predicated on unlimited range and explosiveness in attacking the basket.
When it came to ranking the top point guards in the game, Arenas was always mentioned up there. He had a knack for deep-range threes, and will always be remembered for letting fly from deep and turning away in celebration before the ball went in the net.
Wade, on the other hand, was a pure slasher. He did almost all his damage from attacking the basket, and also had a strong mid-range jumper that he pulled out in clutch moments. When it came to making extremely difficult shots at the basket, Wade is one of the best ever. Beyond their differing styles of play, Wade’s career clearly turned out much better than Gilbert’s. Wade ended as a 3-time NBA Champion with possibly the greatest Finals performance ever to his name. Gilbert was a multiple-time All-Star but his career was cut short due to off-court issues and injury.
Allen Iverson - Isiah Thomas
This comparison made a lot of sense on the draft night since both players were little guards with exceptional handles. Fast-forward to 2020, and these two men are probably the two greatest little guards in NBA history. Isiah Thomas is a legend in the game and managed to win back-to-back NBA titles as a member of the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons.
Regarded as one of the best leaders the sport has ever seen, Thomas was extremely influential in the locker room and had the offensive and defensive prowess to completely control a game.
Similarly, Allen Iverson is one of the most influential players in NBA history. His scoring ability was truly one of the best, and he carried a 76ers team that had no business being in the Playoffs all the way to the NBA Finals against the superteam Lakers led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Iverson even managed to knock off the Lakers in Game 1, something that should have never happened.
Looking back at draft night, this made a ton of sense. Iverson was a miniature player with amazing handles and had the offensive impact to control a game much as Isiah Thomas did.
Dwight Howard - Kwame Brown
Looking back, this is an extremely laughable comparison. Kwame Brown is known as one of the biggest busts, if not the biggest bust, in NBA history.
The young man came into the league very raw, and never improved his game in any area. He couldn’t defend bigs in the paint, couldn’t catch the ball well due to his poor hands, and was limited offensively to within five feet from the basket. More often than not, Brown missed a ton of easy baskets and could not make any sort of impact on the floor. Dwight Howard, while his career isn’t as successful as it should have been, is a far more impactful player.
Dwight, in his prime, was the best big man in the game. He could run the floor, block shots, lock down the paint, and consistently be the best defensive player in the game every night. Even as age and attrition weakened him physically, Dwight was still proficient at hauling down rebounds and defending opposing bigs well.
Looking back, this comparison was way off and Kwame was never close to being the force that Dwight was in his prime.
Blake Griffin - Karl Malone
Clearly, the comparison between Blake Griffin and Karl Malone had to do with physical size. Griffin was a scary physical force when he entered the NBA, and scouts likened him to the great Karl Malone. Malone was just a beast of a man, who had mountains of muscle around his shoulders and large frame.
Griffin was also touted to be one of the strongest players in the league, and he immediately drew comparisons to The Mailman. Malone was known for bullying people down low and making a living inside the paint when he wasn’t receiving the ball for open mid-range jump shots from John Stockton. When Griffin was drafted, many thought that he would have the same physical presence inside as Malone had.
Fast-forwarding to 2020, and some comparisons were correct. Griffin is a load to handle down low and is often stronger than most players in his position. As he matured, Griffin has also developed a very good mid-range jump shot as Malone had.
While Griffin isn’t the marksman that Malone was, he is still close to being very consistent from there. But were Malone and Griffin parted ways was Griffin’s ability to hit the three, where Malone always stayed at the mid-range. Griffin is developing his three-point shot to survive in today’s NBA landscape and is becoming quite consistent from there.
Overall, these comparisons were also quite accurate although Malone is a much more dominant scorer and defensive presence than Griffin is at this point.
James Harden - Manu Ginobili
Perhaps one of the most interesting comparisons was between James Harden and Manu Ginobili.
Looking back, this was a very accurate comparison although Harden has blossomed into the upper echelon of scorers. Especially in Harden’s early days with the Thunder, he was pretty much a photocopy of Manu Ginobili. He came off the bench to give the Thunder All-Star quality scoring and playmaking and utilized a mix of side-steps and euro-steps to fool defenders on the way to the basket much like Manu did with the Spurs.
The way they approached the game was similar, and the draft comparison seemed right on the money.
But things started to look a little different when Harden joined the Rockets and became the team’s offensive focal point. Harden slowly developed into the game’s best offensive player and has now developed a complete game where can score 30-40 points a game without much effort.
He is a master at drawing fouls and prospers at the three-point line. Not to mention, his court vision and passing usurps that of Ginobili’s as well. But Manu has always been a very good defender, while Harden has played average defense at his very best. Still, looking back, the original comparison made perfect sense mainly due to Harden’s playing style and signature moves.