Tenth overall is an eerie spot to pick in the NBA Draft. Historically, most tenth overall picks have gone on to be steady role players. Some have seen their basketball careers flame out quickly, while others went on to enjoy Hall-of-Fame-caliber tenures.
The Washington Wizards got what they expected, if not what they had hoped, in the draft lottery on Tuesday night: the No. 10 overall pick. It’s certainly not a bad spot to be in, but the players available at 10 won’t be expected to singlehandedly turn a franchise around.
Odds might be in Washington’s favor, though, as from 1969-2017, there was a future All-Star available at No. 10 in all but one of those NBA drafts. Caron Butler will not appear on this list, though, for while he was one of the Wizards’ best players of the 21st century, he was drafted by the Heat 10th overall in 2002.
With that in mind, let’s delve into the history of the No. 10 overall NBA draft pick.
Wizards’ history of pick No. 10
2003: Jarvis Hayes (G/F, Georgia) Fitting into the mold of role players, Washington selected the Georgia product 10th overall in 2003. He had a decent if not inspiring career in D.C., being selected to the All-Rookie Second Team after putting up 9.6 ppg and 3.8 rpg. Injuries would hamper the rest of his career, though, and he would end up playing four of his seven NBA seasons in Washington putting up role player caliber numbers.
1983: Jeff Malone (SG, Mississippi State) Malone, to date, has been the Holy Grail of Wizards’ No. 10 overall picks and one of the best all-time selections at the spot. He was a lethal shooter during his 15-year NBA career, seven of which he spent with the team that drafted him. As a Bullet, Malone made the All-Rookie first team, two All-Star appearances, and became one of the best players in franchise history. By the end of his stint in D.C., Malone averaged a splendid 20.2 points of 47.7% shooting.
Best players selected at pick. No. 10
1998: Paul Pierce ‘The Truth’ is pretty much all you need to know about what a home run Boston hit in ’98. Pierce was one of the league’s best players during his prime, earning a whopping 10 All-Stars during his Celtics tenure while leading them to the NBA Championship in 2008, where he’d earn Finals MVP. Not for nothing, he also hit one of the biggest shots in Wizards history:
1999: Jason Terry The definition of a sharpshooter, Terry’s talents were enjoyed by Atlanta before he spent eight years in Dallas. As a Maverick, Terry would Sixth Man of the Year in 2009 and an NBA Championship ring in 2011. He’s made the league’s seventh-most three-pointers to date.
2008: Brook Lopez Lopez epitomizes the ‘sink or swim’ mantra of the modern NBA. He couldn’t shoot coming out of college but developed an outside shot as a veteran while bolstering his defense. His knack for molding his game to his surroundings was a huge reason for Milwaukee’s championship last season.
2010: Paul George George is one of the best players in the NBA today, plain and simple. A seven-time All-Star, 2019 All-NBA First Team, and 2013 Most Improved Player go to show that he’s a dominant force on both sides of the ball. An elite scorer with three-level ability who can defend 1-4, George is a key piece of what could be a title-contending Clippers squad.
2013: C.J. McCollum Not a lot of players garner buzz coming out of Lehigh. McCollum was the exception and for good reason, as the shooting guard was one-half of a devastating backcourt in Portland before his recent trade to New Orleans. He hasn’t been named an All-Star yet (which is unfair considering his production), but he’s one of the league’s brightest and most useful players at the two-spot.
2018: Mikal Bridges Every team in the NBA needs a Mikal Bridges type to contend for a title. He’s a young, versatile wing who can shoot efficiently and defend four positions. He was a runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year this year and with Phoenix’s lethal rotation, he could be in line for another Championship appearance before too long.
Worst players selected at pick No. 10
1984: Leon Wood Wood probably wouldn’t appear on this list if it weren’t for John Stockton. Philadelphia selected Wood at No. 10 and he would go on to have a decent career (his best year actually came in Washington, where he would put up 9.7 ppg in 1985-86), but Stockton’s selection six picks later makes this a swing-and-a-miss.
1985: Ed Pinckney Again, Pinckney wasn’t a total bust and would enjoy some production during his decade-plus career. He was the original Villanova legend leading the Wildcats to their miracle NCAA title in 1985 with the legendary upset of Georgetown. But, the Suns took Pinckney ahead of such luminaries as Karl Malone, Joe Dumars, A.C. Green, Terry Porter, and even Manute Bol. Yikes.
1996: Erick Dampier Dampier played for 15 years in the NBA, which is impressive considering he only put up double-digit scoring numbers twice. He retired in 2012 with a career average of 7.4 ppg, which really isn’t bad. But, like most other guys on this list, the men who followed him in the draft make it tough to exclude him: Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
2006: Mouhamed Sene Easy choice here. Sene was a seven-foot prospect out of Senegal who the then-Seattle Seahawks took a chance on. It didn’t work—he played just 47 career games averaging 2.2 points. What makes it tougher for Seattle was that they could’ve taken JJ Redick, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker, or Paul Millsap.
2011: Jimmer Fredette Look away, Wizards fans: this was the Jan Vesely draft. Fredette made waves in college with his unreal three-point shooting, but he never amounted to much in the NBA as he put up just six points per game over his career. He was taken ahead of Klay Thompson, both Morris brothers, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, and Isaiah Thomas.
2016: Thon Maker Like Sene, Maker was an intriguing prospect because of his size. His career fizzled when he couldn’t find the starting lineup, though. It’s tough for Bucks fans to hear they could’ve had Domantas Sabonis (the very next pick), Malik Beasley, Pascal Siakam, Dejounte Murray, or Malcolm Brogdon to supplement their championship core. They might have multiple titles by now if they'd made a different decision in 2016.