An examination of NBA draft history demands that we advise all future overall No. 1 selections to look out for, well, No. 1.
More specifically, look out for that rapidly descending anvil. But we're not sure whether it's the anvil that should be credited with knocking center Andrew Bogut out of the Milwaukee Bucks' impressive season-closing kick, because more evidence is required. And that's why we're here.
OK, so when Bogut -- whose emergence as a defensive ogre was pushing the top pick in the 2005 draft into the elite category -- was lost to injury, watchdogs were eager to add him to a list. What list? Actually, we have multiple lists available to categorize the overall No. 1s from the past 25 to 30 years.
"If he'd been taken anywhere but first, any critics would probably have left him alone," said one Western Conference team personnel executive. "Yeah, you'd love to have an immediate impact player at No. 1, but there aren't a whole lot of centers in the league I'd trade him for now. Having someone to control the inside is a great start for any franchise. Let's just hope he he fully recovers."
With Bogut on the wounded chart, the Aussie who reached the league via the University of Utah could be part of a painfully impressive lineup that was joined just this season by former Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin. It should be noted Griffin is on a short list of double-cursed players, having been selected by the Los Angeles Clippers. Wiseacre NBA followers suspected it was only a matter of time before something even more sinister than joining Donald T. Sterling's merry crew would occur.
Griffin (knee) was initiated into a select fraternity captained by Danny Manning (1988), who was a Clipper seemingly destined for stardom before his knee was compromised. Manning recovered enough to be a fine pro, but never had a sniff of Springfield.
Other overall No. 1s who have been hounded by injury include Greg Oden (2007) and Yao Ming (2002). Kenyon Martin (2000) is battling knee issues now and was injured before he even left Cincinnati for the draft.
Where does Bogut fit in? Well, the pain-and-suffering frat has been defined by large players with leg injuries. That's not unreasonable; the nature of their size and the harsh impact of jumping and running puts the bigs at risk. Bogut, who missed a big chunk of last season with an incomplete stress fracture in his lower back, has a broken hand, dislocated elbow and sprained wrist. While these breaks and pains add up to one nasty situation, they seem a lot less long-term disturbing than a serious leg injury. So, we won't flip Andrew onto the list of injury-related busters.
The next list we must explore features a roster of busters whose status was determined by the inability to perform even when healthy. Quite a war has been waged to decide which player defines this list, but we certainly can assure everyone that Kwame Brown ('01) was no slouch at slouching. There also is a soft spot in our hearts for the lousy production of overall No. 1 pick Michael Olowokandi (Clippers, '98), who had some injury issues to reconcile, but just didn't turn out to be very good. I had the opportunity to witness the Kandi Man's evolution while working as a Clippers beat reporter (that's not unlike a cop reporter being assigned the lethal-injection beat) when his career allegedly began.
The Kandi Man seemed to have a lot of what personnel executives were looking for -- general-studies intelligence, size, strength and an above-average ability to run and jump. Unfortunately, he didn't possess a great deal of affection for basketball.
Those who have witnessed Bogut close up assure us that love of the game (or lack of it) won't be an issue for the Bucks center. With that on the table, he's already (in my opinion and probably yours) way past the level of progress achieved by overall No. 1s named Joe Smith ('95) and Pervis Ellison ('89). At 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, Bogut checks in as one of the NBA's best at his position.
Our next level is graced by first overall picks who turned out to be pretty stinking good, but not transcendent. Stars on that team include Brad Daugherty ('86), Derrick Coleman ('90), Larry "Grandmama" Johnson ('91), Chris Webber ('93) and Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson ('94). (Yeah, for a couple of shining moments in Sacramento, Webber was close.) These are players that enjoyed some dandy statistical seasons, but weren't exactly Finals MVP material. Big Dog did get a ring with the San Antonio Spurs (2005), who brought him into the fold on April 5 and played him eight minutes per game in the playoffs.
From there, let's go to the elite list of semi-recent-vintage overall No. 1s: The lineup includes James Worthy ('82), Hakeem Olajuwon ('84), Patrick Ewing ('85), David Robinson ('87), Shaquille O'Neal ('92), Allen Iverson ('96), Tim Duncan ('97). LeBron James ('03) and Dwight Howard ('04).
From this elite group, championships rings are possessed by only Worthy, Olajuwon, Robinson, O'Neal and Duncan. James and Howard are expected to take several more big swings at the O'Brien Trophy, while Duncan still has enough juice to do so if the Spurs can rally around him.
In case you hadn't noticed, the list of overall No. 1s that have arrived since my hair began disappearing are almost all big fellas. The only relatively little dudes are Iverson and Derrick Rose ('08), who needs more time to achieve greatness or convince us that being drafted by the Chicago Bulls puts him in the cursed fraternity.
Andrea Bargnani ('06), another big guy, is kind of getting there with the Toronto Raptors. It will be interesting to see where Chris Bosh ends up and how that affects Bargnani's rise as something of a dime-store hybrid of Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol. And if Griffin's rehabilitated knee allows the level of explosion he demonstrated as a collegian, he will maintain the potential to be quite a player.
How about Bogut? According to an Eastern Conference assistant coach, the Bucks are in decent shape with him.
"A lot of people beat them (Bucks) up the first three or four seasons," the coach said, "and having Deron Williams and Chris Paul go after him didn't help. But anyone who follows our league understands that post players, unless they're truly special -- and Bogut isn't -- can take a while to develop. If Bogut heals up OK, Milwaukee will have one of the better centers in the league for a few years.
"He's really way more than good enough to win a championship with," the coach said. "Just not as the primary scoring option. Put him with a superstar wing player and they're good to go."
So, a superstar wing is all the Bucks need? Shouldn't be a problem finding one of those. By the way, John Salmons has only been impersonating a superstar after being taken a measly 26th overall in 2002.