Draft mistakes are common in the NBA world, as we see them every year with numerous teams passing up on guys that later become stars for average players or even busts. But one of the most notable steals in the history of the NBA Draft is Kobe Bryant, who was selected as the 13th pick straight out of high school in the 1996 Draft.
The 1996 Draft Class is widely regarded as one of the best ever, with guys like Allen Iverson and Ray Allen being selected before Kobe. For those guys, you can make a case it was a good choice even though they passed on Kobe, but the other ten teams dropped the ball. Especially the Golden State Warriors.
Coming off a 36-46 season in 1996, the Warriors were looking to add some fresh faces and shake it up with the 11th pick in the Draft. Former Warriors GM “He’s not ready. was scouting Kobe at the time and watching him play in the state championship game. The 17-year old phenom was showcasing his skills, but Twardzik saw red flags, in the sense he thought Kobe wasn’t ready yet because of the lack of emotional and physical maturity.
He should go to college, he’s not ready. He kept complaining to the referees that the ball was slippery. It was a new ball, and league rules prevented the officials from replacing it. “Deal with it.Dave Twardzik, via SF Gate
So when the time came to make their pick at number eleven, the Warriors had the choice of prospects like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal, and Peja Stojaković amongst the best still available. But Twardzik passed up on all of those names and selected Todd Fuller, a center out of NC State. Fuller was a productive four-year center, averaging 20.9 ppg and 9.9rpg in his senior season, but he wasn’t the savior the Warriors were looking for.
Fuller was put into a pressure situation as the starting center, but he soon lost his position and became the reserve to veteran center Felton Spencer. In the end, he would never rise to the expectations and was later traded away to the Utah Jazz by the start of the 1999 season, playing only 132 games for the Warriors while averaging 4.0ppg and 3.4 rpg. It would be a total bust, while Kobe, who apparently wasn’t ready, went on to have one of the most illustrious careers in NBA history. It just shows how crucial good scouting is for your franchise.