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Denver Nuggets ditched Paul Pierce for the one player they thought was better than him in the '98 draft — “He felt here was no comparison”

Well aware that Pierce turned out to be way better than LaFrentz, we can say the Nuggets made a bad decision outright. But at the time, Denver had a lot of confidence in their pick.
Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce

If we take a quick look at how things panned out in the 1998 NBA Draft, many Denver Nuggets fans will surely be disappointed with the team’s decision to select Kansas Jayhawks’ Raef LaFrentz. Why? Because they had the chance to pick his teammate, who goes by the name of Paul Pierce.

A terrible assessment

Of course, the Nuggets had no idea how LaFrentz and Pierce would play in the pros apart from watching their Jayhawks games. So Denver had to rely on the scouting skills of a few people, which we can pretty much assume they did at the time.

Fast-track to draft day, the Nuggets selected LaFrentz at No. 3 overall, snubbing Pierce, who wound up being drafted by the Boston Celtics at No. 10.

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Well aware that Pierce turned out to be way better than LaFrentz, we can say the Nuggets made a bad decision outright. But at the time, Denver had a lot of confidence in their pick, of course.

I talked to [Colorado Buffaloes coach] Ricardo Patton about the two, and he felt there was no comparison,” former Nuggets president Dan Issel told AP News after the 1998 draft via Freezing Cold Takes. “He felt that Raef was going to be a much better professional basketball player than Paul.

Patton was totally wrong

At this point, we know that former Colorado Buffaloes head coach Ricardo Patton is the one to blame, considering how Pierce’s NBA accolades dwarf LaFrentz’s, who didn’t even make a single All-Star appearance in his nine-year NBA career.

Delving into what Pierce accomplished with the Celtics, no Nuggets fan would be thrilled with Issel and Patton’s co-existence in the team’s front office.

In his 15 seasons with the C’s, Pierce won an NBA title and made eight All-Star appearances. On top of that, he’s also the storied franchise’s all-time leader in three-point field goals made and overall steals. He also ranked second in most points scored all-time.

As for LaFrentz, he never made an impact on Denver, and to make things worse, the Nuggets had to deal with his ACL injury during his rookie season.

Indeed, the NBA Draft is always a gamble as teams have to ensure they’re getting the best prospect available. And the Nuggets missing out on Paul Pierce only goes to show that a team should not just spend millions on players but also on the people who have a proven knack for determining real basketball skills as well.


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