Like I’ve said before I don’t do many NBA posts, but news over the weekend about Darko Mikicic leaving the NBA at the end of the season to play in the European League came as some what of a surprise to me. Everyone always talks about Sam Bowie (drafted ahead of Michael Jordan) as the biggest draft bust. However, looking back at the 2003 draft, one thing is very clear, The Pistons made a huge mistake when they took Darko with the number 2 overall pick.
That 2003 draft was loaded to the gills with talent. LeBron, Melo, Bosch, and Wade are perennial All-Stars. LeBron of course went first to the Cavaliers, then with the second pick and the Pistons needing a true center, Milicic was selected. Anthony went third, Bosch fourth and Wade 5th. Of the other F/C available in the draft you had Bosch, Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, David West and Kendrick Perkins. The smart move would have been Bosch who was outstanding at Georgia Tech and definitely more proven than Milicic. The question was, was he worth the money? The answer turned out to be yes.
Instead, the Pistons picked Milicic, which didn’t even make sense from a coaching perspective either. At the time Larry Brown was still coaching the Pistons and they were a team that had been to the Conference Finals the year before. Brown was known for playing his veteran players more than his rookies, and as such Milicic got only garbage time during his first two seasons. Then Brown was canned and Flip Saunders was hired. Mainly Flip was hired to bring along Milicic’s talents. His playing time increased that season as a back up to Ben Wallace. His averages however did not increase. He was nothing more than a 5 point a night player.
The Pistons got tired of his lack of skills, and his inability to turn playing time into scoring chances. They traded him to the Orlando Magic in 2006 and he would go on to have his two finest seasons in the NBA. Niether of those seasons topped 8 points per game though and when his contract ran out he was released as a free agent. At that point he signed with the Memphis Grizzlies for 3 years and 21 million dollars (talk about over paying!) He was plagued by injuries there and never progressed as a player. at the end of the 2008-09 season he was traded again, this time to the New York Knicks.
So far this season it has been more of the same for Darko. No production and no development. At only 24 years old he has decided that the NBA is not for him and over the weekend announced that following this season he is going to return to Serbia to play basketball there. I have to say, that was probably going to be his best option. He has always done very well in international competition, so at just 24 you would think that he could go on to have an excellent career in Serbia.
Amazingly, and this completely boggles my mind, his cards still go for big dollars. The patch autograph card below from 2003-04 Exquisite routinely runs in the $75 – $100 region. Some of his other autographed cards from that year also sell for well more than they should and it’s not uncommon to see some of his lower end autographs going for $10 – $15. I don’t think I wll ever understand the collector’s sensibility on this one. I know Joe Dumars will never understand it either.