THERE WON'T BE a Big 5 player selected in the first round of the NBA draft for the fifth consecutive season. In fact, only 18 Big 5 players have been taken in the first round since 1985, the first year of the lottery.
The lottery came not long after ESPN. Once some of the best local high school players got a look at the Atlantic Coast Conference and the other major conferences on television, it was that much more difficult to keep the best local high school players in the city.
So, Rasheed Wallace, from Simon Gratz, went to North Carolina, instead of Temple or Villanova. Wallace was a lottery pick. The Morris twins, from Prep Charter, went to Kansas. Marcus and Markieff will each be selected in the first round on Thursday.
Back in the day, there were no high school players in the draft, few early entries, no international players. Thus, it has become more difficult to get into the first round.
Since 1985, the Big 5 has had some serious players, including two national players of the year. So, it is not as if there has been no talent in the city.
It has been clustered in two programs - Villanova and Temple. Those two schools account for 13 of the first-rounders. Since the NBA began, Villanova (40) has the most NBA players, followed by Temple (33), La Salle (22), Saint Joseph's (17) and Penn (12).
Anytime one uses the word "best," it can almost always be debated. But, if you go by points scored and All-Star appearances, two reasonable measuring sticks, the best NBA player from the Big 5 in the lottery era is Temple's Eddie Jones.
His 14,153 points are far more than anybody else. He was on three All-Star teams. Only one other player during this time frame has made an All-Star team. Jones was incredibly consistent, a 17- to 20-point scorer for seven seasons with great range and an explosive finish.
In fact, if you go back in history, only one player from a city school ever scored more NBA points than Jones. Villanova's legendary Hall of Famer, Paul Arizin, scored 16,266 points and made 10 All-Star teams.
Only four players have scored more than 10,000 points. The other two are La Salle's Larry Foust (11,198) and Temple's wondrous point guard, Guy Rodgers (10,415). Rodgers also had 6,917 assists. Why he is not in the Basketball Hall of Fame is an enduring mystery.
La Salle's Tom Gola (7,871 points) is the only other Hall of Famer who played at a city college. He was a good NBA player and one of the best in college history.
Villanova's Tim Thomas, the only one-and-done first-rounder in Big 5 history, has scored the second most points (9,319) in the lottery era. More than a few thought Thomas was a better high school player than Kobe Bryant when they came out in 1996. Thomas played 12 seasons. He was never a star, but he made nearly 1,000 threes and always played his best when he was about to be a free agent. He probably could have been great, but his way got him a lot of points and a ton of money.
Villanova's Kerry Kittles (7,165 points) is next on the list. Had he not been injured and forced to retire after eight seasons, his points total would certainly have approached 10,000. He was Jason Kidd's running mate on the two Nets teams that made the NBA Finals. Think about that for a minute - Nets in the Finals.
Temple's Aaron McKie (5,871) is next. Points really never told his story. He was the consummate team player who did whatever it took.
The only others with more than 5,000 points won the Big 5 era's only national championship (Villanova's Ed Pinckney) and a pair of National Player of the Year awards (La Salle's Lionel Simmons and St. Joe's Jameer Nelson).
Pinckney was a solid role player in 12 NBA seasons who will forever have that April 1985 night in Rupp Arena.
Simmons was a top-shelf NBA player for four seasons, even though nobody noticed because he played in Sacramento. His first season, he averaged 18.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He was runner-up as Rookie of the Year. His second season, he averaged 17.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists. His third season, it was 17.9, 7.2 and 4.5, and then 15.1, 7.5 and 4.1 in his fourth. His second season, he blocked 132 shots and got 135 steals. There was nothing on a court he could not do and do well. Then, the cartilage in his knees gave out, and his career ended way too soon. If you carry out his early numbers over 10 healthy seasons, the L-Train would have put up monster career numbers.
Nelson is in the midst of a career that will put him among the elite in Big 5/NBA history. He was selected to the 2009 All-Star team. Had he not gotten injured just before that All-Star Game (he did not return until the NBA Finals when he was nowhere near top form), the Magic, and not the Lakers, might very well have won that NBA championship.
Nelson already has 5,866 points and 2,287 assists. He basically ran Raymond Felton out of Charlotte and Mike Bibby out of Atlanta during the 2010 playoffs when he averaged 19.0 points. His 6.0 assists in 2010-11 were a career best. And his assist totals are really affected the fact that his team takes so many threes, big man Dwight Howard gets fouled more than anybody in the league, and coach Stan Van Gundy often lets Hedo Turkoglu act as the primary ballhandler.
Nelson and his Hawks running mate, Delonte West, are two of only four active Big 5 first-rounders. West has had a nice career, but injuries and personal issues have kept if from being even better.
The other two active players were also in the same backcourt for two seasons - Villanova's Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry. They took the Wildcats to within a game of the 2006 Final Four.
Foye is a very good player who has had the misfortune of playing with three very bad teams - Minnesota, Washington and the Los Angeles Clippers. He is a great finisher who gets fouled and does not miss free throws. Put him on a playoff team some season and watch how well he plays.
Lowry blew up this winter for the Rockets when he became the starting point guard. His March numbers (points, assists, three-point percentage) were among the best in the league. He was virtually unguardable. What was always a weakness (shooting) became a strength. And just imagine if Yao Ming were not forever injured.
The best second-rounder in this era? Got to be Villanova's Doug West. In fact, his 6,477 points would rank fourth on the lottery-era list. West played 12 solid seasons and is now back for a second stint as an assistant as his alma mater.
Another second-rounder, Villanova's Alvin Williams (4,161 points), would have put up even more serious numbers if he had not been forced to give it up early because of injury.
La Salle's Doug Overton gets the perseverance award. An injury late in his senior season pushed him into the second round. And he did not make a stacked Pistons roster that season. He played 12 seasons for eight NBA teams anyway and still makes his living in the league as a Nets assistant.
He did not play in the Big 5, but Drexel's Malik Rose is certainly one of the city's greats of this era. He scored 5,003 points and had 3,371 rebounds after being drafted in the second round. He played 13 seasons and was a key role player for San Antonio when the Spurs owned the league.
Now that you look back, you realize you could put a pretty good squad together with the lottery-era Big 5 players in their professional primes. The classic big man would be missing. (Hasn't it always been missing from the Big 5? What was Wilt thinking, going to Kansas?) Might not win an NBA championship, but would surely find a way into the playoffs and definitely would be a very tough out. *