The 1998 NBA draft was one of the more hit-or-miss years for prospects. The Nuggets had the third pick in the draft, which didn’t pan out too well for them.
The Denver Nuggets have had a lot of success in the draft in recent years, but 1998 was neither recent or successful. Denver had the third overall selection in the draft, with an embarrassment of riches available to them all over the draft. Of course, nobody got it more wrong than the Los Angeles Clippers.
Michael Olowokandi was the first overall pick in that year’s draft. Huh? The Nigerian-born player played eight years before being forced to retire due to injury. The Nuggets had themselves quite the opportunity to transform the fortunes of their franchise with their pick. Available to them were Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Jason Williams, Paul Pierce, and Antawn Jamison.
The Nuggets drafted Raef LaFrentz, who would end up joining Nowitzki’s Mavericks in 2002-2003. Now that Vince Carter has announced his retirement after a stunning 22-year career, it is worth wondering what the Nuggets franchise could have looked like had they made a better decision on draft day.
No stranger to nicknames, Vince Carter exploded on the scene in Toronto, quickly being dubbed “Air Canada” and “Half Man, Half Amazing.” The Nuggets missed out on the opportunity to secure one of the most exciting and clutch players of all time, who exhibited incredible longevity deep into his career with the Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies.
Once Carmelo Anthony came along, the Nuggets were already one of the league’s most feared teams, and would’ve been patently unstoppable on the offensive end with Anthony and Carter on the wings together. Carter joined a New Jersey Nets team that had been to the NBA finals earlier in the decade, and while Jason Kidd eventually moved on to the Mavericks, Carter kept solidifying his Hall of Fame credentials.
Every draft is an educated guess, but the Nuggets came out of the 1998 draft looking the same way the Portland Trail Blazers did drafting Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan. That year, the Nuggets came away with nothing in the draft because they traded their first round pick. Vince Carter was quite the assassin on the NBA floor, and the Nuggets were the victims of his greatness more than once.