History not on side of Sixers' No. 2 pick Turner

Sixers guard Evan Turner gets in front of Charlotte's Gerald Wallace during yesterday's overtime victory.
Sixers guard Evan Turner gets in front of Charlotte's Gerald Wallace during yesterday's overtime victory.
Posted: January 18, 2011

EVAN TURNER is facing some dubious odds.

Sixers fans were rightfully excited when the team surprisingly finished second in the 2010 draft lottery. With University of Kentucky freshman John Wall locked in as the No. 1 pick of the Washington Wizards, Sixers fans were satisfied they weren't getting off too badly by settling for Turner, who was the national player of the year at Ohio State.

But the No. 2 pick never has been kind to the Sixers, and Turner's initial struggles during his rookie campaign have raised concerns that they might be about to get zapped again.

It's way too early for Turner to start evoking images of Marvin "Bad News" Barnes, Shawn Bradley or the trade of Keith Van Horn for Tim Thomas and Anthony Parker.

Yesterday, in the Sixers' 96-92 overtime victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, Turner had only six points in 32 1/2 minutes, but he pulled down 11 rebounds and was strong on defense.

Still, it's hard to ignore the Sixers' poor history with the second pick.

Even beyond the boundaries of South Philadelphia, the No. 2 pick often has disappointed as a consolation prize. Whether it's been due to injury, bad judgment and in one case, death, the second overall pick historically has yielded considerably more heartache than joy.

The most infamous whiff happened in 1984, the year that the Houston Rockets drafted University of Houston center Hakeem Olajuwon first, thus leaving the Portland Trail Blazers with a decision. Portland passed on North Carolina swingman Michael Jordan and instead picked Kentucky center Sam Bowie, whose injury-plagued career started his sophomore year in college.

For those of you under 15, Jordan, who was picked third, became perhaps the best player in history and won six championships for the Chicago Bulls.

Bowie, well, let's just say there is a reason he is only mentioned in reference to the mistake concerning Jordan.

But the hard times for No. 2 extend way beyond that.

Logic dictates that, in most cases, No. 1 will be better than No. 2, but it shouldn't be a chasm between levels of success.

How about 1970, when the San Diego Rockets drafted Michigan forward Rudy Tomjanovich second behind Bob Lanier and right before Pete Maravich and Dave Cowens?

Maravich and Cowens were named among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1997, and many would argue that Lanier could have been.

Tomjanovich became a great coach.

In 1974, the Sixers got Barnes after Bill Walton went first to Portland. Barnes opted to begin his pro career in the ABA and never played for the Sixers.

The 1984 draft featured four of the 50 Greatest (Jordan, Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton). That Bowie guy wasn't one of them.

A similar thing happened in 1985, when Wayman Tisdale, who had an OK career, was the second pick of the Indiana Pacers behind Patrick Ewing and before fellow 50 Greatest member Karl Malone.

In 1986, Maryland forward Len Bias died from cocaine intoxication days after being drafted No. 2 by the Boston Celtics.

The San Antonio Spurs waited 2 years for 1987 No. 1 overall pick and Hall of Fame center David Robinson to fulfill his military commitment after he graduated from the United States Naval Academy. The Spurs got a much better deal than the Phoenix Suns, who picked Armon "The Hammer" Gilliam at No. 2.

The list of forgettable second picks is long, way too long for what you'd expect from such a high pick.

Sixers fans concerned about Turner should be pleased to know that No. 2 isn't always a bad pick to have. In the 1960s, 50 Greatest members Rick Barry, Dave Bing, Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld all were drafted second overall.

In 1981, the Detroit Pistons selected Isiah Thomas, another 50 Greatest, second.

When the next NBA anniversary team is announced, such No. 2 overall picks as Gary Payton (1990), Jason Kidd ('94) and Kevin Durant (2007) likely will find spots.

Thus far, the 21st century hasn't been great, having already yielded confirmed flops in Stromile Swift (2000) and Darko Milicic ('03).

The jury is still out on guys such as Emeka Okafor ('04), Marvin Williams ('05), Michael Beasley ('08) and Hasheem Thabeet ('09).

Durant and, maybe, LaMarcus Aldridge ('06), are the only ones who have shown perennial All-Star potential.

It's way too soon to start determining what Turner will be as a No. 2 overall pick.

In the end, he will be the one who will forge his greatness or lack thereof.

Still, history seems to be lined up against him.

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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