By Lorenzo Tanos
So three rounds was one round too many, it seems. After moving from seven rounds to three in 1988, the NBA went with a two-round system for the 1989 Draft and it's been that way since then. More undrafted players, definitely, but more freedom for those players who didn't get drafted, since they could sign with any team.
Without further ado, here's our 1989 Draft recap and the first recap of the stripped-down, two-round era. We'll be doing away with the trivia section for this class going forward, except in truly noteworthy occasions; with far less players drafted, there's far less to talk about when it comes to obscure and interesting trivia.
THE TOP PICK – For some time, it looked like Pervis Ellison (SAC, F/C, 6'9"-210, Louisville) was a late-blooming superstar. After two injury-prone seasons to start off his NBA career, Ellison averaged 20.0, 11.2 rpg and 2.7 bpg in 1991-92 for the Washington Bullets. He followed that up in 1992-93 with 17.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg and 2.4 rpg – not bad, but the injuries were certainly taking their toll at this point. That was Ellison's last truly productive season, as he spent the rest of his career as a spot starter who could play defense if asked, but do little else. His career averages – 9.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg in 11 NBA seasons.
THE BEST – Tim Hardaway (GSW, PG, 6'0"-175, UTEP, #14) was the third point guard drafted in 1989, but was, without a doubt, better than 12th pick Mookie Blaylock and definitely better than 10th pick Pooh Richardson. Thanks to Don Nelson's up-tempo style of play, Hardaway put up monster numbers from 1990 to 1995 (save for 1993-94, which he missed due to injury), including two straight years with more than 20 points and 10 assists per game. He continued playing at a high level despite the Miami Heat's slower game pace, and rightfully made the All-NBA First Team in 1996-97. All in all, Hardaway deserves to be the top man in the Class of '89, more so than other worthy candidates such as Glen Rice (MIA, SF, 6'8"-220, Michigan, #3) and Shawn Kemp (SEA, F/C, 6'10"-220, Trinity Valley CC, #17).
THE BUSTS – He may have played a key role off the bench for those first few Chicago Bulls championship teams, but Stacey King (CHI, F/C, 6'11"-230, Oklahoma, #6) had the potential to do much more, despite boasting college stats bloated by Billy Tubbs' high-octane offense. Though he didn't exactly boast three-point range, King was a great face-up player who could stretch the defense outside, and the Bulls made good use of that skill while using King as a top frontcourt reserve. Here's what made him the biggest bust – despite being traded in 1994 to the then-horrid Timberwolves for Luc Longley, King was still a mediocre NBA big man at best. And he only lasted eight seasons, five of them with the Bulls. So much for being a key reserve on a championship team. For that, he edges out Danny Ferry (LAC, F, 6'10"-220, Duke, #2), who was thought to be the next Larry Bird but instead had a 13-year NBA career as a role player.
Also, Randy White (DAL, PF, 6'8"-250, Louisiana Tech,
#8) was a potential Karl Malone clone from the same school who turned
out to be a Mailman who couldn't deliver.
THE STEALS – Tough call here. Vlade Divac (LAL, C, 7'1"-243, Serbia, #26) had a standout career as Bill Walton-lite and a master in the flopping department. He was successful both as a Laker and as a top player on a bitter Laker rival, in this case the Sacramento Kings. But then there are others who are equally worthy of being considered the steals of the 1989 Draft. There's Clifford Robinson (POR, F, 6'10"-225, Connecticut, #36), who mysteriously slipped to the second round but nonetheless had a much better career than Ellison, King, White, J.R. Reid, et al. And Dino Radja (BOS, F/C, 6'11"-225, Croatia, #40) had four very productive NBA seasons as the Boston Celtics' starting power forward before returning to Europe.
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