One of the biggest events of the basketball offseason is undoubtedly the NBA draft, when teams vie for the hottest young talent. Draft success often boils down to getting a high pick, although savvy — or just plain lucky — teams can often strike gold lower in the draft. For the perfect example, just consider the Milwaukee Bucks taking superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick in 2013.
Speculative picks were an even more wild affair back in the ’70s and ’80s, when the draft stretched out for a whopping 10 rounds. Here we look back at some of the wackiest products of that process — including the Atlanta Hawks drafting a newborn baby — before taking a look at how the Hawks have fared in more recent drafts.
Tongue-in-cheek NBA draft picks of the ’70s and ’80s
Today’s draft has just two rounds, with teams receiving one pick from each round. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way in practice, since teams often include future picks in trade packages.
But one thing remains constant: each NBA draft consists of just 60 total picks. Even that many can be stretch at times, with lower picks often failing to develop into NBA-caliber players.
If that’s the case today, just imagine what things were like in decades past, when teams had to come up with 10 picks in every draft. Many franchises ended up using their late selections on ceremonial picks who were almost certain never to play in the NBA.
For instance, the same year they selected Michael Jordan with the third pick, the Chicago Bulls also drafted track star Carl Lewis.
Even more ridiculous was the Philadelphia 76ers drafting a middle-aged pharmacist named Norman Horvitz with the 227th pick of the 1983 NBA Draft.
The Atlanta Hawks draft a newborn baby
Still, the all-time winner for wackiest NBA draft are the Atlanta Hawks. This happened back in 1974. Hawks front office executive Pat Williams had celebrated the birth of his son James the day before the draft was to take place. And so, with no better options in mind, when the 10th round of the draft rolled around, Williams selected his day-old son with the Hawks’ final pick.
The pick initially caused some confusion — though not for the reasons you might expect. According to Fadeaway World, Williams’ newborn son happened to share his name with a non-eligible college player, prompting a confused response from the league official.
Williams then gave his son’s full name, and the draft official asked where he was from. “Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta,” Williams replied, “and he’s 19 1⁄2 inches and weighs seven pounds, five ounces.”
Not surprisingly, the young Williams never ended up playing for the Hawks. Instead, after a good laugh over the selection, the league officially voided the pick.
The Atlanta Hawks’ recent draft history
The Hawks have failed to make the playoffs for the last three seasons. While it’s been a disappointing stretch for Hawks’ fans, the silver lining is that Atlanta has benefitted from some high draft picks in recent years. As a result, the Hawks currently have one of the most exciting collections of young talent in the league.
Forward John Collins, who the Hawks selected with the 19th pick of the 2017 draft, has developed into an above-average sharpshooter. He’s currently knocking down 39.4% of his three-point shots.
In 2018, the Hawks ended up with guard Trae Young, after trading down in the draft so that the Dallas Mavericks could secure Luka Doncic.
While some consider that trade a disaster, given Doncic’s emergence as a potential MVP candidate, Young has proven himself a star-level player as well.
Last year, Young averaged 29.6 points and 9.3 assists per game, while canning 36.1% of his three-point shots. Though his numbers are down slightly this year, he remains an elite-level talent.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference