Since my best draft picks for the Utah Jazz article came out a few days ago, I have been asked a couple of times why “Big T” Thurl Bailey didn’t make the list. Some have gone as far as to say that I am nuts for leaving him off.
While Bailey had a fine career ( he and others like Blue Edwards and Dell Curry), it was the basis of the story that left him off the list. The criteria was mostly based on if the Jazz made the right (or perfect) pick. What that means is that they took the best possible player who was left on the board. While Bailey’s success in the league was undeniable (12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 blocks in 928 games), it doesn’t compare to some of the players who were drafted after him.
Bailey was the seventh overall pick in the 1983 draft. The players who were still on the board when he was selected who had more productive NBA careers were Dale Ellis, Jeff Malone, Derek Harper, Doc Rivers and Clyde Drexler.
Dale Ellis: Ellis went No. 9 to the Dallas Mavericks and was one of the best outside shooters in league history. He was also a great scorer who averaged more than 23 points a game for four consecutive seasons. His best year came in 1988-89 with the Seattle SuperSonics when he made the all-star game after he averaged 27.5 points on 50.1 shooting from the floor, including 47.8 percent from behind the arc. He also added 4.2 rebounds, two assists and 1.3 steals in 82 starts.
For his career, he averaged 15.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 1,209 games.
Jeff Malone: Malone was taken with the 10th pick by the Washington Bullets. He played 13 years in the league with the Bullets, Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat. He was a two-time all-star who averaged more than 20 points during six seasons. His most productive season came in 1989-90 when he averaged a career-high 24.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 75 games.
For his career, he averaged 19 points on 48.4 percent shooting, 2.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 905 games.
Derek Harper: Harper was taken 11th by the Dallas Mavericks. He played 16 years in the NBA for the Mavericks, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers. He was an impressive ead guard who could score the ball, find open teammates and be a lockdown defender. One of his best years came in 1990-91 with the Mavericks when he averaged 19.7 points, three rebounds, 7.1 assists and 1.9 steals in 77 games.
For his career, he averaged 13.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals in 1,199 games.
Doc Rivers: Rivers was taken with the seventh pick of the second round (31st overall) by the Atlanta Hawks. He played 13 seasons in the NBA for the Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs. He was a pass first point guard who was a great defender and a team leader. His best season came with the Hawks in 1987-88 when he averaged 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 1.8 steals in 80 games to make his only all-star game appearance.
For his career, he averaged 10.9 points, three rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.8 steals in 864 games.
Clyde Drexler: Drexler was the best of the bunch and the biggest miss for the Jazz. He was selected with the 14th pick by the Portland Trail Blazers. He played for 15 seasons in the NBA for the Blazers and the Houston Rockets. He was a 10-time all-star and good enough to make the original dream team. He was also named as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. His most impressive statistical season came in 1988-89 when he averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.7 steals.
For his hall-of-fame career, he averaged 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists and two steals in 1,086 games.
So, while Bailey was a very nice player for the Jazz and the Timberwolves throughout his career, he doesn’t compare to some of the fantastic players who went behind him in the draft. Since that was the most important criteria to the ranking he just couldn’t make the list.