The 1997 NBA draft was the 51st in league history after its beginning during the 1946-1947 season. The San Antonio Spurs won the 1997 NBA draft lottery and were awarded the 1st overall pick after amassing a franchise-worst 20-62 record during the 1996-1997 regular season.
Despite posting poor records during the 1996-1997 regular season as well, the Vancouver Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors were both prohibited from getting the 1st overall pick since they were both recent expansion teams.
1997 NBA Draft
The 1997 NBA draft was one of the weakest drafts in NBA history, with few players from this class having successful NBA careers. Because Tim Duncan was the only player in the 1997 NBA draft list who was expected to be a major star, many teams openly tanked their season the previous year to improve their odds of winning the 1st overall pick to select him.
Only 3 players from this draft would end up making at least 1 all-star team, with all 3 of these players being named to at least 1 All-NBA Team and 2 of them being named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Who won Rookie of the Year?
To the surprise of no one, Tim Duncan won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award for the 1997-1998 season with an impressive all-around statistical year. He averaged 21.1 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.5 BPG, and shot 54.9% from the field, all while playing in every Spurs game in the regular season and postseason that year.
Starring alongside fellow big man David Robinson, Duncan helped the Spurs improve from 20 wins the previous season, to 56 wins, the 2nd biggest single-season turnaround in NBA history.
1997 NBA Draft Class
FIRST ROUND LOTTERY PICKS
- Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs)
- Keith Van Horn (Philadelphia 76ers)
- Chauncey Billups (Boston Celtics)
- Antonio Daniels (Vancouver Grizzlies)
- Tony Battie (Denver Nuggets)
- Ron Mercer (Boston Celtics)
- Tim Thomas (New Jersey Nets)
- Adonal Foyle (Golden State Warriors)
- Tracy McGrady (Toronto Raptors)
- Danny Fortson (Milwaukee Bucks)
- Tariq Abdul-Wahad (Sacramento Kings)
- Austin Croshere (Indiana Pacers)
- Derek Anderson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
REMAINING FIRST ROUND PICKS
- Maurice Taylor (Los Angeles Clippers)
- Kelvin Cato (Dallas Mavericks)
- Brevin Knight (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Johnny Taylor (Orlando Magic)
- Chris Anstey (Portland Trail Blazers)
- Scot Pollard (Detroit Pistons)
- Paul Grant (Minnesota Timberwolves)
- Anthony Parker (New Jersey Nets)
- Ed Gray (Atlanta Hawks)
- Bobby Jackson (Seattle SuperSonics)
- Rodrick Rhodes (Houston Rockets)
- John Thomas (New York Knicks)
- Charles Smith (Miami Heat)
- Jacque Vaughn (Utah Jazz)
- Keith Booth (Chicago Bulls)
SECOND ROUND PICKS
- Serge Zwikker (Houston Rockets)
- Mark Sanford (Miami Heat)
- Charles O’Bannon (Detroit Pistons)
- James Cotton (Denver Nuggets)
- Marko Milič (Philadelphia 76ers)
- Bubba Wells (Dallas Mavericks)
- Kebu Stewart (Philadelphia 76ers)
- James Collins (Philadelphia 76ers)
- Marc Jackson (Golden State Warriors)
- Jerald Honeycutt (Milwaukee Bucks)
- Anthony Johnson (Sacramento Kings)
- Eddie Elisma (Seattle SuperSonics)
- Jason Lawson (Denver Nuggets)
- Stephen Jackson (Phoenix Suns)
- Gordon Malone (Minnesota Timberwolves)
- Cedric Henderson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- God Shammgod (Washington Bullets)
- Eric Washington (Orlando Magic)
- Alvin Williams (Portland Trail Blazers)
- Predrag Drobnjak (Washington Bullets)
- Alain Digbeau (Atlanta Hawks)
- Chris Crawford (Atlanta Hawks)
- DeJuan Wheat (Los Angeles Lakers)
- C.J. Bruton (Vancouver Grizzlies)
- Paul Rogers (Los Angeles Lakers)
- Mark Blount (Seattle SuperSonics)
- Ben Pepper (Boston Celtics)
- Nate Erdmann (Utah Jazz)
- Roberto Duenas (Chicago Bulls)
1997 NBA Draft Best Players
After being drafted 1st overall by the San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan established himself as the best player of the 1997 NBA draft class, so much so that the 1997 NBA draft is often referred to as the Tim Duncan draft. Starring at both the power forward and center positions, Duncan was a dominant offensive and defensive player for the Spurs, helping them to become one of the most successful NBA franchises in the 21st century.
Duncan possessed a reserved and easy-going personality, allowing him to thrive under Spurs coach Greg Popovich, who could be very demanding and overbearing at times. The Spurs made the playoffs every year of Duncan’s career and won 5 NBA championships, with Duncan being named the NBA Finals MVP in 3 of them.
Over a legendary 19-year career, he averaged 19 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3 APG, 2.2 BPG, and shot 50.6% from the field. He won 2 NBA regular season MVP awards, was named to the All-NBA 1st Team 10 times, was named to the All-Defensive 1st Team 8 times, was named to 15 all-star games, and was named a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. Duncan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020.
Tracy McGrady was selected with the 9th overall pick by the Toronto Raptors and proved to be the steal of the draft, starring at both the small forward and shooting guard positions during his career. A 1997 NBA draft redo would undoubtedly result in McGrady being selected 2nd overall, as he became the 2nd best player of the draft class behind only Tim Duncan.
After averaging only 11.1 PPG during his first 3 seasons with Toronto, McGrady was traded to the Orlando Magic and instantly became a star. Over his four seasons with the Magic, McGrady averaged a staggering 28.1 PPG, 7 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 1 BPG.
Unfortunately, injuries would begin to plague McGrady and would prevent him from ever reaching this elite level of play again. He also never got past the 1st round of the playoffs until the final year of his career where he had a minor role with the San Antonio Spurs.
McGrady averaged 19.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.4 APG, and 1.2 SPG for his career. He was named to the All-NBA 1st Team twice, was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team 3 times, was named to the All-NBA 3rd Team twice, and was named to 7 all-star games. McGrady was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.
Chauncey Billups was taken with the 3rd overall pick by the Boston Celtics and would end up having a very good career at the point guard position. After bouncing around the league for the first part of his career, Billups found a home with the Detroit Pistons at the start of the 2002-2003 season.
Billups would establish himself as the best player for the Pistons during the next several seasons, which saw the Pistons go on several extended playoff runs and win an NBA championship. Billups was a very good defensive player and clutch shooter and would raise his level of play when the stakes were highest.
Billups averaged 15.2 PPG, 5.4 APG, and 1 SPG for his career, all while shooting 38.7% from three-point range and 89.4% from the free-throw line. He was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team once, was named to the All-NBA 3rd Team twice, was named to the All-Defensive 2nd Team twice, was named to 5 all-star games, and was named the 2004 NBA Finals MVP.
The Tim Ducan, Tracy McGrady and Chauncey Billups Draft
Overall, the 1997 NBA draft was one of the weakest in NBA history, producing only 3 players who would eventually make an all-star team. Other than Duncan, McGrady, and Billups, most lottery picks either underachieved, flamed out quickly, or failed to develop at all. Although the 1997 NBA draft results were very disappointing, Tim Duncan’s legendary career helped to save the draft from being a complete disaster.