The NBA Draft is always a risky proposition. Over the years, the third pick in the draft has produced some big busts (like Adam Morrison in 2006). Then again, Michael Jordan was drafted third overall, too. Here's our take on the ten best players who began their careers in the No. 3 slot. (Read Randy Hollis' article for more.) Honorable mentions: Penny Hardaway, 1993; Baron Davis, 1999; Shareef Abdur-Rahim, 1996; Bill Cartwright, 1979; Nate Thurmond, 1963; Al Horford, 2007; Jerry Stackhouse, 1995; Christian Laettner, 1992; Sean Elliott, 1989; Buck Williams, 1981.
"Mr. Big Shot," as he came to be known in Detroit, took a while to find his footing in the league. But he found a home with the Pistons, leading them to an upset win over the Lakers in 2004 and earning the NBA Finals MVP award. Now with the Knicks, Billups has averaged 15.5 points and 5.6 assists per game for his career.
You know all about D-Will. The Jazz traded up in the 2005 draft to get a shot at him, preferring the Illinois product over Wake Forest's Chris Paul. Williams has posted career averages of 17.2 points and 9.1 assists per game, but it remains to be seen if he'll keep up that pace in New Jersey or if he can lead the Nets to the league's elite.
During Hill's peak, he was one of the most well-rounded players in the league. Unfortunately, injuries hampered much of his early career, preventing him from taking full advantage of his talent. Still, he's become a valuable member of the Phoenix Suns, his third NBA team. His career averages stand at 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
Gasol is best known as the bearded running mate of Kobe Bryant's Lakers, but he was originally drafted by Atlanta, who swapped him to Memphis on the day of the draft. The big Spaniard has made the NBA All-Star team four times and holds career averages of 18.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Melo was taken two spots after LeBron James (and one spot after the Pistons selected Darko Milicic) and soon became a scoring phenom, carrying the Nuggets for years before being traded to New York during the 2010-11 season. While he hasn't had much postseason success, the four-time All-Star does have a career scoring average of 24.8 points per game.
"The Human Highlight Film" was originally selected by Utah, but financial issues soon forced the Jazz to trade Wilkins to Atlanta, where he flourished. His thunderous dunks and prolific scoring led to nine All-Star appearances and one All-NBA first-team selection.
Maravich's flamboyant skill and scoring ability earned him the nickname "Pistol Pete," especially during his days with the Jazz (then based in New Orleans). Soon after the Jazz moved to Utah, Maravich was waived and finished the season with Boston. His career was cut short by injuries, and he died of a heart attack at the age of 40.
The legendary point guard helped lead the Celtics to six championships in the '50s and '60s, helped by center Bill Russell and coach Red Auerbach. He earned the MVP award in 1957, led the league in assists several times, and made 13 All-Star appearances. He finished with career averages of 18.4 points and 7.5 assists per game.
Boston made a draft-day trade to move into the third spot and select McHale (just after the Jazz took Darrell Griffith with the second pick), and the power forward teamed up with Larry Bird to lead the Celtics to three championships in the '80s. McHale made the All-Star team seven times and averaged 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game for his career.
In perhaps the most famous draft ever, the Bulls snapped up Jordan after the Blazers took Sam Bowie with the second pick. (The first pick was Hakeem Olajuwon, chosen by the Rockets.) You know the rest: six championships, five MVP awards, 14 All-Star appearances, and career averages of 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. And two heartbreaking NBA Finals series wins over the Utah Jazz.