4. Mel Daniels
Daniels was the franchise’s first-round draft pick back in 1967, but the 6’9 big man decided to play in the ABA instead. The then-Cincinnati Royals were left with nothing as Daniels went on to be a Hall of Famer.
Daniels led the ABA in rebounding in three of his first four seasons and made seven straight All-Star appearances. He was an elite scorer and an unstoppable force from the moment he went pro. Daniels is most remembered from his time in Indiana, but the 6’8 forward played for four different franchises during his nine-year career. He won two MVP awards and was one of the best players in the world in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Mel Daniels did not come to the NBA until his final season in 1976. He only lasted 11 games with the New York Knicks before the big man retired at 32 years old. Over his 639 combined contests, he averaged 18.4 points and 14.9 rebounds in 35.2 minutes per game. Blocks did not become a stat until 1972, but Daniels put up 1.5 per game over his final four years.
The Royals turned into the Kings during Daniel’s playing days, but the franchise made the playoffs just once from 1968 to 1976. Things certainly would have been different with the Hall of Famer leading their charge, but he chose to star in the ABA.