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Ranking and Rating the Careers of Every First Pick Still in the NBA

Best 1st pick NBA Draft

With Anthony Bennett being waived by the Brooklyn Nets a couple weeks ago, and Ben Simmons yet to play a game yet for the Philadelphia 76ers, there are currently ten first overall picks playing in the NBA. With that little useless factoid, I have decided to compile a list ranking each of these first overall picks based on their current stature in the league, while rating both their overall careers up to this point, as well as their possible NBA futures out of ten. 

So we’re not confused for the future ratings, three to four mean role player, five to six mean solid starter, seven means top ten at their position, eight means top 25 in the league, nine means top ten in the league, and ten means best in the league. Just going to clear that up.

10. Andrew Bogut, Drafted 2005 by the Milwaukee Bucks

Oct 15, 2008 - Guangzhou, Guangdong, China - Milwaukee Bucks' ANDREW BOGUT reacts during a NBA exhibition game against Golden State Warriors at Guangzhou Gymnasium in Guangzhou. Milwaukee Bucks won over Golden State Warriors 98-94. (Credit Image: © Wendy/Color China Photos/ZUMA Press) RESTRICTIONS: * China Rights OUT *

(Credit Image: © Wendy/Color China Photos/ZUMA Press) RESTRICTIONS: * China Rights OUT *

Team History:

2005-2012 Milwaukee Bucks

2012-2016 Golden State Warriors

2016- Dallas Mavericks

Best Full Season:

2009-2010: 15.8 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.5 BPG, 52% FG%, 7.5 WS, 3.4 BPM

2016-2017:

3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 45.1% FG%, 27.3% FT%, -.7 BPM

Despite developing into a solid role player in the NBA, let’s be honest, expectations for the seven-foot Australian were a lot higher than that. In 2005, Bogut was considered undoubtedly as the #1 pick in the draft, and yes, that means higher than a guy like Chris Paul, who has turned himself into one of the best point guards of the modern era, or even a guy like Deron Williams, who from roughly 2007 to 2012, was a top five point guard in the league himself. And so the Bucks definitely chose the wrong guy, despite him seeming like the right guy at the time.

However, the past is the past, and we must, therefore, judge Bogut’s career out of the context of him being the first overall pick of his draft, and honestly, despite tons of injuries, it's been pretty good. A ring, an All-NBA team nod, an All-Defensive nod, these are good things. And Bogut is a very good rebounder, defender and a decent passer for a big man, but there are very evident offensive shortcomings, which were not disclosed upon on draft day.

The Andrew Bogut we’re getting in 2016-2017 is pretty much just an extreme version of the back end of his career. He has only been able to suit up for 22 of his team’s 43 games, however, when he is on the court he has continued to build on his reputation as an excellent defensive player, with a defensive box plus minus of 5.2, however he has also proved to be an offensive liability, averaging three points per game on 45% shooting, with an offensive box plus-minus of -5.9. At this point, Bogut will not have trouble finding work at the moment, with his rim protection and rebounding, but it’s pretty evident that he will never be a star.

Career Rating: 4

Future Rating: 3

9. Derrick Rose, Drafted 2008 by the Chicago Bulls

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Team History:

2008-2016 Chicago Bulls

2016- New York Knicks

Best Full Season:

2010-2011: 25 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 7.7 APG, 13.1 WS, 5.9 BPM

2016-2017:

18.1 PPG, 4 RPG, 4.5 APG, -2 BPM

In 2008, the Chicago Bulls thought that by choosing homer Derrick Rose with the first pick in the NBA Draft, they would be getting a team leader, a ruthless scorer, a decent playmaker and a super athlete. And they did... for about three and a half seasons. After that, though, it’s been a very different story, plagued with countless injuries, Rose has turned, what could have been a terrific career, into an enormous question mark, where we as fans start questioning if he is actually good or not. 

He can score, but he is inefficient at it, he’s still athletic, but he rarely shows it, in risk of getting injured. He has never been a very good defensive player, but now his offensive game can no longer make up for it. Now, when people think about the aforementioned leadership, scoring, playmaking and athleticism in the 2008 draft class, they think about the fourth overall pick in that draft, Russell Westbrook, who, when you look back at it, has had the best career out of anyone in that draft.

And this new injury prone Derrick Rose really is playing like a shell of his former self. Sure, he’s having his best season since 2011-2012, only missing five games so far, but still, every time we see him cross someone over, or make an athletic layup, or see the occasional explosive dunk, we are simply reminded of what could have been. Rose could have maintained his status as one of the best point guards in the league if he wasn’t destroyed by injuries. And so even though his highs were high with three All-Star Game appearances, an MVP and a Rookie of the Year, he is now just another inefficient, ball-hungry point guard.

Career Rating: 5

Future Rating: 3

8. Andrew Wiggins, Drafted 2014 by the Cleveland Cavaliers

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Team History: 

2014- Minnesota Timberwolves

Best Full Season:

2015-2016: 20.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 48.1% eFG%, 4.1 WS, -2.1 BPM

2016-2017:

21.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 48.1% eFG%, -3.1 BPM

Look, as someone from Andrew Wiggins’s hometown of Thornhill, Ontario, writing him as the third worst first pick currently in the league hurts me to the core, but like an abusive parent always says, Andrew, this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. Despite being a high volume scorer since coming to the NBA in 2014, Andrew Wiggins really hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations that NBA teams had for him. At Kansas, Wiggins was scouted as a terrific defensive player, but with a defensive box plus minus of -2.2 throughout his career, we can’t really call him one. We were told that he was a great finisher, and he is, but only from three feet or less, where he has shot (or dunked/lay-upped) at a 65.4% rate, for comparison reasons, LeBron shot 67.6% from zero to three feet in the first three years in his career. Not too bad. 

However, Wiggins is not really a productive scorer from anywhere else on the floor, shooting under 40 percent in his career from all farther distances on the floor, and has a career three-point percentage of just 31.6%. So basically, despite stuffing stats relatively well throughout the first three years of his career, Wiggins has not really been that contributable of a player. And is he currently having the best season in his draft class? Definitely not, second pick Jabari Parker, third pick Joel Embiid, teammate and 13th pick Zach LaVine and oddly enough, 41st pick Nikola Jokic are all having better seasons than him, but he has still probably had the best career, as he has been able to be on the court way longer than any of these other guys.

This season despite coming into the season very hot, we’ve really gotten more of the same from Wiggins, however, with his elite athleticism, some more encouragement (verbal abuse) from head coach Tom Thibodeau and some more offseason work, it’s only a matter of time before Wiggins starts to fill in the gaps as an NBA player.

Career Rating: 4

Future Rating: 8

7. Dwight Howard, Drafted 2004 by the Orlando Magic

dwight-howard

Team History:

2004-2012 Orlando Magic

2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers

2013-2016 Houston Rockets

2016- Atlanta Hawks

Best Full Season:

2010-2011: 22.9 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 59.3% FG%, 14.4 WS, 4.8 BPM

2016-2017:

13.7 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 63.5% FG%, 2.7 BPM

Say what you want about Dwight Howard, but you need to acknowledge that on the court, Dwight has always been a high-quality player who can definitely play defense, rebound, and often takes smart shots. And let’s also not forget that from 2007 to 2012, you also probably thought that Dwight Howard was the best center in the league. Thank you for admitting it, Lakers fans, you know you thought that too. I can’t really say any new negative things about Dwight because there have already been so many complaints about his poor free throw shooting, attitude and his injury proneness, which really hasn’t been very bad, only playing less than 70 games in two seasons. 

So let’s try to focus on his positives, throughout the course of his career, Dwight has racked up a lot of achievements, he made the NBA Finals in 2009, racked up three straight Defensive Player of the Year Awards from 2009 to 2011, and has made eight All-Star games. And he is also the only player so far to easily have the best career in his draft class (and don’t say Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, JR Smith, Dorell Wright, Tony Allen, Sasha Vujacic, Beno Udrih or Trevor Ariza because they have rings, you just sound ignorant and forgetful).

In 2016-2017 Dwight Howard has really just been a lower usage version of himself. Sure, he’s averaging the least points per game since his rookie year, but he also has a career high field goal percentage, which needs to count for something. And as always, his defense is still great, and his rebounding is as well, so let’s Dwighten up a bit when talking about Howard. Sorry for the pun. I had you until that, didn’t I?

Career Rating: 8

Future Rating: 6

6. John Wall, Drafted 2010 by the Washington Wizards

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Team History:

2010- Washington Wizards

Best Full Season:

2015-2016: 19.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 10.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 35.1% 3P%, 46.7% eFG%, 5.7 WS, 3.2 BPM

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2016-2017:

23.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 10.1 APG, 2.2 SPG, 31.7% 3P%, 49.4% eFG%, 4.7 BPM

The Washington Wizards are one of those rare teams that pretty much got exactly what they asked for with the first overall pick in the draft, without many surprises. He’s a terrific athlete, great playmaker and good guard defender. However, even though that is the case, there could still be glaring weaknesses about his game, or specifically oneglaring weakness about his game. His jump shot. And really, at this point, I’m surprised that no one’s really used the insult that used to be used on Jason Kidd, another great point guard with no jump shot and a first name that starts with a ‘J’. 

Okay, so from now on, we’re calling him Ohn Wall because he has no jay. Ohn Wall really is a horrendous outside shooter, sure, he has had two separate years of 35.1%, which isn’t horrible, but that still doesn’t make up for his 7.1% in 2011-2012, or really, any other year. His career three-point percentage is 31.9%, and much like Wiggins, he has also been absolutely awful from anywhere inside the three-point line from beyond three feet. But besides his poor shooting, Ohn Wall really does everything a great point guard needs to do, he scores explosively, makes plays for his teammates and defends well enough, which mostly makes up for his poor shooting.

I wouldn’t really put the Wizards struggles in the past two years on Ohn Wall or his attitude, as, this year and last, Wall is putting up the best numbers in his career, while his team around him collapsed. The Wizards should probably make the playoffs this year too, which always helps his case as one of the league’s best point guards.

Career Rating: 8

Future Rating: 8

5. Kyrie Irving, Drafted 2011 by the Cleveland Cavaliers

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2011- Cleveland Cavaliers

Best Full Season:

2014-2015: 21.7 PPG, 5.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 58.3% TS%, 10.4 WS, 3.3 BPM

2016-2017:

24.5 PPG, 5.6 APG, 57.7% TS%, 2.7 BPM

I’m going to be honest with you, I am not the biggest Kyrie Irving fan. I feel like his ring and stellar crossover have made him a severely overrated player, and they have made his supporters impervious to his lack of defensive skills, injury proneness and inability to get his team to the playoffs pre-LeBron James (or as Clevelanders call it, The Blue Period). However, Kyrie Irving definitely has been a terrific player in his six-year career and has consistently been one of the league’s best scoring point guards. Sure, looking back on his draft class, there are a few guys who are arguably better players than Kyrie, like 11th pick Klay Thompson, 15th pick Kawhi Leonard and 30th pick Jimmy Butler, but they weren’t really considered to be threats to take Kyrie’s draft placement at the time. In fact, the only player that legitimately had that chance was second pick, Derrick Williams, and Cavaliers fans should be thanking god that the Cavs chose Kyrie.

This season, we’ve had another expected season from Kyrie, slightly increased points per game, great three-point shooting, strong mid-range game (51% from just inside the three-point line), good finishing, especially for a non-dunker (61.1% from 0 to three feet) and like always, poor defense (-1.8 defensive box plus minus, 49% opposing field goal percentage), and so really, in the future, I expect more of the same from Kyrie Irving.

Career Rating: 8

Future Rating: 8

4. Blake Griffin, Drafted 2009 by the Los Angeles Clippers

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2010- Los Angeles Clippers

Best Full Season:

2013-2014: 24.1 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 52.8% FG%, 12.2 WS, 4.6 BPM

2016-2017:

20.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 4.7 APG, 3.6 BPM

In 2009, when the Los Angeles Clippers drafted Blake Griffin with the first pick of the NBA Draft, there seemed to be a general feeling of, hey, maybe this historically awful franchise won’t be that terrible in the future, and boy were they right. Despite sitting out what would have been his rookie year with an injury, the minute Blake Griffin stepped on an NBA court, you knew that he was going to be terrific. His rookie year line was 22.5/12.1/3.8, and he has been able to diversify his game throughout his career more than the Wu-Tang Clan could diversify their bonds (to understand that reference, you were probably pre-1990 or just really into Chappelle’s Show, like myself). 

But honestly, since his rookie year, Blake Griffin has added the ability to hit free-throws (64.2% in his rookie year to 74.1% now), the ability to put the ball to the floor, a mid-range jump shot and now even a producer’s credit on a basketball movie remake. I’m not making that last thing up. But really, Blake Griffin has turned himself from one of the league’s best dunkers into one of the league’s best point forwards.

The only glaring problem about Blake Griffin as a basketball player anymore is that he has been severe injury prone over the past three years. He missed 15 games in 2014-2015, he missed 47 games last year, when he made the wise decision to punch his equipment manager in the face, and this year, he has already missed 20 of his team’s games. When Blake Griffin is on the floor, he is easily a top three power forward in the league. The problem is, he is not nearly on the floor enough.

Career Rating: 8

Future Rating: 8

3. Karl-Anthony Towns, Drafted 2015 by Minnesota Timberwolves

rookie-year-basketball

Team History:

2015- Minnesota Timberwolves

Best Full Season:

2015-2016: 18.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 59% TS%, 8.3 WS, 2.8 BPM

2016-2017:

22.4 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 57.7% TS%, 3.8 BPM

At this point in his career, I really don’t have many negative things to say about Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s a great two-way center, with the ability to shoot the mid-range, succeed in pick and roll and post up situations, what else could you want besides a team? But really, if I’m being picky here, I need to say that Karl-Anthony Towns either needs to improve his three-point shooting or take less threes because this year, KAT has been shooting 31.6% on 3.4 attempts per game, which is not very good at all. There’s nothing else really to say about his problems as a player or with his career in general, as after all, the guy has only played a season and a half, and has already been thought of as the new Tim Duncan.

Anyway you put it, KAT’s future is bright. At just 21 years old, KAT joins an exclusive club of 21-year-olds who averaged over 20 points and ten rebounds on a true shooting percentage of 55% or higher, joining only Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Anthony Davis (spoiler alert). He is also yet to miss a game for the Minnesota Timberwolves, even with 33.5 career minutes per game, good enough for fourth in the league for big men over the past two years. Whatever good may come for Karl-Anthony Towns in the future, the chances are, me and every other basketball fan in the world will not be surprised. That’s just how good Karl-Anthony Towns is.

Career Rating: 8

Future Rating: 9.5

2. Anthony Davis, Drafted 2012 by the New Orleans Hornets

Anthony-Davis-Pelicans-Jumper

Team History:

2012- New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans

Best Full Season:

2014-2015: 24.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 1.5 SPG, 53.5% FG%, 14 WS, 7.1 BPM

2016-2017:

28.6 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 51.4 eFG%, 4.7 BPM

At this point in his career, I really just feel bad for Anthony Davis, I mean, as bad as someone can feel for an in-shape, 6’10”, multi-millionaire. I feel bad for Anthony Davis because he is doing almost everything for the New Orleans Pelicans this season, and even with that, the team is not succeeding. But boy is he doing some great things for them this year. Much like KAT, the only major criticism you can have for him as a player is his over-shooting of his unmastered three-point shooting, which he shoots 1.7 times per game for a percentage of 29.6%, as well as this, he has also been pretty injury prone throughout his career, but so far he has only missed four games for the Pelicans, and with his increased team load, this is great news.

The minute Anthony Davis gets some solid, relatively uninjured teammates on his side, Davis will probably be in the playoffs. However, currently, The Brow is somehow carrying the Pelicans in that picture as it is, only 1.5 games back from the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets. Davis is still only 23 years old, which is scary, as he probably has not entered his prime yet, and when he does, we, as fans, will be watching.

Career Rating: 9

Future Rating: 9

1. LeBron James, Drafted 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers

LBJ-rookie

Team History:

2003-2010 Cleveland Cavaliers

2010-2014 Miami Heat

2014- Cleveland Cavaliers

Best Full Season:

2012-2013: 26.8 PPG, 8 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 60.3% eFG%, 19.3 WS, 11.6 BPM, but really, pick any year, and you’ll be able to make a case for it

2016-2017:

25.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 8.4 APG, 56.6% eFG%, 7.9 BPM

How could it not be LeBron James? Not only is he the best first overall pick in the league currently, but he’s probably also the best first overall pick of all time. At this point in his career, he has done almost everything an NBA player can do, he has won three championships, four MVPs, a Rookie of the Year, has made 13 All-Star Games, and has shared a banana boat with two future Hall of Famers (both literally and metaphorically), and so despite what some of his biggest critics (cough, cough, Skip Bayless) might have to say, there’s really nothing you can say he hasn’t done in the NBA.

And still, at the age of 32, LeBron has been able to be the league’s probable best player and is leading his Cleveland Cavaliers to a probable first in the East, and there’s really nothing you can do about it.

Career Rating: 10

Future Rating: 10

NEXT

2017 NBA Mock Draft: Top 14 Prospects