Landing the 1st overall pick is the best news any team can have, as they own the most valuable young asset in the nation and own the possibility to develop a future star that can definitely turn around a mediocre franchise’s horizon.
Over the course of the year, we’ve seen some of the best youngsters in the world make an immediate impact right out of college, overseas or even high school, making scouts feel proud about themselves after all the hard work they put to study those youngsters’ upside.
On the other hand, we’ve also seen some major busts that seemed to be poised for stardom, but they were never mentally or physically able to develop and make the adjustment to the NBA, leaving the Association without much glory.
Today, we have a very difficult, yet entertaining task on our hands, as we’re going to rank the 1st overall picks of the last 30 years (obviously excluding this year’s selection), and please feel free to do your ranking at home as well and leave it in the comments below.
30. Anthony Bennett (2013)
Bennett won’t go down just as the worst 1st overall pick of the past 30 years, but also as one of the worst picks in the history of the game, not even being in the league anymore after some horrid and failed stints everywhere he went.
Averaging 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in just over 150 games for his career, it’s crazy to think that he went ahead of Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Nerlens Noel, CJ McCollum, Steven Adams, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert.
29. Greg Oden (2007)
To be fair with the Portland Trail Blazers, Greg Oden did look like a guy that could become a major force in the Association, and if it wasn’t for injuries, maybe he would’ve been a very dominant center in both ends of the court, but we all know that wasn’t the case.
Failing to make a comeback, the Blazers have to be regretting passing on Al Horford, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah and of course, Kevin Durant, maybe the biggest regret in Portland Trail Blazers history.
28. Michael Olowokandi (1998)
The 1998 NBA Draft will be remembered for bringing outstanding talents like Ricky Davis, Jason Williams, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki to the Association, but the Los Angeles Clippers thought none of those guys was better than Michael Olowokandi, who merely averaged 8 points and over 6 boards throughout his career, and whose only remarkable accolade was being part of the 1998-99 All-Rookie squad.
Olowokandi has always been known as one of the game’s biggest busts, and one of the main reasons why the Los Angeles Clippers were never taken seriously until the Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin era.
27. Kwame Brown (2001)
If you want to remember Michael Jordan, please forget his front office stint with the Washington Wizards, and please oh please forget the fact that he trusted a major bust like Kwame Brown with the 1st overall pick.
Brown was as mentally weak and soft (even reportedly crying due to Jordan’s mistreatments) as he was lousy and careless with the rock, and Michael Jordan could’ve gone with Joe Johnson, Pau Gasol, Tyson Chandler or Zach Randolph instead.
26. Andrea Bargnani (2006)
To this day, how on earth Andrea Bargnani wind up being the 1st overall pick of that Draft still amazes me. The Italian was supposed to change the way the center was played and guarded, supposedly being a very consistent shooter from beyond the arc.
Truth to be told, he wasn’t good at anything at all, and he’s not even in the league anymore after averaging 14.3 and 3.6 boards. To make things even worse, he came after LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, JJ Redick, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry.
25. Pervis Ellison (1989)
The only two things why we can remember Pervis Ellison are: Being the 1991-92 Most Improved Player of the Year and his extremely cool nickname: Never Nervous Pervis (maybe that’s because he always knew he had nothing to offer).
Back in the day, it seemed like the big man out of Louisville was set to become an elite center for the Sacramento Kings, but he winds up staying there for just one season and retired after 11 years in the Association. Besides, the Kings could’ve gone with Vlade Divac, Dana Barros, Glen Rice or Shawn Kemp instead.
24. Joe Smith (1995)
The 1995 NBA Draft gave us all great talents like Damon Stoudemire, Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse and of course: Kevin Garnett, but as crazy as it may seem, it was Joe Smith who was drafted 1st overall by the Golden State Warriors.
Through 15 seasons, Smith was never able to stay put in one spot and actually play, spending time on 13 different franchises and merely averaging 10 points and 6 boards.
23. Andrew Bogut (2005)
The Milwaukee Bucks took a major gamble in Andrew Bogut, as he was an offensive force with absolutely no feel for defense in the early going, something that obviously took a major change when he left the team to become the Golden State Warriors’ defensive anchor.
Sadly, constant injuries stopped him from becoming a top-tier center, but he still has a Championship ring under his belt. Through his career, he’s averaged over 10 points and 8 rebounds with 1.6 swats per game, but it’s pretty clear that the Bucks made a mistake choosing him over Deron Williams, Monta Ellis and Chris Paul.
22. Ben Simmons (2016)
It’s still way too early to talk about Ben Simmons, but just 14 games into his NBA career, it feels like he’s got all it takes to become a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate, and he’s the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Year award.
Simmons is a crafty passer and incredible playmaker for his height, being impossible to match up against as a point forward. Being a nightly triple-double threat, it’s pretty clear why the Philadelphia 76ers were so cautious to unveil their secret weapon. Barring injury, he’s going to be a top 5 player in the league for a very long time.
21. Andrew Wiggins (2014)
Andrew Wiggins hasn’t lived up to the expectations that surrounded him, but that’s just because he was so vastly overhyped that everybody hoped that he’d dominate the league right out of the gate. Still, he’s been a very solid player that has improved on a yearly basis, and he’s going to be an All-Star as soon as his shot starts falling.
So far, the athletic Canadian has averaged 20.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 dimes per game to go along with 1 steal, and he’s only going to get better as years go by. On a side note, his Draft was a major disappointment, with just Joel Embiid, Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon having decent runs so far.
20. Karl-Anthony Towns (2015)
Even though Karl-Anthony Towns hasn’t been in the league for long, we can already assure he’s going to be a Hall Of Famer and one of the best players to ever wear the Minnesota Timberwolves uniform, as the young big guy gets better by the day and is an outstanding combination of fundamentals with modern basketball.
So far, the former Rookie of the Year has averaged 21.8 points, 11.4 boards, 2.3 assists and 1.5 blocks in 54% from the floor and 36% from beyond the arc, going ahead of guys like D’Angelo Russell, Kristaps Porzingis and Devin Booker.
19. Kenyon Martin (2000)
To be fair, Kenyon Martin was actually a very solid pick, as the hard-nosed tweener was an extremely capable defender and rebounder despite being extremely undersized for his position, but he was a complete nonfactor in the offensive end of the court.
Making 1 All-Star through his career, he was still the best talent of his class besides Jamal Crawford and Hedo Turkoglu, so you just can’t blame the Nets front office for trusting him.
18. Derrick Coleman (1990)
And we’ve got another New Jersey Nets pick right away, but this time 10 years earlier. Derrick Coleman posted career averages of 16.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, won the Rookie of the Year award, made 1 All-NBA team and 1 All-Star, proving he was extremely gifted in both ends of the floor.
Sadly, he was never able to play throughout a full season and only played 781 games despite being in the league for 14 seasons. Besides, Gary Payton and Toni Kukoc were also part of his class.
17. Danny Manning (1988)
Danny Manning made over 800 NBA appearances through his 14 year stint, playing for the Clippers, Bucks, Suns, Hawks, Jazz, Mavs and Pistons as their first power forward off the bench, leaving career averages of 14 points, 5.2 boards and 2.3 dimes per game on over 50% from the field, as well as winning the 1997-98 Sixth Man of the Year when he was still with the Phoenix Suns.
Still, he was never able to live up to the expectations, and he went ahead of Mitch Richmond, Rod Strickland and Vernon Maxwell.
16. Glenn Robinson (1994)
Glenn Robinson A.K.A The Big Dog was a fierce scorer during his prime, making to a couple of All-Stars and even winning the 2004-05 Championship before deciding to call it a career. Over a 10 season span, Robinson averaged almost 21 points, 6 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 45% from the field and almost 36% from three-point territory, and even though we don’t talk about him enough, he was one of the fiercest NBA scorers during his prime.
That year’s NBA Draft was pretty stacked as well, also featuring great basketball players like Jalen Rose, Grant Hill and one of the best ever: Jason Kidd, who went 2nd overall to the Dallas Mavericks.
15. Elton Brand (1999)
The 1999-00 Rookie of the Year seemed poised for stardom when he first entered the league, and he even managed to make him to 2 All-Stars before deciding to call it a career after 16 NBA seasons.
Throughout that span, Elton Brand averaged 15.9 points, more than 8 rebounds, over 2 assists and almost 2 blocks per game, with him going prior to Andre Miller, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom and last but not least: the one and only Manu Ginobili.
14. John Wall (2010)
There were a lot of question marks over John Wall’s head when he first entered the league out of Kentucky, but it’s pretty safe to say that he’s managed to shut all his doubters wrong. Wall has become a very good defender, is the fastest player in the league and above all that, a top-tier point guard.
Sadly, he hasn’t been able to reach the Conference finals yet, but it’s just a matter of time before he figures it out. Over his career, he’s averaged 18.9 points, 9.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game, and he was a fair choice even ahead of DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Eric Bledsoe.
13. Blake Griffin (2009)
Blake Griffin has really put a lot of work to improve his flaws, and even though he’s not yet a very good defender, he’s really developed as a pretty well-rounded player, and he’s going to carry the weight of lifting the post Chris Paul Clippers on his shoulders.
So far, he’s averaged 21.5 points, 9.4 points and 4.3 assists per game through his career, and even though he’s not as dominant in the glass as he used to be, his playmaking abilities seem to be on the rise. He’s going to have it really tough to lead the Clippers to the NBA Finals, and the former Rookie of the Year was drafted ahead of guys like DeMar DeRozan, James Harden and Stephen Curry.
12. Larry Johnson (1991)
Larry Johnson, A.K.A Grandmama, was one of the most fun players to watch during his prime, but had some major durability issues and was only able to stay in the NBA for 9 seasons with the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks.
Still, he managed to take home the 1991-92 Rookie of the Year and made it to a couple of All-Stars, averaging 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 dimes in over 48% from the floor and 33% from three-point territory, being drafted ahead of Kenny Anderson, Steve Smith and Dikembe Mutombo
11. Derrick Rose (2008)
To this point, Derrick Rose is no longer a top player but a huge What If, as his inability to play through injuries and his proneness to constantly get hurt pretty much killed his career and his reputation. Now, he’s trying to piggyback ride his way to a Championship, but boy, was he good when he was young and healthy. Before Russell Westbrook, there was Derrick Rose, so athletic, strong and fast that nobody could stop him.
Over his career, the former MVP has averaged 19.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and over 5 dimes per game, making it to 3 All-Stars and also winning the ROY. He was drafted ahead of Westbrook, Kevin Love, Serge Ibaka, Goran Dragic and Brook Lopez.
10. Yao Ming (2002)
Yao Ming’s impact goes way beyond the hardwood, as the Asian giant was one of the game’s biggest ambassadors overseas. For a guy that big, he wasn’t nearly as dominant as he should’ve been, but he was still a very productive player, especially when paired with Tracy McGrady.
Averaging 19 points, 9.2 boards and 1.9 blocks per game, Yao balled his way into the Hall of Fame and more importantly, into our hearts, and besides Carlos Boozer, Caron Butler and Amar’e Stoudemire, there wasn’t much else to pick in a very short and disappointing NBA Draft.
9. Anthony Davis (2012)
The Unibrow has shown glances of greatness ever since his college days and he hasn’t missed a beat ever since being drafted 1st overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. Injuries and lack of playoff success have been the lone stains in his impeccable resume, and he’d be a perennial MVP candidate if it wasn’t for how bad his team actually is.
Since entering the league, Anthony Davis has posted career averages of 22.5 points and over 10 boards to go along with 2.4 blocks, making it to a couple of All-Defensive squads and 4 All-Star games with 1 All-Star MVP. Also, he went ahead of Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond and Draymond Green.
8. Chris Webber (1993)
Chris Webber is one of the best players to not win a Championship throughout his career, being an extremely dominant big man that could out hustle everybody to lock down the paint and grab rebounds, but that wasn’t able to stay healthy and be a reliable option due to constant nagging pains and injuries.
Webber is one of the best players in Sacramento Kings history, leaving career averages of 20.7 points and 9.8 boards to go along with 4.2 assists, making it to 5 All-Stars and winning the Rookie of the Year. Besides, Webber went ahead of guys like Anfernee Hardaway, Shawn Bradley, Allan Houston, Byron Russell, Nick Van Exel and Sam Cassell.
7. Dwight Howard (2004)
For a brief period of time, everybody hoped Dwight Howard to become as dominant as Shaquille O’Neal, also being drafted 1st overall by the Orlando Magic. Even though that never happened, it’s safe to say that Howard has had a pretty decent career, constantly being among the league leader in boards, blocks and field goal percentage.
So far, the soft-minded big man has averaged 17.4 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, also winning the Defensive Player of the Year 3 times and making 8 All-Star appearances. Also, he was the best talent of a Draft that also featured Andre Iguodala, JR Smith and Luol Deng.
6. Kyrie Irving (2011)
Uncle Drew is a top tier talent even though some people think of him more of a short shooting guard than a pure playmaker. Nevertheless, at his young age he’s accomplished things most player never do, winning the World Cup with an MVP, making it to 4 All-Stars with also 1 MVP, winning an MVP Championship with a huge shot in the clutch and owning the best handles and layup package in the NBA right now.
Throughout his career, Kyrie Irving has averaged 21.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists with 1.3 steals in 45% from the field, and he went ahead of guys like Jonas Valanciunas, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas and Kawhi Leonard.
5. David Robinson (1987)
David Robinson made an instant impact and is - alongside Gregg Popovich - one of the main reasons the San Antonio Spurs have been such an important team through history, being the first franchise cornerstone during their early successes.
Averaging 21.1 points and 10.8 rebounds with 3 blocks per game, the Admiral made his way to 10 All-Stars, 1 Defensive Player of the Year, 1 Rookie of the Year, 8 All-Defensive teams, 1 Scoring Champion, a couple of rings and the Hall of Fame, going ahead of other great ballers like Muggsy Bogues, Reggie Miller, Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen on a Draft that had 7 rounds and 161 picks.
4. Allen Iverson (1996)
The class of 1996 was one of the most talent-loaded Drafts in history, with future Hall of Famers and outstanding players like Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Stephon Marbury and Jermaine O’Neal, but besides Kobe; the more influential and talented player was Allen Iverson for sure. Iverson was pure magic, but his lack of discipline costed him the chance to win an NBA Championship.
Still, he’ll go down as one of the most talented players to ever suit up, posting career averages of 26.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game; making it to the Hall of Fame, winning 1 MVP, winning the Rookie of the Year and 4 Scoring Champions as well to making it to 11 All-Stars to go along with 2 All-Star MVPs as well.
3. Shaquille O’Neal (1992)
Shaquille O’Neal is without any kind of doubt the most dominant center in the history of this game, an unstoppable force down low, a fierce rim protector, a great rebounder and a scorer as few. Shaq was one of the most entertaining players to watch, and defenders were just terrified when trying to match up against him.
O’Neal won 4 NBA Championships with 3 NBA Finals MVP, made it to 15 All-Stars with 3 All-Star MVPs, made 3 All-Defensive squads, won the Rookie of the Year and 2 Scoring titles, leaving career averages of 23.7 points, 10.9 boards, 2.5 dimes and 2.3 swats per game in over 58% from the field. Besides, the Hall of Famer was drafted ahead of Alonzo Mourning, Robert Horry, Doug Christie and Latrell Sprewell.
2. Tim Duncan (1997)
Wednesday, June 25th, 1997: The day the San Antonio Spurs were reborn. Tim Duncan is the most influential player in Spurs history, being the franchise cornerstone from day one and the guy that carried David Robinson’s torch.
The Big Fundamental is a future 1st ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best players in the history of the game, posting career averages of 19 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.2 blocks per game, being as influential in the offensive end as he was capable of playing lockdown defense on any given night. Duncan won 5 NBA Championships, made it to 15 All-Stars and 15 All-NBA Teams, won 2 MVPs, 3 Final MVPs and the Rookie of the Year, going before Chauncey Billups, Tracy McGrady and Stephen Jackson.
1. LeBron James (2003)
And finally, we reach the golden spot in our ranking, obviously going with a top 10 player in NBA history and the best small forward in the history of the game: LeBron James. Love it or hate it, you just can’t disrespect nor deny his impact and legacy in the NBA, being a player that every other guy in the league is desperate to play with as he’s an easy ride to the NBA Finals.
So far, LeBron has won 3 NBA Championships, 4 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs, the Rookie of the Year, 1 Scoring Champion and has made it to 13 All-Stars with 2 MVPs there also. Besides, he’s one of the smartest, more complete and dominant players in the history of the game, and he’d be in the GOAT conversation if it wasn’t for guys like Michael Jordan.
Also, the King has still a lot left on his tank, so don’t count him out quite yet, and he was the 1st choice in one of the best Drafts ever that also featured Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.