As I’m sure you’ve heard, this past Thursday’s NBA Draft was the final one for long time commissioner David Stern, who is set to retire in February 2014. In honor of this, and of the 30 years of first round picks he’s made, I decided to make a completely arbitrary and utterly pointless ranking system.
To start with, I only used the first ten picks of every draft, and then included some of the more successful later round picks from subsequent years. A team drafting a guy who didn’t pan out at #11 isn’t exactly a franchise killer. Drafting that same guy at #1, is another story.
I used four criteria in my grading system: Playoff success, All-Star games, career success/awards, and loyalty/longevity. The latter two are on a 1-10 scale. If said draft pick played his entire career with the team that drafted him, he gets a 10. If said career was 10 or more years, he might get higher than that. The only players that get a 0 in this field are ones that never became a rotation player for the team that drafted them. Success/awards is out of 10 in multiples of 5. If a player flamed out of the NBA, he gets a 0. If he had a respectable NBA career, he gets a 5. If he was a star player/award winner, he gets a 10. For simplification’s sake, I decided not to differentiate between levels of stardom. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley both get 10s in this category.
The other two categories are somewhat trickier. Playoff success is tallied by the amount of appearances said player made in the playoffs with the team that drafted him, divided by two. If that player was part of a championship team, 5 points are added to his tally (one for every title). The final category, All-Star games, is perhaps simpler: however many All-Star games the player appeared in for any team. This will serve to stabilize some of the stranger careers. For instance, Chris Webber will inherently have a higher score than, say, Danny Manning, due to his status as a perennial All-Star. The final scores will reflect the overall success of that pick for the team who made it (or, more precisely, the team that ended up with the player in question when the season in question began).
0-9: Wasted potential, a player who did not live up the expectations of a top 10 pick for the team that drafted him.
10-19: Solid pro, perhaps not the star his team needed, but a guy whose NBA career can be considered successful.
20-29: Low-level star, ranging from solid career starters to borderline Hall of Fame candidates.
30-39: Superstar, everything a team could have asked for with a top 10 pick and a likely Hall of Famer. Also Derek Fisher.
40+: Legend, an out and out success in every way imaginable. A franchise cornerstone and best case scenario.
Tim Duncan, 1997. San Antonio Spurs. 61 Points
Hakeem Olajuwon, 1984. Houston Rockets. 48 Points
David Robinson, 1987. San Antonio Spurs. 46 Points
Patrick Ewing, 1985. New York Knicks. 37 Points
Shaquille O’Neal, 1992. Orlando Magic. 31 Points
Kwame Brown, 2001. Washington Wizards. 6 Points
Pervis Ellison, 1989. Sacramento Kings. 7 Points
Michael Olowokandi, 1998. Los Angeles Clippers. 8 Points
Greg Oden, 2007. Portland Trail Blazers. 11 Points
Joe Smith, 1995. Golden State Warriors. 12 Points
What’s interesting about the #1 pick is that there aren’t nearly as many out and out busts as you’d imagine. Really, it’s just Olowokandi and Kwame Brown who were bad NBA players. Pervis Ellison had no effect with the Kings, but ended up with a decent career. It’s telling that Joe Smith, consummate NBA journeyman with career averages of 10 points and 6 boards, ranked low enough to qualify for the bottom five. Oden, of course, has been limited by his injuries, but he was not a bad player when he played. In fact, he was quite good, enough that he’s still playing for a comeback.
Here’s the rest of the list, grouped by score. 29-20: LeBron James (29), Yao Ming, Allen Iverson (28), Derrick Rose, Brad Daugherty (25), Larry Johnson, Blake Griffin (22), Chris Webber (21), Glenn Robinson (20), Kyrie Irving (17), Kenyon Martin, John Wall (16), Anthony Davis, Andrea Bargnani (15), Andrew Bogut, Derrick Coleman (14), Danny Manning (13), Elton Brand (12).
Jason Kidd, 1994, Dallas Mavericks. 32 Points
Gary Payton, 1990. Seattle SuperSonics. 29 Points
Kevin Durant, 2007. Seattle SuperSonics. 28 Points
Alonzo Mourning, 1992. Charlotte Hornets. 22 Points
Rik Smits, 1988. Indiana Pacers. 22 Points
Hasheem Thabeet, 2009. Memphis Grizzlies. 7 Points
Darko Milicic, 2003. Detroit Pistons. 8 Points
Jay Williams, 2002. Chicago Bulls. 10 Points
Stromile Swift, 2000. Vancouver Grizzlies. 10 Points
Michael Beasley, 2008. Miami Heat. 11 Points
The #2 pick is, in all honesty, somewhat weak. Only one of these players, Jason Kidd, has won a title with the team that drafted him, and that was at the end of his career, on his second stint with the team. However, there aren’t a huge amount of total busts here, either, although the bottom 5 is full of them, with the exception of Jay Williams, whose career was robbed from his by injury. The rest of the scores follow: LaMarcus Aldridge (20), Marcus Camby (16), Antonio McDyess, Mike Bibby, Danny Ferry (15), Tyson Chandler, Kenny Anderson, Steve Francis, Derrick Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14), Sam Bowie, Evan Turner (13), Keith Van Horn, Armen Gilliam, Emeka Okafor, Marvin Williams, Shawn Bradley (12), Wayman Tisdale (11).
Michael Jordan, 1984. Chicago Bulls. 70 Points
Grant Hill, 1994. Detroit Pistons. 26 Points
Sean Elliott, 1989. San Antonio Spurs. 26 Points
Penny Hardaway, 1993. Orlando Magic. 25 Points
Carmelo Anthony, 2003. Denver Nuggets. 23 Points
Chris Washburn, 1986. Golden State Warriors, 7 Points
Darius Miles, 2000. Los Angeles Clippers. 8 Points
Adam Morrison, 2006. Charlote Bobcats. 8 Points
Dennis Hopson, 1987. New Jersey Nets. 9 Points
Raef LaFrentz, 1998. Denver Nuggets. 10 Points
MJ aside, the third pick is not particularly interesting. It has its share of stars, and its share of busts, but few were momentous enough to effect the course of a franchise substantially in either direction. Sounds like Otto Porter Jr will fit right in with this crop.
The rest: Al Horford (23), Deron Williams (20), Pau Gasol, James Harden (19), Chauncey Billups (17), Baron Davis, Mahmoud Abdul-Raud (16), Jerry Stackhouse, Ben Gordon, Derrick Favors, Bradley Beal (15), Christian Laettner (14), O.J. Mayo, Enes Kanter, Benoit Benjamin (13), Mike Dunleavy Jr, Billy Owens (12), Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Charles Smith (11).
Chris Paul, 2005. New Orleans Hornets. 26 Points
Dikembe Mutombo, 1995. Denver Nuggets. 22 Points
Chris Bosh, 2003. Toronto Raptors. 22 Points
Russell Westbrook, 2008. Oklahoma City Thunder. 21 Points
Rasheed Wallace, 1995. Washington Bullets. 18 Points
Marcus Fizer, 2000. Chicago Bulls. 7 Points
Eddy Curry, 2001. Chicago Bulls. 9 Points
Wesley Johnson, 2010. Minnesota Timberwolves. 10 Points
Drew Gooden, 2002. Memphis Grizzlies. 10 Points
Tyrus Thomas, 2006. Chicago Bulls. 11 Points
A very average group of guys here at the 4 spot, with the difference between the 5th best and the 5th worst picks being a measly 7 points. Interestingly, none of these picks won a title with the team that drafted them. The vast majority of these picks were solid NBA players without much of an impact. The rest as follows: Mike Conley (18), Dennis Scott, Xavier McDaniel (17), Glen Rice, Sam Perkins (16), Chuck Person, Jamal Mashburn, Antawn Jamison, Lamar Odom, Stephon Marbury, Tristan Thompson (15), Tyreke Evans, Dion Waiters, Antonio Daniels, Chris Morris (14), Jim Jackson (13), Donyell Marshall, Shaun Livingston, Reggie Williams (11)
Scottie Pippen, 1987. Chicago Bulls. 56 Points
Dwyane Wade, 2003. Miami Heat. 48 Points
Kevin Garnett, 1995. Minnesota Timberwolves. 39 Points
Charles Barkley, 1984. Philadelphia 76ers. 34 Points
Ray Allen, 1996. Milwaukee Bucks. 32 Points
Nikoloz Tskitishvili, 2002. Denver Nuggets. 8 Points
Shelden Williams, 2006. Atlanta Hawks. 9 Points
Isaiah Rider, 1993. Minnesota Timberwolves. 9 Points
Thomas Robinson, 2012. Sacramento Kings. 10 Points
J.R. Reid, 1989. Charlotte Hornets. 11 Points
The five spot is, by far, the most decorated thus far. While only two of these players won a title with the team that drafted them, those two players combined to win 9 titles, and the other three players in the top are all sure fire Hall of Famers who rank among the best to ever play their respective positions. They were all perennial All-Stars and MVP candidates, and maximized the worth their teams got for them (even Ray Allen fetched a mighty price in return for his services when Milwaukee traded him). This is as good as we’re likely to get. On the flip side, the bad picks here are certainly damaging. I feel bad about putting Thomas Robinson on here after one season, but his usefulness to the Kings is done, so it’s safe to say he was a bad pick for them. Here’s to hoping he makes a career out of it.
The rest: Vince Carter (22), Mitch Richmond (20), Kevin Love, Steve Smith (19), Ricky Rubio, Jon Koncak, Kenny Walker (16), Jonas Valanciunas, DeMarcus Cousins, Devin Harris (15), Juwan Howard, Kendall Gill, Mike Miller (14), Jeff Green, Jason Richardson (13), Tony Battie, Raymond Felton, LaPhonso Ellis, Jonathan Bender (12)
Brandon Roy, 2006. Portland Trail Blazers. 22 Points
Antoine Walker, 1996. Boston Celtics. 18 Points
Wally Szczerbiak, 1999. Minnesota Timberwolves. 17 Points
Hersey Hawkins, 1988. Los Angeles Clippers. 16 Points
Shane Battier, 2001. Memphis Grizzlies. 16 Points
Dajuan Wagner, 2002. Cleveland Cavaliers. 8 Points
Jonny Flynn, 2009. Minnesota Timberwolves. 8 Points
Yi Jianlian, 2007. Milwaukee Bucks. 9 Points
William Bedford, 1986. Philadelphia 76ers. 9 Points
DerMarr Johnson, 2000. Atlanta Hawks. 9 Points
This is the exact opposite of the five slot. Only Brandon Roy could possibly be considered a franchise player, and with his career tragically cut short by injury, he’s hardly the most valuable draft pick in the world. On the flip side, the busts that have come from this spot are massive. Dajuan Wagner is a somewhat forgotten player nowadays, but as a risk-reward pick, he’s one of the worst in the last few decades. To think that he came the year before LeBron is to really put into perspective just how bad that Cavs front office could be. Not sure I would have stayed with the people responsible for Dajuan Wagner when Miami came-a-calling, either.
The rest: Damian Lillard (15), Stacey King (14), Ekpe Udoh, Kenny Smith (13), Joe Kleine, Tom Gugliotta, Robert Traylor, Chris Kaman, Danilo Gallinari (12), Ron Mercer, Martell Webster, Melvin Turpin, Doug Smith, Calbert Cheaney (11), Felton Spencer, Bryant Reeves, Josh Childress, Sharone Wright, Jan Vesely (10)
Chris Mullin, 1985. Golden State Warriors. 26 Points
Kevin Johnson, 1987. Phoenix Suns. 23 Points
Luol Deng, 2004. Chicago Bulls. 22 Points
Nene Hilario, 2002. Denver Nuggets. 20 Points
Stephen Curry, 2009. Golden State Warriors. 19 Points
Eddie Griffin, 2001. Houston Rockets. 9 Points
Chris Mihm, 2000. Cleveland Cavaliers. 9 Points
Charlie Villanueva, 2005. Toronto Raptors. 9 Points
Lionel Simmons, 1990. Los Angeles Clippers. 10 Points
Luc Longley, 1991. Minnesota Timberwolves. 10 Points
This is more of a traditionally spread pick, albeit one without any bonafide superstars. Still, it’s also one without any major, franchise destroying busts. Eddie Griffin comes the closest, but with the problems he dealt with in his tragically short life, it’s hard to really blame this pick on anything to do with basketball. Mihm and Villanueva, though both bad value, put together extended NBA careers.
The rest: Alvin Robertson, Kirk Hinrich (18), Greg Monroe, Harrison Barnes, Richard Hamilton (16), Roy Tarpley, Jason Williams (15), Damon Stoudamire, George McCloud (14), Lamond Murray, Bobby Hurley, Tim Perry, Bismack Biyombo (13), Eric Gordon, Walt Williams (12), Lorenzen Wright, Tim Thomas, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer (11)
Detlef Schrempf, 1985. Dallas Mavericks. 18 Points
Kerry Kittles, 1996. New Jersey Nets. 17 Points
Vin Baker, 1993. Milwaukee Bucks. 15 Points
Brian Grant, 1994. Sacramento Kings. 15 Points
Ron Harper, 1986. Cleveland Cavaliers. 15 Points
Joe Alexander, 2008. Milwaukee Bucks. 5 Points
DeSagana Diop, 2001. Cleveland Cavaliers. 6 Points
Rafael Araujo, 2004. Toronto Raptors. 7 Points
Shawn Respert, 1995. Milwaukee Bucks. 9 Points
Lancaster Gordon, 1984. Los Angeles Clippers. 9 Points
If you thought the #6 pick was bad, then this must be torture. Not a single serious cornerstone to build off of here, with the possible exception of Schrempf, who saw most of his success with a different team. Kerry Kittles was a solid contributor on a back to back Finals team, but he was the 4th starter on that team and the Eastern Conference was abysmal, so he hardly inspires confidence. The bad picks from this spot include two of the worst in the history of the NBA in Diop and Joe Alexander, neither of whom I’m convinced had ever actually played basketball beforehand. In four years, Ben McLemore could be the best #8 pick in the last 30 years, and I wouldn’t bat an eye.
The rest: Andre Miller, Rudy Gay, Brandon Knight (14), Terrence Ross, Randy White, Olden Polynice, Larry Hughes (13), T.J. Ford, Channing Frye, Rex Chapman (12), Todd Day, Adonal Foyle, Chris Wilcox, Jamal Crawford (11), Jordan Hill, Brandan Wright, Bo Kimble, Al-Farouq Aminu (10), Mark Macon (9)
Dirk Nowitzki, 1998. Dallas Mavericks. 41 Points
Amar’e Stoudemire, 2002. Phoenix Suns. 23 Points
Joakim Noah, 2007. Chicago Bulls. 22 Points
Tracy McGrady, 1996. Toronto Raptors. 21 Points
Andre Iguodala, 2004. Philadelphia 76ers. 20 Points
Ed O’Bannon, 1995. New Jersey Nets. 8 Points
Patrick O’Bryant, 2006. Golden State Warriors. 8 Points
Michael Sweetney, 2003. New York Knicks. 9 Points
Rodney White, 2001. Detroit Pistons. 10 Points
Eric Montross, 1994. Boston Celtics. 10 Points
Much more stable and impressive than the last, the 9 spot has seen at least one sure-fire Hall of Famer in Dirk, and a bevy of recent All-Stars in Noah, STAT, T-Mac and Iguodala. On the bust end of things, if your team has a chance to draft someone with a O in front of their name in the 9 spot, run in fear or pray for a trade.
The rest: Shawn Marion (19), Derrick McKey, Charles Oakley (17), Otis Thorpe, Stacey Augmon (16), Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, Andre Drummond (15), DeMar DeRozan, Rony Seikaly (14), Rodney Rogers, Brad Sellers (13), Clarence Weatherspoon, Joel Przybilla (12), Tom Hammonds, D.J. Augustin, Willie Burton (11), Samaki Walker, Ike Diogu (10)
Paul Pierce, 1998. Boston Celtics. 37 Points
Horace Grant, 1987. Chicago Bulls. 27 Points
Andrew Bynum, 2005. Los Angeles Lakers. 25 Points
Joe Johnson, 2001. Boston Celtics. 21 Points
Eddie Jones, 1994. Los Angeles Lakers. 19 Points
Mouhamad Sene, 2006. Seattle SuperSonics. 5 Points
Luke Jackson, 2004. Cleveland Cavaliers. 8 Points
Rumeal Robinson, 1990. Atlanta Hawks. 9 Points
Danny Fortson, 1997. Denver Nuggets. 10 Points
Ed Pinckney, 1985. Phoenix Suns. 11 Points
We round out the top 10 with a strong showing from the three winningest franchises in the history of the league. The top three players here combined to win 10 titles for their team, more than justifying their draft selections and absolutely maximizing their value at this particular spot. Paul Pierce is the shining star here, becoming one of the best players in the history of one of the most storied franchises in the history of the sport after being drafted after NINE other players. On the negative side of things, another of the worst picks in history, Mouhamad Sene, meanders his way to the top of the list in a fashion not dissimilar to how he meandered through his uneventful NBA career.
The rest: Brook Lopez, Paul George (18), Lindsey Hunter (17), Willie Anderson (16), Caron Butler, Brandon Jennings, Kurt Thomas (15), Jason Terry (14), Jimmer Fredette, Erick Dampier (13), Leon Wood, Pooh Richardson, Keyon Dooling, Johnny Dawkins, Adam Keefe, Bison Dele, Jarvis Hayes (12), Austin Rivers, Spencer Hawes, Ed Pinckney (11)
Best of the Rest
While the top 10 tends to be where franchises make and take their futures, it’s not the only place to find value. Here’s the rest of the first rounders in David Stern’s tenure whose scores tallied a 20 or above on my super-awesome scale, in descending order.
Kobe Bryant (64), Tony Parker (49), Karl Malone (44), John Stockton (39), Joe Dumars, Derek Fisher (38), Steve Nash, Reggie Miller, Rajon Rondo (30), Shawn Kemp (27), Robert Horry, Tayshaun Prince, Sam Cassell (25), Peja Stojakovic, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (24), Arvydas Sabonis (22), Terry Porter, Andrei Kirilenko, Danny Granger (21), Tim Hardaway, Vlade Divac, Roy Hibbert, David West, A.C. Green, Kawhi Leonard (20)
Note: A higher ranking does not make a better player. All it means is that the player in question was more valuable to the team that drafted him than someone with a lower ranking. Case in point: Derek Fisher is one of the worst players above 20 on this list, and he’s got one point less than Kevin Garnett.