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Sports fans have a love-hate relationship with the draft. On the one hand, it can be exciting to follow the picks as they unfold live, seeing who the latest franchise cornerstone will be. On the other hand, it can feel like a lot of teams are playing a crapshoot. After all, the majority of players selected in the first round of the NFL draft never become stars, so it’s hard for fans to know which of their team’s picks will pan out. Research from Harvard shows that the first round of the NFL draft is indeed a crapshoot, but that there is a way to improve your chances of getting a truly great pick. Teams that take more risks improve their odds of
The NHL draft is about more than just picking the best players available. Since the league does not employ a salary cap, a team’s draft class plays a large role in constructing a roster. By adding the best players available, a franchise can build a highly competitive team. There are, however, many factors that go into a successful draft. Some teams are savvy enough to predict how the draft order will play out, while others have a knack for picking the best players. In the end, a draft class can make or break a team’s chances at winning a Stanley Cup. So who are the best draft picks of the last 20 years? Using the top-100 draft picks of each season from 1996 to the present as the barometer, we
Two decades have passed since Kenyon Martin was picked first in the 2000 draft. Over the years, the league has been filled with new superstars. It’s always difficult to bet on a selected player because you don’t know what he will become over the course of his career.
This choice can be a phenomenon, or a waste of money and time. First rounds of the last 20 years are not always the best. Only the best seven players from the last 20 draws were selected in the first rank. The following picks are the top picks in each draft that stand out among other draft picks. Let’s take a look at the top performers in each of the series from 2000 to 2019.
NBA Draft 2001 – Tony Parker
After 2000, designs become more difficult to sort. In 2001, Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol were elected first, right after Kwame Brown, which we know is one of the biggest failures in history. Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph and Gilbert Arenas were all selected in this draft, but the first pick should have been Parker. Four NBA championships separate them, Chandler won one championship with the Mavericks and Gasol won two with the Lakers.
Parker also overshadowed his 2007 NBA Finals performance. The six-time All-Star got his jersey as a deposit from the San Antonio Spurs, where he was part of the former Big Three with Tim Duncan and Man Ginobili.
NBA Draft 2002 – Yao Ming
The 2002 draft was star-studded. Carlos Boozer, Amar’e Stoudemire and Caron Butler were all on the All-Star roster, but none of the players shined as Min. Ming finished his career with eight All-Star appearances and five All-NBA selections. Not to mention that Ming was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player and became an international star in China.
What Min did on the floor – 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds in his career – made him a superstar alongside Tracy McGrady. Had a leg injury not hampered him later in his career, he would have reached the age of 30. You can play until you’re a few years old.
2003 NBA Draft – LeBron James
Credit: Getty Images
This should be an honorable mention, because the first half of this draft is too good. Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony are all from this selection. At the end of the day, no player in this draft will surpass LeBron. The four-time NBA Finals MVP is often criticized for only winning four championships in 10 appearances, but think about that for a second. He has made the finals at least a decade into his career.
LeBron is on a quest to live up to Michael Jordan’s legacy as the greatest player of all time. He remains the second pick for now, but he will always be the first pick in the 2003 draft.
2004 NBA Draft – Dwight Howard
With the exception of Andre Iguodala, there is no real competition for this award in 2004. Iguodala was the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, but Howard was one of the best players in the league from 2004-2014. Howard was part of the All-Star tournament every year from 2007-2014, as well as the NBA All-Star First Team from 2008-2012.
From 2009-2011, Howard was the best defender in the league and was named defender of the year. He was a five-time rebounding champion and a three-time blocks champion. Howard was a role player for the Lakers, who won the championship in 2020 and cemented his legacy as a Hall of Fame player.
2005 NBA Draft – Chris Paul
by Alex Goodlett.
With this selection, Andrew Bogut and David Lee helped Golden State win a championship. Deron Williams has had multiple stars. But no player stands out as much as Chris Paul. Paul is an 11-time All-Star and an 8-time NBA Tournament selection. Paul holds the records for assists and steals on two different teams, the Pelicans and Clippers.
Paul has improved every team he has played for. The Pelicans reached the second round early in their career. The Clippers followed the same path and climbed to become a competitive franchise. The Rockets made it to the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder had an improbable run to the playoffs last year, and the Suns are vying for first place this year. Although he never made it to the NBA Finals, Paul is a true game changer.
2006 NBA Draft – Kyle Lowry
Credit: Getty Images
With all due respect to LaMarcus Aldridge or Rajon Rondo, Lowry is at the top of the list for several reasons. While Rondo has won two championships with two different franchises, Lowry has been an All-Star six times, one less than Aldridge. What stands out about Lowry is his contribution to Toronto’s 2019 NBA championship.
>6. December 2020
Lowry was seeded 24th and became an All-Star in the later years of his career. Note that Brandon Roy could have become the next great superstar, had he not suffered a career-changing injury. Roy later became a successful basketball coach in the state. Both have rings, but Lowry has one at the highest level.
NBA Draft 2007 – Kevin Durant
(via Sporting News)
Portland has been suffering for years because they picked Greg Oden first and not Durant. There are good prospects in this project: Al Horford, Mike Conley Jr. and Mark Gasol. It’s all about Durant, two-time NBA Finals MVP, eleven-time All-Star and four-time scoring champion.
Durant has a chance to bring his legacy into the top 10 all-time if he can win his third championship and lead Brooklyn down that road. Durant received a lot of criticism for joining a 73-win Warriors team. Two of his Finals MVPs have asterisks, despite his incredible resume. This post season will be one of his most important moments when all is said and done.
2008 NBA Draft – Russell Westbrook
Credit: Getty Images
If Derrick Rose hadn’t torn his ACL, would we be talking about anyone else? When Rose became MVP, he was the youngest to do so. The Bulls could have won an NBA championship if this injury had not occurred. Instead, we’re talking about a future Hall of Fame player who has become one of the hardest working players on the field.
Westbrook became the first player to record a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in 2017, when he was MVP. Along with Durant, he led the Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012. The only thing Westbrook is missing is a championship. When Westbrook comes up, he plays his way. No super team, no combined effort. It’s just that Russ is.
2009 NBA Draft – Steph Curry
Credit: Getty Images
How do you choose between Blake Griffin, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan and the best shooter of all time? In this situation, it’s quite simple, because you just need to measure the champion rings. Griffin and DeRozan are All-Stars, but they’ve never made it to the Western Conference Finals. Harden faced Durant and Westbrook in the 2012 NBA Finals, but lost. Curry has three championship rings, the most three-point shots in postseason history and is the Warriors’ all-time leading scorer.
Curry just passed Wilt Chamberlain for the award. Do you know someone who has scored 100 points in a basketball game? Curry is without a doubt the king of the 2009 draft.
2010 NBA Draft – Paul George
Fun fact about the 2010 draft. None of the stars in this draft have played in the NBA Finals. Among them, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Gordon Hayward. Wall is a name that always sounds like the best in this draft, but after his injury he’s not what he used to be, which has allowed George to rise to the top with his consistency. George made the most All-Star teams – seven – and was also selected to the NBA All-Star team five times.
George also made the defensive team four times in his career. George almost led the Pacers to a win over the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, but he couldn’t beat LeBron, Wade and company. Now, in Los Angeles, he is trying to write his own legacy.
2011 NBA Draft – Kawhi Leonard
Credit: Getty Images
George is trying to write his own legacy, but also with the help of the best player in the 2011 draft. The two California-based Clippers were hoping to reach the final round in their second season for the first time in club history. Outside of Los Angeles, Leonard is probably the best player on the 2011 squad. Leonard is the recipient of two NBA Finals MVP awards with the Spurs and Raptors.
We look back at Leonard’s best season, which included being named Defensive Player of the Year twice, being on the All-Defensive Team six times, and a top-five ranking in the league. If Leonard can lead his third franchise to an NBA title, he will be among the best 15 players of all time.
2012 NBA Draft – Anthony Davis
(via DraftKings Nation)
Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard remind us every day what great shooters they are, but neither has ever played in an NBA championship game. Davis struggled to put New Orleans in that position, but the team never made it out of the second round. Davis might get a first round pick after his trade to the Lakers, but even if there were no rings, Davis would still be the best player in this draft.
He has been an All-Star eight times and is one of the best offensive and defensive attackers in the league. Lately, he’s been able to hit from the sidelines. A complete player, Davis meets all the requirements when healthy.
2013 NBA Draft – Giannis Antetokounmpo
(via Bleacher Report)
Remember when Giannis was put at #15? Before him, power forwards like Anthony Bennett (#1 for the Cavaliers) and Cody Zeller (#4 for the Hornets) were selected. Nerlens Noel, Alex Len and Steven Adams are just a few of the centers to be named. The Milwaukee Bucks have made a gold mine out of selecting a Greek Freak.
Two-time MVP, Giannis has become the face of the league. He has much better seasons ahead of him and is one of the most dominant players in the paint. He is also a defender who will compete with Rudy Gobert, also from this squad, for defender of the year for at least the next four or five seasons. The last card he tries to control is an NBA championship.
2014 NBA Draft – Nikola Jokic
(via USA Today)
Another diamond in the rough. Jokic was selected by the Nuggets with the 41st pick of the season. General selection and was the leading candidate for MVP. There are other interesting prospects like Julius Randle, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins. Joel Embiid could potentially compete with Jokic if he wasn’t injured, as Embiid was once the number one MVP candidate behind Jokic.
Ultimately, Jokic is a game changer for all these players. His average is close to a triple double as a center. There is no other center in the league who can pass and shoot like he can. LaVine, one of the best shooters in this draft, will probably face the Joker in every shooting match because he’s just that good.
2015 NBA Draft – Karl-Anthony Towns
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D’Angelo Russell and Kristaps Porzingis left the game. Devin Booker is tied with Towns for most All-Star appearances, but Towns has the advantage of making the NBA All-Star team in 2018, when the Timberwolves made the playoffs. But if Towns stays out of the national spotlight, Booker could be on the rise, especially if the Suns play as well as they are right now.
Cities need a change of scenery. The Timberwolves’ last-place finish ruins his best season. In his career, Towns is averaging 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. Sure, the team can get a nice bonus in return.
2016 NBA Draft – Ben Simmons
Credit: Getty Images
Jaylen Brown is playing at the level of Ben Simmons this season, and Brandon Ingram is also rising to the level of an All-Star candidate. As for Simmons, he’s had three consecutive seasons of high production. Simmons, a three-time All-Star, was part of the probable men’s All-NBA team for the first time last year. He was also named to the defense’s first team. Simmons recently said he considers himself Defensive Player of the Year, especially after scoring 40+ points against top contender Rudy Gobert.
Although Simmons is not a scorer, he can lead, assist and defend the offense. He is truly a unique playmaker because of his length and ability on both sides of the ball.
2017 NBA Draft – Jason Tatum
Tatum currently has an edge, but Donovan Mitchell could take over that spot as early as next year. Currently, Tatum and Mitchell have two All-Star appearances under their belts, but Tatum was selected to the All-NBA third team. Bam Adebayo, who was recently elected to the All-Defensive second team, helped the Heat reach the NBA Finals, including a win over Tatum’s Celtics in the conference finals last season.
As far as consistency goes, Tatum’s career numbers are better. Again, this is all too limited and subject to change. The Jazz are in first place in the West and are competing for the championship. Tatum has played three times in the Eastern Conference and accomplished nothing in all that time. Mitchell could see his name here if he makes it to the championship.
NBA Draft 2018 – Luka Doncic
The sample size is getting smaller, but who stands out in this draft besides Trae Young and Luka Doncic? Last year, Young was on the All-Star Team for the first time and he is a scoring machine. On the other hand, Doncic is a better player in every way, plain and simple. Doncic is 22, and he has these slashes
- 28.6 PPG, 7.9 RG, 8.6 APG, 1.0 SPG (2020)
- 28.8 PG, 9.4 RG, 8.8 APG, 1.0 SPG (2019)
- 21.2 PPG, 7.8 RG, 6.0 SPG, 1.1 SPG (2018)
Have you ever seen such a young player play at such a high level? He already holds the Mavericks record for most triple doubles in his career. It’s frightening to think how much better he’ll get.
2019 NBA Draft – Zion Williamson
Credit: AP Photo
Williamson and Ja Morant will always work together, but at this point Williamson has already proven to be the best. Williamson, who is the fourth-oldest starter among NBA All-Stars, is proving in his first full season that he is a star of the future.
It’s disrespectful to Morant that the Grizzlies are vying for a playoff spot, but Williamson’s overall numbers are better. That’s 26.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Both players will represent their team in the All-Star Game in the coming years.
2020 NBA Draft – LaMelo Ball
(via Hoops Habit)
Anthony Edwards will likely be Rookie of the Year, but if Ball had stayed healthy all season, the award would have gone to him. Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to hit a triple double. Edwards is a pure scorer and will be a primary swingman for the next few years, and Ball may be a little bit at a time.
> 10. January 2021
We have a budding superstar, and the Hornets have their first true franchise player since Kemba Walker left for Boston. Can the Hornets build a team around Ball? It remains to be seen, but if Ball continues to develop, his name will define the 2020 draft for years to come.
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