1. Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers, 1979)
Where to begin to explain why I chose Magic Johnson as the top number one pick in NBA Draft History? It was a very difficult call to make at the top, but in the end, I chose Magic because in the NBA, as much as any professional sport, stars are judged on winning. And from his very first year in the NBA, all Magic did was win.
Between his arrival in the NBA for the 1979-80 season through his first retirement early in the 1991-92 season, Magic led the Lakers to five NBA championships and to four other finals.
He famously won a championship as a rookie against the Philadelphia Sixers, when he played center for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the deciding game. He picked up two more rings in 1982 and 1985, before leading the Lakers to back-to-back championships in 1987 and '88. It was the first time a team had won consecutive titles in the NBA since the 1968 and '69 Boston Celtics.
Johnson was a 12-time All-Star and nine-time first-team All-NBA selection. He was the MVP three times, finished in the top three in voting each year between 1983 and 1991. Of his five championships, he was the Finals MVP three times.
In addition to winning, what sets Magic apart is that no one has ever played the game the way he did. He was a 6'9 point guard, a feat that has never been duplicated.
For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds. He notched at least 11.5 assists per game in each season between 1984 and 1991. He retired as the NBA's all-time leader in assists and his 10,141 assists still rank fourth all-time.
Magic was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Other notable picks: Sidney Moncrief (5), Calvin Natt (8), Cliff Robinson (11)
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks, 1969)
Kareem played an amazing 20 seasons in the NBA, the first six with the Milwaukee Bucks and the last 14 with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a 19-time All-Star, a six-time MVP (1971, '72, '74, '76, '77, '80), and finished in the top five of MVP voting 15 times (1970-1981, 1984-86).
With the Bucks in 1970, he was named Rookie of the Year and in his second season, he led Milwaukee to the NBA championship, being named Finals MVP. That would be the only ring for Kareem until Magic joined him on the Lakers, and he the won five more in the 1980s. Kareem was the MVP of the 1985 Finals.
No one in the history of the NBA scored more points than Kareem's 38,387 and he is second all-time in games played with 1,560 and third in rebounds (17,740). Remarkably durable for a big man, Kareem played in at least 74 games in 18 of his 20 seasons. Four times he averaged over 30 points per game for an entire season, with a career-high of 34.8 in 1971-72.
Kareem was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
So, with all of that, why isn't Kareem number one? I will admit, I could be slightly biased towards Magic, since I remember Magic as the leader of the Lakers and never saw Kareem play at the time he was collecting his six MVP awards.
I come back to winning. Yes, Kareem was a major part of those Laker teams, but to me, they were Magic's teams, and Magic was the catalyst of those five titles. Kareem had the MVPs in the 70s and one title, but it took Magic to get him all those other rings on the back-end of his career.
Other notable picks: Lucius Allen (3), Bingo Smith (6), Jo Jo White (9), Fred Carter (43).
3. Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs, 1997)
If winning is truly what matters the most when separating the all-time greats, then ranking Tim Duncan third on this list was a no-brainer.
Duncan entered the league in the 1997-98 season and won his first championship in his second year. He would go on to win three more (2003, '05, '07) and he was Finals MVP for three of the four championships. In his 13 seasons in San Antonio, Duncan has led the Spurs to a 719-314 record (.695 winning %), with nine seasons of at least 56 wins.
Duncan is a 12-time All-Star. He was league MVP in 2002 and 2003, and finished in the top three of voting five times and top five nine times.
He has been an All-NBA selection after each season, nine times on the first-team, three times second-team, and once third-team. He also has been a first-team All-Defensive selection eight times and a second-team selection five times.
For his career, he has averaged 21.1 points and 11.6 rebounds, numbers that increase to 23.0 and 12.4 in the playoffs.
Other notable picks: Chauncey Billups (3), Tracy McGrady (9), Stephen Jackson (47)
4. Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets, 1984)
Hakeem was the first pick of the 1984 draft (followed by Sam Bowie and then Michael Jordan). And although the Rockets missed out by not taking Jordan, Olajuwon was not a bad option either.
Hakeem helped the Rockets to an upset of the Lakers in the 1986 Western Conference Finals, before Houston eventually fell in six games to the Celtics in the Finals. Although it would take several years, Olajuwon did get Houston back to the Finals later in his career, leading the Rockets to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995.
He was the Finals MVP in both years, and averaged 28.9 points and 11.0 rebounds in the '94 playoffs, followed by 33.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in the '95 postseason.
Hakeem was the league MVP in 1994 and finished in the top five of MVP voting five times. He was also the Defensive Player of the year in both 1993 and 1994. Olajuwon made 12 All-Star teams, was a six-time first-team All-NBA selection, and was a second-team choice three times and third-team selection three times.
Olajuwon was also named to the NBA All-Defensive team nine times, five times a a first-team choice and four times a second-team.
In total, Hakeem played 18 years in the NBA, 17 with Houston before spending his final year in Toronto. He averaged 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks over his career, and his 26,946 points rank eighth all-time.
Olajuwon also is the NBA all-time leader in blocked shots with 3,830. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
A great "what if" in NBA history is what would have happened in the 1994 and 1995 seasons had Michael Jordan not "retired." Jordan won three straight titles from 1991-93. Those Bulls teams, though, always lacked a real presence at center, and it would have been a fascinating match-up of Jordan's Bulls without a great center against Olajuwon and the Rockets.
Other notable picks: Michael Jordan (3), Charles Barkley (5), Alvin Robertson (7), Otis Thorpe (9), Kevin Willis (11), John Stockton (16)
5. Shaquille O'Neal (Orlando Magic, 1992)
I had a difficult time deciding where exactly to place Shaq, but ultimately decided he had to come after Olajuwon. With Olajuwon, I felt like he got everything, including two titles, he possibly could have out of his career. Shaq has had a great career, but looking back, couldn't he have accomplished more?
Shaq is coming off his 18th season in the NBA. He began in Orlando, where he spent three seasons with the Magic, and he and Anfernee Hardaway led the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals. There, they were swept by Olajuwon and the Rockets.
Shaq went on to the Lakers, where he was swept out of the playoffs in each of his first three years.
Then came Shaq at his best. In 2000, he won his only MVP award, averaging 29.7 points and 13.6 rebounds. Then in the playoffs, he averaged 30 and 15, won the Finals MVP, and captured his first ring. A year later, he had another 30 and 15 in the playoffs, winning his second ring and second Finals MVP. He capped off the three-year run in 2002, with his third championship with the Lakers and third Finals MVP.
As a sidekick to Dwyane Wade, Shaq won his fourth title in 2006 with the Heat.
Shaq was the 1993 Rookie of the year, MVP in 2000, and has finished in the top five of MVP voting eight times. For his career, he has averaged 24.1 points and 11.0 rebounds. His 28,255 career points are fifth all-time, and he averaged at least 26 points for 10 straight seasons (1996-2003).
So why is Shaq below Olajuwon? For one, defense. Olajuwon was an all-time great defender, while Shaq was not (he made second-team All-Defense once). And as I indicated above, I believe Shaq could have got a lot more out of each situation he was in during the prime years of his career - first with Anfernee Hardaway and then obviously with Kobe Bryant, had he been able to make it work over a longer period.
Could Shaq have been even better had he wanted? What jumps out to me to support this is his career-high in rebounds came as a rookie (13.9 per game).
Other notable picks: Alonzo Mourning (2), Jim Jackson (4), Latrell Sprewell (24)
6. LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers, 2003)
LeBron is another player I was not exactly sure where to place, mostly because should I judge him on what he has done or on what I think he will ultimately accomplish?
I tried to find a balance.
We know all about LeBron. In seven seasons, he has already put together a resume worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. He has been an All-Star six times, a first-team All-NBA choice four times, and was the 2004 Rookie of the Year. The last two years he has been named NBA MVP, and has finished in the top four of voting five times.
In 2010, he was second in the league in scoring, the sixth straight year he has finished second. He has averaged for his career 27.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 7.0 assists, already accumulating over 15,000 points and nearly 4,000 assists and rebounds.
Over the last three years, he led his team to a 172-74 record, averaging 29.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game.
In the playoffs, despite not being able to win a championship, he has averaged 29.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 7.3 assists. In 2009, the Cavaliers lost in the Eastern Conference Finals, but James averaged over 35 points per game in the playoffs, with nine boards and seven assists.
When it is all said and done, James very well could be much higher on this list. And for everyone ready to knock him for not having won a title yet, I just want to remind you that James just finished his seventh season and is only 25 years old. Michael Jordan did not win his first title until his seventh season when he was 28 years old.
Other notable picks: Carmelo Anthony (3), Chris Bosh (4), Dwyane Wade (5), David West (18), Josh Howard (29)
7. David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs, 1987)
David Robinson played 14 seasons in the NBA, all with the San Antonio Spurs. He was the 1990 Rookie of the Year, 1992 Defensive Player of the Year, and the 1995 MVP. Between 1994-96, he finished in the top two in MVP voting each time, five times he finished in the top three, and seven times in the top 6.
Robinson made 10 All-Star teams and was a first-team All-NBA selection four times. Also, he was first-team All-Defense four times and second-team four times.
The Admiral led the NBA in scoring in 1994, averaging 29.4 points per game, and finished his career with 20,790 points and 10,497 rebounds (21.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg). He also added 2,954 blocks (3.9 bpg).
What was missing from Robinson's resume was a championship. That changed when Tim Duncan arrived in San Antonio, as Duncan helped San Antonio and Robinson win the title in 1999 and then again in 2003, Robinson's final season.
Robinson was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2009.
Other notable picks: Scottie Pippen (5), Kevin Johnson (7), Reggie Miller (11), Reggie Lewis (22)
8. Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers, 1996)
Allen Iverson's NBA career is most likely over. But over his 14 years, the first 10 with Philadelphia, Iverson certainly left us with plenty of greet memories (as well as sound bites).
Iverson averaged 26.7 points for his career, the fourth highest scoring average in NBA history. He led the NBA in scoring four times, scored at least 30 points per game four times, and had 10 straight seasons (1999-2008) where he averaged at least 26 points per game.
He also twice led the league in steals, and maybe most remarkable of all, was that he led the league in minutes played seven times. His 41.1 minutes per game over his career is fourth all-time, behind Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Oscar Robertson.
Iverson was the 1997 Rookie of the Year and the league MVP in 2001. Three times, he finished in the top five of MVP voting. He was an All-Star eleven times and a first-team All-NBA selection three times (to go with three second-team and one third-team selection).
While finding the right teammates to surround someone with Iverson's unique skill-set was not an easy task, I believe the 76ers took his talent for granted and failed to ever give him quality teammates in his prime.
His best teammate was probably Dikembe Mutombo, who Philadephia traded for during the 2001 season. Not coincidentally, Iverson led the 76ers to the Finals that season, losing to the Lakers.
Other notable picks: Marcus Camby (2), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (3), Stephon Marbury (4), Ray Allen (5), Antoine Walker (6), Kobe Bryant (13), Peja Stojakovic (14), Steve Nash (15)
9. Bill Walton (Portland Trail Blazers, 1974)
Maybe the player I had the most difficult time deciding where to place was Bill Walton.
Walton played 10 seasons in the NBA. He was twice an All-Star. In 1978, he averaged 18.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, earning MVP honors, a year after he finished second in the voting, when he averaged 18.6 points and 14.4 rebounds.
In 1977, he led the Trail Blazers to the NBA Championship, and Walton was named Finals MVP. He also won a second ring with the 1986 Boston Celtics, when Walton won the league's Sixth Man of the Year award.
The negative for Walton, and why I dropped him below Robinson and Iverson, was that he could not stay healthy. In his 10 seasons, Walton played in only 488 games. Only three times did he play more than 60 games in a season, and four times, he played in 35 or fewer.
When healthy, Walton was as well-rounded a center as the league has ever seen. He just was not healthy nearly enough.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
Other notable picks: Campy Russell (8), Jamaal Wilkes (11), Truck Robinson (22), John Drew (25), George Gervin (40)
10. Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks, 1985)
Ewing came into the league courtesy of the 1985 Draft Lottery, the first time the NBA had the lottery, when shockingly, the team in the largest market landed the most sought after college player in years. Ewing was supposed to be a legendary center and lead the New York Knicks to multiple championships.
Ewing had a very good career. But, he never was quite able to reach the heights many thought he was capable of, and he just fell short of the game's other elite centers.
In all, Ewing played 17 seasons in the NBA, 15 with the Knicks before single seasons at the end of his career with Seattle and then Orlando. He scored 24,815 points and grabbed 11,607 rebounds. He scored at least 20 points per game in each of his first 13 seasons with a career-high of 28.6 in 1990.
He was the 1986 Rookie of the year, and was an eleven-time All-Star and a first-team All-NBA selection in 1990. He also made the second-team All-NBA six times. Six times he finished either fourth or fifth in the MVP voting, but never higher than that.
He helped the Knicks to the 1994 NBA Finals, where they lost to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets. Then in '99, the Knicks made it to the Finals again, but did so while he was on the sideline injured.
Ewing was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
Other notable picks: Wayman Tisdale (2), Xavier McDaniel (4), Chris Mullin (7), Charles Oakley (9), Karl Malone (13), Joe Dumars (18), Terry Porter (24)
11. James Worthy (Los Angeles Lakers, 1982)
In 1980, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded their number one pick in 1982 to the Lakers for Don Ford and a first round pick in 1980 that turned into Chad Kinch. Before the 1982 draft would occur, both Ford and Kinch would be out of the league, and that pick Cleveland traded wound up being the top pick in the draft.
The Lakers, coming off an NBA title in 1982, were then able to add James Worthy to their team the following season. Worthy would occupy the power forward position in LA for his entire 12 year career, and help the Lakers win three titles and reach the Finals in eight of his first 10 seasons.
Worthy blended his game perfectly in LA with the Lakers others stars. He was a seven-time All-Star and twice he was selected third-team All-NBA. When LA finished off back-to-back championships in 1988, Worthy was Finals MVP.
For his career, he averaged 17.6 points and 5.1 rebounds, finishing with 16,320 points. The model of consistency, Worthy averaged between 19 and 21 points from 1986 through 1992. He raised his scoring to 21.2 points per game in the playoffs over 143 games.
Another "what if" is what if Worthy as the top pick had wound up on a different team, a typical bad team with the first selection, instead of getting to play with Magic and the Lakers? How would his career be remembered?
My belief is Worthy obviously benefited from playing with Magic, but he also sacrificed a great deal of his own game for the good of the team. On another team, in another situation, maybe he doesn't win nearly as much, but his numbers would certainly have been higher. I'd assume Worthy would take playing with the Lakers for his career over the chance at a few more points somewhere else.
Worthy was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
Other notable picks: Terry Cummings (2), Dominque Wilkins (3), Ricky Pierce (18)
12. Elvin Hayes (San Diego Rockets, 1968)
Elvin Hayes played 16 years in the NBA, the first seven with the San Diego/Houston Rockets, and the last nine with the Bullets (Baltimore, Capital, Washington).
In 1969, as a rookie, he led the league in scoring at 28.4 points per game. He also led the league in rebounding twice (in 1970 and '74), and averaged at least 20 points and 11 rebounds nine times. For his career, he averaged 21.0 points and 12.5 rebounds.
Hayes was a twelve-time All-Star, a two-time selection to the All-Defensive second team, and a three-time first-team All-NBA choice.
In 1978, Hayes, along with Wes Unseld who was the pick behind Hayes in the 1968 draft, led the Washington Bullets to the NBA Championship. Hayes averaged 21.8 points and 13.8 rebounds that year in the playoffs.
Hayes was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
Other notable picks: Wes Unseld (2)
13. Bob Lanier (Detroit Pistons, 1970)
Bob Lanier played 14 seasons in the NBA, nine with Detroit and then five in Milwaukee. He averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds for his career.
In 1972, he averaged 25.7 points and 14.2 rebounds. It was the first of seven straight seasons for Lanier where he averaged at least 24 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Lanier was an eight-time All-Star and he twice finished in the top four of MVP voting (1974, '77).
I remember Lanier mostly from a commercial he was in when I was a kid - he was in a bar with Dave Cowens, and he said of Cowens' two championships with the Celtics, "those are the two biggest feats in basketball." Cowens then replied, "No Bob, those are the two biggest feet in basketball," as he pointed to Lanier's size 22 feet. Funny stuff.
Lanier was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.
Other notable picks: Rudy Tomjonavic (2), Pete Maravich (3), Dave Cowens (4), Calvin Murphy (18), Nate "Tiny" Archibald (19)
14. Chris Webber (Orlando Magic, 1993)
Chris Webber was famously drafted number one by the Orlando Magic, who a year earlier had drafted Shaquille O'Neal with the top pick, and then immediately traded to Golden State for Anfernee Hardaway, and three future first round picks.
Interestingly, one of those picks would be traded several more times until eventually, in 1994, it was sent from Washington to Golden State in exchange for - Chris Webber (Golden State would then trade that pick to Toronto in exchange for Antawn Jamison and Toronto would use the pick on Vince Carter).
Back to Webber, he played 15 years in the NBA, playing for Golden State, Washington, Sacramento, Philadelphia, and Detroit. He was an All-Star five times, a first-team All-NBA selection once, second-team three times, and third-team once. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1994 with Golden State.
For his career, he averaged 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. Ten times in his career he averaged over 20 points in a season, and he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds five consecutive seasons from 1999-2004 (all with Sacramento). In 2001, he averaged 27.1 points and 11.1 rebounds, to finish fourth in the MVP voting, his highest showing.
Another "what if," is what if the Magic had just held on to the pick and paired Webber with Shaq? I think it could have worked, as Webber's passing skills in the post would have been a great compliment to O'Neal. And I also think Webber would have been comfortable yielding alpha-dog status to Shaq.
The problem could be that in crunch time of big games, between Webber's tendency to disappear at those times and Shaq's poor free throw shooting, the Magic would have needed a third option.
Other notable picks: Anfernee Hardaway (3), Jamaal Mashburn (4), Allan Houston (11), Sam Cassell (24), Nick Van Exel (37)
15. Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic, 2004)
Similar to LeBron James, Dwight Howard could very well significantly move up this list by the time his career is over. But for now, let's leave him here with the understanding his career is far from over and his potential may be far from reached.
Howard just completed his sixth season with the Orlando Magic, after being drafted straight out of high school. He has averaged a double-double in each of his six seasons, with averages of 17.5 points and 12.7 rebounds thus far in his career.
He has led the league in rebounding in each of the last three seasons and in blocks the last two years. In 2008, he had career-highs of 20.7 points and 14.2 rebounds.
He finished fifth in the MVP voting in 2008 and fourth the last two seasons. He is a four-time All-Star, three-time first-team All-NBA selection, and has won the last two Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
The area Howard still needs to improve on though is adding to his offensive game. Right now, he still lacks much offense that is not strictly reliant on his pure athleticism and finishing at the rim.
Whether or not he develops and expands his offensive game will dictate just how far up this list he can eventually climb.
Other notable picks: Emeka Okafor (2), Ben Gordon (3), Devin Harris (5), Andre Iguodala (9), Al Jefferson (15), Josh Smith (17), Kevin Martin (26)
16. David Thompson (Atlanta Hawks, 1975)
David Thompson spent nine seasons in professional basketball. In 1975-76, he began with Denver in the ABA for one season before Denver then moved to the NBA, where Thompson followed for six more seasons with the Nuggets. He then finished his career with two years in Seattle.
Thompson was an All-Star and the Rookie of the Year in his lone season in the ABA. He was then a five-time NBA All-Star. For his NBA career, he averaged 22 points and four rebounds. Four times he averaged over 24 points per game. In 1978, Thompson averaged a career-best 27.2 points with five rebounds and 4.5 assists, finishing third in the MVP voting, his highest finish.
Thompson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
Other notable picks: Gus Williams (20), World B. Free (23)
17. Mark Aguirre (Dallas Mavericks, 1981)
Mark Aguirre played 13 seasons in the NBA, where he averaged 20 points and five rebounds during his career.
He had six seasons where he averaged at least 24 points, five with at least 25, with a career-high of 29.5 in 1984. Aguirre was selected to three All-Star games.
Aguirre began his career in Dallas before being traded mid-season in 1989 to the Detroit Pistons for Adrian Dantley. Aguirre proved to be a better fit on the Pistons team than Dantley at that time, and was the final piece of Detroit's back-to-back championship teams in '89 and '90. He averaged 13 points and five rebounds in the playoffs during Detroit's two championship seasons.
Other notable picks: Isiah Thomas (2), Buck Williams (3), Orlando Woolridge (6), Tom Chambers (8), Rolando Blackman (9), Larry Nance (20)
18. Brad Daugherty (Cleveland Cavaliers, 1986)
Brad Daugherty played eight seasons in the NBA, all with the Cleveland Cavaliers, before his career was cut short due to injury. For his career, he averaged 19.0 points and 9.5 rebounds.
In each season from 1991 through 1993, he averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, and averaged at least 15 points and 8 rebounds in each of his eight seasons.
He was a five-time All-Star and was selected third-team All-NBA in 1992.
Of Daugherty's eight seasons in the NBA, five ended with playoff defeats to his North Carolina teammate Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
Other notable picks: Chuck Person (4), Roy Tarpley (7), Arvydas Sabonis (24), Mark Price (25), Jeff Hornacek (46), Drazen Petrovic (60)
19. Mychal Thompson (Portland Trail Blazers, 1978)
Mychal Thompson played 12 seasons in the NBA. He spent seven years with Portland. He then began the 1986-87 season in San Antonio, before being traded to the Lakers, where he would finish his career.
Thomson played in 935 career games, averaging 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds. He was an All-Rookie selection in 1979 when he averaged 14 points and eight rebounds per game. His best season statistically was 1982, when he had career-highs of 20.8 points and 11.7 rebounds for the Trail Blazers.
When Thompson was traded to the Lakers, he played an integral role on LA's back-to-back title teams in 1987 and '88, as a back-up to Kareem, who was at the end of his career. In 1987, Thompson averaged 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in the playoffs, and then increased those numbers to 9.7 and 7.1 in '88.
Other notable picks: Purvis Short (5), Larry Bird (6), Reggie Theus (9), Mike Mitchell (15)
20. Yao Ming (Houston Rockets, 2002)
Yao Ming is sort of like a poor-man's Bill Walton: a very good career when he actually has been able to play, but difficult to judge due to all the games he has missed while injured.
Yao has been in the NBA for eight seasons, and he began his career appearing to be very durable. In his first three seasons, he played in 244 of a possible 246 games.
However, over the next four seasons, he played in just 237 of 328 games, and that does not even include missing the entire 2010 season.
When he has been able to stay on the court, Yao has averaged 19.1 points and 9.3 rebounds. His career-high was 25.0 points in 2007, but he did that in just 48 games.
He has been an All-Star seven times, twice named to the All-NBA second team and three times to the third-team.
Other notable picks: Amare Stoudemire (9), Caron Butler (10), Carlos Boozer (34)
21. Glenn Robinson (Milwaukee Bucks, 1994)
Glenn Robinson played 11 seasons in the NBA, for the Bucks, Hawks, 76ers, and Spurs. He averaged 20.7 points and 6.1 rebounds for his career.
Eight times he averaged at least 20 points per game over an entire season, and he finished his career with 14,324 points. He scored 12,100 points during his eight seasons with Milwaukee, good for second on the Bucks all-time scoring list behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Robinson was twice an All-Star (2000, 2001) and he teamed with Ray Allen and Sam Cassell to bring the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001, where they lost to Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers. Robinson finished his career playing a reserve role for the San Antonio Spurs 2005 championship team.
Other notable picks: Jason Kidd (2), Grant Hill (3), Juwan Howard (5), Eddie Jones (10), Jalen Rose (13)
22. Doug Collins (Philadelphia 76ers, 1973)
Thirty-seven years before the 76ers chose Doug Collins as their new head coach, despite his 95-114 record over his last three years as a coach or his 15-23 career playoff coaching record, they selected Collins with the top pick of the 1973 draft.
Collins played his entire career in Philadelphia, averaging 17 points and nine rebounds per game, while shooting 50.1 percent from the floor. He had five consecutive seasons with at least 18 points per game with a career-high of 20.8 in 1975.
Collins was an All-Star four times (1976-79) and helped the 76ers to the 1977 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
Other notable picks: Swen Nater (19), George McGinnis (22)
23. Elton Brand (Chicago Bulls, 1999)
Elton Brand has played 11 years in the NBA. He started his career in Chicago, before being traded to the Clippers. He then spent seven seasons in LA, before apparently backing out of a verbal agreement to re-sign with the Clippers (after luring Baron Davis to LA), and signed with the 76ers in 2008.
Brand has averaged 19.3 points and 9.7 rebounds in his career. Six times he has averaged over 20 points per game in a season and six times he has averaged double-digits in rebounds. His best season came in LA in 2006 when he averaged 24.7 points and 10.0 rebounds.
He was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2001, when he averaged 20.1 points and 10.0 rebounds. He was an All-Star twice (2002, 2006) and was second-team All-NBA in 2006, when he finished seventh in the MVP voting.
In his career, he has only made one playoff appearance, in '06 with the Clippers, where LA lost in the seventh game of the Western Conference semifinals to the Phoenix Suns.
Other notable picks: Baron Davis (3), Lamar Odom (4), Richard Hamilton (7), Andre Miller (8), Shawn Marion (9), Ron Artest (16), Manu Ginobli (57)
24. Ralph Sampson (Houston Rockets, 1983)
Ralph Sampson's career got off to a very good start. He averaged at least 19 points and 10 rebounds in each of his first three years, then 15 points and nine rebounds the next two seasons, before a sudden drop off. After three knee surgeries, Sampson would retire following his ninth season in the NBA.
For his career, he averaged 15.5 points and 8.8 rebounds and was an All-Star from 1984 through 1987.
His career highlight was hitting a shot at the buzzer against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1986 Western Conference Finals to clinch the series for the Rockets. Houston would go on to lose to the Celtics in six games, and the 7'4 Sampson would be thrown out of Game Five after punching the Celtics 6'1 Jerry Sichting .
Other notable picks: Byron Scott (4), Dale Ellis (9), Jeff Malone (10), Clyde Drexler (14)
25. Danny Manning (Los Angeles Clippers, 1988)
Danny Manning was drafted by the Los Angels Clippers and then of course suffered through an injury-plagued career.
Manning did play 15 years in the NBA, spending his first five years with the Clippers before LA traded him to the Hawks in his sixth season. After finishing the year (1993-94) in Atlanta, Manning moved on to Phoenix where he played five seasons. He completed the last four yeas of his career playing for four different teams.
Manning averaged 14.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game over his career. His best season was 1993, when he was an All-Star and averaged a career-high 22.8 points per game. He would be an All-Star again in 1994 and was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 1998 with Phoenix.
As a rookie, Manning tore the ACL in his knee, and he would suffer more knee injuries during his career, having reconstructive knee surgery on both knees.
Other notable picks: Rick Smits (2), Mitch Richmond (5), Hersey Hawkins (6)
26. Cazzie Russell (New York Knicks, 1966)
Cazzie Russell spent 12 seasons in the NBA, playing for the Knicks, Warriors, Lakers, and Bulls. He averaged 15.1 points for his career, with his two best seasons coming in 1972 and 1974, when he averaged over 20 points for the Golden State Warriors.
Russel was an All-Star in 1972, when he averaged 21.4 points and he averaged 9.4 points in the playoffs for the Knicks in 1970, helping New York win the NBA title.
Other notable picks: Dave Bing (2), Lou Hudson (4), Jack Marin (5)
27. Larry Johnson (Charlotte Hornets, 1991)
Larry Johnson was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1991 and was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1992, when he averaged 19.2 points and 11.0 rebounds.
In his second season, he teamed with Alonzo Mourning and increased his scoring to 22.1 points to go with 10.5 rebounds. However, the duo of Morning and Johnson never completely materialized. Johnson played just three more years in Charlotte, before the Hornets decided to trade him to the Knicks due to friction between Johnson and Mourning.
Johnson then spent five seasons in New York, before having to retire in 2001 due to back problems. For his career, he averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, and he helped the Knicks reach the 1999 NBA Finals, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
Johnson was part of a very memorable/infamous play in NBA playoff history. In the closing seconds of Game Three of the '99 conference finals against the Pacers, the Knicks trailed by three points. Johnson knocked down a deep three and the referee (Jeff Kersey) called Antonio Davis for an apparent foul. It was not clear if Davis even fouled Johnson and if he did, it looked to be before the shot. But, with the foul called, Johnson then made the game-winning free throw and the Knicks went on to win the series in six games.
Other notable picks: Kenny Anderson (2), Dikembe Mutombo (4), Steve Smith (5), Terrell Brandon (11)
28. Derrick Coleman (New Jersey Nets, 1990)
Derrick Coleman spent 15 years in the NBA. He played five with the New Jersey Nets followed by three seasons in Philadelphia, three in Charlotte, then back to Philadelphia for three more, before finishing his career in Detroit in 2005.
He averaged 16.5 points and 9.3 rebounds during his career. Coleman was the NBA Rookie of the year in 1991, an All-Star in 1994, and third-team All-NBA selection in both 1993 and 1994.
He averaged 18.4 points and 10.3 rebounds as a rookie in 1991 then 19.8 and 9.5 the following season. That was followed by three straight seasons where Coleman had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. But after that, he would only reach double-digit rebounds one more time (10.1 in 1997) and averaged over 18 points a game just one more time (18.1 also in '97).
Coleman's will to play was questioned throughout his career. Over his 15 seasons, he only played more than 70 games four times and played less than 60 games nine times.
A telling story came when Coleman was with the Nets and a dress code was put in place at the start of the season. If players did not follow the rules, they would be fined. Coleman, not wanting to have anything to do with such a policy, simply gave the Nets a blank check to cover all the fines he promised to pile up.
Another example came in 2001, when the Hornets were just 12-22 with Coleman in the lineup while 34-14 without him.
Despite all his talent, Coleman only managed to advance past the first round of the playoffs one time, in 2003 with the 76ers, when Philly lost in the second round to the Detroit Pistons.
Other notable picks: Gary Payton (2), Kendall Gill (5), Cedric Ceballos (48)
29. Joe Barry Carroll (Golden State Warriors, 1980)
Joe Barry Carroll unfortunately was on the wrong side of one of the more lopsided trades in NBA history. In 1980, the Boston Celtics traded the top pick in the draft to the Golden State Warriors, a pick Golden State used on Carroll. In return, Golden State sent to Boston Robert Parish and the number three pick in the draft, that turned into Kevin McHale.
Carroll's career actually was not that bad, it just of course didn't measure up to what Mchale and Parish were able to accomplish in Boston. Over 10 seasons, Carroll averaged 17.7 points and 7.7 rebounds.
He had four seasons where he scored over 20 points per game, with a career-high of 24.1 in 1983. The undoing of his NBA career may have been when he left the NBA in 1984 to go play in Italy.
When he returned, he had a few more good years with Golden State, even making his lone All-Star game in 1987, before moving on to Houston, where his numbers began to drop and never recovered.
Other notable picks: Kevin McHale (3), Andrew Toney (8), Kiki Vandeweghe (11)
30. Jimmy Walker (Detroit Pistons, 1967)
Jimmy Walker may be known for one of three things: being the top pick in the 1967 draft by the Detroit Pistons; being drafted with the last pick in the 1967 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints despite not playing football in college; and for being Jalen Rose's father.
Walker played nine years in the NBA, the first five with Detroit. He was an All-Star in 1970 and 1972, and twice averaged over 20 points in a season with a career-high 21.3 in '72. He averaged at least 11 points per game in every season after his rookie year and averaged at least 15 points from his third season on.
Other notable picks: Earl Monroe (2), Walt Frazier (5), Bob Rule (19)
31. Kenyon Martin (New Jersey Nets, 2000)
Kenyon Martin just completed his tenth season in the NBA. He was drafted by the Nets and spent four seasons in New Jersey, and then six seasons with Denver.
Martin was a part of the Nets teams that were led by Jason Kidd to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. He was an All-Star in 2004 when he averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds.
For his career, Martin has averaged 13.9 points and 7.3 rebounds. His collegiate career at Cincinnati was cut short due to injury and injuries have continued to be a problem for him in the NBA. Of his 10 seasons, he has played 71 or fewer games eight times and 66 or fewer games five times. In 2007, he appeared in only two games, and has played in just 71, 66, and 58 games each year since.
Other notable picks: Mike Miller (5), Jamal Crawford (8), Hedo Turkoglu (16), Michael Redd (43)
32. Austin Carr (Cleveland Cavaliers, 1971)
Austin Carr spent 10 seasons in the NBA, the first nine with the Cleveland Cavaliers, before spending his final season with Dallas and then Washington.
Carr averaged 15.4 points for his career and was an All-Star in 1974. He averaged over 20 points a game in each of his first three seasons, but jut 12.8 over his final seven years. He suffered a serious knee injury in 1975, and never was quite the same after.
Carr was an All-Star in 1974, when he had a career-high of 21.9 points per game.
Other notable picks: Sidney Wicks (2), Elmore Smith (3), Fred Brown (6), Curtis Rowe (11)
33. Joe Smith (Golden State Warriors, 1995)
Joe Smith has played 15 years in the NBA with 10 different teams. Most recently he appeared in 64 games this past season for the Atlanta Hawks. He has played in 1014 games and averaged 11.0 points and 6.5 rebounds.
As a rookie with Golden State, he had a career-high of 8.7 rebounds to go with 15.3 points. He followed that with his career-high in scoring during his second year, when he averaged 18.7 points.
Smith is most known for basically helping to ruin the Minnesota Timberwolves and ensuring that Minnesota was never able to surround Kevin Garnett with the talent he needed to win a title. Prior to his fourth season in the league, Smith signed with the Timberwolves.
But it was later discovered that Minnesota had promised Smith he would be rewarded with a future multi-million dollar deal if he signed with the team for less money. The NBA found out about this and severely punished Minnesota - the league ultimately took away three first round picks and fined the team $3.5 million.
Other notable picks: Antonio McDyess (3), Jerry Stackhouse (3), Rasheed Wallace (4), Kevin Garnett (5), Damon Stoudamire (7), Michael Finley (21)
34. John Lucas (Houston Rockets, 1976)
John Lucas made eight different stops over his ten-year NBA career. He spent three years with the Golden State Warriors from 1979-1981, but otherwise was never on one team more than two seasons.
Lucas averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 assists in his career. He made the NBA All-Rookie team in 1977 when he scored 11 points per game and dished out 5.6 assists. In 1984 with the Spurs, he averaged a double-double with 10.9 points and 10.7 assists per game.
Lucas was a member of the 1986 Houston Rockets team that made the NBA Finals, but he did not appear in the playoffs. After the season, it became public that several members of the team had drug problems. Lucas admitted his problem and sought treatment, which allowed him to avoid suspension.
He came back in 1987 to play 43 games for the Bucks, scoring 20.0 points per game and played three more seasons in the NBA.
Other notable picks: Adrian Dantley (6), Robert Parish (8), Alex English (23), Dennis Johnson (29)
35. Kent Benson (Milwaukee Bucks, 1977)
Kent Benson played 11 years in the NBA, spending the bulk of his career in Milwaukee and Detroit. He averaged 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in his career.
His best season may have been 1981 with the Pistons, when he averaged 15.7 points and 6.8 rebounds. But he would only reach double digits in scoring three times in his career and his scoring went down every season after peaking in '81.
Benson loses points here because Larry Bird hated him, and that is good enough for me. Benson was an upper classman when BIrd arrived at Indiana in the Fall of 1974. There were many reasons why Bird quickly left IU, but one of the primary causes was the constant ribbing he had to take from Benson.
Bird wrote in his autobiography that Benson taught him to be nice to freshmen and that he played extra hard in the NBA any time he went up against one of Benson's teams.
Other notable picks: Otis Birdsong (2), Marques Johnson (3), Walter Davis (5), Bernard King (7), Jack Sikma (8)
36. Pervis Ellison (Sacramento Kings, 1989)
Danny Ainge dubbed Pervis Ellison "Out of Service" Pervis when Ellison only played in 34 games as a rookie, which perfectly encompasses exactly why he is one of the worst top picks in the history of the NBA.
Between 1996 and 1998, Ellison barely played due to breaking his toe, an injury he sustained while moving some furniture. He would miss all of he 1999 season, and seven times in 11 seasons he played less than 50 games. Only once, 1991, did he played in over 70 games.
The following season, with the Washington Bullets, Ellison was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, when he had career highs of 20.0 points and 11.2 rebounds. The next season, he averaged 17.4 points and 8.8 rebounds.
But that would essentially be it in terms of production from Ellison. Beginning in 1994, he would never again average over 7.3 points or 6.5 rebounds, or play in more than 69 games. In fact, beginning with the '94-95 season through the end of his career, Ellison played in only 249 of a possible 656 games.
Fortunately for me as a Celtics fan, Boston signed Ellison to a long-term contract prior to the 1994-95 season. Ellison was stuck in Boston through the end of 2000. He spent one more year in the NBA, appearing in nine games with Seattle in 2001, before retiring.
He averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds for his career. Ellison has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Other notable picks: Sean Elliott (3), Glen Rice (4), Nick Anderson (11), Tim Hardaway (14), Shawn Kemp (17)
37. Michael Olowokandi (Los Angeles Clippers, 1998)
Drafted by the Clippers was probably the first signal that Olowokandi would not work out in the NBA.
He played nine years with three different teams, five years with the Clippers, then Minnesota and finally Boston, averaging 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
Olowokandi would miss a significant amount of time throughout his career. He played in just 45 games as a rookie. He then put together a healthy streak, and played in 242 of 246 games for LA over the next three years. But from 2002 through the end of his career, he would appear in only 233 of a possible 574 games.
His two best seasons were his final two in LA, when he averaged 11.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in 2001, and then 12.3 points and 9.1 rebounds in '02 (but only in 36 games). But once he left LA for Minnesota, he never again remained healthy and never again was able to consistently produce.
Other notable picks: Mike Bibby (2), Antawn Jamison (4), Vince Carter (5), Dirk Nowitzki (9), Paul Pierce (10), Al Harrington (25), Rashard Lewis (32)
38. Kwame Brown (Washington Wizards, 2001)
Michael Jordan had a lot of great moments in the NBA. Drafting Kwame Brown, is not one of them.
Kwame has been in the NBA for nine years, entering the league straight from high school. He has averaged just 6.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Brown was actually showing some signs of improvement early in his career, and in his third season in 2004, he averaged 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in 74 games with the Wizards. Washington then offered him a contract extension.
Thankfully for the Wizards, he turned it down, as he has never been able to improve on his showing in '04, invariably falling far short.
Brown did actually show some signs of life in 2006 with the LA Lakers, when he averaged 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in a seven-game playoff series against the Phoenix Suns. But the Lakers then drafted Andrew Bynum and Bown's role became very limited.
Brown did help the Lakers, as he was part of the trade that brought LA Pau Gasol. So at least he has that going for him.
This past year, he finished his second season with the Detroit Pistons (his fourth team), where he appeared in 48 games and averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds.
Other notable picks: Pau Gasol (3), Jason Richardson (5), Shane Battier (6), Joe Johnson (10), Richard Jefferson (13), Zach Randolph (19), Tony Parker (28), Gilbert Arenas (30)
39. LaRue Martin (Portland Trail Blazers, 1972)
So, who could be worse than Pervis Ellison, Michael Olowokandi, and Kwame Brown?
Say hello to LaRue Martin.
Martin played for Loyola in college and gained notoriety for outplaying Bill Walton when Walton was the best player in college basketball at UCLA. Portland then made him the first pick of the '72 draft.
Martin would only play four years in the NBA, all with Portland, averaging just 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds. He did not average over five points or five rebounds in either of his first two seasons, and played less than 13 minutes per game.
Before his third season, Portland drafted Bill Walton, but Walton missed most of his rookie season with injuries. Martin took advantage (slightly), having his best season with 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, playing in 81 games. The following season, however, would be his last, as Martin played just 14 minutes per game, and averaged four points and four rebounds per game.
Martin retired following the end of his fourth season in 1976. The Trail Blazers, clearly impacted by his retirement, went on to win the NBA title the following season.
Other notable picks: Bob McAdo (2), Paul Westphal (10), Julius Erving (12)
Ranking The Number One Picks: Too Early to Tell
2005: Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks (5 seasons, 331 games, 12.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2010 3rd Team All-NBA; 2010: 15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg).
2006: Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors (4 seasons, 301 games, 13.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg; 2010: 17.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg).
2007: Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers (3 seasons, 82 games, 9.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg; 2010: 11.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg).
2008: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (2 seasons, 159 games, 18.7 ppg, 6.2 apg, 2009 Rookie of the Year, 2010 All-Star; 2010: 20.8 ppg, 6.0 apg).
2009: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers (1 season, 0 games).
2010: John Wall, Washington Wizards (0 seasons, 0 games)
The Territorial Draft Pick Era
1950. Territorial Pick: Paul Arizin (Philadelphia Warriors, Villanova). Top Pick: Chuck Share (Boston Celtics, Bowling Green).
1951. Territorial Pick: Whitey Shoog (Minneapolis Lakers, Minnesota). Top Pick: Gene Melchiorre (Baltimore Bullets, Bradley University).
1952. Territorial Pick: Bill Mlkvy (Philadelphia Warriors, Temple). Top Pick: Mark Worlman (Milwaukee Hawks, West Virginia).
1953. Territorial Picks: Walter Dukes (New York Knicks, Seton Hall); Ernie Beck (Philadelphia Warriors, Pennsylvania). Top Pick: Ray Felix (Baltimore Bullets, Long Island University).
1954. No territorial pick. Top Pick: Frank Selvy (Baltimore Bullets, Furman).
1955. Territorial Picks: Dick Garmaker (Minneapolis Lakers, Minnesota); Tom Gola (Philadelphia Warriros, LaSalle). Top Pick: Dick Ricketts (St. Louis Hawks, Duquesne).
1956. Territorial Pick: Tom Heinsohn (Boston Celtics, Holy Cross). Top Pick: Si Green (Rochester Royals, Duquesne).
1957. No territorial pick. Top Pick: Hot Rod Hundley (Cincinnati Royals, West Virginia).
1958. Territorial Pick: Guy Rodgers (Philadelphia Warriors, Temple). Top Pick: Elgin Baylor (Minneapolis Lakers, Seattle University).
1959: Territorial Pick: Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia Warriorsn, Kansas); Bob Ferry (St. Louis Hawks, St. Louis). Top Pick: Bob Boozer (Cincinnati Royals, Kansas State University).
1960. Top Pick: Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati Royals, Cincinnati). [Robertson was a territorial pick, but since the Royals had the top pick, he was also recognized as the first pick in the draft.].
1961. No territorial pick. Top Pick: Walt Bellamy (Chicago Packers, Indiana).
1962. Territorial Picks: Jerry Lucas (Cincinnati Royals, Ohio State); Dave DeBusschere (Detroit Pistons, Detroit Mercy). Top Pick: Bill McGill (Chicago Zephyrs, Utah).
1963, Territorial Pick: Tom Thacker (Cincinnati Royals, Cincinnati). Top Pick: Art Heyman (New York Knicks, Duke).
1964. Territorial Picks: George Wilson (Cincinnati Royals, Cincinnati); Mandi Abdul-Rahman (Los Angeles Lakers, UCLA). Top Pick: Jim Barnes (New York Knicks, UTEP).
1965. Territorial Picks: Bill Buntin (Detroit Pistons, Michigan); Gail Goodrich (Los Angeles Lakers, UCLA); Bill Bradley (New York Knicks, Princeton). Top Pick: Fred Hetzel (San Francisco Warriors, Davidson).
The difference being we have to wait on someone to do something that creates controversy, conspiracies, well those we can just conjure up ourselves.
America loves conspiracies.
Is the government really hiding alien remains in Area 51? Do they know who actually killed JFK? Was the moon landing filmed in Utah? What about 9/11, global warming, even Elvis!
The NBA has seen its fair share of controversy thanks to disgraced referee Tim Donaghy and it leads every professional sports league when it comes to conspiracies. They have somehow survived Donaghy, but the secrecy and sketchy results of past draft lotteries leave them an easy target for conspiracy theorists.
A quick draft history lesson leads us into the top 5 biggest NBA conspiracy theories of all time.
NBA Draft History
When it all got started, the draft was simple. The NBA took the teams in reverse order of win-loss record and let them draft worst to first. Simple.
The NBA revamped the draft process in 1966 because, heck, it wasn't broken so they had to fix it. They implemented a coin toss between the worst teams in each division. That stayed in effect until 1984.
Why change it in 1984? Well it seemed that the team that ended up winning the first draft pick that year may have been guilty of intentionally losing games in order to get into the coin flip. The NBA frowns on teams not actually trying to win apparently so the coin toss was tossed.
1985 saw the implementation of the lottery system. Each non-playoff team would get an envelope with an equal shot at the first pick. The first team whose envelope was selected got the first pick, the second the second and so on. With each non-playoff team having an equal shot at the first pick and the fact that the NBA stuffed the envelopes in secret the envelope system was a magnet for controversy.
In 1990 the NBA decided it wasn't quiet fair to have every team with an equal shot at the first pick so they introduced a weighted system. The process gave the team with the worst record a better chance at winning the first pick.
Initially, that meant a 16.67 percent for the worst team. That was adjusted in 1994 giving the worst team a 25 percent chance at winning the lottery.
That is where we are now. Ping pong ball heaven.
5 .Cleveland Cavaliers - 2003
The Cavs were 17-65 in the 2002-2003 season. They were horrible. The team was bad, the draft lottery was created to help bad teams improve. Everything here seems legit, so, why do they make this list? Everything seems legit until you examine the 2003 draft. You see that year a player was eligible who had graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, as a High School Junior!
When the stakes are as high as the next face of the NBA, do you think the Association wasn't at least a tad bit interested where he ends up? LeBron James to the Raptors must have sent shivers up and down Commissioner Stern's back. Instead of a trip up North, James went to the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Hometown boy to the hometown team. The Cleveland Cavaliers are resurrected and the NBA has its new poster boy. Maybe one day he will even win a Championship!
4. Chicago Bulls - 2008
Chicago has a great NBA history dating back to their inception into the league in 1966.
Sadly, after Michael Jordan retired, the team has been in a constant rebuilding state. What the team and the city needed was a local player to come and inject some life into the team.
Hm, Derrick Rose was born in Chicago, was a pretty good player and was eligible for the 2008 draft. The Bulls only had a 1.70% chance of getting the first pick however. Seventeen ping pong balls out of 1,000. Poor, poor odds. Then again, wouldn't the NBA benefit by seeing a resurgence of the once proud franchise in the country's third-largest media market?
Hm, the needs of the league do out weigh the needs of Miami Heat and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Bulls scored the second biggest upset in NBA draft lottery history by winning the first pick and selecting homegrown Derrick Rose. Hm.
3. Houston Rockets - 1984
Before they developed the heart of a champion, the Rockets had to battle some sportsmanship issues. Allegedly. Even though they suited up the drafts first pick in Ralph Sampson the Rockets 1983-1984 season headed south. Sensing they had no chance to make the playoffs the Rockets opted for the next best thing; they worked hard to get the first pick in the lottery again. Allegedly. This was pre ping-pong ball era so all the Rockets had to manage was one of the two worst records in basketball. They went after it with fervor posting a 3-14 record in their last 17 games. When the dust settled they were in the coin toss and won. They used that pick to draft Hakeem Olajuwon. The Twin Towers were born and the Rockets went on to win back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995. Nothing like some on purpose losing to work towards a championship run. Allegedly.
2. Orlando Magic - 1993
The Magic were a .500 team the season before the 1993 draft and had won the lottery the year before. In '92 they selected Shaquille O'Neal and needed to surround him with some talent.
Going into the weighted draft lottery in '93 they had only a 1.52% chance of winning the first pick. Imagine flipping a coin 100 times and it coming up heads 99 of those times. The Magic were tails and yet, they won. They selected Chris Webber that year and quickly shipped him to Golden State for Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway. The duo of Hardaway and O'Neal made it to the NBA Finals two years later. Did the NBA want to surround the leagues best center, the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain, with some talent? Or, was it just amazing luck that landed Penny Hardaway, who was as close to Magic Johnson as there was in the 90's, in Orlando with Shaq?
1. New York Knicks - 1985
The Knicks were bad in 1984-1985, that's undeniable. Their 24-58 record was the third-worst in the Association. 1985 marked the first year the NBA would grant the rights to the first pick in the draft via a lottery system which meant they had an equal shot at the first pick as everyone else who didn't make the playoffs. The Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle Supersonics and Indiana Pacers rounded out the teams vying for the cream of the year's crop, Patrick Ewing. Ewing to any of those clubs would have changed their fortunes, of that there is no doubt. Hypothetically speaking however, does a superstar really exist if no one is there to watch him play? Isn't someone with the star power of a Patrick Ewing somewhat wasted in the expanse that is Sacramento? Someone of Ewing's stature deserves the star power of the country's leading media market, right? Did the NBA see to it that their next big thing landed in MSG? Did the gentleman who placed the envelopes in the hopper purposefully knock the Knick envelope against a metal bar to create a crease that Commissioner Stern could identify? Was the Knick envelope frozen making it cold to the touch, once again making it easy for Stern to choose correctly? Most telling as I watch the video below is the moment after Stern opens the hopper to make the first selection. Watch him at about 5:26, he lets out a very loud sigh. Could that have been his "OMG, I am about to pull off the biggest con in the history of the NBA" moment? Possible. Like any good conspiracy theory, its up to you to decide.
Meet Stu Inman
In 1984 Stu Inman was director of personnel and was in charge of scouting and drafting for the Portland Trailblazers. Inman was widely recognized around the league as a basketball genius, a savvy executive with a deep understanding of the game, especially evaluating players. Other teams would literally track Stu Inman’s scouting activities and use rumors about which players he was interested in to gain confidence in their own personnel decisions. With such high NBA prestige it’s clear why Portland left the future of the franchise in Inman’s hands. He was charged with ensuring the #2 pick in the ’84 draft was used to springboard the Trailblazers into long-term championship success.
Having lost the coin flip to Houston, Inman knew Olajuwon, the clear choice for the number one pick, would be going to the Rockets, but there was no clear choice on which player to take at number 2. Little did he know that, in retrospect, the choice was quite simple, and his decision would go down as arguably the greatest gaffe in NBA history. Not only that, but Inman’s well-respected career would be tarnished by one draft pick while the impact on the franchise would prove devastating.
So how did Stu Inman come to this earth-shattering and eventual pro basketball-changing decision?
Consider the reasons for choosing Bowie that actually made basketball sense for the Portland franchise in 1984.
Redundancy: Portland already had very good depth at shooting guard. Led by Jim Paxson a 6’6 sharp shooter with just enough quickness to create his own shot. The previous season Paxson played 33.2mpg and averaged 21.3ppg on 51.4% from the field. In the 1983 draft the Trailblazers selected Clyde Drexler with the 14th pick. Although Drexler was still a work in progress, he was considered a slashing, high-flying 2-guard from his days playing for the “Phi Slama Jama” basketball fraternity at University of Houston. From a scouting perspective this was a very similar playing style to that of Jordan.
Unpredictability: Nobody could have forecasted that Michael Jordan would become the famed “Air Jordan” and all the success and dominance that followed that nickname. Not even his college coach Dean Smith. Why? At UNC the offensive system was not conducive to individual showcase of talent. That is a large reason why Jordan only averaged 17.7ppg & 5rpg in college and only 16.5ppg in 10 NCAA tournament games. In that sense the “real” Michael Jordan was hidden from Inman’s keen scouting ability.
Due diligence: As part of the evaluation process Sam Bowie was put through a rigorous physical. The doctors meticulously examined Bowie’s surgically repaired shin fracture that kept him out of two seasons at Kentucky. He was cleared. Therefore Inman and the Portland medical staff could not have known Bowie would quickly become the man made of glass. I am willing to bet Portland’s ownership and fans are praying daily Greg Oden doesn’t suffer the same fate.
1977 NBA Champions: Portland’s only NBA championship came in that 1977 season when they were led by “Big Red-Head” Bill Walton. Inman believed the only way the franchise would reach the promise land again was behind another dominating player in the middle.
Formula for success: Very good-to-great big men win championships. History has shown this wasn’t just a philosophy but a requirement for winning a championship. Look at the previous 5 NBA championship team’s big man:
1983: Moses Malone
1982: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1981: Robert Parish & Kevin McHale
1980: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1979: Jack Sikma (7-time NBA All-Star) Add the Russell/Chamberlain days to that short list of Hall of Fame centers (excluding Sikma) and that is more than enough to cloud anyone’s judgment.
The big question Stu Inman and the rest of his scouting staff couldn’t overcome was, “Where’s [Jordan] going to play?” It was clear Sam Bowie would anchor the middle on defense for Portland and provide the team with a decent scorer and excellent passer in Jack Ramsay’s intricate offensive system.
Maybe the deciding factor for choosing Sam Bowie was his performance against Houston and Olajuwon where Bowie grabbed 18 boards and scored 8 points while holding Hakeem to 14 points & 12 rebounds before he fouled out.
Convincing enough argument for you? No? Yeah, me either. But, those realities created a distorted view of Michael Jordan in Inman’s eyes when evaluating him as a player.
In hindsight the correct move for Inman and the Trailblazers was to sign & trade Jim Paxson and Clyde Drexler for a center rather than pass on the greatest player in the history of the NBA.
The sad part for the Portland franchise is that the 1984 NBA draft wasn’t the first major miscue on their part. In 1972, Portland with the #1 pick selected LaRue Martin (who?) ahead of number 2 pick Bob McAdoo and Philadelphia’s own Julius Erving picked 12th! But hey, that’s why there are no geniuses in basketball.
10 - Paul Pierce. This electrifying Celtic didn't get picked until 10th in the 1998 draft. Though this was a talent-laden draft that featured Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki, but there was also some duds that went ahead of him, most notably Michael Olowokandi who went 1st overall that year. Pierce has been a perennial scoring star with the Celts and has put up almost 17,000 points in the first 10 years of his career.
9 - Steve Nash. Though somewhat small in stature this quicksilver Canadian controls the game as well as anyone in the NBA today. Drafted 15th overall in 1996 behind such household names as Todd Fuller and Vitaly Potapenko, Nash has gone on to prove the scouts missed the boat on this one, putting together back to back MVP seasons to erase any doubt. This little point guard certainly qualifies as one of the biggest steals in the history of the NBA draft.
8 - Bill Laimbeer. This towering center didn't show much during his college time at Notre Dame, and was passed over until Cleveland decided to take a chance on him, selecting him in the 3rd round, 65th overall in the 1979 NBA draft. He was traded to Detroit in 1982, and there made a name for himself as one of the nastiest players in the history of the game. He was a fierce rebounder though, especially on the defensive boards and helped the Pistons win back to back championships.
7 - Manu Ginobli. This determined guard from Argentina didn't get picked until the 57th spot in the 1999 NBA draft, but since then he has proved he deserves to be considered as one of the top 10 NBA draft steals of all time. Known for his effort, and his clutch shooting, Ginobli has quickly gone from the NBA's best 6th man to a dominating starter on this perennial championship contender.
6 - Larry Bird. It is hard to believe that a player like Bird, one of the true legends in the game, was passed over by 5 teams before Boston finally took him with the 6th overall pick in the 1978 draft. Now, some would say that a top 10 selection isn't so bad, but remember that Bird was a huge star at Indiana University, and the Pacers had an opportunity to draft Bird with the #3 pick. Instead, they opted to draft Rick Robey. One of the biggest mistakes in the history of the NBA draft.
5 - Karl Malone. "The Mailman" is the 2nd leading scorer in NBA history. He and John Stockton formed one of the most dominant duos in basketball history during their time with the Utah Jazz. Yet despite his consistent play in college he was not selected until 13th overall in the 1985 NBA draft. He continued to "deliver" during his incredible NBA career, earning 2 league MVP titles along the way. Definitely one of the biggest NBA draft steals in the history of basketball.
4 - Kobe Bryant. When his career is over it is very likely that Kobe will be the NBA's all time leading scorer. He is the youngest player to reach 20,000 points in the history of the game, and continues to score at a prolific rate. He has 3 NBA championships already, and is currently in the finals seeking a 4th title. In light of these accomplishments it is astonishing he was passed over 12 times before Charlotte finally took him with the 13th overall pick. Even worse, they went on to trade him. What were they thinking?
3 - Alex English. This Hall of Famer wasn't selected until the 2nd round of the 1976 draft, and is a no-brainer for a high spot on the list of the top 10 NBA draft steals of all time. He went on to a great NBA career, scoring more points in the 80s than any other player, lighting it up as a member of the Denver Nuggets. He finished his career with 25,613 points, good for 12th on the all time list.
2 - John Stockton. Much like his partner in crime, Karl Malone, John Stockton wasn't given the respect at the NBA draft table that history shows he deserved. The NBA's all time leading assist man and 10 time all-star didn't get taken until 16th overall in the 1984 draft. The Utah Jazz obviously had some great scouts, pulling off 2 of the greatest swindles in NBA history as they landed Stockton and Malone with late picks in back to back years.
1 - Michael Jordan. Regarded by most who follow the sport of basketball as the greatest player in NBA history, this superstar shooting guard out of North Carolina was shockingly passed on by Houston (Hakeem Olajuwon) and Portland (Sam Bowie) before Chicago finally snagged him with the #3 pick, thus perpetrating the biggest steal in NBA draft history. Jordan would go on to lead the Bulls to 6 NBA championships, while winning 5 MVP awards.
2. Grizzlies: Bryant Reeves, 6th, 1995It would be totally reasonable to say "Stromile Swift" here. Totally. But the fact of the matter is that Big Country was a franchise-defining pick when the team was in Vancouver. I mean, there were more players to choose from, like Swift and 'Reef and Bibby, but Country was the guy. As you know, the team is no longer in Canada. You do the math.
3. Thunder: Danny Vranes, 5th, 1981Ahhhhh, simpler times. When the Sonics weren't the Thunder. When Seattle wasn't Oklahoma. And when Clay Bennett wasn't Lucifer. But hey, what can you do? Oh, right. Lots of stuff: like revisit the past for the the Seattle Supersonics! For instance, Mr. Vranes maxed out in 1984 by averaging 8.4 points per game. Good times, etc.
4. Kings: Joe Kleine, 6th, 1985Kleine, a big boy from the south, was picked No. 6 in Sacramento's virgin draft. The Kings passed up Karl Malone, Detlef Schrempf, Chris Mullin, Joe Dumars and Terry Porter. An inauspicious start, to say the least.
5. Wizards: Kwame Brown, 1st, 2001When judging the Wiz' draft in '01 is that you have to remember two words: Michael Jordan. The greatest basketball player of all time was responsible for one of the biggest draft busts of all time, not to mention the fact that he is currently ruining the Bobcats franchise. At least Kwame made a ton of money.
6. Timberwolves: William Avery, 14th, 1999 The trickiest thing about the T-Wolves is that you have to remember: worse things could have happened if Joe Smith hadn't cost them eleventy-billion No. 1 picks. But for this spot, we'll take Avery. Why? Did you see how well he played in the NBA? Exactly. Add in the fact that he was a by-product of a great Duke team, yet he was the only guy that didn't pan out.
7. Warriors: Todd Fuller, 11th, 1996 & Chris Washburn, 3rd, 1986That's, right, it's a tie! And sure, Adonal Foyle deserves strong consideration here, mainly because he was picked ahead of Tracy McGrady. But good gracious, look at the list of folks who were drafted after my boy Fuller (Nash, JO'N, Peja, Big Z, KOBE BRYANT). Also, I just wanted to make sure my NC State Wolfpack were fully represented. Sigh.
8. Knicks: Frederic Weis, 15th, 1999The absurdity of the NBA draft can't be better defined outside of "Isiah Thomas doesn't own the worst pick ever for the New York Knicks." But it's true: Weis never sniffed the floor for the 'Bockers and proved to be worse than Michael Sweetney, even.
9. Raptors: Rafael Araujo 8th, 2004I wanted Jonathan Bender here for the NBA Live 2000 factor, but they did score a Davis by trading him, so it's hard to justify. Of course, not nearly as difficult to justify as taking Araujo (2.8 points and rebounds per game for his career) over Andre Iguodala and the rest of the semi-studs in that draft class, need aside.
10. Bucks: Marcus Haislip, 13th, 2002 I originally wanted to roll with Andrew Bogut, with my theory being that "anyone you picked ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams is inherently a tremendous bust," but that seemed shortsighted. Besides, Haislip played a grand total of 79 games in his career, while averaging 3.6 points per game. The people drafted after Haislip aren't spectacular but that's weak-sauce, son.
11. Nets: Eddie Griffin, 7th, 2001Far be it from me to mock someone who has since passed away, but I think it's fair to say that Griffin, God rest his soul, was not a fantastic choice for the Nets at seventh overall. Seriously, I'm not here to judge people, just to pick the busts of the draft. And, yes, I feel bad about this one, but a bust is a bust.
12. Bobcats: Adam Morrison, 3rd, 2006If you're a fan of North Carolina (professional) basketball, allow me to lead you in a resounding, SIIIIIIIIIIGH. Morrison was the brainchild of His Airness, for whatever reason, and was drafted before such stinkers as Brandon Roy, Randy Foye, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo and J.J. Redick. Yes, that's exactly how inconsequential BBJ has become.
13. Pacers: Scott Haskin, 14th, 1993There are several players you could make a bust claim for when it comes to the Pacers over the past few years (I desperately want to tag Clark Kellogg, but such is life). Of course, the Pacers have done a pretty good job on draft day, relatively speaking. But Haskin only played in 27 games during a one-year stint with Indiana, and that's more than enough to qualify him here.
14. Suns: Zarko Cabarkapa, 17th, 2003Gracious. Where to start? Rajon Rondo? Luol Deng? Rudy Fernandez? Oh right. They drafted all those people ... they just happened to trade them for nothing. Poor Phoenix fans. Instead, I'll offer you Cabarkapa, another foreign fella that the Suns organization mistakenly fell in love with. Here's a draft day hint, all you GM's: if someone's first name is ends in "-arko", avoid him.
15. Pistons: Darko Milicic, 2nd, 2003Like shooting fish in a freaking barrel. For those that somehow don't know, Darko was selected before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. He also managed -- through theoretical osmosis -- to bring down the entire Detroit Pistons organization, all by himself. When Joe Dumars and Larry Brown are framed for murder in three years, just don't act surprised, m'kay?
16. Bulls: Marcus Fizer, 4th, 2000The really crazy thing about the Bulls' draft history is that they had nine straight years with a pick of ninth or better. So, yeah, there's been some quality basketball in Chi-town since MJ left. Remarkably, they've done a pretty decent job of drafting during that time too, although Fizer is an obvious exception, even if the 2000 NBA Draft was a tremendous stinker. (And it was.)
17. 76ers: Shawn Bradley, 2nd, 1993Bradley is immortalized (via poster usually) as a Dallas Maverick -- the team's old tealish colors really did wonders for bringing out his skin complexion. But he was drafted as a Sixer way back when reading SI was cool (I remember his cover!) and he was taken in front of Penny, Mashburn, Rodney Rogers and even Vin Baker.
18. Heat: Harold Miner, 12th, 1992The Heat's drafting prowess is relatively impressive, with regard to not taking total stinkbombs, actually. But the thing with Miner is that he was hyped as "Baby Jordan" -- I mean, really, people -- and only played 200 games, averaged under 10 points per game, and Miami could have had Doug Christie. Doug Christie! (Also, Spree and Big O if you prefer your jokes to be of the crazy/fat variety instead of whipped husband jokes.)
19. Hawks: Shelden Williams, 5th, 2006Note to self: there is one good thing about that shipwrecked basketball city, Charlotte. It keeps you from being a Hawks fan. I wanted to go with Marvin here, but Shelden's the better Tobacco Road choice for one main reason (Chris Paul aside): the Hawks refuse to take a point guard. They had Brandon Roy, Randy Foye and Rajon Rondo all hanging around in '06 and they still Williams when they didn't even need him. Insanity, same thing, etc.
20. Jazz: Luther Wright, 18th, 1993BO-RING. The Jazz nailed Stockton (16th, 1984) and Malone (13th, 1985) and from then until forever, the only time they've needed to step up and nail a big pick, they pulled Deron Williams. You could argue Raul Lopez in 2001 was a bust, but he wasn't found at a rest stop "banging cans and smashing in windows." Also, little known fact: Wright gets paid $153k every year for 25 years.
21. Hornets: J.R. Reid, 5th, 1989Sure, J.R. played a ton of games, but there's an easy comparison here: Kendall Gill was drafted at fifth overall as well the following year. And, as my attorney pointed out, it's not like Gill is some huge superstar here, folks. Sugarcoat it all you want, Carolina fans: Reid stunk, and the Hornets took him way too early (Tim Hardaway and Shawn Kemp were both drafted after the UNC product).
22. Mavericks: Samaki Walker, 9th, 1996Just so we're clear, there was a four-year stretch where the Mavs took Cherokee Parks, Samaki Walker, Kelvin Cato and Tractor Traylor with top-15 picks. Guh. If Dallas hadn't landed Dirk for Tractor, then the fat man would be the pick. But Walker is just indefensible here -- and actually worse than the aforementioned Fuller for the very same reasons (Kobe, etc.)
23. Rockets: Michael Dickerson, 14th; Bryce Drew, 16th & Mirsad Turkcan, 18th, 1998Houston's draft history is bizarre in that, at least after the Cassell/Big Shot Bob years, they managed to pull the best talent from later in the draft. Including 1998, when they landed Cuttino Mobley in the second round after lobbing up this platter of eggs in a very quick first round span. I mean, just make a freaking play and shuffle those picks around, somebody.
24. Blazers: Sam Bowie. 2nd, 1984Fair or not, he's going to be the guy here. And if for some reason you don't know why this didn't work out for Portland, hop in your car, drive to the airport, take the first flight available to Chicago, find any local sports fan and ask them how drafting Michael Jordan worked out for them that year.
25. Spurs: Rick Hughes, 14th, 1985I don't want to say that the Spurs have been "lucky," because that would insult the excellent drafting history of the franchise. How-EVA, everyone knows about David Robinson's back injury and how it landed Tim Duncan and altered the history of the universe. And if you glance at the Spurs' drafting history, you'll note some stink bombs: Sean Elliott is debatable, Tracy Murray is "meh," Reggie Johnson was bad, etc. But for a straight-up bust, Alfredrick Hughes (Rick or Alfred, depending on your preference, of course) is the choice, averaging 5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.9 assists over his 68-game career.
26. Magic: Steven Hunter, 15th, 2001Has there ever been a team with Ping-Pong ball fortune like the Magic? Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal (not to mention Chris Webber)? Of course, for every easy lay-up like those guys, there's a disaster like the three-pick '98 draft that yielded Michael Doleac, Keon Clark and Matt Harpring. But at least that trio was somewhat decent; even Zach Randolph has been more productive than Hunter.
27. Celtics: Eric Montross, 9thPart of me wants to include Joe Forte here, because his sad little pro career was so short-lived, but he had two first-rounders drafted in front of him, so hype aside, Kedrick Brown was actually worse. But in a year where we have Tyler Hans-brah in the draft, it only seems appropriate to point out that the C's thought taking a big, lumbering, white guy who wore number 0 as his number -- and didn't really project to the pros, even though he played at UNC -- was a good idea. HEED MY WORDS, MISTER JORDAN.
28. Nuggets: Nikoloz Tskitishvili, 5th, 2002Looking back at the the 2002 NBA Draft is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Unless you're a Phoenix Suns or Miami Heat fan, in which case you probably look at this pick by the Nuggets as pretty freaking humorous, considering your teams got Amare Stoudemire and Caron Butler, respectively.
29. Lakers: Brad Holland, 14th, 1979The, ahem, haters may suggest that Andrew Bynum (SMASH!) should be slotted here because the jury is out on whether he's the "next great NBA center" or some such. But Holland's crappiness is obscured by this Magic Johnson fella that the Lakers took at the top of the draft -- when Jim Spanarkel is averaging more points than you are minutes, you suck.
30. Cavaliers: Luke Jackson, 10th, 2004There are really any number of ways to go with this pick -- there's Dajuan Wagner, although he had health issues. There's DeSagana Diop (eighth!) but he's a "specialist." There's Vitaly Potapenko, 12th, immediately before Kobe Bryant in the same year Big Z was drafted, which is tempting. But Luke Jackson floors me, and not because he only played 73 games. It's because Cleveland had just been gifted LeBron James and all they had to do was make one good choice. Just one! Al Jefferson, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Martin, Josh Smith ... any one of these would have been vastly more beneficial towards getting the King a title.
In the league's early years, when teams were struggling to include fan bases, the draft included territorial picks. Before the start of the draft, a team could forfeit its first-round pick and instead select a player from its immediate area, presumably with a strong local following.
In 1956, the Celtics used a territorial pick to select Tom Heinsohn from Holy Cross in nearby Worcester, Mass. He went on to average 18.6 points and 8.8 rebounds, helping the Celtics to eight NBA championships in his nine-year career.
1966-84: Coin Flip
In 1966, the league adopted a coin flip between the last-place finishers in each of its two divisions to determine which team would open the draft, a system that remained in place until the first lottery in 1985. The remaining teams picked in inverse order of their won-lost records.
In 1979, the 31-51 Chicago Bulls called "heads" and the coin came up "tails," thereby giving the first pick to the 26-56 New Orleans Jazz. But the Jazz had to compensate the Lakers for having signed Los Angeles free agent Gail Goodrich and did so with three draft picks, including New Orleans' first round pick in 1979. This became the No. 1 pick after the coin toss, which in turn became Magic Johnson out of Michigan State.
The next season, led by their rookie guard, the Lakers became NBA champions for the second time since moving to Los Angeles. Oh yes, and the New Orleans Jazz became the Utah Jazz.
1985: The First Lottery
Under the system adopted prior to the 1985 NBA Draft, the NBA Lottery determined the order of selection for the non-playoff teams (or the teams holding their picks through trades) for the first round only. Teams picked in inverse order of their records in the second round in all succeeding rounds.
In 1985, the jackpot of the very first NBA draft lottery was 7-0 Georgetown center Patrick Ewing. All seven teams that didn't make the playoffs had an equal chance of landing the No.1 pick and thereby, Ewing. A lucky bounce of the ping pong balls made the New York Knicks the first draft lottery winner and then-general manager (and Hall of Famer) Dave DeBusschere rose from his seat with a celebratory fist pump.
New York selected Ewing with the first overall pick in the 1985 draft and Ewing went on to play 15 seasons for the Knicks, leading them to the playoffs 13 times.
1987-Present: Top Three Teams
Under a procedural change adopted by the Board of Governors in October of 1986, the Lottery determined the order of selection for the first three teams only. The remaining non-playoff teams selected in inverse order of their regular season records. Therefore, the team with the worst record in the league was assured of picking no worse than fourth, the team with the second-worst record no worse than fifth and so on.
In 1987, the Clippers finished with a league-worst 12-70 record, but didn't strike it lucky in the lottery and under the new rules, wound up with the fourth pick. The Spurs, who had the fourth-worst record at 28-54 struck gold with Navy center David Robinson at No. 1. Only one of the three worst teams that year wound up with one of the top three picks -- New Jersey, which picked Ohio State guard Dennis Hopson.
In 1988, again only one of the three worst teams wound up with one of the top three picks, but at least this time, the Clippers' lowest winning percentage paid off and L.A. won the draft lottery. The Clippers used the No. 1 pick on Kansas forward Danny Manning.
1989-Present: Just Two Rounds
In the early years of the draft, teams would select players until they ran out of prospects. The 1960 draft went 21 rounds. By 1974, it had stabilized to 10 rounds, which held up until 1985, when the draft was shortened to seven rounds. By agreement with the National Basketball Players' Association, the drafts from 1989 onward have been limited to two rounds, which gives undrafted players the chance to try out for any team.
Since the draft went to two rounds, eight second-round picks have gone on to become All-Stars: Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek (1992), Pistons forward Dennis Rodman (1992), Lakers guard Cedric Ceballos (1995), Raptors center Antonio Davis (2001), Bucks guard Michael Redd (2004), Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas (2005), Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (2005) and Sonics forward Rashard Lewis (2005). In 2003, Detroit's Ben Wallace and Indiana's Brad Miller became the first undrafted players to make the All-Star team.
1990-Present: Weighted Lottery System
In a further refinement in October of 1989, the Board of Governors adopted a weighted system beginning with the 1990 NBA Draft Lottery, which included 11 teams due to expansion. The team with the worst record during the regular season received 11 chances at the top pick (out of a total of 66), the second-worst team got 10 chances and the team with the best record among the non-playoff clubs got one chance.
The Magic defied the new lottery odds by winning the No. 1 pick two years in a row. In 1992, the weighted system worked in their favor as they parlayed the second-worst record (21-61) into LSU center Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal helped Orlando make a 20-win improvement and the Magic just missed the playoffs at .500 in 1993. With just one chance out of 66, the Magic scored the No. 1 pick yet again and selected Michigan forward Chris Webber, trading him immediately to the Warriors for the draft rights to the No. 3 pick, Memphis guard Penny Hardaway and three future draft picks.
The Board of Governors approved a modification of the Lottery system in November of 1993 that, effective with the 1994 NBA Draft Lottery, increased the chances of the teams with the worst records in the league winning one of the top three picks in the draft while decreasing the lottery chances of the teams with the best records. The new system increased the chances of the team with the worst record drawing the first pick in the draft from 16.7 percent to 25 percent, while decreasing the chances of the team with the best record among lottery teams from 1.5 percent to 0.5 percent.
Under the system, 14 ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 are placed in a drum. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. Prior to the Lottery, 1,000 combinations are assigned to the Lottery teams based on their order of finish during the regular season. Four balls are drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the number one pick. The four balls are placed back in the drum and the process is repeated to determine the number two and three picks. (Note: If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls are drawn to the top again.)
1996-2003: 13-team Lottery
In October of 1995, the Board of Governors increased the number of teams participating in the Lottery from 11 to 13 to account for the addition of expansion teams Toronto and Vancouver. Starting in 1996, the team with the worst record in the Lottery continued to have a 25% chance (250 combinations) of winning the first pick, teams two (20%; 200 combinations) through six (6.4%; 64 combinations) have slightly fewer chances, team seven (4.4%; 44 combinations) has the same number of chances and teams eight (2.9%; 29 combinations) through 12 (0.6%; six combinations) have slightly more chances. The number of chances for team 13 (0.5%; five combinations) did not change. Tied teams split the number of chances and a blind draw determines which team receives an extra chance if the combined number of chances can not be split evenly.
2004-Present: 14-team Lottery
The 2004 NBA Draft Lottery increased to 14 teams with the addition of the Charlotte Bobcats. Although a part of the 2004 Draft Lottery the Bobcats are locked into the fourth position in the Draft and therefore do not have a chance to receive other picks in the Lottery. The 2004 NBA Draft Lottery essentially decides picks one through three and four through 14.
|1. Chicago||Elton Brand||Duke |
|2. Vancouver || Steve Francis || Maryland |
|3. Charlotte ||Baron Davis ||UCLA |
|4. LA Clippers ||Lamar Odom ||Rhode Island |
|5. Toronto||Jonathan Bender ||Picayune (MS) H.S|
|6. Minnesota||Wally Szczerbiak||Miami |
|7. Washington ||Richard Hamilton||Connecticut|
|8. Cleveland || Andre Miller ||Utah |
|9. Phoenix ||Shawn Marion||UNLV |
|10. Atlanta (a) || Jason Terry ||Arizona |
|11. Cleveland || Trajan Langdon ||Duke |
|12. Toronto ||Alek Redojevic||Barton Co. JC (Kan.)|
|13. Seattle (b) || Corey Maggette ||Duke|
|14. Minnesota|| William Avery ||Duke |
|15. New York ||Frederick Weis|| France |
|16. Chicago ||Ron Artest||St. John's|
|17.Atlanta||Cal Bowdler||Old Dominion|
|18. Denver || James Posey ||Xavier |
|19. Utah || Quincy Lewis || Minnesota |
|20. Atlanta || Dion Glover ||Georgia Tech |
|21. Golden State (c) || Jeff Foster ||Texas State |
|22. Houston || Kenny Thomas ||New Mexico |
|23. LA Lakers || Devean George ||Augsburg College (MN)|
|24. Utah ||Andrei Kirilenko|| Russia |
|25. Miami || Tim James || Miami |
|26. Indiana (c) ||Vonteego Cummings||Pittsburgh |
|27. Atlanta (d) || Jumaine Jones ||Georgia |
|28. Utah ||Scott Padgett||Kentucky |
|29. San Antonio (e) || Leon Smith ||Augsburg College (MN)|
(a) Hawks traded Mookie Blaylock, and their first-round pick, the 21st overall, to the Warriors for their first pick, the 10th overall, guard Bimbo Coles and small forward Duane Ferrell.
(b) Seattle SuperSonics traded the draft rights to Corey Maggette (13) and Billy Owens, Dale Ellis and Don MacLean to Orlando for Horace Grant and two future second-round draft picks.
(c) Golden State Warriors traded the draft rights to Jeff Foster (21st pick overall) to Indiana in exchange for the draft rights to Vonteego Cummings (26th pick overall) and a future first-round draft pick.
(d) Atlanta Hawks traded the draft rights to Jumaine Jones (27th pick overall) to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for a future first-round pick.
(e) San Antonio Spurs traded the draft rights to Leon Smith (29th pick overall) to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the draft rights to Gordan Giricek (40th overall pick) and a future second-round draft pick.
(f) Minnesota Timberwolves traded the draft rights to Louis Bullock (42nd pick overall) to the Orlando Magic for cash considerations.
(g) Atlanta Hawks traded the draft rights to Roberto Bergerson (52nd overall pick) to Portland in exchange for cash consideration.
|30. LA Lakers||John Celestand||Villanova|
|31. LA Clippers||Rico Hill||Illinois State|
|32. Chicago||Michael Ruffin||Tulsa|
|33. Denver||Chris Herren||Fresno State|
|34. New Jersey||Evan Eschmeyer||Northwestern|
|35. Washington||Calvin Booth||Penn State|
|36. Dallas||Wang Zhi-Zhi||China|
|37. Vancouver||Obinna Ekezie||Maryland|
|38. Orlando||Laron Profit||Maryland|
|39. Cleveland||A.J. Bramlett||Arizona|
|40. Dallas (e)||Gordan Giricek||Croatia|
|41. Denver||Francisco Elson||California|
|42. Minnesota (f)||Louis Bullock||Michigan|
|43. Charlotte||Lee Nailon||Texas Christian|
|44. Houston||Tyrone Washington||Mississippi State|
|45. Sacramento||Ryan Robertson||Kansas|
|46 New York||J.R. Koch||Iowa|
|47 Philadelphia||Todd MacCulloch||Washington|
|48 Milwaukee||Galen Young||UNC-Charlotte|
|49 Chicago||Lari Ketner||Massachusetts|
|50 Houston||Venson Hamilton||Nebraska|
|51 Vancouver||Antwain Smith||St Paul's (VA)|
|52 Atlanta (g)||Roberto Bergersen||Boise State|
|53 Miami||Rodney Buford||Creighton|
|54 Detroit||Melvin Levett||Cincinnati|
|55 Boston||Kris Clack||Texas|
|56 Golden State||Tim Young||Stanford|
|57 San Antonio||Emmanuel Ginobili||Italy|
|58 Utah||Eddie Lucas||Virginia Tech|