Top Selections by Draft Position (30-26)
From Clifton McNeely to Anthony Bennett, NBA fans have borne witness to 65 NBA drafts over the course of the league's history. Since the first ever selection in 1947 by the Pittsburgh Pioneers of the aforementioned McNeely, NBA franchises' hopes have been tethered to the success or failures of their teams' perspective drafts since its on-set. Through the course of this time, we have seen superstars, busts, hidden gems, head-scratchers, and out-right awful picks, made by GM's hoping to change their fortunes, maintain their excellence, or simply just keep their jobs. Sometimes a team's pick can mean the dawning of a new era of greatness (Tim Duncan - number 1 overall pick in 1997). Sometimes a pick can usher in, or maintain, monotonous malaise (Michael Olowakandi - number 1 overall in '98). Sometimes a pick can show that who you pick in the draft is often more important than where you pick in the draft (Tony Parker - 28th in '01). And, sometimes a pick can outright show that a team is rudderless under it's current regime (take pretty much any pick at any number that the Bobcats have ever selected).
The draft is no exact science. And though teams like the Bulls and Spurs seem to have somewhat cracked the proverbial code, even such overall draft success has been met with an unwise choice or two: see Tryus Thomas or James Anderson. Though truth be told, the Spurs current regime really hasn't missed on many players in the first round.
Any General Manager will tell you that, though you may be able to find a franchise player through free agency or trading, you can't maintain a franchise's success without building and maintaining your team through the draft. The Spurs' resurgence was clearly due to the drafting of Tim Duncan, but their maintained dominance is due to the prodigious craftsmanship of R.C. Buford and his staff. Players like Kwahi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and George Hill were the types of picks that don't make a splash, but rather help maintain calm waters. While teams in the lottery often hope to turn around their fortunes, selecting what they hope to be the cornerstone of their franchise, savvy organizations understand that any pick - no matter lottery or “irrelevant”, - has the capacity to lift their team to the top, or keep them atop as others attempt to usurp them. On the other hand, the deleterious effects of a poor draft can echo throughout an organization for years to come, a rippling effect haunting a franchise throughout its existence (Chris Washburn 3rd by The Warriors, Robert Swift 12th by The Sonics, Sam Bowie 2nd by The Blazers).
While organizations like the Knicks, Heat, Nets, and Rockets become Frankensteinesque amalgams of big name free agents, traded fodder, cast-offs and has-beens (all having met with a mixed bag of results in terms of on court success), exciting young teams like the Pacers, Trailblazers, Timberwolves, and Thunder have reminded us just how valuable drafting with prudence can be. Conversely, dumpster fires like the Bobcats, Cavaliers, Kings, and Jazz have shown their perpetually morose fan bases just what can happen when a team seems to lack the requisite foresight or planning necessary to compose a cohesive collection of talent through the draft.
A team's entire fortunes can be swayed by just the right or wrong pick, no matter where in the order that pick may come. The draft officially began rounds in 1960, when teams had ten rounds by which to mold their fortunes. Nowadays, though only given a comparably paltry 60 picks in total, teams hope to find the next big thing in one of two rounds. Though more than a few golden selections have been mined in the second round: Marc Gasol #48, Manu Ginobili #57, Antonio Davis #45, and Clifford Robinson #36 - just to name a few - it's typically the first round that yields the future stars of the league.
With that in mind, here is a breakdown of the greatest picks at each number if adhering to the current 30-pick format. For example, the greatest player to ever be selected utilizing the 26th overall pick is Vlade Divac by the Los Angeles Lakers, just barely eeking out Kevin Martin, selected 26th by the Sacramento Kings.
This list is baring in mind both the player's success, and his team's success, and is also compiled with the idea that in this era of due diligence teams have the information to let them know what type of person the player is, as well. Thusly, David Lee gets the nod over Gilbert Arenas, because Lee - who may be the inferior on court performer - is highly unlikely to pull a gun on Steph Curry. Some slots are easier to single out the greatest pick than others, as you'll see with the number 28 overall pick. But as the numbers get lower, the options for greatness get higher.
Here are selections 30-26:
#30: David Lee - the number 30 overall pick in the history of the NBA draft isn't one quite rife with a multitude of stars, Spencer Haywood notwithstanding. (Haywood is disqualified because no player averaging 32.1 ppg and 21.5 rpgs in college would be selected this low, but Haywood had an issue with the eligibility rules governing potential pros and had already played a year in the ABA for the Denver Rockets. In his season with the Rockets, he became the youngest ABA MVP ever. Most selections here quickly become bench players or after thoughts). That being said, the competition came down to two players that seem to tantalize and polarize most basketball fans: David Lee and Gilbert Arenas.
While “The Hibachi” had one of the most prolific 3 year scoring stretches in recent memory (27.7 ppg from 2005-07), Arenas became known more for his erratic behavior - both on and off the court - than for is irradiant scoring. Lee, on the other hand, has been about as steady as they come. If Lee is on the floor, a double-double is likely to ensue, as the former Florida Gator has led the league in total double-doubles over the last four years and averages just .2 rebounds per game below a career double-double (Lee's career numbers are 14.9 ppg and 9.8 rpgs). Though GM's and metric pundits are quick to point out Lee as a liability on the defensive end - and they're not wrong - there is something calming about knowing what you're gonna get night-in and night-out from a 3rd team All-NBA caliber performer (Lee was named to the All-NBA 3rd team last season). While perhaps a notch below star level, the crafty power forward and two-time All-Star (2010 & '13) has been a consistent contributor since entering the league and is a key cog in the resurgent Warriors' success.
#29: Dennis Johnson - While the number 29 slot seems to have yielded several more notable players in the annals of the NBA than the 30th slot (Tony Kukoc, P.J. Brown, Eddie Johnson, and Phil Smith), the competition for the greatest 29th selection was virtually no contest at all.
The Seattle Supersonics watched the future of their franchise continue to turn for the better when the team chose a dogged defender out of the University of Pepperdine by the name of Dennis Johnson. A future Hall of Famer, Johnson quickly found a home in Seattle, garnering finals' MVP on his way to his first NBA title in 1979. This was the first of three championships for Johnson who would go on to win two more titles with the Boston Celtics (1984 & '86). "DJ”, as Bostonians loved to refer to Johnson, was one of the preeminent perimeter defenders of his time, or any time for that matter, and was named to the All-NBA defensive team nine times during his illustrious career (6 first teams and 3 second teams). Johnson was also a five time All-Star and has had his number 3 jersey retired by the Boston Celtics. Not bad for a slot that was once used for the likes of Mark Madsen.
#28: Tony Parker - For quite some time, the lower picks in the NBA draft were slots usually relegated to role players and reclamation projects. Yet now, with the expansion of the NBA talent pool to foreign lands, there has been a recent influx of late round international talent. With a widened group of options in terms of players for teams to select, added to NBA franchises now being willing to draft a foreign player late and let him gestate in his perspective league overseas, there has been a discernible upswing in late round trans-continental talent. At the number 28 slot, Tony Parker is one such player.
In 2001, the San Antonio Spurs made the Belgium-born Parker the 28th overall pick, a selection that only furthered the growing interest in international players at the time. The Spurs, who had already drafted foreign players in Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands) and Manu Ginobili (Argentina), soon would become the preeminent team in terms of finding and drafting global talent, (in large part due to the success of players like Parker; crafty performers, imbued with a less selfish style of play thanks because of the difference in the international brand of basketball)
Since joining the Spurs in 2001, Parker has been a revelation, as the "floor general" has helped lead the Spurs to three titles (2003,'05, &'07) and was just one rebound - or a Jesus Shuttlesworth miss - away from a fourth. It should be noted that Parker was a lock for finals MVP last year before Ray Allen changed the narrative. Parker has been named to the All-NBA team three times in his career - impressive for a point guard in an era where the NBA has a bevy of high quality players at that position (Parker was named to the All-NBA 2nd team twice, 3rd team once). Most importantly, Parker is a proven winner. While it can't hurt that Parker plays with the greatest power forward to ever fundamentally lace them up, and one of the greatest minds in coaching, the '07 Finals' MVP and five time All-Star has a personal career winning percentage of 70%, putting him above all-time great point guards like Isiah Thomas, Oscar Robertson and John Stockton.
#27: Dennis Rodman - Few players have better exemplified the value of due diligence in terms of scouting more than a small, high energy power forward from Southeastern State University by the name of Dennis Rodman. The selection by The Detroit Pistons of Rodman, or “The Worm” as he would be called through most of his career, is a testament to the type of value that can be found from teams savvy enough to look where most won't. Though in this day and age of media saturation and over exposure, it would be hard for a talent such a Rodman to go unnoticed.
Rodman began his career with the “Bad Boy” Pistons of the late 80's and quickly supplanted himself as one of the best rebounders (he led the league in rebounding seven times for his career, a feat only topped by Wilt's 11) and defensive forces in the league (Rodman was named to eight All-Defensive teams, seven of which were 1st teams.) More than just a force on the boards and in a defensive stance, the former two-time Defensive Player of the Year (1990 &'91) was a player willing to do the dirty work necessary to win, which he did prolifically as his five titles (1989,'90,'96,'97,'98.) stand testament to. Rodman was also an All-NBA third team selection on two separate occasions (1992,'95) - a feat not seen typically from a player considered to be so offensively limited (the '88 season was the only year Rodman ever averaged double digits in scoring for a season.)
Though often noted as much for his off-court antics as his on-court play, Rodman was always considered a great teammate and competitor. His recent inclusion into the Hall of Fame and his retired Pistons' jersey only further exemplify this. Five titles and a Hall of Fame presence at the number 27 slot is about as valuable as they come.
#26: Vlade Divac - At a slot that was a bit more inauspicious in terms of notable players than some of the slots below, number 26 has had several value guys (Taj Gibson and George Hill) but no real stars. At pick 26, The Lakers selection of another international star gets the nod over the Kings' selection of Kevin Marin.
In 1989, the Los Angeles Lakers helped usher in the trend of drafting seasoned international talent with their selection of a seven-foot center from Belgrade, Serbia by the name of Vlade Divac. Divac, who was known more for his guile than grit, quickly became a fan favorite with the "Showtimes" Lakers.
Though never a dominate presence or the scorer Martin is, Divac was a stabilizing force at the pivot position throughout his career, averaging a respectable 11.8 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game during his time in the league. But what separated Divac, and placed him as the best overall 27th selection, was his ability to make teammates better. Divac was a deft passer, averaging 3.1 assists per game for his career, including an impressive 5.3 per game in his second to last season.
Divac was the type of player who functioned greatly within a team setting, allowing teams like the Kings to run their offense directly through the big man - a ploy we see used far more often now, but was relatively a new concept in Divac's era of block-to-block plodding big man. Though never having won a title, Divac did make it to the finals with the Lakers in '90 and was a key player on one of the most exciting and talented teams to never make a finals as a member of The Kings. Divac will go down as one of the pioneers in the international migration into the NBA.
Check back in two weeks for numbers 25-21.
"Conversely, dumpster fires like the Bobcats, Cavaliers, Kings, and Jazz have shown their perpetually morose fan bases just what can happen when a team seems to lack the requisite foresight or planning necessary to compose a cohesive collection of talent through the draft."
The Jazz have only had two losing seasons in the past 30 years. It's much harder to draft well when you're picking late in the first round. I think Utah's done okay, given the circumstances. Maybe not as well as the Spurs, Blazers and Pacers; but grouping them in with the Bobcats, Cavaliers and Kings is absurd.
Rodman - 5 titles. One of the greatest defenders and rebounders of all time. Shows you don't have to score to be a great player........
I don't know how you can make a comment like that with the record the Jazz have had over the last 30 years and what they have done with very few high draft picks.
If you want to go far back Mark Eaton was the 72nd pick and I believe still holds the NBA record for blocks in a season, John Stockton 16th pick and Karl Malone 13th, I'm guessing you have heard of them and Andrei Kirilenko 24th pick was a 1 time allstar.
If you want to look at just the last 10 years they have had only 4 top 10 picks. #3 Deron Williams a multi time allstar, #9 Gordon Hayward is a solid player, and #3 Enes Kanter, and #9 Trey Burke. With those last two I would say it's too early to judge whether those were good picks. Outside of the top ten they drafted Mo Wiliams at 47 who was an allstar, Kris Humphries 14 who isn't great but has had a decent career, CJ Miles 34 also decent career, Ronnie Brewer 14 decent career, Paul Millsap 47 good player, Eric Maynor 20 decent backup PG, and Alec Burks 12 decent player.
I guess my point is like the other poster they haven't had many high picks. They have a great record of making the playoffs, and the only real reason they are down this year is because they choose to let all their veterans go in order for them to get a read on what their youth is capable of.
On the other hand the teams you have compared them to Sacramento 3 top 5 picks and 3 top 10 in the last 10 years, Charlotte 5 top 5 picks and 3 top 10, and the Cavaliers 5 top 5 picks and 1 top 10 have had terrible records. There might also be an arguement that Cleveland shouldn't be on that list since one of those picks was Lebron followed by years of success and one was Kyrie Irving who outside of this year has been great. Also 3 of those other picks were since 2011 so may still become decent players.
In my opinion making that type of comment about the Jazz shows ignorance and the inability to look past their current record and see the history of the team.
Arenas was a second round pick.
Check back in two weeks? WTF...
When Arenas was taken their was only 29 teams so yes he was a second round pick.