The NBA Draft will be held tonight at 7 p.m., so in honor of that event, let’s talk about the best NBA drafts of all time.
And no, I don’t mean the extraneous things that happen, like the time that Darko Milicic popped up out of the audience and rushed up on stage to hug Commissioner David Stern (although that was a classic moment). Or when Jay Bilas said that Luke Ridnour couldn’t guard the chair he was sitting in (another classic).
I’m talking about young men who were drafted, then went on to great things in the league.
Like when I looked at the best Hall of Fame classes, it can be easy to get sucked into the allure of a goat, uhh, I mean G.O.A.T., or greatest of all time. It would be easy to say any draft class with Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson has to be among the best ever, but what about overall greatness? How many all-star game appearances would you rack up? How many playoff appearances?
Three classes really stand out to me, so before I get to my top three, here are my picks for fourth and fifth place.
Seven different players from this class made at least one appearance in an all-star game, led by overall top pick David Robinson (21 pts., 10.6 boards).
Scottie Pippen (7-time all-star, 8-time all-defensive first team) was fifth. Then there is Reggie Miller (5-time all-star, second in career 3’s made), Horace Grant (4-time all-defensive second team), Mark Jackson (fourth in career assists, 32nd in steals), Kevin Johnson (3-time all-star, 4-time all-NBA second team) and the tragic Reggie Lewis (one all-star appearance before his death at age 27).
This draft also brought the legendary Muggsy Bogues, 17th in career assist rate and 45th in steals rate; there was also Sarunas Marciulionis, Derrick McKey, Armon Gilliam, Reggie Williams, Kenny Smith, Olden Polynice and Joe Wolf — guys who all played for at least seven years.
This class brought a whopping 12 titles total, which sounds great, but includes Bill Wennington getting three for sitting on the Bulls’ bench.
Of course it also includes Joe Dumars (Pistons) and A.C. Green (Lakers) as well as Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Terry Porter, Charles Oakley and Detlef Schrempf who all became all-stars. In fact this group has 45 all-star appearances, two MVP awards and five Hall of Fame members.
It also has depth. Others in the first round to play at least a decade included Xavier McDaniel, Wayman Tisdale, Benoit Benjamin, Jon Koncak, Joe Kleine and Ed Pinckney. Picks outside the first round included Arvydas Sabonis, Michael Adams, Manute Bol, Mario Elie, Gerald Wilkens and Spud Webb.
That gets us into the hard part. These last three are pretty doggone good, and the third-place class is still going.
True, this is the draft class of LeBron James, but the depth shows in that this class has had nine different players make an all-star team — not to mention a couple of second-round guys who led the league in 3-point shooting at least once (Jason Kapono twice and Kyle Korver four times).
LeBron (14-time all-star, 4-time MVP), Dwyane Wade (12-time all-star) and Carmelo Anthony (10-time all-star) seem locks for the Hall of Fame. Chris Bosh (11-time all-star) probably will join them. Other all-stars from the class are Josh Howard, David West, Moe Williams, Chris Kaman and Korver.
Other solid veterans with 10 years or more in the league include Kirk Hinrich, Mickael Pietrus, Ridnour, Milicic, Nick Collison, Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, Travis Outlaw, Luke Walton, Steve Blake and Willie Green.
How do you top LeBron and the Miami Heat trio? Try 10 different players making an all-star team, four MVP awards spread around three guys (Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson) and a whopping 68 total all-star berths. Players on these teams account for nine NBA titles, and unlike the Heat trio, they didn’t get credit for three in the same years.
Iverson won four scoring titles, Ray Allen holds the record for most three-point makes, Kobe has had his supporters for G.O.A.T., and Nash is third in career assists, tops in career free throw shooting and 18th in 3-pointers made.
And yet, that wasn’t all the class had to offer. Ben Wallace and Marcus Camby were two of the best paint defenders in NBA history.
You also have Stephon Marbury, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antoine Walker, Kerry Kittles, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O’Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Derek Fisher, Malik Rose and Erick Dampier.
How could anything top 1996? You forgot His Airness. And not just Jordan, but 1984 gave us Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton, three others who were among the best to ever play their positions.
Who is ahead of Nash in assists? Who is ahead of Iverson and Kobe in career scoring average? Who is ahead of Camby in blocks? The Class of 1984 has your answers.
The only thing this class lacked was a great spot-up shooter. The best option, interestingly, would be one of the original stretch bigs in 6-foot-9 Sam Perkins, who turned into a shooter in the second half of his career.
Perkins, a 17-year veteran, was one of several bigs to play very long careers from this class, joining Hakeem (18 years), Barkley (16), Michael Cage (15), Jerome Kersey (17), Otis Thorpe (17) and Kevin Willis (21).
And if you are talking about longevity, Brazil’s Oscar Schmidt was drafted by the Nets that year, but never played in the NBA, choosing to stay in his home country where he was a national treasure. Schmidt scored more points in international competition than any NBA player has scored in regular season history (49,737 to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387).
Throw in some other useful players like Alvin Robertson, Jay Humphries, Vern Fleming, Ron Anderson and Danny Young, and this group reigns supreme over all other draft classes.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.