LeBron James and Michael Jordan’s draft classes are the two best ever
Evaluating a draft class is partly on top-end talent, partly on depth
Read below for our list of the best NBA draft classes of all-time
The best NBA draft classes have produced Hall of Famers. There are simplistic metrics to judge a draft class, like total All-Star appearances, but we’re looking a bit deeper into the value of each class.
It often takes time for rookies to have a real impact on the NBA betting – that wasn’t the case for many of the top draft classes in NBA history.
Greatest NBA Draft Class:
Some erupted onto the NBA scene, starring as a rookie and changing their team’s fortunes. These classes have provided some of the best Rookie of the Year races – the award is always a fascinating follow in online betting.
Just as NBA referee salary has changed over the 75 years of the league’s existence, the whole draft process has altered drastically too.
The number of rounds has changed, new franchises have been added, and the way teams decide on their picks has evolved massively over the last decade or so. Let’s take a look at the best NBA draft classes of all-time.
Maybe it’s a bit early for this one but give us a chance. Luka Doncic and Trae Young are already MVP candidates. The class set an all-time record with over $1 billion in contract extensions before the deadline in October 2021.
It’s a matter of time until Shai Gilgeous-Alexander makes it three All-Stars from the 2018 cohort. Michael Porter Jr, Deandre Ayton and Jaren Jackson Jr are heading on that trajectory, too.
Mikal Bridges leads a group of good role players along with Kevin Huerter, Donte DiVincenzo, Grayson Allen, Miles Bridges and Lonnie Walker.
Most drafts, 2018 included, feature a flop in the top five picks. Bob Lanier, Rudy Tomjanovich, Pete Maravich, Dave Cowens and Sam Lacey ensured that wasn’t the case from the 1970 class.
While this draft didn’t produce any top 20 all-time players, it was deep with good-to-great long-time NBA stars.
On top of those five, Hall of Famers Calvin Murphy and Tiny Archibald went 18th and 19th respectively.
Top pick Michael Olowokandi is one of the great NBA draft busts. The rest of the 1998 draft more than made up for that, though, with Hall of Famers Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce going ninth and 10th.
Vince Carter is on his way to the Hall, too, and several others had good NBA careers, including Antawn Jamison, Mike Bibby, Rashard Lewis and Ty Lue.
Seven players in the 2011 draft have played in at least one All-Star game. Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas, and Kemba Walker all earned at least one All-NBA selection, too.
Loaded is the only word for the 2011 class. Irving, Thompson and Leonard have all starred on title-winning teams. Butler, Thomas and Walker have carried franchises. Beyond the big stars, though, there’s a tonne of depth.
Davis Bertans and Bojan Bogdanovic went in the second round, for instance, while Cory Joseph, Reggie Jackson, Kenneth Faried, Tobias Harris, the Morris twins, Enes Kanter, Bismack Biyombo and Jonas Valanciunas all built good NBA careers after being taken in the first round.
David Robinson went first overall in 1987, leading off an impressive draft. Robinson is one of the greatest NBA players, but his career has been underrated.
The accolades and career numbers back up the claim that Robinson was the best of the 1987 class.
Reggie Miller and Scottie Pippen aren’t far behind, though, and Pippen’s former teammate Horace Grant has a shout as the fourth-best player ahead of Mark Jackson and Kevin Johnson.
The 2009 Draft class featured Steph Curry, James Harden, Blake Griffin, DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday. Numerous solid to good role players were selected too, including Patty Mills, Danny Green and Ricky Rubio.
This can be viewed as the draft that changed the league. Griffin was box office in his prime, DeRozan is a good all-round offensive player and Holiday is a two-way star.
It was Curry and Harden who shaped how we approach NBA predictions in 2021, though. There’s still time left to evaluate this group. It’s feasible they break into the top three over the next five years.
Featuring five Hall of Famers and 10 that made an All-Star team, the 1985 NBA Draft had top tier talent and depth in equal measure.
Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin were the biggest names. That trio have numbers retired and records galore, yet none got to pick up a ring, which is what holds this draft back from breaking into the top three.
They were accompanied by Joe Dumars, Charles Oakley, Detlef Schrempf, A.C. Green, Manute Bol and Hot Rod Williams. Not many drafts can rival that amount of talent.
A combined 64 All-Star games is outrageous. Having Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash from one draft would be pretty wild on its own.
They might have been the best two players from the 1996 class, but they weren’t even the only MVPs. Allen Iverson rounded out the trio of Most Valuable Players. It gets better.
Ray Allen, the all-time three-point leader (for now), was also drafted in 1996. So were Peja Stojakovic, Marcus Camby, Stephon Marbury, Derek Fisher and Jermaine O’Neal.
It would take something special for a draft to outdo 1996 – we’ve got two of them.
The 2003 NBA draft is not only remembered for its Hall of Famers or All-Star selections. Some questionable suit choices on draft night have made frequent appearances on social media over the last few years.
This class doesn’t rival the quantity of talent produced in 1996 or 1985. It’s all about the top end here, and with fair reason.
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were taken with four of the top five picks. They are four of the top 30 or so players of the 21st century.
Only a few others, including Kyle Korver and David West, made an All-Star game. The 2003 draft still warrants the two spot in our rankings. The NBA’s recent history can be broken down to before and after 26th June 2003.
There’s no debate about this. The 1984 draft is the best in NBA history.
Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon and two of the top 10 players of all-time. John Stockton is the all-time assists and steals leader, starring on an ever-competitive Utah Jazz team.
Charles Barkley was named to All-NBA on 11 occasions and won MVP in 1993/94.
Those four rank in the top 10 in NBA history in win shares. Olajuwon is the all-time leader in blocks and Jordan is third in steals.
They combined for 45 All-NBA selections. Between 1991 and 1998, the title went to either MJ or The Dream with Barkley and Stockton combining to be on the losing side three times.
The records speak for themselves. The star power of the 1984 class cannot, and might never be, beaten.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*
FIRST PUBLISHED: 22nd October 2021