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The Best and Worst Draft Classes in NBA History

Best and Worst Draft Classes in NBA History
The NBA Draft can be predictable at times, but it can also throw up some surprises.

What is always unclear, of course, is just how well the top picks are going to do in their professional careers. Some live up to or exceed expectations, while others seriously underperform.

Here’s my list of the best and worst NBA draft classes to remind you of some of the most intriguing nights in league’s history.

Worst NBA Draft Classes

2014 NBA Draft

  • 1 Andrew Wiggins
  • 2 Jabari Parker
  • 3 Joel Embiid
  • 4 Aaron Gordon
  • 5 Dante Exum

The 2014 draft class is full of solid players, but besides Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, there isn’t much sheer quality. Andrew Wiggins was considered a new superstar, and some even compared him to LeBron James. Six years later, Wiggins is still without an All-Star appearance.

Jabari Parker has been struggling with injuries for most of his career, as well as Dante Exum. Aaron Gordon is a solid starter for the Orlando Magic, while No. 6 Marcus Smart, No. 14 T.J. Warren, No. 16 Jusuf Nurkic, No. 25 Clint Capela, and No. 38 Spencer Dinwiddie are all good players, but far away from the highest standards.

Joel Embiid is a three-time All-Star and a two-time All-NBA, so he’s undoubtedly the best player from the 2014 NBA Draft. Nikola Jokic is the No. 41 pick overall and already has a couple of All-Star games under his belt. It’s safe to say that the Nuggets’ scouting staff did a terrific job.

2004 NBA Draft

  • Dwight Howard
  • Emeka Okafor
  • Ben Gordon
  • Shaun Livingston
  • Devin Harris

Five guys from the 2004 NBA Draft became All-Stars including the No. 1 pick Dwight Howard. The other four are No. 5 Devin Harris, No. 7 Luol Deng, No. 9 Andre Iguodala, and No. 20 Jameer Nelson. Anyway, these four players combined for just five All-Star appearances.

Furthermore, the 2004 draft class is full of busts. No. 2 Emeka Okafor, No. 6 Josh Childress, No. 8 Rafael Araujo, and No. 10 Luke Jackson all had pretty bad NBA careers, and what can I say about the Russian trio Pavel Podkolzin – Viktor Khryapa – Sergei Monia that was selected from No. 21 to No. 23.

2002 NBA Draft

  • Yao Ming
  • Jay Williams
  • Mike Dunleavy
  • Drew Gooden
  • Nikoloz Tskitishvili

The 2002 draft class is so bad that Carlos Boozer, who was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 35th pick overall, might be the best player here. Yao Ming’s career was shortened due to injury problems; Jay Williams played only one season and had to retire after a motorcycle accident, while Nikoloz Tskitishvili spent four years around the Association, averaging 2.9 points per game.

The six-time All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire met the expectations as No. 9 pick overall, but he also disappeared from the NBA courts too early. No. 10 Caron Butler is a two-time All-Star, while No. 23 Tayshaun Prince spent 14 years around the league and won the championship with the Pistons in 2004.

Interestingly, from No. 11 Jared Jeffries to No. 22 Casey Jacobsen, no player has averaged more than 8.4 points in a career.

2000 NBA Draft

  • Kenyon Martin
  • Stromile Swift
  • Darius Miles
  • Marcus Fizer
  • Mike Miller

From this point of view, it’s clear that the 2000 draft class lacked quality. Only three players became All-Stars including Jamaal Magloire who finished his career with 7.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. The other two are Kenyon Martin and Michael Redd.

Jamal Crawford is my favorite player from the 2000 NBA Draft. He was the Sixth Man of the Year on three occasions, and Crawford will play for the Brooklyn Nets at Disney’s in the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season.

Best NBA Draft Classes

2011 NBA Draft

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Derrick Williams
  • Enes Kanter
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Jonas Valanciunas

The 2011 NBA Draft brought some tremendous players to the league. Besides Kyrie Irving, the other four players from the top 5 didn’t impress. However, the 2011 draft class can brag with seven All-Stars.

Just look at these names: Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Nikola Vucevic, Isaiah Thomas, and Kyrie Irving.

Kawhi is one of the best NBA players of the previous decade, no doubt. Klay Thompson is a three-time NBA champ and one of the best shooters in NBA history, while Kyrie is a six-time All-Star and the 2016 NBA champ with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

2003 NBA Draft

  • LeBron James
  • Darko Milicic
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Chris Bosh
  • Dwyane Wade

The 2003 draft class might be the best ever, and we won’t know until LeBron James finishes his career. Carmelo Anthony is still playing, too, while LeBron’s former teammates Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are in retirement.

Nine players from the 2003 draft class made it to the All-Star Game. There were a lot of mediocre guys, too, but four out of five top picks made this draft unforgettable.

1998 NBA Draft

  • Michael Olowokandi
  • Mike Bibby
  • Raef LaFrentz
  • Antawn Jamison
  • Vince Carter

The 1998 NBA Draft introduced us to some of the best basketball players in the 21st century.

Dirk Nowitzki was selected as No. 9 pick, and the 14-time All-Star was one of the most dominant guys in the league for many years. Vince Carter was a top 5 selection, and we all know how enormous his legacy is. Finally, the 10-time All-Star Paul Pierce was selected as the 10th pick overall by the Boston Celtics.

A few more guys deserve to be mentioned. Mike Bibby and Antawn Jamison both had solid NBA careers, while Jason Williams is undoubtedly one of the most unique players ever.

1996 NBA Draft

  • Allen Iverson
  • Marcus Camby
  • Shareef Abdur-Rahim
  • Stephon Marbury
  • Ray Allen

It was epic draft night in 1996. Not only that Allen Iverson was selected as No. 1 pick by the Philadelphia 76ers, but Kobe Bryant also entered the league, coming straight from the high school.

Furthermore, 10 players from the 1996 draft class became All-Stars. Ray Allen won a couple of championships and established himself as one of the best 3-point shooters ever. Peja Stojakovic is another outstanding shooter from this class, while the eight-time All-Star Steve Nash was selected as the 15th pick overall by Phoenix Suns.

1987 NBA Draft

  • David Robinson
  • Armen Gilliam
  • Dennis Hopson
  • Reggie Williams
  • Scottie Pippen

Some future Hall-of-Famers were selected at the 1987 NBA Draft. Even young basketball fans know about David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, and Reggie Miller.

Four more players played in the All-Star Game including Kevin Johnson and Horace Grant, while No. 6 Kenny Smith won two NBA titles with the Houston Rockets.

1984 NBA Draft

  • Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Sam Bowie
  • Michael Jordan
  • Sam Perkins
  • Charles Barkley

Finally, here’s the famous 1984 draft class led by one of the greatest big men, Hakeem Olajuwon. The Dream was a special player at the time when the NBA was full of excellent centers.

Sam Bowie will be remembered as a bust selected between Hakeem and Michael Jordan. The 11-time All-Star and Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley came in the fifth, while the four-time All-Star and the three-time steal champion Alvin Robertson was selected as the No. 7 pick by the San Antonio Spurs.

No. 9 Otis Thorpe is a one-time All-Star and the 1994 NBA champ with the Rockets. Kevin Willis is another All-Star and the NBA champion who spent 21 seasons in the Association, while we all remember John Stockton, the NBA all-time assists leader, who was the 16th pick overall in 1984.