Short Nerd Chief

Stat(s) of the Day: NBA Performance of Top Draft Picks

Posted by Fred on June 26, 2008

The 2008 NBA draft is tonight, in which Memphis’ Derrick Rose and Kansas State’s Michael Beasley are widely expected to go 1-2 to the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat.  Although it remains anybody’s guess whether Chicago will go with local point guard Rose or take forward Beasley instead (the current rumor predicts Rose to Chicago and Miami to trade down and take a guard later), both are considered “can’t miss” prospects that will make whatever team they play for better.  So I decided to take a look at the last 25 NBA drafts to see how the top pick performed.  I used points per game as a metric – a more robust look would account for assists and/or rebounds as well, but the assumption is that the overall #1 pick is going to be a scorer.

Top NBA Draft Picks 1983-2007
Year #1 Pick Team #2 Pick Team Top PPG
2007 Greg Oden Portland Kevin Durant Seattle Kevin Durant
2006 Andrea Bargnani Toronto LaMarcus Aldridge Chicago Brandon Roy (6, Minnesota)
2005 Andrew Bogut Milwaukee Marvin Williams Atlanta Chris Paul (4, New Orleans)
2004 Dwight Howard Orlando Emeka Okafor Charlotte Ben Gordon (3, Chicago)
2003 LeBron James Cleveland Darko Milicic Detroit LeBron James
2002 Yao Ming Houston Jay Williams Chicago Amare Stoudamire (9, Phoenix)
2001 Kwame Brown Washington Tyson Chandler LA Clippers Gilbert Arenas (30, Golden State)
2000 Kenyon Martin New Jersey Stromile Swift Vancouver Michael Redd (43, Milwaukee)
1999 Elton Brand Chicago Steve Francis Vancouver Elton Brand
1998 Michael Olowokandi LA Clippers Mike Bibby Vancouver Vince Carter (5, Golden State)
1997 Tim Duncan San Antonio Keith Van Horn Philadelphia Tracy McGrady (9, Toronto)
1996 Allen Iverson Philadelphia Marcus Camby Toronto Allen Iverson
1995 Joe Smith Golden State Antonio McDyess LA Clippers Kevin Garnett (5, Minnesota)
1994 Glenn Robinson Milwaukee Jason Kidd Dallas Glenn Robinson
1993 Chris Webber Orlando Shawn Bradley Philadelphia Chris Webber
1992 Shaquille O’Neal Orlando Alonzo Mourning Charlotte Shaquille O’Neal
1991 Larry Johnson Charlotte Kenny Anderson New Jersey Larry Johnson
1990 Derrick Coleman New Jersey Gary Payton Seattle Derrick Coleman
1989 Pervis Ellison Sacramento Danny Ferry LA Clippers Glen Rice (4, Miami)
1988 Danny Manning LA Clippers Rik Smits Indiana Mitch Richmond (5, Golden State)
1987 David Robinson San Antonio Armon Gilliam Phoenix David Robinson
1986 Brad Daugherty Cleveland Len Bias Boston Brad Daugherty
1985 Patrick Ewing New York Wayman Tisdale Indiana Karl Malone (13, Utah)
1984 Hakeem Olajuwon Houston Sam Bowie Portland Michael Jordan (3, Chicago)
1983 Ralph Sampson Houston Steve Stipanovich Indiana Clyde Drexler (14, Portland)

Of these 25 drafts, the top pick became the top scorer only 40% of the time. Since 1995, when Kevin Garnett was drafted 5th straight out of high school and which can be considered the start of the Skip College Era, only three of thirteen (23%) top picks topped the scoring chart (although most teams would still take Duncan over McGrady, PPG be damned).  So don’t be so sure that either Rose or Beasley will lead their team to the promised land.  In many ways, the NBA draft has taken on some of the characteristics of the MLB amateur draft, which also features prospects who have dominated against high school kids more likely to be in the beer line than the starting lineup at your local arena.

The 1984 draft, in which Portland took Kentucky’s Sam Bowie over North Carolina’s Michael Jordan, is probably the most infamous draft of all time. However, for my money, nothing beats the 2000 and 2001 drafts for futility, which led to the NBA’s current effort to force kids to college, at least for a year:

  2000 2001
Pick Player PPG Player PPG
1 Kenyon Martin 14.5 Kwame Brown 7.5
2 Stromile Swift 8.6 Tyson Chandler 8.2
3 Darius Miles 10.6 Pau Gasol 18.8
4 Marcus Fizer 9.6 Eddy Curry 13.5
5 Mike Miller 14.4 Jason Richardson 18.8
6 DerMarr Johnson 6.2 Shane Battier 10.3
7 Chris Mihm 7.7 Eddie Griffin 7.2
8 Jamal Crawford 14.6 DeSagana Diop 2.1
9 Joel Przybilla 4.0 Rodney White 7.1
10 Keyon Dooling 6.8 Joe Johnson 16.6
11 Jerome Moiso 2.7 Kedrick Brown 3.6
12 Etan Thomas 6.2 Vladimir Radmanovic 9.5

[All data via the invaluable Basketball Reference site]


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