NBA fans, front offices and players are extremely elated when the ping pong balls bounce their way in the NBA Draft Lottery and they obtain a high pick. After all, the higher the pick the greater the likelihood a team has in drafting the player they covet most. The first NBA Draft Lottery took place in 1985 and it resulted in the New York Knicks selecting Patrick Ewing with the first overall pick. Ewing became a game changer and the face of the blue and orange franchise for over a decade.
Yet, gems aren’t always found at the top of the lottery and busts aren’t always found toward the end of the first round. The NBA has its fair share of both phenomenal and dismal first round picks in the NBA today. Here, we take a look at the eight best and seven worst first round picks in the NBA today.
15. BEST: Kawhi Leonard
In the 2011 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs made a move that was uncharacteristic for the Spurs front office; the Spurs dealt backup Point Guard George Hill for the Pacers 2011 first round draft pick, Kawhi Leonard. Today, this trade is a no brainer as Leonard has transformed himself in to one of the league’s best two way players. However, when the trade was originally made no one could’ve predicted that Leonard would be the player he is today. Well, with the exception of Gregg Popovich. In 2012, Coach Pop said the following of his swingman, “I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs, I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player”. Leonard is averaging a career high 24.0 PPG in the 2016-2017 season to go along with 5.9 RPG and 1.9 SPG as he serves as the face of the Spurs like Pop predicted in 2012.
14. WORST: Reggie Bullock
The former North Carolina Tar Heel Reggie Bullock was selected twenty-fifth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013. Since then, Bullock has seen himself play for the forenamed Clippers and the Phoenix Suns and the Detroit Pistons, where he finds himself today. Bullock has struggled to find minutes in all three locations and is averaging a measly 10.5 MPG for Stan Van Gundy’s bunch this season. Bullock is young as he is twenty-five years of age, but he’s done little to prove he belongs in the league. Bullock’s career high scoring average is 3.3 for a season, while his rebound and assist high is 1.8 and 0.7 respectively. Perhaps Bullock simply needs ample minutes to prove his worth or perhaps he doesn’t get ample minutes because he has shown he isn’t worth much.
13. BEST: Anthony Davis
The biggest problem the 2012 number one overall draft pick Anthony Davis has endured in his four and a half year career is his inability to stay healthy as he has consistently had nagging injury woes; Davis has never played in more than 68 games in a season. However, when Davis is sporting the navy blue, gold, red and white of the New Orleans Pelicans he is a matchup nightmare for any opposition. The Pelicans superstar is a 3x NBA All-Star and was named to the NBA First Team in 2015. Davis is having a career year in 2016-2017 as the former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging 28.6 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.5 BPG and 1.4 SPG. The 6’11” Chicago, Illinois native would be at the forefront of the MVP conversation if it weren’t for the lackluster record of the Pelicans.
12. WORST: Mike Miller
In the 2000 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic snagged former Florida Gator Mike Miller with the fifth overall pick. Miller won the Rookie of the Year award for the 2000-2001 NBA season; but, he’s far from the player he was won he wore the black, royal blue, silver and white of the Magic. Miller is at the tail end of his career and at thirty-six years of age he’s one of the last options (if not the last option) off the bench for the Denver Nuggets. In the 2016-2017 NBA season Miller is only averaging 1.8 PPG to go along with a dime and board per game. Miller has already won two rings and there isn’t much he can provide a team at this stage of his career.
11. BEST: Chris Paul
Taken forth overall in 2005 by the then New Orleans Hornets, Chris Paul has remained a mainstay as one of the league’s upper echelon Point Guards from the minute he stepped foot on the NBA hardwood. After spending six successful seasons in “Nawlins”, Paul was traded to the “City of Flowers and Sunshine” stepsister franchise, the Los Angeles Clippers. A change of scenery hasn’t stopped Paul from being one of the league’s most efficient and productive superstars. Now, in his twelfth season, Paul isn’t showing signs of aging as he’s averaging 17.6 PPG, 9.6 APG, 5.3 RPG and 2.3 SPG. The thirty-one year old is a 9x NBA All-Star, has been named to NBA First Team 4x and to the NBA All Defensive First Team 6x. Paul’s dominance on both ends of the ball is the reason why he is one of the NBA’s best players.
10. WORST: Metta World Peace
The artist formerly known as Ron Artest may want to pay his psychiatrist some extra visits if he plans on being a factor for the purple and gold. The former St. John’s Red Storm product was taken sixteenth overall by the Chicago Bulls in 1999. World Peace rarely sees the court and is only averaging 5.2 MPG for the young and upstart Lakers. In the 5.2 MPG, World Peace is touting 1.1 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 0.3 APG and has a PER of 2.53. To simply put it, World Peace is no longer the effective player he was during his first stint with the Lakers or with the Bulls, Pacers, Rockets and Kings. At thirty-seven years old it’s unlikely Artest returns for the 17-18 season and even if he has intentions to, its unlikely any team inks him to a contract.
9. BEST: Stephen Curry
When the Golden State Warriors inked Kevin Durant to a two-year deal in the 2016 offseason, the question many had on their minds was would this now be KD’s team or would Curry remain as the alpha male of the team. The two-time reigning MVP looks to have taken a backseat to Durant but is still one of the NBA’s most lethal scorers. The Warriors grabbed Curry seventh overall in the 2009 NBA Draft (something Minnesota Timberwolves fans won’t soon forget as they drafted two PG’s, Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn ahead of Curry). Curry has rewarded the Bay Area franchise immensely for drafting him as along with his two MVP’s he has brought Dub Nation a title in 2015, has been named to the NBA First Team two years running and has been named an All-Star three years running. Whether Curry is behind Durant or ahead of him, he is a player that is as dynamic as there is in the league.
8. WORST: Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce is a surefire Hall of Famer, but the current version of Pierce resembles nothing close to a first round pick (tenth overall in 1998), let alone a Hall of Fame talent. Despite coming home to Los Angeles, Pierce’s homecoming has been anything worthwhile. In Boston, Pierce never averaged less than 16.5 PPG; in Brooklyn and Washington he also averaged double digits. As a Clipper, his first season saw him average 6.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG and 1.0 APG. If you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Pierce, you’d be wrong. For the 16-17 season, Pierce is averaging 3.8 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.2 APG and is posting an abysmal 4.34 PER. Father time catches up to everyone and Pierce is no different as he is a shell of the player fans were accustom to seeing in Beantown.
7. BEST: James Harden
In the 2007 NBA Draft the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Kevin Durant with the second pick; in the 2008 NBA Draft they selected Russell Westbrook with the forth pick; in the 2009 NBA Draft they selected James Harden with the third overall pick. The Thunder had everything at their fingertips but it all came crashing down once they balked at offering Harden a max extension. The Thunder’s loss has been the Rockets’ gain as Harden has proven that he’s a franchise player and one of the NBA’s best talents. Harden is likely the current favorite for MVP as he’s averaging 27.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 11.9 APG. Harden went from one of the NBA’s best sixth men to one of it’s most feared offensive talents as he serves as the face of the H-Town franchise.
6. WORST: Jason Terry
In the 2013 NBA season, LeBron James put Jason Terry on a poster via an alley-oop from Mario Chalmers; Terry hasn’t been the same ever since. Terry who was taken tenth overall in 1999, never averaged less than 12.4 PPG prior to 2013, with the exception of his Rookie season. Terry hasn’t averaged over 7.0 PPG since. He spent his first thirteen seasons with two franchises, the Atlanta Hawks and the Dallas Mavericks. He’s spent the next five years with four franchises, the Boston Celtics, the Brooklyn Nets, the Houston Rockets and the Milwaukee Bucks (where he finds himself today). Terry is no longer a dominant sixth man, nor is he a serviceable. Unfortunately for Terry, he’s washed up and his 3.1 PPG, 1.4 APG, 1.3 and 6.96 PER in the 2016-2017 speak volumes to that.
5. BEST: Russell Westbrook
Despite the dynamic Westbrook always being viewed as one of the NBA’s premier talents, he was always viewed as the Robin to KD’s Batman. With Durant departing for Golden State, the Thunder are now officially Westbrook’s team. The energetic and explosive former UCLA Bruin who was drafted forth overall in 2008 hasn’t missed a beat as he is averaging an unprecedented triple double with 31.4 PPG, 10.3 APG and 10.5 RPG. While Westbrook’s current averages are impressive even for his standards, he has long established himself as one of the NBA’s best players. Westbrook is a 5x NBA All-Star, the 2x defending MVP of the NBA All-Star game and has been named to an All-NBA team 5x (once to the First Team and four times to the Second Team).
4. WORST: Sasha Vujacic
How is Sasha Vujacic in the NBA? The same reason that Kurt Rambis is currently employed as an Assistant Coach with the New York Knicks. Phil Jackson is so adamant about having disciples of the triangle be a part of his philosophy to success that he will include any and every one familiar with it on whatever team he is involved with. Currently that team is the New York Knicks. The twenty-seventh overall pick in 2004, Vujacic, holds the unenviable honor of holding the Knicks worst PER by a mile at a dismal 4.77. In addition, he’s averaging an inadequate 1.7 PPG to go along with 1.4 boards and 0.8 APG. Vujacic isn’t just one of the worst players in the NBA, but he is one who solely has a job due to Jackson being the Knicks team President.
3. BEST: Kevin Durant
At the time, the Seattle Supersonics received a blessing in disguise when the ping pong balls didn’t bounce in their favor as they lost out on the number one pick to the Portland Trail Blazers in 2007. The Blazers selected Greg Oden; the Sonics selected Kevin Durant. Durant departed the Sonics, who became the Thunder in 2008 for the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 offseason. In spite of the scenery change, Durant is still playing at a high level for the Warriors and played at a high level for the Thunder for nine years. Durant won the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2008, won the NBA MVP in 2014, is a 7x NBA All-Star, has been named to the All-NBA First Team 5x and has won the league’s scoring title four times.
2. WORST: Anthony Bennett
The number one pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, Anthony Bennett is now in his forth season in the league and is now with his fourth team, the Brooklyn Nets. Despite the change of scenery year in and year out, Bennett has struggled to show much promise regardless of whether that was in the Midwest United States with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Northern Central U.S. with the Minnesota Timberwolves, North of the Border with the Toronto Raptors or in the Northeast U.S. with the Brooklyn Nets. Bennett’s stats for the 2016-2017 season are in line with what he’s put up in his first three seasons. Bennett is averaging a underwhelming 5.0 PPG and 3.4 PPG and is solidifying himself as one of the worst number one picks in NBA history.
1. BEST: LeBron James
The 2003 NBA Draft is arguably the most heralded of all-time and at the top of that class is Akron, Ohio’s native son LeBron James. James had asserted himself as a force to be reckoned with for years to come from the minute he debuted on October 29th, 2003. James is a 3x NBA Champion (and has appeared in the NBA Finals seven times), a 4x NBA regular season MVP, a 3x NBA Finals MVP, a 12x NBA All-Star selection, a 10x All-NBA First Team selection and a 5x NBA All-Defensive First Team selection. James has simply done it all and at thirty-two years
old young, he doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of slowing down any time soon. James is averaging 26.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 8.4 APG at the moment for the 2016-2017 season.