The NBA Draft has a long and fascinating history. Drafts in other sports are usually pretty uneventful. The NBA Draft, however, is constantly filled with rule changes, trades, and contract disputes. The lottery system that they use today to determine the top picks has always been under scrutiny. The first year of the draft lottery was in 1985 when the New York Knicks won the lottery and used it to picked basketball phenom Patrick Ewing. Many people thought that the NBA had rigged that lottery in order to give the Knicks, a large market team, the best player.
However, having a top pick in the draft doesn't guarantee you are going to get one of the best players. Year after year we see some of the highest selections in the draft have the shortest NBA careers. We also see many of the later selections in the draft wind up having huge impacts in the league. The value of draft picks are always widely debated. Many teams often trade draft picks to obtain players who have already made significant impacts in the league.
Any way you look at the draft, it is seemingly all one big lottery. Top picks have become both Hall of Famers and busts. Second round picks have become Hall of Famers and have never even signed an NBA contract. The history of the NBA Draft includes lawsuits from players, controversial rule changes, and criticism on how young players should be upon entering the league. This list not only looks at some of the most interesting moments in NBA Draft history, but it will also discuss some statistics that will make you completely overanalyze your team's next pick.
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20 The #1 Overall Pick Used to be Determined by a Coin Flip
From 1966-1984, the two worst teams in each conference flipped a coin to see who would get the first overall pick. If you think the NBA hypes up the live broadcast of the Draft Lottery, can you imagine how much hype there would be if they still used a coin flip to determine who gets the first pick of the draft? There would be a whole pre-game show analyzing why you should pick heads or tails. The coin flip system was abandoned after 1984 and the NBA introduced the Draft Lottery in hopes that teams would not purposely lose in order to secure a top two pick.
19 Since 1980, More Third Overall Picks Have Become All-Stars Than Second Overall Picks
Roughly 76% of first overall picks, 30% of second overall picks, and 40% of third overall picks have been NBA All-Stars since 1980. This stat is particularly interesting because there is often a lot of hype surrounding the top two selections. Which one will be selected first? Greg Oden or Kevin Durant? Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker? Whenever there isn't a unanimous first overall pick, there seems to always be a debate on the top two ranked players, and the third pick can slip through the cracks. Some active players who were third overall picks are Carmelo Anthony, Al Horford, and James Harden.
18 The Denver Nuggets Have Never Had the First or Second Overall Pick
There are a few other teams that have never had the first overall pick in the draft, but the Denver Nuggets are the only team to have never had neither the first nor the second pick in draft. It's not like they haven't gotten close. The Nuggets have gotten the third overall pick three times, one of which they used to draft Carmelo Anthony. They've gotten the fourth overall pick once and the fifth overall pick four times. The Nuggets have always seemed to be a team that likes to float in the middle of the pack. They're never dominant, but they're never tanking to get the best chance at a top selection.
17 Larry Bird Was Drafted by the Celtics and Then Played Another Year at College
Larry Bird was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft. However, shortly after being drafted he decided that he wanted to go back to Indiana State University and play out his final year in college. When he returned to college, he led his underdog team to the National Championship Game where they lost to Magic Johnson's Michigan State team, and Bird was now under the national spotlight. He demanded a lot of money as a rookie, and threatened to not sign with the Celtics and declare for the 1979 NBA Draft. The two sides eventually came to a deal. Shortly after this incident the NBA created the Bird Collegiate Rule which prevented teams from drafting a player unless they were ready to sign.
16 The First Ever #1 Overall Pick Never Played an NBA Game
With the first overall pick in the BAA Draft, the Pittsburgh Ironmen selected Clifton McNeely out of Texas Wesleyan University. McNeely had served in the United States Air Corps during WWII before leading the nation in scoring and receiving All-American honors in 1947. However, after he was drafted he decided to pursue a career in coaching instead. He went on to coach at Pampa High School in Texas where he coached them to four state championships and was inducted into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
15 From 2001-2004, None of the First Overall Picks Had Any College Experience
Those first overall picks were Kwame Brown, Yao Ming, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard. The early 2000s were the height of an era where high school players could make the jump to the NBA. The wave of high school players started in 1995 when Kevin Garnett made the jump to the league. Other players taken out of high school in the late '90s were Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal, and Tracy McGrady. The success of these players made NBA executives more confident in drafting kids out of high school.
14 Haywood v. National Basketball Association
After playing two years of college basketball, Spencer Haywood decided to sign with the Denver Rockets of the ABA because NBA rules prevented him from signing with an NBA team due to his limited time in college. He was the ABA's Rookie of the Year and MVP, before signing with the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA. However, Haywood was not four years removed from high school and the NBA threatened his new contract. Haywood then filed an antitrust action against the NBA, and the case Haywood v. National Basketball Association went to the Supreme Court where Haywood won. This decision would pave the way for future players to make the jump to the NBA straight out of high school in the Draft.
13 1975: The First Players to Jump From High School to the NBA
Shortly after the Haywood v. National Basketball Association decision, two players were selected straight out of high school in the 1975 NBA Draft. Long before Kevin Garnett was drafted and started the wave of high school players going to the NBA in the late 1990s, Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby were selected fifth and 19th overall in the 1975 draft. Both of them had long NBA careers, but neither turned out to be a star player. It would take another twenty years for another high school player to be drafted.
12 Other Than the United States, Only Canada, Nigeria and Australia Have Had Multiple #1 Overall Picks
Canada had back to back first overall picks in the draft in 2013-2014 with Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins.Andrew Wiggins certainly has had a great start to his NBA career. Anthony Bennett, not so much. Before that, Australia was the only other country to have multiple first round picks, when Andrew Bogut and Kyrie Irving were drafted first overall. However Irving, who was born in Australia, has duel-citizenship and grew up in the United States. Nigeria has also had two first overall picks, as Hakeem Olajuwon (1984) and Michael Olow0kanadi (1998) both hail from the African nation.
11 Five Other Countries Have Had #1 Overall Picks
The other five countries to have a player drafted first overall are China, Italy, the Bahamas, Congo, and the Dominican Republic. Yao Ming was drafted from China in 2002, where he had a successful but injury-plagued career. Nonetheless, Yao is now in the Hall of Fame. The shot-blocking legend Dikembe Mutombo was drafted first overall in 1991 and hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Andrea Bargnani was drafted first overall from Italy in the 2006 draft, and has had lengthy career, but is widely labeled a bust. Mychal Thompson, who was born in the Bahamas and is the father of current NBA player Klay Thompson, was drafted first overall in 1978 and enjoyed a long career. Karl-Anthony Towns, last year's first overall pick, is of Dominican heritage and has played on their national team. He was recently unanimously voted as the NBA Rookie of the Year.
10 The Average Draft Position For the Rookie of the Year is Roughly 4.4
The NBA Rookie of the Year is usually someone who was drafted within the first couple of picks. That being said, the award has also been won numerous times by players who were selected later in the draft. Recently, Michael Carter-Williams won the award in 2013-2014 after being selected 11th overall. The year before him, Damian Lillard won the award after being drafted sixth. These stats might be slightly skewed by a the 1957-1958 Rookie of the Year Woody Sauldsberry, who won the award after being selected 60th overall.
9 Until 1997, 32% of #1 Overall Picks Have Been Inducted Into the Hall of Fame
I picked the year 1997 because that's the year Tim Duncan, who is still in the NBA, was drafted first overall. Up until 1997, not only have 32% of the first overall picks been elected to the Hall of Fame, 64% of them have at least been an NBA All-Star. I think these stats show just how valuable a first overall selection can be. These stats essentially say that there is a 1/3 chance the selection will be one of the greatest NBA players ever, and that there is almost a 2/3 chance they will at least be an elite player. This really makes you think about how devastating it can be for a franchise to draft a bust with the first overall pick.
8 The Colleges With The Most Current NBA Players Are Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke
Kentucky has always had a strong basketball program, but the influx of talent they have had go into the NBA Draft in recent years is astonishing. Since 2010, they have had 25 players selected in the draft, 17 of which have been first round picks. Some of these players include John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, and Karl-Anthony Towns. Kansas and Duke have always been amongst the leaders in players entering the draft. In 2014, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid were drafted first and third overall out of Kansas. Last year, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones were all drafted in the first round out of Duke.
7 The Cleveland Cavaliers Have Had the #1 Overall Pick Six Times
Cleveland is a city rich in sports history. Unfortunately, most of that history is composed of failure and disappointment, so it's not surprising that they have been able to get the first pick in the draft so many times. Before the lottery was introduced in 1985, the Cavaliers had used the first overall pick on Austin Carr in 1971. After that, they have won the draft lottery five times. They used their first lottery victory to draft Brad Daugherty in 1986. They had a bit of a dry spell until their next first overall pick in 2003, when they drafted hometown hero and basketball prodigy LeBron James. Then LeBron left and their record plummeted once again, so they drafted Kyrie Irving first overall in 2011. Finally, they used back to back first overall picks in 2013 and 2014 to draft Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, neither of whom are still on the team.
6 Since 2007, Every Team Except For the San Antonio Spurs Have Been in the Draft Lottery Based on Performance
If you needed anymore evidence on just how dominant the Spurs have been in recent years, there you go. This is essentially saying that over the past nine years, every team not named the San Antonio Spurs have been in the bottom half of the league. Yet, even with a lack of high draft picks, the Spurs have been able to find talent. Some of their current key contributors are Kyle Anderson (30th Overall 2014 NBA Draft) and undrafted players Boban Marjanović and Jonathon Simmons. They traded for the current back to back Defensive Player of the Year Award winner Kawhi Leonard shortly after he was drafted 15th overall in 2011 by the Pacers.
5 Only Seven Second Round Picks Have Been Inducted Into the Hall of Fame
Finding talent in the second round of the draft is hard enough, but can you imagine how much drafting a Hall of Fame caliber player late in the draft could change a franchise? The only players who have achieved this are Willis Reed, Tiny Archibald, Dennis Johnson, Alex English, Bill Sharman, Hal Greer, and Dennis Rodman. Second round selections aren't even given guaranteed contracts, so to carve out a Hall of Fame career is an unbelievable accomplishment. Willis Reed is the only one to ever win MVP. It is likely that Manu Ginobili will join this list in the future.
4 Territorial Picks
From 1949-1965, the NBA had a system where teams could use a territorial pick to draft a player. This meant that a team could forfeit their first round pick and draft any player they wanted within a 50 mile radius of their home arena. Of the 23 territorial picks, 11 became Hall of Famers. Some of the most notable players selected using territorial picks include Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry Lucas. The landscape of the NBA would certainly be a lot different today if this system was still used. Kevin Durant on the Wizards, Anthony Davis on the Bulls, Andrew Wiggins on the Raptors, to name a few.
3 Before Last Year, At Least One Son of a Former NBA Player Was Taken in 13 Consecutive Drafts
Starting in the 2002 draft where Mike Dunleavy Jr. was drafted, the son of a former NBA player has been selected in every draft until 2014. I think this shows just how much basketball can take over an entire family's life. Although some of these players never became the players their Dads were, like Patrick Ewing Jr., whose dad is a Hall of Famer, who only played in seven career NBA games. However, some of the sons have certainly surpassed their fathers' careers. The splash brothers Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry both have dads who enjoyed long NBA careers. However, neither of their Dads enjoyed as much as success as their sons, who are widely considered to be the two best shooters in the NBA today.
2 The 1996 Draft Accounts For 63 All-Star Appearances
The 63 All-Star Appearances from the 1996 Draft are 10 more than any other draft class. This is not only a testament to how star-studded this draft class was, but also to just how deep it was. The 1996 draft class is headlined by Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash. Those four players have 47 All-Star appearances between them. Yet some of the other players in this draft were not just one year wonders. Amongst the other players in this draft are Stephon Marbury, Antoine Walker, Peja Stojaković, and Jermaine O'Neal, who all played in multiple All-Star games.
1 The 1984 Draft Has Four Players in The Hall of Fame
As deep and talented as the 1996 draft was, the 1984 draft contains four of the greatest players to ever play the game. The four Hall of Fame players in this draft are Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, and Michael Jordan. These four players were the faces of basketball in the late 1980s and 1990s. Michael Jordan, widely considered the greatest player to ever play the game, was taken third overall. Even with two teams passing on Jordan, the Houston Rockets picking Hakeem Olajuwon first overall isn't even considered a tragedy because he went on to win them two championships and is arguably the greatest center to ever play the game. Everyone wants their team to draft a future Hall of Famer and the chances of four teams doing that in one draft are nearly impossible.
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