Over the past few seasons, the NBA has welcomed in a crop of amazing young talented players to help carry the league on as previous generation saw their heroes head off into retirement. Gone are Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett and in their place are names such as Andrew Wiggins, Damian Lillard and Karl-Anthony Towns to name but a few.
However, this season, the 2016-17 NBA Draft class has led to many conversations about not only how a number of the projected "star" players are not exceeding, let alone even reaching their pre-draft expectations, but also that it may very well be the worst group of first year players in the modern history of the game. Is it fair to say that these players are nothing but a collective bust? Certainly not, as there are a number of individuals that have become a cog in their respective team machines. However, these same conversations have also led to comparing how many of the great Rookie Of The Year Award winners have turned out to be future Hall Of Fame talents, while others have fizzled out.
It's interesting to see how many of the projected number one overall picks in various drafts were not awarded the best of their class, while others received honours that may not have belonged to them, despite what the voters claimed. Below are 15 of the best and worst NBA Rookie Of The Year Award winners, the question is, do you agree?
15 Best - David Robinson
The Admiral was voted as the ROY two years after he was actually drafted, due to his US Navy commitment coming out of college. Unfortunately for Tim Hardaway and Sherman Douglas, Robinson's official rookie year was the same season in which the point guards came into the league, one in which they could have potentially won the award.
Thanks in large part to the Hall Of Fame center, the Spurs exploded for a 35 game improvement from the previous season. There was little doubt that the San Antonio big man would receive unanimous votes as he posted a 20/10 double double in his first season, a stat line he would provide his team for seven straight seasons, averaging 25.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG and nearly four BPG. The NBA wouldn't see these kinds of numbers until ten years later.
14 Worst - 1995 Rookies Of The Year Snub
Grant Hill and Jason Kidd totally deserved their share of the 95 ROY award, but why did the voters choose to leave out Glenn Robinson? As the first overall pick in the 1994 Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks selected the Purdue University forward. Although the Big Dog created a big stink before signing what would become the highest paying rookie contract in history, he would go on to play 80 games for the Bucks, while leading them in scoring and also bump a squad that only really had a young Vin Baker as a second scoring threat to a 14 win improvement (34 compared to 20) over the prior season.
While Hill had slightly better assists numbers, his scoring was less and so were the Detroit Pistons win totals. Kidd, with the help of Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashburn, led the Dallas Mavericks to 17 more victories, but although he averaged five more assists, Robinson dwarfed the point guard in scoring. While Hill and Kidd fully deserved to see their name on the award, the league made a mistake in not including Robinson.
13 Best - Kevin Durant
At just 19 years old, the Seattle SuperSonics rookie led the charge in the Northwest club's final season in the Emerald City. While the team would pretty much tank with a 20-62 record, KD did his best to try and keep fans interested with an average stat line of 20.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 2.4 APG. Amazingly this would be his lowest scoring average, not to mention his lowest shooting percentages (43FG%, 28.8 3P%) to date over the course of his ten year (and counting) career.
While many expected the ROY race to be between Durant and Portland rookie Greg Oden, we all know the unfortunate story of the former Ohio State big man and the regret that the Trail Blazers are still feeling to this day. With Oden on the sidelines, the battle for the award was a run away for Durant as Al Horford, the Atlanta Hawks third overall pick, finished a distant second in the overall voting. Sadly for Sonics fans, they never really got to enjoy the flourished product that is Kevin Durant.
12 Worst - Buck Williams
To be fair to Buck Williams, he had a very impressive individual career that may be underrated by many, but to be awarded the 1982 NBA ROY Award is somewhat questionable, especially when you consider that he beat out Hall Of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas. Sure Williams' Nets team made the playoffs and they had a better regular season game improvement than Thomas' Pistons (20 games vs. 18 games) but one has to take into consideration that Williams' team had a lot more depth and talent than the 1982 Pistons, who were yet to be the Bad Boys of the NBA.
Would we consider Buck's rookie year to be horrible? No far from it, however when you look at what each player had to work with during their first season and the numbers that they finished with, how Thomas wasn't the recipient of the award is questioned by many.
11 Best - Patrick Ewing
Whether or not the 1985 NBA Draft was a conspiracy, there is no arguing the talent of the NY Knicks first overall selection. When you consider that the draft class also included such notables as Karl Malone, Chris Mullin and Joe Dumars, it was a slight shock that the final voting came down to a battle between Ewing and Seattle Sonics forward Xavier McDaniel.
While the Knicks would continue to struggle during the Hoya Destroya's rookie year and the one following, Ewing would lead his club to thirteen straight playoff appearances and two NBA Finals. With first season averages of 20 PPG, 9 RPG and 2.1 BPG, the former Georgetown big man would average over 20 points a night for each of the next twelve seasons as the face of one of the most famous teams in the league.
10 Worst - Tyreke Evans
The top five rookies battling it out for the 2010 ROY award were all guards, with the top two being known more for their scoring than for their playmaking abilities. As Evans and Steph Curry battled it out for the first year honors, their teams both floundered at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, finishing the season with 25 and 26 wins respectively.
Amazingly enough, the 25 victories was an eight win improvement over the previous season, while the Golden State Warriors actually lost three less. With averages of 20.1 PPG, 5.8 APG and 5.3 RPG, Evans posted an impressive stat line in helping his team improve, but unfortunately his numbers to date would never match his first season output. To be fair to the former University of Memphis Tiger, injuries have put a damper on what started out to be a promising career while Mr. Curry has become one of the faces of the league.
9 Best - Shaquille O'Neal
Not Christian Laettner, not Alonzo Mourning. In 1992, Shaq-Fu took over the NBA and dominated the game like very few big men have before or since. After leaving LSU and declaring for the NBA Draft, O'Neal would quickly change the way that teams would defend the 7'0", 325lb superman.
With a twenty game improvement in the win column from the season prior, Shaq would leave his gigantic imprint on the league from game one. While Laettner was the NCAA prince, Shaq would make him look like a peasant when it came to the professional game. Averaging 23.4 points and nearly 14 rebounds a game, O'Neal would walk away with the 1993 NBA ROY Award in a near unanimous voting with 96 of a possible 98 first ballet votes. Whomever the two voters were for Mourning, they must have had a damn good reason, whatever it may have been. Shaq Daddy would finish his Hall Of Fame with a plethora of accolades, including four league championships.
8 Worst - Mike Miller
Before he became a hired helper for the Miami Heat's back-to-back title run, Mike Miller was awarded the NBA Rookie Of The Year trophy as a twenty year old rookie for the Orlando Magic. Averaging less than 12 points and only four rebounds per game, the only reason why Miller received the award was due to the fact that the New Jersey Nets and Golden State Warriors were tragically bad.
With better all around numbers, both Kenyon Martin and Marc Jackson were stuck on two of the worst teams in NBA history while Miller got to run alongside Tracy McGrady, the one man show that carried the Magic to a second round playoff appearance. Fortunately for Miller, he's been able to carve out a seventeen year career and equally as fortunate (or maybe not), he was awarded the best rookie of a not so good draft class.
7 Best - Allen Iverson
As the first overall pick in arguably the greatest NBA Draft class of all-time, Allen Iverson would end up walking away with the Rookie Of The Year award over such names as Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Jermaine O'Neal. Okay, sure it may have taken a few years for some of these players to get their feet wet and become the stars that they were, but we're talking players who captured MVPs, All-NBA Teams and NBA Championships. All of which Iverson was awarded...except for the elusive championship ring.
Sure AI was a gunner, but for all those who said that he didn't pass the rock, he was actually ranked among the top ten in the league averaging 7.5 dimes per game. The Answer put up nearly twenty shots a night, but when you only had Jerry Stackhouse and just over half a season from Derrick Coleman as your only teammates that posed to be a threat, buckets had to come from somewhere.
6 Worst - Michael Carter-Williams
The 2013 NBA Draft class may go down as one of, if not the worst in league history. First off, the number one overall pick sadly ended up being a complete bust as Anthony Bennett, aw heck, let's not waste any more time on him. Moving on to the rest of the selections and the eventual ROY, MCW, who was the 11th overall pick, is nowhere close to being the best player in the draft as the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tim Hardaway have turned out to be far better than the former Syracuse product.
But we aren't talking about the current game. It's rare that the Rookie Of The Year gets traded by a struggling franchise like the Sixers and the two players that they received in return aren't even wearing a Philadelphia jersey any longer. Let's not forget that this was less than four years ago. Now on his third team, MCW now finds himself coming off of the Bulls bench in a limited roll. Yikes!
5 Best - Tim Duncan
Remember that David Robinson fella? You know, the San Antonio big man. Ya, well in 1997 the Spurs received some good fortune in drafting a player that was nearly his clone. Although slightly less athletic, but just as dominant, Tim Duncan would make his presence known in the Alamo and throughout the league for two decades. Sure the 1997 draft welcomed talented players such as Keith Van Horn, Chauncey Billups and Tracy McGrady, but they either retired early, were late bloomers or had injuries rob them and fans of a lengthy career.
As for TD, well he just kept hitting those mid range bank shots on the wing or working his way in the paint with drop steps and baby hooks, you know like those boring old fundamentals that were taught during elementary school. Those same boring old fundamentals that resulted in five NBA Championships, two MVPs, 15 All-NBA Teams and the 1997-98 Rookie Of The Year. Man, just imagine if TD played with some excitement and passion!
4 Worst - Emeka Okafor
As a member of the UConn Huskies, Okafor was one of the focal points for the 2004 NCAA Champions and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Selected with the second overall pick by the expansion Charlotte Bobcats (Hornets), Okafor made the Orlando Magic think twice about their selection of Dwight Howard as the first overall pick. Sure Okafor led his club in points, rebounds and blocks in his (and their) first season but Ben Gordon, Emeka's former running mate at Connecticut, averaged the same amount of points in a lesser role for the Chicago Bulls. And let's not forget the teenage prodigy in Orlando who started every game of the season (Okafor played only 73 games) while averaging only three points less.
Check Howard's resume against that of Okafor and chances are the Magic (despite everything that happened eight years later) are very content with their selection and the NBA voting committee may be the ones that needed to rethink their selection.
3 Best - LeBron James
Just close your eyes and think for a minute about how good LeBron James actually is. Think for a minute about the fact that at 19 years old he beat out both Carmelo Anthony (who by the way had pretty much single handedly just led Syracuse to a National Championship) and Dwyane Wade for the NBA Rookie Of The Year award. Think about that. Process it. The Chosen One took a band of misfits (which included Ricky Davis, Carlos Boozer and Darius Miles) and helped improve the Cavaliers to an eighteen game improvement from the previous season while dropping over 20 PPG, 5 APG and 5 RPG and leading the team in minutes. Not too shabby for a kid straight out of high school. As for what he's done since that time? Coles Notes version: three NBA Titles, three Finals MVP, four League MVP, twelve All NBA Teams. The list can go on and on, but, without a doubt, LBJ has lived up to the hype that surrounded him since day one.
2 Worst - 2017 ROY
Ben Simmons could have been. Buddy Hield had potential to be. Joel Embiid has the stats to be, but not the health. When fans, voters and media take a look at the 2016-17 NBA Rookie crop and have to settle on handing out the honors, it could (read, will) sadly be the one of the most least deserving in the history of the award.
Embiid was the run away favorite this season until a knee injury limited his appearances to only 31 games. Ben Simmons never suited up. So much for trusting "the process." Where does that leave us? Dario Saric is averaging a shade under 12 PPG playing for a crappy Sixers team in his first season after being drafted two years ago. Second round surprise Malcolm Brogdon is helping the Bucks hold on to a playoff spot. Canadian sharpshooter Jamal Murray is in a similar spot with the Denver Nuggets, but both guards aren't even averaging double digits in scoring. Mr. Unlimited Potential, Brandon Ingram, is doing his part in helping the Lakers secure a top three pick this summer. Maybe the league should just change the award like they did the All-Star Rookie game and award it to either the best first or second year player.
1 Best - Michael Jordan
For all the greatness that is the 1996 NBA Draft, the 1984 class provided hoops fans with a number of Hall Of Fame talent, including Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, John Stockton and that number 23 guy. Mike didn't do much in his rookie year other than lead the Chicago Bulls in scoring, assists, rebounds and steals. He may or may not have been the reason why the Bulls improved their win/loss record from the previous season by eleven games, being the only member of the team to start and play in all 82 regular season games.
It's not like Nike would go on to create the single most important shoe in the history of shoes based off a guy or anything. MJ would go on to have a relatively decent career. Just imagine being better than fellow Hall Of Fame member Olajuwon who during his rookie year certainly was no slouch himself.