As the NBA finals reach their finale, it will soon be time for basketball fans to shift their attention to the NBA draft. The draft is an exciting time for many teams as they look to the future. Some teams are looking to find a pillar of the franchise for years to come, while other more championship-ready teams are looking to add that one missing piece to their squad.
Through the years, franchises have been forever changed thanks to their position in the NBA draft. Although having the number one choice does not always guarantee the best player, it is obviously not a bad place to be. Many players who have been selected after the number one spot have gone on to become legends in the NBA.
Over the past 15 years, the NBA draft eligibility rules have changed. In 2005, the NBA instituted a rule requiring players to be one full year removed from high school before they are eligible for the NBA draft. This rule change has created much debate within basketball circles and has also affected the way the draft has looked. During the first few years of the 2000s, there were many players drafted straight from high school; what the rule change accomplished is that now more kids are staying in school an extra year or two and coming into the NBA much more polished than before.
Team owners pay general managers and scouts a lot of money to predict young players' potential, and to make the right choice on draft day. Unfortunately for many GMs and scouts, things don't always workout like the way they were intended. However, sometimes they do get it right. Today, we will review every NBA team, and their best draft choice of the past 15 years. You may be surprised to see a few players were drafted by teams for which they no longer, and in some cases, never even played.
30 Atlanta Hawks - Al Horford
Horford was Atlanta's first pick in the 2007 draft, being selected 3rd overall behind Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Horford has been Atlanta's best player for the past four or five seasons, and is expected to sign a max deal this offseason. Horford is a four-time All-Star and has helped lead Atlanta to the playoffs in every season he has been with the team. Atlanta would be smart to keep this homegrown talent in their plans for the future.
29 Boston Celtics - Tony Allen
Boston's success wasn't heavily reliant on the draft up until a couple of years ago. The Celtics drafted the defensive specialist Tony Allen in 2004 with the 25th pick in the first round. Allen spent six seasons with the Celtics, including the 2008 season where he played a large part in them winning an NBA title. Allen has been an All-NBA Defensive first team selection on three occasions thus far in his career. He is currently the Memphis Grizzlies' best on ball, and perimeter defender.
28 Brooklyn Nets - Brook Lopez
In 2008, the Nets selected Lopez with the 10th pick of the first round. The 7-foot big man has had some small injuries along the way, but through it all he has had three seasons of 20-plus points per game. While Lopez may be earning too much money, he's still a good piece for Brooklyn. However, the Nets are in a rough place at the moment, and trading Lopez might make some sense for them, especially since they traded away all of their draft picks to the Boston Celtics a few seasons ago. W
27 Charlotte Hornets (Bobcats) - Kemba Walker
The Charlotte franchise has not had much draft success over the past 15 years, but in 2011, they were able to steal Kemba Walker with the 9th pick in the first round. Walker has helped take the previously woeful Bobcat/Hornet franchise to the playoffs two of the last three seasons, including this season when Walker averaged over 20 points per game. Earlier this year, Walker bolstered his record when he became the third Hornet to ever make 500 three-pointers, joining the ranks of Dell Curry and Glen Rice.
26 Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose
The Bulls began the 2000s still trying to find themselves after the departure of Michael Jordan. They finally found something in 2008 when they got Derrick Rose with the number one overall pick. Rose came into the league with an explosive style rarely seen in the NBA. Since winning the league MVP award at 22 years old, the youngest of all time, Rose has suffered injury after injury. He will be playing in the final year of his contract this coming season, and he is expected to be healthy as well, so this could be a big season for the one time MVP.
25 Cleveland Cavaliers - LeBron James
It was a close one between James and Anthony Bennett here. No, no it wasn't; this was the most obvious choice of any team over the past 15 years. LeBron has been to seven NBA finals since he was selected 13 years ago with the number one overall choice. Cleveland has been to three finals since 2003, when James got to the league. During the four seasons James was in Miami, Cleveland was in the cellar of the Eastern Conference.
24 Dallas Mavericks - Josh Howard
The Mavericks easily have had the roughest time in the draft over the past 15 years. Howard is the best player they have drafted and it is not even close. With that said, Howard is probably the worst player on this list. Howard spent seven seasons with the Mavericks, but he has been out of the league for three years now. The Mavericks will have to start improving at the draft if they are to remain a playoff team in future years.
To his credit, Howard did make the All-Start team in 2007.
23 Denver Nuggets - Carmelo Anthony
The Denver Nuggets were gifted Melo in the famed 2003 draft after the Detroit Pistons selected Darko Milicic. The Nuggets were able to get Carmelo and the rest was history. Denver made the playoffs every season Anthony was there, which was for eight seasons. Melo has been selected to nine All-Star teams and led the NBA in scoring in 2013. The Nuggets were unable to keep Melo, so they opted to trade him to the New York Knicks in 2011.
22 Detroit Pistons - Tayshaun Prince
The Pistons selected Prince out of Kentucky in 2002. He, along with Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, and Ben Wallace, carried the Pistons to an NBA title in 2004. Prince was the starting small forward for the championship Pistons, and was a four time NBA All-Defensive team selection. Andre Drummond was a close second for the Pistons, but he has not quite accomplished enough to pass Prince yet. Unfortunately, the Pistons have hit a rough patch since then.
21 Golden State Warriors - Steph Curry
This one was not as easy as it looks. The Warriors have done such an amazing job drafting players in recent history that Steph is the top of a great collection of homegrown talent. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson would have also been justifiable selections, but it is hard to go against a two-time defending MVP. Curry is doing things the NBA has never seen done before, and the Warriors will stop at nothing to keep Curry in the bay area.
20 Houston Rockets - Yao Ming
The newest member of the Basketball Hall of Fame is a clear choice for the Rockets. Yao spent 11 seasons with the Rockets after they selected him first overall in 2002. He was an eight time All-Star, and could have won a couple championships had it not been for Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan dominating the Western Conference his entire career. Ming has definitely earned a place on this list. It's a shame Ming couldn't stay healthy in his career.
19 Indiana Pacers - Paul George
The Pacers knew they had something special in George shortly after they selected him 10th overall in 2010. George had his breakout season in the 2013-14 season, helping lead the Pacers to the Conference Championship round. During that summer, George blew out his knee and missed all but six games of the following season. Many thought the Pacers blossoming superstar was finished, but George came back and had an All-Star season this year to show he is back and ready to play.
18 Los Angeles Clippers - Blake Griffin
The Clippers finally got one right in 2009 when they selected Blake Griffin with the number one overall pick. The Clippers routinely drafted bums with their top picks up until the selection of Griffin, who, with the help of Chris Paul, has turned the Clipper franchise around. For the first time in Clipper history, they are more intriguing than the Lakers, and that is due largely in part to the selection of Blake Griffin. If only they could now take that next step and bring championships to the franchise long known as L.A's other team.
17 Los Angeles Lakers - Marc Gasol
Yup, the Lakers drafted Marc Gasol as a second round pick, 48th overall. Before Marc played a single game in Los Angeles, the Lakers traded him to the Grizzlies as part of the package that landed his brother, Pau Gasol. This is the first and only time in NBA history that one brother has been traded for another. Marc has since become a pillar for the Grizzlies organization and has helped them reach as far the conference finals.
16 Memphis Grizzlies - Shane Battier
Battier was drafted by Memphis with the 6th pick in the 2001 draft. Battier spent the first five seasons with Memphis before joining the Houston Rockets. After his stint with the Rockets, Battier returned to the Grizzlies for only one season before going on to help the Miami Heat reach four straight NBA finals. Battier was known as one of the original three and "D" players who now dominate the league.
15 Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade
Probably the second easiest choice on this list, Dwyane Wade being selected 5th overall in 2003 has changed the Heat franchise forever. Wade has been a member of the Heat for his entire career, and he vows to retire a member of the Heat. Wade has led the Heat to three NBA championship wins and five total trips to the finals. As well as a champion, D-Wade is a 12 time All-Star. It's going to be hard for Miami fans to say goodbye when D-Wade hangs them up.
14 Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo
"The Greek Freak" is one of the best young players in the NBA today. He is already a top 20 player in the league, yet he still has an incredible amount of room to grow. The Bucks landed a steal when they selected Giannis 15th overall in 2013. At 6'11", Antetokoumpo obviously posses great size, but it is his athleticism that separates him from many players in the NBA. He will be one of the faces of the NBA if he continues on his current path, and combined with Jabari Parker, another nice draft pick for the Bucks, Milwaukee will be looking like a respectable team for years to come.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns
The Timberwolves draft choices have been slightly suspect over the past decade and a half. The only other player threatening K.A.T would be the selection of Brandon Roy in 2006, but the Wolves traded Roy to Portland on draft day. Towns was a runaway winner of the Rookie of the Year award this season. With his size and ever improving post game, it looks like he could become the the best big man in the NBA for years to come. That's good news for a long struggling franchise in Minnesota.
12 New Orleans Pelicans/Hornets - Chris Paul
In 2005 the New Orleans franchise was called the Hornets, and they drafted the Wake Forest guard Chris Paul with the 4th overall selection. Paul showed up and played like a superstar right out of the gate. Paul was the 2006 Rookie of the Year and helped the Hornets reach the playoffs three times during his six seasons with the franchise. Since leaving New Orleans, Paul has helped take the L.A. Clippers to the playoffs in five straight seasons.
11 New York Knicks - Trevor Ariza
The Knicks, who began the NBA draft lottery era by selecting Patrick Ewing in 1985, have not had much luck in the draft recently. In 2004, they selected Trevor Ariza in the second round. Ariza never did find his groove in New York, but once he was sent out to the Los Angeles Lakers, Ariza found a home. Teaming with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, Ariza helped the Lakers win a championship in 2009.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder - Kevin Durant
Before OKC was the Thunder, they were the Seattle SuperSonics. Kevin Durant spent his rookie season playing in Seattle, where he was named the league Rookie-of-the-Year in 2008. Outside of championships, Durant has had about as much dominance in the NBA as anyone. He has already amassed four scoring titles, seven All-Star games, five All-NBA First Team selections, and a league MVP award. The Thunder are doing all they can to keep KD in town this offseason, but it appears he may be exploring his options as a free agent.
9 Orlando Magic - Dwight Howard
In 2004, the Orlando Magic selected Dwight Howard out of high school with the 1st overall pick in the draft. It proved to be a great selection as Howard would lead the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009. Howard spent eight seasons with the Magic, winning a Defensive Player of the Year award along the way as well as leading the league in rebounding five times. Howard is a free agent this summer, and rumors are swirling that he may sign with his old team.
8 Philadelphia 76ers - Andre Iguodala
Iguodala was drafted 9th overall in the 2004 draft by the Sixers. Iguodala spent eight seasons in Philly, where he was the best player on the team almost every season. After giving the Sixers all he could, Iguodala moved out west to the Denver Nuggets. His tenure with the Nuggets lasted only one year, until he went to the Golden State Warriors. Since joining the Warriors, Iguodala has only become an NBA champion and a Finals MVP.
7 Phoenix Suns - Amar'e Stoudemire
Stoudemire was the 9th overall pick by the Suns in 2002. He was part of the Mike D'Antoni, seven seconds or less offense, which was led by two-time MVP Steve Nash. Stoudemire was a huge part of the run-and-gun Phoenix offenses that were able to go as far as the conference finals. Stoudemire averaged over 21 points and nine rebounds during his eight seasons in Phoenix. Since leaving Phoenix his career has taken a dip, but his time with the Suns was unforgettable.
6 Portland Trail Blazers - Damian Lillard
The future of Portland basketball rests on the shoulders of Damian Lillard. The 6th pick of the 2012 draft went to the Portland Trail Blazers and they went with a little known guard named Damian Lillard and it has paid huge dividends already. Lillard almost single-handedly carried the Blazers to the 2nd round of the playoffs this season, and had it not been for one of the all-time great teams in NBA history, the Blazers could have gone even further. The future is bright in Portland, thanks to the man they call D-lil.
5 Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins
Although he can be a pain in the neck at times, it is undeniable that Cousins ranks in the upper echelon of talented big men in the NBA today. Cousins was drafted with the 5th overall pick in 2010 after just one season at Kentucky. Cousins is a two-time All-Star, and this season, he averaged over 26 points and 11 rebounds a game, which was a slight upgrade from the season before when he averaged 24 and 12.
4 San Antonio Spurs - Tony Parker
The Spurs are the gold standard for every other NBA franchise. San Antonio has a knack for drafting incredibly talented players who fit their system. Tony Parker is a perfect example. Parker has been the point guard for four NBA championship teams in San Antonio, as well as the 2007 Finals where he was named series MVP. The Spurs drafted Parker 28th overall in the 2001 draft, making him the obvious steal of the draft. It's not often you get a Hall of Fame point guard 28th in the draft.
3 Toronto Raptors - Chris Bosh
Another player from the 2003 draft makes the list. The Raptors swooped up Bosh with the 4th pick in the famous '03 draft, and Bosh spent the first seven years of his career with them. Bosh was never able to get the Raptors to title contention during his time north of the border, but once he became part of the Miami Heat and joined forces with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (both featured on this list), he was able to capture a couple of championship rings.
2 Utah Jazz - Gordon Hayward
In 2010, the Utah Jazz selected Gordon Hayward with the 9th pick in the draft. Since his rookie season, Hayward has increased his points per game average every year. He is now the focal point of the Jazz offense and the Jazz have been smart to not part ways with Hayward, even though many offers have been proposed. Earlier this year, it was announced that Hayward will participate in the 2016 USA Basketball Showcase.
1 Washington Wizards - John Wall
John Wall has been the Wizards point man since 2010, when he was selected 1st overall in the draft. Wall has already been to three All-Star games for the Wizards, with an impressive average of 18 points and nine assists for his career. Wall has progressively gotten better during his first six years in the league and has helped lead the Wizards to the playoffs in two of those seasons.