The NBA implemented the draft lottery in 1985, and since then, having just a ping pong ball shot at a top pick has driven teams to tanking the season. The impact that a first or second overall pick can have on a team has been well chronicled through the history of the game. Countless teams have built dynasties using a top draft pick. On the other hand however, many franchises have been doomed by drafting a lemon in the top two selections.
The past 16 NBA drafts have produced an incredible amount of talent, many players bound for the Hall of Fame have been drafted since the turn of the century. One of the funny things about the draft is how some players are so inaccurately scouted coming out of the amateur ranks. Players like Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Dwyane Wade were all drafted outside of the top two. The job of general managers and scouts is an incredibly difficult one, but some of the players that teams have chosen in the top two are mind boggling when you look back. I am sure as we get into this list you yourself will be shocked at some of the players who were lucky enough to be a top two NBA draft pick.
34 Anthony Bennett - 1st overall, 2013
Anthony Bennett was selected with the number one overall pick in 2013. The Cleveland Cavaliers had the first pick again, for the second time in what would ultimately be three first overall picks in four years.
The Cavs were stuck in a rut after losing LeBron James to free agency just a few years prior, but the selection of Bennett surprised everyone. There were players more highly touted, like Nerlens Noel and Victor Oladipo, not to mention Giannis Antetokounmpo who turned out to be the best player drafted that year. It took one season before Cleveland found a way to ship Bennett out of town. He was packaged into the Andrew Wiggins/Kevin Love trade. Bennett has been bouncing around the league since the trade, not lasting more than a few months with any team. He is currently playing for the Long Island Nets of the NBA D-League.
33 Jay Williams - 2nd overall, 2002
Jay Williams is one of the most tragic stories in recent NBA memory. He was a superstar talent under coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke during the late 90s and early 2000s. In 2002 he decided to leave the Blue Devils a year early and enter himself in the NBA Draft. His skills translated very favorably to the NBA game at the time. He was a shifty point guard with an incredibly quick first step. He also had a keen knack for finding ways to get his teammates the ball in positions to score. The thing that most intrigued teams was his leadership and his fearlessness.
The same fearlessness that made him desirable was the thing that ended up costing him his career. During the offseason after his rookie season, Williams was driving his motorcycle when he lost control and crashed it. In the crash he completely tore up his leg, needing several surgeries just to walk again. Williams would make a relatively full recovery but his dream of being an NBA superstar was no longer a possibility.
32 Greg Oden - 1st overall, 2007
Similar to Jay Williams before him, Greg Oden was a victim of injury rather than lack of talent. Oden was a monster during his one and only season at Ohio State. Oden, along with high school teammate Mike Conley, would lead the Buckeyes to the NCAA Championship game in their one year with the university.
After a dominating season in college Oden entered the NBA draft. He was projected to be the first or second pick, with the debate being between him and Texas star freshman Kevin Durant. When the Portland Trail Blazers selected him first overall it was expected that he would pair up with the reigning Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, and take the league by storm. With expectations through the roof in Portland, it was unfairly sad to see the decimation that franchise had to endure. Not only did Oden, due to relentless injuries, become one of the biggest busts in NBA history (as he himself has even said) but their other young star Brandon Roy would have to retire prematurely due to knee injuries.
31 Hasheem Thabeet - 2nd overall, 2009
In 2009 the Memphis Grizzlies were looking to make some noise in the Western Conference. They had a big time star in Rudy Gay as well as budding young stars in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, as well as Zach Randolph. They were also gifted with the second overall pick in that year's draft. For reasons beyond me, they decided to go with the junior big man out of UCONN Hasheem Thabeet.
This pick is horrible on so many levels. Not only did the Grizzlies draft a player at a position they didn't need, they also passed up on some of the greatest perimeter players the game has to offer. In 2009, James Harden, Steph Curry and DeMar DeRozan all entered the NBA. Thabeet was an accident waiting to happen from the moment he entered the league. He lasted two seasons with the Grizzlies organization before he was pushed out. He bounced around the D-League for a few years but ultimately he was never able to find a home in the NBA.
30 Darko Milicic - 2nd overall, 2003
The Detroit Pistons thought they were being sly like a fox when they decided to go against conventional wisdom back in 2003. Arguably the greatest draft class in NBA history has one major blemish on it, and that is the Pistons selection of Darko second overall.
Detroit was a title contender at the time, but thanks to a 1997 trade with the Grizzlies, the Pistons found themselves holding the second pick. In a draft that saw Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh still on the board the Pistons went with the little-known Serbian kid. Darko didn't see much playing time during his three years with Detroit, and he blames the lack of court time for his disappointing growth. The Pistons parted ways with their second overall pick in 2006. Darko would spend the next six years bouncing between six teams, ultimately calling it a career after the 2012 season. Perhaps Milicic gets the last laugh on this one though; he was part of the Detroit title run in his rookie season even though he didn't see much time on the court.
29 Brandon Ingram - 2nd overall, 2016
A guy like Brandon Ingram is hard to place on a list like this. He has only played about a third of an NBA season, but he appears to have been slightly over-hyped coming out of Duke last year. He drew comparisons to Kevin Durant because of his length and freakishly skinny frame. Entering his rookie year Ingram was listed a 6'9" and a measly 190 pounds.
If Ingram wants to live up to any of the expectations put on him, he will have to find a way to bulk up and become a much more physical player. He is currently surrounded by a group of teammates who are young, just like him, and who seem to be coming together faster than some thought they would. Ingram is still the baby of Los Angeles' youngsters, but he is being given ample opportunity to show why he was drafted second overall in 2016. With Luke Walton at the helm, and the emergence of D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram may be gifted the luxury of progressing at his own pace. As it stands now, however, he still has a ways to go before he can jump too many guys on this list.
28 Andrea Bargnani - 1st overall, 2006
The Toronto Raptors thought they had found the next Dirk Nowitzki when they picked Andrea Bargnani with the first overall pick in 2006. After his rookie season, it appeared the Raptors might be right. Bargnani was an All-NBA Rookie First Teamer, and it appeared Toronto finally had a piece that could work along side Chris Bosh for years to come.
After his solid rookie season, Andrea was never the same player. He was widely criticized for his lack of consistency from behind the arc, and he seemed to be afraid to get his big body in the paint with the stronger front court players. In 2013 the Raptors decided to drop Bargnani, sending him to the New York Knicks for a couple aging veterans and a couple draft picks. After two years with the Knicks, Bargnani spent a season with the Brooklyn Nets. After his stint in Brooklyn, it appeared that he was finished with NBA basketball. That presumption became more solidified when he signed a two-year deal with Baskonia, of the Spanish League.
27 Stromile Swift - 2nd overall, 2000
During his two seasons with the LSU Tigers, Stormile Swift established himself as a freakishly gifted athlete with the ability to play among the giants. During his sophomore season, he led LSU to a Sweet 16 birth in the NCAA Tournament, along the way earning himself serious national recognition as a prospect.
In 2000 the Vancouver Grizzlies selected Swift with the second overall pick, ahead of future stars Jamal Crawford, Michael Redd, and Mike Miller. When Swift entered the league it became clear that he didn't really have a position. He was a 6'10" post player with little strength to defend the more physical post players in the game. At only 220 pounds, Swift was often undersized and had trouble capturing many rebounds; his career high is 6.3 per game. Swift was able to last nine seasons in the league before retiring in 2009. During those nine years he bounced between five teams.
26 Kwame Brown - 1st overall, 2001
Many people rank Kwame as the biggest bust in NBA draft history. He was so highly touted coming into the league that people often forget that he had a decent career. He actually spent 12 seasons in the league, which is not bad for anyone.
With all that being said, let's be real about Kwame Brown. He was drafted first overall in 2001, and the expectations were especially high considering who drafted him. Michael Jordan was the new general manager of the Wizards in 2001 and his first big move was deciding who to draft first overall. Jordan put his confidence in the 18-year-old high schooler, and it didn't take long before he regretted that decision.
Kwami lasted four seasons with the Wizards before being shipped out of town. During his 12 years in the league, Brown played for seven different franchises. It is a shame what happened to such a promising career, but Kwame ultimately was used as a key example of why the NBA made the draft eligibility rule change.
25 Derrick Williams - 2nd overall, 2011
Derrick Williams was one of the greatest Pac-10 players of all-time, especially considering he only spent two years in college. During his rookie season with Arizona, he was named the Freshman of the Year, as well as being named to the All-Conference First Team. He one-upped himself in his sophomore year when he earned Pac-10 Player of the Year, and All-American honors.
After two incredible college seasons, Williams entered himself into the NBA draft in 2011. The Minnesota Timberwolves happened to have the second selection that season and they were in desperate need of front court help after selecting point guard after point guard in the previous drafts. Unfortunately for Williams, the Timberwolves had no idea what they were doing and had no direction at the time. So after only two seasons in Minnesota, the Wolves traded Williams to the Kings. At this point, it was starting to become more obvious that Williams was not NBA ready. He had some maturity problems, but nothing career threatening. He was simply unable to grasp the gravity of his job. Williams is now a part of the Miami Heat, and is looking to find his role in the league.
24 Michael Beasley - 2nd overall, 2008
Beasley was one of the most entertaining and exciting college players in recent years. He seemingly came out of nowhere in 2008, when he led the nation in rebounding and finished third in point per game as a freshman.
After his magical freshman season, Beasley entered the NBA draft where he was selected second overall by the Miami Heat. The Heat were excited to have such a dynamic youngster joining their team, hoping that Beasley could help lessen the weight put upon Dwyane Wade's shoulders. Beasley, however was not as mature as many in Miami hoped he would be. During his rookie season, Beasley was fined several times for violating team rules. After declining production from his rookie season, the Heat decided is was best to part ways with the youngster, and in 2010 Beasley was sent to Minnesota in exchange for a couple draft picks.
Beasley has been fighting to stay in the league since. It appeared his NBA career was over in 2014 when he was released again. Since then, he has landed in Shanghai where he rejuvenated his NBA life by dominating the Chinese League, including winning League MVP honors there. That little flash gave him one last shot at an NBA career.
23 Ben Simmons - 1st overall, 2016
Simmons is another tough player to rank on this list. He has yet to play in an NBA regular season game, but his potential is off the charts. Even as a high schooler it was clear that Simmons was destined for great things in his basketball life. He played one season with the LSU Tigers. Even though he had his choice of any Division I school in the country he chose LSU because of the connections their coach had with his family.
His only season in college was extremely underwhelming, not so much due to Simmons though. Once he was able to enter the NBA draft he was a shoo-in for the number one pick. The Philadelphia 76ers had the right to the pick, and of course they used it to pick up Simmons. What separates Ben is his ability to seemingly do everything on the basketball court well. Many experts compare his game to that of LeBron James, a player who has the ability to do it all. His only weakness at this point appears to be his jump shot, similar to what people quibbled about LeBron in his early years. One thing that separates Ben from LeBron is injuries. The King has never suffered a serious injury in his career, and Simmons has already missed almost half of his rookie season due to injury.
22 Emeka Okafor - 2nd overall, 2004
Coming out of high school Okafor went a little under the radar. It wasn't until his senior season in high school that he began receiving interest from major Division I universities. Once the major offers began rolling in Okafor elected to attend the University of Connecticut, where he would spent the next four years dominating the college ranks. After collecting two NCAA Defensive Player of the Year Awards, a NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award, an NABC co-Player of the Year Award, and a National Championship, Okafor decided to go pro.
In 2004 the Charlotte Bobcats drafted him second overall, and were hopeful that they had found their centerpiece for years to come. The future looked bright for the Bobcats after Okafor was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2005, but the injury bug would come to haunt them and Okafor for years to come. Emeka spent five years with Charlotte, and every year he averaged a double-double. But as time passed, injuries became more and more troublesome, ultimately resulting in the Bobcats trading him to New Orleans. He teamed with Chris Paul, and the two helped New Orleans experience some marginal success. After only nine years in the NBA Okafor was forced to call it quits as he was unable to get his injuries under control.
21 D'Angelo Russell - 2nd overall, 2015
D'Angelo Russell was a superstar from his high school days. As a sophomore, he transferred to Montverde Acadamy where he teamed with Ben Simmons and helped lead the team to back-to-back National Championships. After his incredible high school career, he attended Ohio State for one season where he was a star, including being the first and only Ohio State freshman to record a triple-double in the NCAA tournament.
After this incredible prep career, Russell entered the NBA draft in 2015. He was the second overall selection that season and found himself headed to Los Angeles to join Kobe Bryant. His rookie season was entirely overshadowed by Bryant's farewell tour. Only the truest of basketball fans saw the development of Russell that season. After the departure of Kobe, Russell quickly assumed the reigns as the leader of the team. He is now the head of the snake in Los Angeles, and the Lakers are showing that they could be ready to compete much sooner than many expected, and that is in great part thanks to D'Angelo.
20 Jabari Parker - 2nd overall, 2014
It was clear early on that Parker was gong to be an NBA player. As a junior in high school, Parker was the MVP of the LeBron James Academy basketball tournament. After fulfilling the required four years of high school (Parker was NCAA ready after three years of high school) Parker had to spend one more season playing in the amateur ranks, so he decided to attend Duke University. During his single season with the Blue Devils Parker made history when he became the first Dukie to lead the team in rebounding and scoring as a freshman.
When he was finally eligible to become a pro, Parker was selected second overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014. He saw early success as a rookie, even winning the Rookie of the Month award for November. Unfortunately for him, and the Bucks, Parker suffered a season-ending injury in December of his rookie season. He has since recovered from the injury and returned to action. He is averaging over 14 points per game this season to go along with 5.2 rebounds. Big things are expected out of Jabari for many seasons to come, and with the work ethic he has shown thus far, he will likely surpass even those lofty expectations.
19 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - 2nd overall, 2012
Kidd-Gilchrist is another one of those Kentucky Wildcat lottery picks that John Calipari seems to produce every single year. When Kidd-Gilchrist decided to go to Kentucky University, he was coming off of a high school season in which he was named the National Player of the Year as well as being a McDonald's All-American Game Co-MVP.
After a solid season at Kentucky, Gilchrist was ready to take his talents to the next level. He was selected second overall by the Hornets, a team that desperately needed an athletic perimeter player who also could rebound and carry some of the scoring load. Early in his rookie season, Kidd-Gilchrist recorded his first career double-double when he had 25 points and 12 rebounds on November 25th. This accomplishment put him in rare company. He became one of only five players under the age of 20 to record 25+ points and grab 12+ rebounds in their careers and the second youngest to do it behind LeBron James. He is currently helping lead the Hornets as they hold onto the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
18 Evan Turner - 2nd overall, 2010
The Philadelphia 76ers have seemingly had a top two pick for the past decade. Well maybe it's not that bad, but they do have a lot of high draft picks in recent memory. Evan Turner was one of the picks that Philly had high hopes for. In 2010 they took him second overall and signed a two-year, $12 million contract.
Since 2010 Turner has been an extremely productive player, but much of his production has come with teams other than the Sixers. In 2014 the Sixers traded Turner to the Indiana Pacers for a second-round pick and the rights to Danny Granger's expiring contract. Turner put up solid number with the Pacers, but he was never really incorporated into their future plans. After the 2013-14 season ended Turner signed with the Boston Celtics where he found his niche and became a quality sixth man for the Celtics. In 2016 Turner again found himself as a free agent. He signed a mega contract ($70 million/four years) with the Portland Trail Blazers.
17 Victor Oladipo - 2nd overall, 2013
The 2013 NBA draft was one of the worst drafts in recent years. The draft had no clear number one pick, or number two for that matter. However, the Orlando Magic had to pick someone with the second overall pick, so they went with Indiana guard Victor Oladipo.
Oladipo was one of the only bright spots to come out of the 2013 draft. In his rookie season, he was named to the All-NBA Rookie First Team after averaging nearly 14 points. He upped his average to 17.9 in his second season and was on his way to becoming an all-star. After a minor drop in his third season, Orlando decided it was better to trade Victor than to let him develop in their system. He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder before the 2016-17 season, and he immediately became the second scoring option in Oklahoma after the departure of Kevin Durant. Oladipo has meshed well with Russell Westbrook in OKC, and the two of them seem to have the Thunder headed in the right direction.
16 Marvin Williams - 2nd overall, 2005
Most people forget that Marvin Williams was drafted so high. Back in 2005 the Atlanta Hawks took Marvin with the second overall pick after he spent just one season with the Tar Heels of North Carolina.
What is interesting about Marvin Williams' career is how unassuming it has been for a player drafted second overall. He has been a quality player for over a decade, nothing flashy, just showing consistency through and through. In over 10 years he has been able to average over 10 points and five rebounds per game, while also only missing a handful of games due to injury. People may not think too much of Williams' career, some may even knock him for being a second overall pick, but for him to still be starting for a team like Charlotte, who will make the playoffs again, is a huge accomplishment.
15 Karl-Anthony Towns - 1st overall, 2015
Having less than two seasons under his belt, it is only a matter of time before Towns moves up this list. With his skill set and the production he has already shown, Towns could easily find himself in the top five the next time we make a list like this.
As a rookie, KAT was able to average a double-double (18 and 10) winning NBA Rookie of the Year along the way. He is now the cornerstone of the up and coming Minnesota Timberwolves. He along with Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine are looking to take the Wolves back to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. With new coach Tom Thibodeau running the show in Minnesota, and the young core coming together, it shouldn't take long before KAT finds himself in the playoffs and perhaps even in the MVP discussion.
14 Andrew Wiggins - 1st overall, 2014
Speaking of the Timberwolves and Andrew Wiggins, here he is. Wiggins was the reason the Timberwolves were willing to part ways with Kevin Love a couple years ago. Wiggins was projected to be a Tracy McGrady type player when he left Kansas University after just one season.
Wiggins thus far has been living up to the hype. As a rookie he averaged nearly 17 points per game. Keep in mind he was playing for the worst team in basketball during that season. He increased his production and his efficiency in his second year, and with the addition of Karl-Anthony Towns, the pressure on Wiggins was reduced. Now in his third season, Wiggins is finding his way in the league. This season he is a top 20 scorer at just over 22 points per night. With the emergence of Wiggins, Towns, and Zach Levine, you can expect to see more meaningful games being played in Minnesota.
13 John Wall - 1st overall, 2010
In a league dominated by point guards, it can be easy to forget about John Wall. Some say Wall is the quickest player in the league with the ball in his hands, and frankly it's hard to argue. When he came out of Kentucky in 2010 it was clear he would be the first player selected and sure enough, Washington swooped him up immediately.
Wall has led the Wizards to several playoff appearances, but as of late it appears he is growing unhappy in Washington. He recently made a comment about wishing he could join his old Kentucky teammates and form a super team of sorts. Wall will likely not get to fulfill that dream, but it is becoming apparent that he won't be in Washington much longer. There should be no shortage of teams ready to welcome him with open arms should he decide he needs a new home. With career averages of 18.1 points, 9.1 assists, and 1.7 steals per game, Wall has established himself as one of the best two-way point guards in the NBA.
12 Andrew Bogut - 1st overall, 2005
In 2005 Andrew Bogut was the NCAA Player of the Year, and it was obvious that he would be selected first overall and likely become a perennial All-Star. As time passed, most of that become fact, all except the perennial All-Star part. Bogut was never named to an All-Star Team, but he has had incredible success in his decade-plus in the NBA.
Bogut was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, and unlike many others on this list, he actually stayed with the team who drafted him for a while. Bogut spent seven years in Milwaukee, making the playoffs only once. In March of 2012 Bogut was finally traded. He was part of a package that was sent to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Monte Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown. With Golden State, Bogut became a major piece for a championship team. He was able to capture an NBA Title in 2015, and lost in the Finals in 2016. After the 2015-16 season, Bogut was traded to the Dallas Mavericks to help clear cap space for the team to sign Kevin Durant.
11 Kenyon Martin - 1st overall, 2000
K-Mart, as he was affectionately known during his playing days, was one of the most athletic big men to come out of college since 2000. Martin was drafted first overall in 2000 by the New Jersey Nets, and his impact was felt immediately.
After a broken leg ended his senior season at the University of Cincinnati, Martin's potential was still too high for the Nets to not draft him first overall. The Nets were a sorry excuse for a team before he arrived. In his rookie season, he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. In his second season the Nets acquired Jason Kidd, and with Kidd and Martin leading the way, the Nets went from last place in the Eastern Conference to an NBA Finals appearance. With Kidd and Martin hooking up on insane ally-oops the Nets quickly became one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA. After his time with the Nets, Martin played for five different franchises, and in 2015 he announced his retirement from the NBA.
10 Kyrie Irving - 1st overall, 2012
Coming out of college many people had their reservations about "Uncle Drew." Some thought he was too little, others snickered that he was too soft for the NBA and others simply didn't believe Duke could produce a superstar NBA player. Well Kyrie has already proven all the doubters wrong.
Since his rookie season, Kyrie has been doing what many said he couldn't. In 2012 he was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he promptly went on to win Rookie of the Year that season. At only 24 years old, Kyrie is already well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. He already has three All-Star appearances, a Rookie of the Year, and an NBA Championship under his belt, not to mention a Game 7 title-clinching shot as well. With LeBron James and Kevin Love by his side, Kyrie is primed to lead the Cavs to another championship, if not more than one, and anyone who still wants to doubt him only looks silly.
9 Anthony Davis - 1st overall, 2011
The man with the thickest unibrow in NBA history ranks in at number nine. Anthony Davis is yet another one of John Calipari's Kentucky boys drafted first overall. In 2012 New Orleans went with the can't miss prospect first overall. The Hornets (named that at the time) were in desperate need of help across the board, and that is exactly what Davis provided.
AD is one of the most well-rounded, versatile players in the NBA. At 6'11", with a wingspan of 7'3" Davis also possesses the athleticism of a guard. Davis has led the NBA in blocks for the past two seasons, and last year he was named to the All-NBA Defensive Team for the first time in his career. Coming into this season, Davis was one of the top picks to win the MVP Award, and at this point in the season he is right smack dab in the middle of the MVP discussion. With averages of 30.1 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game, it is hard to not have him right there for the MVP Award. The one drawback for Davis this season is that his team is not having nearly the amount of success many thought they would, but we can't put that on him.
8 LaMarcus Aldridge - 2nd overall, 2006
The Chicago Bulls are undoubtedly still upset at themselves for what happened in the 2006 draft. The Bulls had the second overall pick and they went with Aldridge, only to trade him to the Blazers for Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa.
Since the trade, Thomas and Khryapa have combined to make zero All-Star appearances, while at the same time, Aldridge has had five. Not only have Thomas and Khryapa not made any All-Star Games, neither of them are in the NBA anymore. Meanwhile, LaMarcus was a cornerstone for Portland for the nine years he was there, and he is now the second leading scorer on the San Antonio Spurs. Aldridge has had one of the most successful careers of anyone drafted since 2000 and he is still in the prime of his career. If he is able to produce like he has for another half decade or so, he will have a legitimate shot of being a Hall of Famer when it is all said and done.
7 Derrick Rose - 1st overall, 2008
Yet again John Calipari gets his named mentioned. Rose was a Calipari disciple, only he played under Calipari with Memphis. As a freshman, Rose took Memphis to the NCAA Championship Finals but came up just short as they lost to Kansas in an overtime thriller, and one of the greatest college basketball games of all-time.
After his sensational freshman season, Rose decided he was ready for the NBA. The Bulls again had a top draft pick, and this time they kept the player they drafted. Rose was instantly a superstar with Chicago. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2009, and only two seasons later he was the NBA's Most Valuable Player. The pace at which Rose played at seemed to defy nature, and many believed it simply could not last. Those critics were proven right when Rose suffered several injuries over a three-year period, limiting him to only 100 games in three seasons. Rose was finally able to make a full recovery last season when he participated in over 60 games. The Bulls saw that as an opportunity to get some value for the often injured MVP, so they traded him to the New York Knicks prior to this season. Rose has, to this point, stayed healthy and is beginning to look like his former self in NY. If he is able to stay healthy, he, Carmelo Anthony, and Kristaps Porzingis have a real chance at making a deep playoff run this season.
6 Tyson Chandler - 2nd overall, 2001
Widely regarded as one of the greatest high school players in U.S history, Tyson Chandler was well known long before he became an NBA Champion.
Chandler went to high school in Compton, California, and was named to every honor a high school player is capable of earning. He is also one of the players on this list who entered the NBA before the one and done rule was put into place, so he was eligible to enter the NBA as an 18-year-old. When he finished high school he immediately made it official that he was going to the NBA. In the 2001 draft he was taken second overall by his hometown Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers turned around and traded him to the Bulls that same day. He dominated in his rookie season, taking home the Rookie of the Year Award along the way. Chandler bounced around a lot more than a player of his caliber should, but he was always able to produce, no matter what team he played for. Once he reached his prime years, there was not a better defender in the NBA than Chandler, proven by his 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Award.
5 Blake Griffin - 1st overall, 2009
Coming out of Oklahoma everyone knew that the Clippers were taking Blake with the first overall pick. The things that Griffin was able to do were rarely, if ever, seen in the NBA. His ability to rise above defenders while having the body control to finish at the rim is what has separated him from the rest of the league since he arrived.
Things looked bleak in the beginning for both Blake and the Clippers. It appeared that once again the Clippers would be stricken with horrible luck when they finally found a talented player. Griffin missed his entire rookie season due to injury and many questioned if he would be able to become the player most thought he could. Thankfully for the Clippers, Blake was able to make a full recovery, and has been jumping over the NBA since. Blake has been a walking double-double since winning Rookie of the Year in 2011 (technically his second season, but he was eligible for ROY since he missed his entire true rookie season.) Now with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, Blake is looking to take the Clippers to new heights this season.
4 Yao Ming - 1st overall, 2002
The only player on this list to already be in the Basketball Hall of Fame, you could make a case that he should be number one, but wait until you see the three players ahead of him. Nonetheless, Yao Ming had an incredible career, as well as a transcending impact on the popularity of the game throughout the world.
Ming was drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets in 2002. During his career, he was named to eight All-Star games while compiling nearly 10,000 career points, and nearly 5,000 rebounds. Ming's impact on the game was never questioned. It was injuries that ultimately slowed down the giant. His contemporaries constantly gushed about his greatness, including Shaquille O'Neal who said: "If he didn't have those injuries, he probably would have been up there with the top five centers ever to play."
Pretty high praise from one of the all-time greats.
3 Dwight Howard - 1st overall, 2004
D-12 as he was once known ranks in at number three. Coming out of high school in 2004 there was no debate on who the Orlando Magic were going to select with the first overall pick.
The accomplishments Howard has already achieved easily make him Hall of Fame worthy. Not only has he been a four-time All-NBA Defensive Team selection, he has also been named Defensive Player of the Year a record three times. What people often forget about Dwight is that he does much more than just defend. He averages nearly 20 points per game for his career and averages well over 12 rebounds a game in his 13-plus seasons. The most impressive thing to me however, is that back in 2009 Dwight led an otherwise average squad in Orlando to the NBA Finals, beating LeBron James along the way.
2 Kevin Durant - 2nd overall, 2007
The debate in 2007 was a tough one. Kevin Durant or Greg Oden? Well looking back on it now, it wasn't so tough was it? Greg Oden ultimately became one of the biggest busts in draft history, while KD is on his way to Hall of Fame enshrinement.
In 2007 Durant had just led Texas University to an NCAA Tournament birth, while winning College Player of the Year honors along the way. He was a natural born scorer, who could pull up from anywhere, not to mention the fact that he was about seven feet tall too. The thing that scared Portland (who had the number one overall pick that year) was his perceived frailness. He weighed about 180 pounds soaking wet, so the Blazers opted to go with the center instead. The Seattle SuperSonics were waiting to see what Portland would do, because it was obvious that Seattle was picking whoever Portland didn't. Seattle got lucky and landed KD, only to see their team leave town a year later, but Durant was only getting started.
Since he entered the NBA Durant has done everything there is to do, including an MVP Award, multiple scoring titles, and a trip to the NBA Finals. The only thing that eludes him to this point is a Finals victory, and now with Golden State he has a great chance at accomplishing that.
1 LeBron James - 1st overall, 2003
There has never been a player who entered the NBA with more pressure and scrutiny than that of Lebron. Entering the league in 2003 straight out of high school, Lebron had already gotten used to his games being televised on national TV, as ESPN had been broadcasting his high school games throughout his senior season.
James burst onto the scene his rookie year, in his first career game he put up 25 points, 9 assists, and 4 steals. He was named Rookie of the Year that season, no surprise, even though he was a rookie the same year as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. James has since accomplished everything a professional basketball player could hope to accomplish, and then some. Not only has he won multiple championships, a scoring title, gold medals, and MVP's, but he fulfilled his promise to his home state of Ohio that he would bring a title to the state that raised him. LeBron is now chasing ghosts, namely the ghost of Michael Jordan, and at only 32 years old, James has a realistic chance of chasing that ghost down.