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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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