NBA Draft: Ranking the No. 1 Picks in NBA Draft History

The rankings are from best to worst, starting with the 1966 NBA Draft. That draft was the first year the NBA did not use the territorial pick rule. That rule permitted a team, prior to the draft, to forfeit its first-round pick and then select any player from within a 50-mile radius of its home arena.

1. Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers, 1979)

Where to begin to explain why I chose Magic Johnson as the top number one pick in NBA Draft History? It was a very difficult call to make at the top, but in the end, I chose Magic because in the NBA, as much as any professional sport, stars are judged on winning. And from his very first year in the NBA, all Magic did was win.
Between his arrival in the NBA for the 1979-80 season through his first retirement early in the 1991-92 season, Magic led the Lakers to five NBA championships and to four other finals.
He famously won a championship as a rookie against the Philadelphia Sixers, when he played center for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the deciding game. He picked up two more rings in 1982 and 1985, before leading the Lakers to back-to-back championships in 1987 and '88. It was the first time a team had won consecutive titles in the NBA since the 1968 and '69 Boston Celtics.
Johnson was a 12-time All-Star and nine-time first-team All-NBA selection. He was the MVP three times, finished in the top three in voting each year between 1983 and 1991. Of his five championships, he was the Finals MVP three times.
In addition to winning, what sets Magic apart is that no one has ever played the game the way he did. He was a 6'9 point guard, a feat that has never been duplicated.
For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds. He notched at least 11.5 assists per game in each season between 1984 and 1991. He retired as the NBA's all-time leader in assists and his 10,141 assists still rank fourth all-time.
Magic was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Other notable picks: Sidney Moncrief (5), Calvin Natt (8), Cliff Robinson (11)

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks, 1969)

Kareem played an amazing 20 seasons in the NBA, the first six with the Milwaukee Bucks and the last 14 with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a 19-time All-Star, a six-time MVP (1971, '72, '74, '76, '77, '80), and finished in the top five of MVP voting 15 times (1970-1981, 1984-86).
With the Bucks in 1970, he was named Rookie of the Year and in his second season, he led Milwaukee to the NBA championship, being named Finals MVP. That would be the only ring for Kareem until Magic joined him on the Lakers, and he the won five more in the 1980s. Kareem was the MVP of the 1985 Finals.
No one in the history of the NBA scored more points than Kareem's 38,387 and he is second all-time in games played with 1,560 and third in rebounds (17,740). Remarkably durable for a big man, Kareem played in at least 74 games in 18 of his 20 seasons. Four times he averaged over 30 points per game for an entire season, with a career-high of 34.8 in 1971-72.
Kareem was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
So, with all of that, why isn't Kareem number one? I will admit, I could be slightly biased towards Magic, since I remember Magic as the leader of the Lakers and never saw Kareem play at the time he was collecting his six MVP awards.
I come back to winning. Yes, Kareem was a major part of those Laker teams, but to me, they were Magic's teams, and Magic was the catalyst of those five titles. Kareem had the MVPs in the 70s and one title, but it took Magic to get him all those other rings on the back-end of his career.
Other notable picks: Lucius Allen (3), Bingo Smith (6), Jo Jo White (9), Fred Carter (43).

3. Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs, 1997)

If winning is truly what matters the most when separating the all-time greats, then ranking Tim Duncan third on this list was a no-brainer.
Duncan entered the league in the 1997-98 season and won his first championship in his second year. He would go on to win three more (2003, '05, '07) and he was Finals MVP for three of the four championships. In his 13 seasons in San Antonio, Duncan has led the Spurs to a 719-314 record (.695 winning %), with nine seasons of at least 56 wins.
Duncan is a 12-time All-Star. He was league MVP in 2002 and 2003, and finished in the top three of voting five times and top five nine times.
He has been an All-NBA selection after each season, nine times on the first-team, three times second-team, and once third-team. He also has been a first-team All-Defensive selection eight times and a second-team selection five times.
For his career, he has averaged 21.1 points and 11.6 rebounds, numbers that increase to 23.0 and 12.4 in the playoffs.
Other notable picks: Chauncey Billups (3), Tracy McGrady (9), Stephen Jackson (47)

4. Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets, 1984)

Hakeem was the first pick of the 1984 draft (followed by Sam Bowie and then Michael Jordan). And although the Rockets missed out by not taking Jordan, Olajuwon was not a bad option either.
Hakeem helped the Rockets to an upset of the Lakers in the 1986 Western Conference Finals, before Houston eventually fell in six games to the Celtics in the Finals. Although it would take several years, Olajuwon did get Houston back to the Finals later in his career, leading the Rockets to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995.
He was the Finals MVP in both years, and averaged 28.9 points and 11.0 rebounds in the '94 playoffs, followed by 33.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in the '95 postseason.
Hakeem was the league MVP in 1994 and finished in the top five of MVP voting five times. He was also the Defensive Player of the year in both 1993 and 1994. Olajuwon made 12 All-Star teams, was a six-time first-team All-NBA selection, and was a second-team choice three times and third-team selection three times.
Olajuwon was also named to the NBA All-Defensive team nine times, five times a a first-team choice and four times a second-team.
In total, Hakeem played 18 years in the NBA, 17 with Houston before spending his final year in Toronto. He averaged 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks over his career, and his 26,946 points rank eighth all-time.
Olajuwon also is the NBA all-time leader in blocked shots with 3,830. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
A great "what if" in NBA history is what would have happened in the 1994 and 1995 seasons had Michael Jordan not "retired." Jordan won three straight titles from 1991-93. Those Bulls teams, though, always lacked a real presence at center, and it would have been a fascinating match-up of Jordan's Bulls without a great center against Olajuwon and the Rockets.
Other notable picks: Michael Jordan (3), Charles Barkley (5), Alvin Robertson (7), Otis Thorpe (9), Kevin Willis (11), John Stockton (16)

5. Shaquille O'Neal (Orlando Magic, 1992)

I had a difficult time deciding where exactly to place Shaq, but ultimately decided he had to come after Olajuwon. With Olajuwon, I felt like he got everything, including two titles, he possibly could have out of his career. Shaq has had a great career, but looking back, couldn't he have accomplished more?
Shaq is coming off his 18th season in the NBA. He began in Orlando, where he spent three seasons with the Magic, and he and Anfernee Hardaway led the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals. There, they were swept by Olajuwon and the Rockets.
Shaq went on to the Lakers, where he was swept out of the playoffs in each of his first three years.
Then came Shaq at his best. In 2000, he won his only MVP award, averaging 29.7 points and 13.6 rebounds. Then in the playoffs, he averaged 30 and 15, won the Finals MVP, and captured his first ring. A year later, he had another 30 and 15 in the playoffs, winning his second ring and second Finals MVP. He capped off the three-year run in 2002, with his third championship with the Lakers and third Finals MVP.
As a sidekick to Dwyane Wade, Shaq won his fourth title in 2006 with the Heat.
Shaq was the 1993 Rookie of the year, MVP in 2000, and has finished in the top five of MVP voting eight times. For his career, he has averaged 24.1 points and 11.0 rebounds. His 28,255 career points are fifth all-time, and he averaged at least 26 points for 10 straight seasons (1996-2003).
So why is Shaq below Olajuwon? For one, defense. Olajuwon was an all-time great defender, while Shaq was not (he made second-team All-Defense once). And as I indicated above, I believe Shaq could have got a lot more out of each situation he was in during the prime years of his career - first with Anfernee Hardaway and then obviously with Kobe Bryant, had he been able to make it work over a longer period.
Could Shaq have been even better had he wanted? What jumps out to me to support this is his career-high in rebounds came as a rookie (13.9 per game).
Other notable picks: Alonzo Mourning (2), Jim Jackson (4), Latrell Sprewell (24)

6. LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers, 2003)

LeBron is another player I was not exactly sure where to place, mostly because should I judge him on what he has done or on what I think he will ultimately accomplish?
I tried to find a balance.
We know all about LeBron. In seven seasons, he has already put together a resume worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. He has been an All-Star six times, a first-team All-NBA choice four times, and was the 2004 Rookie of the Year. The last two years he has been named NBA MVP, and has finished in the top four of voting five times.
In 2010, he was second in the league in scoring, the sixth straight year he has finished second. He has averaged for his career 27.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 7.0 assists, already accumulating over 15,000 points and nearly 4,000 assists and rebounds.
Over the last three years, he led his team to a 172-74 record, averaging 29.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game.
In the playoffs, despite not being able to win a championship, he has averaged 29.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 7.3 assists. In 2009, the Cavaliers lost in the Eastern Conference Finals, but James averaged over 35 points per game in the playoffs, with nine boards and seven assists.
When it is all said and done, James very well could be much higher on this list. And for everyone ready to knock him for not having won a title yet, I just want to remind you that James just finished his seventh season and is only 25 years old. Michael Jordan did not win his first title until his seventh season when he was 28 years old.
Other notable picks: Carmelo Anthony (3), Chris Bosh (4), Dwyane Wade (5), David West (18), Josh Howard (29)

7. David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs, 1987)

David Robinson played 14 seasons in the NBA, all with the San Antonio Spurs. He was the 1990 Rookie of the Year, 1992 Defensive Player of the Year, and the 1995 MVP. Between 1994-96, he finished in the top two in MVP voting each time, five times he finished in the top three, and seven times in the top 6.
Robinson made 10 All-Star teams and was a first-team All-NBA selection four times. Also, he was first-team All-Defense four times and second-team four times.
The Admiral led the NBA in scoring in 1994, averaging 29.4 points per game, and finished his career with 20,790 points and 10,497 rebounds (21.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg). He also added 2,954 blocks (3.9 bpg).
What was missing from Robinson's resume was a championship. That changed when Tim Duncan arrived in San Antonio, as Duncan helped San Antonio and Robinson win the title in 1999 and then again in 2003, Robinson's final season.
Robinson was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2009.
Other notable picks: Scottie Pippen (5), Kevin Johnson (7), Reggie Miller (11), Reggie Lewis (22)

8. Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers, 1996)

Allen Iverson's NBA career is most likely over. But over his 14 years, the first 10 with Philadelphia, Iverson certainly left us with plenty of greet memories (as well as sound bites).
Iverson averaged 26.7 points for his career, the fourth highest scoring average in NBA history. He led the NBA in scoring four times, scored at least 30 points per game four times, and had 10 straight seasons (1999-2008) where he averaged at least 26 points per game.
He also twice led the league in steals, and maybe most remarkable of all, was that he led the league in minutes played seven times. His 41.1 minutes per game over his career is fourth all-time, behind Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Oscar Robertson.
Iverson was the 1997 Rookie of the Year and the league MVP in 2001. Three times, he finished in the top five of MVP voting. He was an All-Star eleven times and a first-team All-NBA selection three times (to go with three second-team and one third-team selection).
While finding the right teammates to surround someone with Iverson's unique skill-set was not an easy task, I believe the 76ers took his talent for granted and failed to ever give him quality teammates in his prime.
His best teammate was probably Dikembe Mutombo, who Philadephia traded for during the 2001 season. Not coincidentally, Iverson led the 76ers to the Finals that season, losing to the Lakers.
Other notable picks: Marcus Camby (2), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (3), Stephon Marbury (4), Ray Allen (5), Antoine Walker (6), Kobe Bryant (13), Peja Stojakovic (14), Steve Nash (15)

9. Bill Walton (Portland Trail Blazers, 1974)

Maybe the player I had the most difficult time deciding where to place was Bill Walton.
Walton played 10 seasons in the NBA. He was twice an All-Star. In 1978, he averaged 18.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, earning MVP honors, a year after he finished second in the voting, when he averaged 18.6 points and 14.4 rebounds.
In 1977, he led the Trail Blazers to the NBA Championship, and Walton was named Finals MVP. He also won a second ring with the 1986 Boston Celtics, when Walton won the league's Sixth Man of the Year award.
The negative for Walton, and why I dropped him below Robinson and Iverson, was that he could not stay healthy. In his 10 seasons, Walton played in only 488 games. Only three times did he play more than 60 games in a season, and four times, he played in 35 or fewer.
When healthy, Walton was as well-rounded a center as the league has ever seen. He just was not healthy nearly enough.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
Other notable picks: Campy Russell (8), Jamaal Wilkes (11), Truck Robinson (22), John Drew (25), George Gervin (40)

10. Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks, 1985)

Ewing came into the league courtesy of the 1985 Draft Lottery, the first time the NBA had the lottery, when shockingly, the team in the largest market landed the most sought after college player in years. Ewing was supposed to be a legendary center and lead the New York Knicks to multiple championships.
Ewing had a very good career. But, he never was quite able to reach the heights many thought he was capable of, and he just fell short of the game's other elite centers.
In all, Ewing played 17 seasons in the NBA, 15 with the Knicks before single seasons at the end of his career with Seattle and then Orlando. He scored 24,815 points and grabbed 11,607 rebounds. He scored at least 20 points per game in each of his first 13 seasons with a career-high of 28.6 in 1990.
He was the 1986 Rookie of the year, and was an eleven-time All-Star and a first-team All-NBA selection in 1990. He also made the second-team All-NBA six times. Six times he finished either fourth or fifth in the MVP voting, but never higher than that.
He helped the Knicks to the 1994 NBA Finals, where they lost to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets. Then in '99, the Knicks made it to the Finals again, but did so while he was on the sideline injured.
Ewing was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
Other notable picks: Wayman Tisdale (2), Xavier McDaniel (4), Chris Mullin (7), Charles Oakley (9), Karl Malone (13), Joe Dumars (18), Terry Porter (24)

11. James Worthy (Los Angeles Lakers, 1982)

In 1980, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded their number one pick in 1982 to the Lakers for Don Ford and a first round pick in 1980 that turned into Chad Kinch. Before the 1982 draft would occur, both Ford and Kinch would be out of the league, and that pick Cleveland traded wound up being the top pick in the draft.
The Lakers, coming off an NBA title in 1982, were then able to add James Worthy to their team the following season. Worthy would occupy the power forward position in LA for his entire 12 year career, and help the Lakers win three titles and reach the Finals in eight of his first 10 seasons.
Worthy blended his game perfectly in LA with the Lakers others stars. He was a seven-time All-Star and twice he was selected third-team All-NBA. When LA finished off back-to-back championships in 1988, Worthy was Finals MVP.
For his career, he averaged 17.6 points and 5.1 rebounds, finishing with 16,320 points. The model of consistency, Worthy averaged between 19 and 21 points from 1986 through 1992. He raised his scoring to 21.2 points per game in the playoffs over 143 games.
Another "what if" is what if Worthy as the top pick had wound up on a different team, a typical bad team with the first selection, instead of getting to play with Magic and the Lakers? How would his career be remembered?
My belief is Worthy obviously benefited from playing with Magic, but he also sacrificed a great deal of his own game for the good of the team. On another team, in another situation, maybe he doesn't win nearly as much, but his numbers would certainly have been higher. I'd assume Worthy would take playing with the Lakers for his career over the chance at a few more points somewhere else.
Worthy was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
Other notable picks: Terry Cummings (2), Dominque Wilkins (3), Ricky Pierce (18)

12. Elvin Hayes (San Diego Rockets, 1968)

Elvin Hayes played 16 years in the NBA, the first seven with the San Diego/Houston Rockets, and the last nine with the Bullets (Baltimore, Capital, Washington).
In 1969, as a rookie, he led the league in scoring at 28.4 points per game. He also led the league in rebounding twice (in 1970 and '74), and averaged at least 20 points and 11 rebounds nine times. For his career, he averaged 21.0 points and 12.5 rebounds.
Hayes was a twelve-time All-Star, a two-time selection to the All-Defensive second team, and a three-time first-team All-NBA choice.
In 1978, Hayes, along with Wes Unseld who was the pick behind Hayes in the 1968 draft, led the Washington Bullets to the NBA Championship. Hayes averaged 21.8 points and 13.8 rebounds that year in the playoffs.
Hayes was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
Other notable picks: Wes Unseld (2)

13. Bob Lanier (Detroit Pistons, 1970)

Bob Lanier played 14 seasons in the NBA, nine with Detroit and then five in Milwaukee. He averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds for his career.
In 1972, he averaged 25.7 points and 14.2 rebounds. It was the first of seven straight seasons for Lanier where he averaged at least 24 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Lanier was an eight-time All-Star and he twice finished in the top four of MVP voting (1974, '77).
I remember Lanier mostly from a commercial he was in when I was a kid - he was in a bar with Dave Cowens, and he said of Cowens' two championships with the Celtics, "those are the two biggest feats in basketball." Cowens then replied, "No Bob, those are the two biggest feet in basketball," as he pointed to Lanier's size 22 feet. Funny stuff.
Lanier was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.
Other notable picks: Rudy Tomjonavic (2), Pete Maravich (3), Dave Cowens (4), Calvin Murphy (18), Nate "Tiny" Archibald (19)

14. Chris Webber (Orlando Magic, 1993)

Chris Webber was famously drafted number one by the Orlando Magic, who a year earlier had drafted Shaquille O'Neal with the top pick, and then immediately traded to Golden State for Anfernee Hardaway, and three future first round picks.
Interestingly, one of those picks would be traded several more times until eventually, in 1994, it was sent from Washington to Golden State in exchange for - Chris Webber (Golden State would then trade that pick to Toronto in exchange for Antawn Jamison and Toronto would use the pick on Vince Carter).
Back to Webber, he played 15 years in the NBA, playing for Golden State, Washington, Sacramento, Philadelphia, and Detroit. He was an All-Star five times, a first-team All-NBA selection once, second-team three times, and third-team once. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1994 with Golden State.
For his career, he averaged 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. Ten times in his career he averaged over 20 points in a season, and he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds five consecutive seasons from 1999-2004 (all with Sacramento). In 2001, he averaged 27.1 points and 11.1 rebounds, to finish fourth in the MVP voting, his highest showing.
Another "what if," is what if the Magic had just held on to the pick and paired Webber with Shaq? I think it could have worked, as Webber's passing skills in the post would have been a great compliment to O'Neal. And I also think Webber would have been comfortable yielding alpha-dog status to Shaq.
The problem could be that in crunch time of big games, between Webber's tendency to disappear at those times and Shaq's poor free throw shooting, the Magic would have needed a third option.
Other notable picks: Anfernee Hardaway (3), Jamaal Mashburn (4), Allan Houston (11), Sam Cassell (24), Nick Van Exel (37)

15. Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic, 2004)

Similar to LeBron James, Dwight Howard could very well significantly move up this list by the time his career is over. But for now, let's leave him here with the understanding his career is far from over and his potential may be far from reached.
Howard just completed his sixth season with the Orlando Magic, after being drafted straight out of high school. He has averaged a double-double in each of his six seasons, with averages of 17.5 points and 12.7 rebounds thus far in his career.
He has led the league in rebounding in each of the last three seasons and in blocks the last two years. In 2008, he had career-highs of 20.7 points and 14.2 rebounds.
He finished fifth in the MVP voting in 2008 and fourth the last two seasons. He is a four-time All-Star, three-time first-team All-NBA selection, and has won the last two Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
The area Howard still needs to improve on though is adding to his offensive game. Right now, he still lacks much offense that is not strictly reliant on his pure athleticism and finishing at the rim.
Whether or not he develops and expands his offensive game will dictate just how far up this list he can eventually climb.
Other notable picks: Emeka Okafor (2), Ben Gordon (3), Devin Harris (5), Andre Iguodala (9), Al Jefferson (15), Josh Smith (17), Kevin Martin (26)

16. David Thompson (Atlanta Hawks, 1975)

David Thompson spent nine seasons in professional basketball. In 1975-76, he began with Denver in the ABA for one season before Denver then moved to the NBA, where Thompson followed for six more seasons with the Nuggets. He then finished his career with two years in Seattle.
Thompson was an All-Star and the Rookie of the Year in his lone season in the ABA. He was then a five-time NBA All-Star. For his NBA career, he averaged 22 points and four rebounds. Four times he averaged over 24 points per game. In 1978, Thompson averaged a career-best 27.2 points with five rebounds and 4.5 assists, finishing third in the MVP voting, his highest finish.
Thompson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
Other notable picks: Gus Williams (20), World B. Free (23)

17. Mark Aguirre (Dallas Mavericks, 1981)

Mark Aguirre played 13 seasons in the NBA, where he averaged 20 points and five rebounds during his career.
He had six seasons where he averaged at least 24 points, five with at least 25, with a career-high of 29.5 in 1984. Aguirre was selected to three All-Star games.
Aguirre began his career in Dallas before being traded mid-season in 1989 to the Detroit Pistons for Adrian Dantley. Aguirre proved to be a better fit on the Pistons team than Dantley at that time, and was the final piece of Detroit's back-to-back championship teams in '89 and '90. He averaged 13 points and five rebounds in the playoffs during Detroit's two championship seasons.
Other notable picks: Isiah Thomas (2), Buck Williams (3), Orlando Woolridge (6), Tom Chambers (8), Rolando Blackman (9), Larry Nance (20)

18. Brad Daugherty (Cleveland Cavaliers, 1986)

Brad Daugherty played eight seasons in the NBA, all with the Cleveland Cavaliers, before his career was cut short due to injury. For his career, he averaged 19.0 points and 9.5 rebounds.
In each season from 1991 through 1993, he averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, and averaged at least 15 points and 8 rebounds in each of his eight seasons.
He was a five-time All-Star and was selected third-team All-NBA in 1992.
Of Daugherty's eight seasons in the NBA, five ended with playoff defeats to his North Carolina teammate Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
Other notable picks: Chuck Person (4), Roy Tarpley (7), Arvydas Sabonis (24), Mark Price (25), Jeff Hornacek (46), Drazen Petrovic (60)

19. Mychal Thompson (Portland Trail Blazers, 1978)

Mychal Thompson played 12 seasons in the NBA. He spent seven years with Portland. He then began the 1986-87 season in San Antonio, before being traded to the Lakers, where he would finish his career.
Thomson played in 935 career games, averaging 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds. He was an All-Rookie selection in 1979 when he averaged 14 points and eight rebounds per game. His best season statistically was 1982, when he had career-highs of 20.8 points and 11.7 rebounds for the Trail Blazers.
When Thompson was traded to the Lakers, he played an integral role on LA's back-to-back title teams in 1987 and '88, as a back-up to Kareem, who was at the end of his career. In 1987, Thompson averaged 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in the playoffs, and then increased those numbers to 9.7 and 7.1 in '88.
Other notable picks: Purvis Short (5), Larry Bird (6), Reggie Theus (9), Mike Mitchell (15)

20. Yao Ming (Houston Rockets, 2002)

Yao Ming is sort of like a poor-man's Bill Walton: a very good career when he actually has been able to play, but difficult to judge due to all the games he has missed while injured.
Yao has been in the NBA for eight seasons, and he began his career appearing to be very durable. In his first three seasons, he played in 244 of a possible 246 games.
However, over the next four seasons, he played in just 237 of 328 games, and that does not even include missing the entire 2010 season.
When he has been able to stay on the court, Yao has averaged 19.1 points and 9.3 rebounds. His career-high was 25.0 points in 2007, but he did that in just 48 games.
He has been an All-Star seven times, twice named to the All-NBA second team and three times to the third-team.
Other notable picks: Amare Stoudemire (9), Caron Butler (10), Carlos Boozer (34)

21. Glenn Robinson (Milwaukee Bucks, 1994)

Glenn Robinson played 11 seasons in the NBA, for the Bucks, Hawks, 76ers, and Spurs. He averaged 20.7 points and 6.1 rebounds for his career.
Eight times he averaged at least 20 points per game over an entire season, and he finished his career with 14,324 points. He scored 12,100 points during his eight seasons with Milwaukee, good for second on the Bucks all-time scoring list behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Robinson was twice an All-Star (2000, 2001) and he teamed with Ray Allen and Sam Cassell to bring the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001, where they lost to Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers. Robinson finished his career playing a reserve role for the San Antonio Spurs 2005 championship team.
Other notable picks: Jason Kidd (2), Grant Hill (3), Juwan Howard (5), Eddie Jones (10), Jalen Rose (13)

22. Doug Collins (Philadelphia 76ers, 1973)

Thirty-seven years before the 76ers chose Doug Collins as their new head coach, despite his 95-114 record over his last three years as a coach or his 15-23 career playoff coaching record, they selected Collins with the top pick of the 1973 draft.
Collins played his entire career in Philadelphia, averaging 17 points and nine rebounds per game, while shooting 50.1 percent from the floor. He had five consecutive seasons with at least 18 points per game with a career-high of 20.8 in 1975.
Collins was an All-Star four times (1976-79) and helped the 76ers to the 1977 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
Other notable picks: Swen Nater (19), George McGinnis (22)

23. Elton Brand (Chicago Bulls, 1999)

Elton Brand has played 11 years in the NBA. He started his career in Chicago, before being traded to the Clippers. He then spent seven seasons in LA, before apparently backing out of a verbal agreement to re-sign with the Clippers (after luring Baron Davis to LA), and signed with the 76ers in 2008.
Brand has averaged 19.3 points and 9.7 rebounds in his career. Six times he has averaged over 20 points per game in a season and six times he has averaged double-digits in rebounds. His best season came in LA in 2006 when he averaged 24.7 points and 10.0 rebounds.
He was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2001, when he averaged 20.1 points and 10.0 rebounds. He was an All-Star twice (2002, 2006) and was second-team All-NBA in 2006, when he finished seventh in the MVP voting.
In his career, he has only made one playoff appearance, in '06 with the Clippers, where LA lost in the seventh game of the Western Conference semifinals to the Phoenix Suns.
Other notable picks: Baron Davis (3), Lamar Odom (4), Richard Hamilton (7), Andre Miller (8), Shawn Marion (9), Ron Artest (16), Manu Ginobli (57)

24. Ralph Sampson (Houston Rockets, 1983)

Ralph Sampson's career got off to a very good start. He averaged at least 19 points and 10 rebounds in each of his first three years, then 15 points and nine rebounds the next two seasons, before a sudden drop off. After three knee surgeries, Sampson would retire following his ninth season in the NBA.
For his career, he averaged 15.5 points and 8.8 rebounds and was an All-Star from 1984 through 1987.
His career highlight was hitting a shot at the buzzer against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1986 Western Conference Finals to clinch the series for the Rockets. Houston would go on to lose to the Celtics in six games, and the 7'4 Sampson would be thrown out of Game Five after punching the Celtics 6'1 Jerry Sichting .
Other notable picks: Byron Scott (4), Dale Ellis (9), Jeff Malone (10), Clyde Drexler (14)

25. Danny Manning (Los Angeles Clippers, 1988)

Danny Manning was drafted by the Los Angels Clippers and then of course suffered through an injury-plagued career.
Manning did play 15 years in the NBA, spending his first five years with the Clippers before LA traded him to the Hawks in his sixth season. After finishing the year (1993-94) in Atlanta, Manning moved on to Phoenix where he played five seasons. He completed the last four yeas of his career playing for four different teams.
Manning averaged 14.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game over his career. His best season was 1993, when he was an All-Star and averaged a career-high 22.8 points per game. He would be an All-Star again in 1994 and was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 1998 with Phoenix.
As a rookie, Manning tore the ACL in his knee, and he would suffer more knee injuries during his career, having reconstructive knee surgery on both knees.
Other notable picks: Rick Smits (2), Mitch Richmond (5), Hersey Hawkins (6)

26. Cazzie Russell (New York Knicks, 1966)

Cazzie Russell spent 12 seasons in the NBA, playing for the Knicks, Warriors, Lakers, and Bulls. He averaged 15.1 points for his career, with his two best seasons coming in 1972 and 1974, when he averaged over 20 points for the Golden State Warriors.
Russel was an All-Star in 1972, when he averaged 21.4 points and he averaged 9.4 points in the playoffs for the Knicks in 1970, helping New York win the NBA title.
Other notable picks: Dave Bing (2), Lou Hudson (4), Jack Marin (5)

27. Larry Johnson (Charlotte Hornets, 1991)

Larry Johnson was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1991 and was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1992, when he averaged 19.2 points and 11.0 rebounds.
In his second season, he teamed with Alonzo Mourning and increased his scoring to 22.1 points to go with 10.5 rebounds. However, the duo of Morning and Johnson never completely materialized. Johnson played just three more years in Charlotte, before the Hornets decided to trade him to the Knicks due to friction between Johnson and Mourning.
Johnson then spent five seasons in New York, before having to retire in 2001 due to back problems. For his career, he averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, and he helped the Knicks reach the 1999 NBA Finals, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
Johnson was part of a very memorable/infamous play in NBA playoff history. In the closing seconds of Game Three of the '99 conference finals against the Pacers, the Knicks trailed by three points. Johnson knocked down a deep three and the referee (Jeff Kersey) called Antonio Davis for an apparent foul. It was not clear if Davis even fouled Johnson and if he did, it looked to be before the shot. But, with the foul called, Johnson then made the game-winning free throw and the Knicks went on to win the series in six games.
Other notable picks: Kenny Anderson (2), Dikembe Mutombo (4), Steve Smith (5), Terrell Brandon (11)

28. Derrick Coleman (New Jersey Nets, 1990)

Derrick Coleman spent 15 years in the NBA. He played five with the New Jersey Nets followed by three seasons in Philadelphia, three in Charlotte, then back to Philadelphia for three more, before finishing his career in Detroit in 2005.
He averaged 16.5 points and 9.3 rebounds during his career. Coleman was the NBA Rookie of the year in 1991, an All-Star in 1994, and third-team All-NBA selection in both 1993 and 1994.
He averaged 18.4 points and 10.3 rebounds as a rookie in 1991 then 19.8 and 9.5 the following season. That was followed by three straight seasons where Coleman had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. But after that, he would only reach double-digit rebounds one more time (10.1 in 1997) and averaged over 18 points a game just one more time (18.1 also in '97).
Coleman's will to play was questioned throughout his career. Over his 15 seasons, he only played more than 70 games four times and played less than 60 games nine times.
A telling story came when Coleman was with the Nets and a dress code was put in place at the start of the season. If players did not follow the rules, they would be fined. Coleman, not wanting to have anything to do with such a policy, simply gave the Nets a blank check to cover all the fines he promised to pile up.
Another example came in 2001, when the Hornets were just 12-22 with Coleman in the lineup while 34-14 without him.
Despite all his talent, Coleman only managed to advance past the first round of the playoffs one time, in 2003 with the 76ers, when Philly lost in the second round to the Detroit Pistons.
Other notable picks: Gary Payton (2), Kendall Gill (5), Cedric Ceballos (48)

29. Joe Barry Carroll (Golden State Warriors, 1980)

Joe Barry Carroll unfortunately was on the wrong side of one of the more lopsided trades in NBA history. In 1980, the Boston Celtics traded the top pick in the draft to the Golden State Warriors, a pick Golden State used on Carroll. In return, Golden State sent to Boston Robert Parish and the number three pick in the draft, that turned into Kevin McHale.
Carroll's career actually was not that bad, it just of course didn't measure up to what Mchale and Parish were able to accomplish in Boston. Over 10 seasons, Carroll averaged 17.7 points and 7.7 rebounds.
He had four seasons where he scored over 20 points per game, with a career-high of 24.1 in 1983. The undoing of his NBA career may have been when he left the NBA in 1984 to go play in Italy.
When he returned, he had a few more good years with Golden State, even making his lone All-Star game in 1987, before moving on to Houston, where his numbers began to drop and never recovered.
Other notable picks: Kevin McHale (3), Andrew Toney (8), Kiki Vandeweghe (11)

30. Jimmy Walker (Detroit Pistons, 1967)

Jimmy Walker may be known for one of three things: being the top pick in the 1967 draft by the Detroit Pistons; being drafted with the last pick in the 1967 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints despite not playing football in college; and for being Jalen Rose's father.
Walker played nine years in the NBA, the first five with Detroit. He was an All-Star in 1970 and 1972, and twice averaged over 20 points in a season with a career-high 21.3 in '72. He averaged at least 11 points per game in every season after his rookie year and averaged at least 15 points from his third season on.
Other notable picks: Earl Monroe (2), Walt Frazier (5), Bob Rule (19)

31. Kenyon Martin (New Jersey Nets, 2000)

Kenyon Martin just completed his tenth season in the NBA. He was drafted by the Nets and spent four seasons in New Jersey, and then six seasons with Denver.
Martin was a part of the Nets teams that were led by Jason Kidd to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. He was an All-Star in 2004 when he averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds.
For his career, Martin has averaged 13.9 points and 7.3 rebounds. His collegiate career at Cincinnati was cut short due to injury and injuries have continued to be a problem for him in the NBA. Of his 10 seasons, he has played 71 or fewer games eight times and 66 or fewer games five times. In 2007, he appeared in only two games, and has played in just 71, 66, and 58 games each year since.
Other notable picks: Mike Miller (5), Jamal Crawford (8), Hedo Turkoglu (16), Michael Redd (43)

32. Austin Carr (Cleveland Cavaliers, 1971)

Austin Carr spent 10 seasons in the NBA, the first nine with the Cleveland Cavaliers, before spending his final season with Dallas and then Washington.
Carr averaged 15.4 points for his career and was an All-Star in 1974. He averaged over 20 points a game in each of his first three seasons, but jut 12.8 over his final seven years. He suffered a serious knee injury in 1975, and never was quite the same after.
Carr was an All-Star in 1974, when he had a career-high of 21.9 points per game.
Other notable picks: Sidney Wicks (2), Elmore Smith (3), Fred Brown (6), Curtis Rowe (11)

33. Joe Smith (Golden State Warriors, 1995)

Joe Smith has played 15 years in the NBA with 10 different teams. Most recently he appeared in 64 games this past season for the Atlanta Hawks. He has played in 1014 games and averaged 11.0 points and 6.5 rebounds.
As a rookie with Golden State, he had a career-high of 8.7 rebounds to go with 15.3 points. He followed that with his career-high in scoring during his second year, when he averaged 18.7 points.
Smith is most known for basically helping to ruin the Minnesota Timberwolves and ensuring that Minnesota was never able to surround Kevin Garnett with the talent he needed to win a title. Prior to his fourth season in the league, Smith signed with the Timberwolves.
But it was later discovered that Minnesota had promised Smith he would be rewarded with a future multi-million dollar deal if he signed with the team for less money. The NBA found out about this and severely punished Minnesota - the league ultimately took away three first round picks and fined the team $3.5 million.
Other notable picks: Antonio McDyess (3), Jerry Stackhouse (3), Rasheed Wallace (4), Kevin Garnett (5), Damon Stoudamire (7), Michael Finley (21)

34. John Lucas (Houston Rockets, 1976)

John Lucas made eight different stops over his ten-year NBA career. He spent three years with the Golden State Warriors from 1979-1981, but otherwise was never on one team more than two seasons.
Lucas averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 assists in his career. He made the NBA All-Rookie team in 1977 when he scored 11 points per game and dished out 5.6 assists. In 1984 with the Spurs, he averaged a double-double with 10.9 points and 10.7 assists per game.
Lucas was a member of the 1986 Houston Rockets team that made the NBA Finals, but he did not appear in the playoffs. After the season, it became public that several members of the team had drug problems. Lucas admitted his problem and sought treatment, which allowed him to avoid suspension.
He came back in 1987 to play 43 games for the Bucks, scoring 20.0 points per game and played three more seasons in the NBA.
Other notable picks: Adrian Dantley (6), Robert Parish (8), Alex English (23), Dennis Johnson (29)

35. Kent Benson (Milwaukee Bucks, 1977)

Kent Benson played 11 years in the NBA, spending the bulk of his career in Milwaukee and Detroit. He averaged 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in his career.
His best season may have been 1981 with the Pistons, when he averaged 15.7 points and 6.8 rebounds. But he would only reach double digits in scoring three times in his career and his scoring went down every season after peaking in '81.
Benson loses points here because Larry Bird hated him, and that is good enough for me. Benson was an upper classman when BIrd arrived at Indiana in the Fall of 1974. There were many reasons why Bird quickly left IU, but one of the primary causes was the constant ribbing he had to take from Benson.
Bird wrote in his autobiography that Benson taught him to be nice to freshmen and that he played extra hard in the NBA any time he went up against one of Benson's teams.
Other notable picks: Otis Birdsong (2), Marques Johnson (3), Walter Davis (5), Bernard King (7), Jack Sikma (8)

36. Pervis Ellison (Sacramento Kings, 1989)

Danny Ainge dubbed Pervis Ellison "Out of Service" Pervis when Ellison only played in 34 games as a rookie, which perfectly encompasses exactly why he is one of the worst top picks in the history of the NBA.
Between 1996 and 1998, Ellison barely played due to breaking his toe, an injury he sustained while moving some furniture. He would miss all of he 1999 season, and seven times in 11 seasons he played less than 50 games. Only once, 1991, did he played in over 70 games.
The following season, with the Washington Bullets, Ellison was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, when he had career highs of 20.0 points and 11.2 rebounds. The next season, he averaged 17.4 points and 8.8 rebounds.
But that would essentially be it in terms of production from Ellison. Beginning in 1994, he would never again average over 7.3 points or 6.5 rebounds, or play in more than 69 games. In fact, beginning with the '94-95 season through the end of his career, Ellison played in only 249 of a possible 656 games.
Fortunately for me as a Celtics fan, Boston signed Ellison to a long-term contract prior to the 1994-95 season. Ellison was stuck in Boston through the end of 2000. He spent one more year in the NBA, appearing in nine games with Seattle in 2001, before retiring.
He averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds for his career. Ellison has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Other notable picks: Sean Elliott (3), Glen Rice (4), Nick Anderson (11), Tim Hardaway (14), Shawn Kemp (17)

37. Michael Olowokandi (Los Angeles Clippers, 1998)

Drafted by the Clippers was probably the first signal that Olowokandi would not work out in the NBA.
He played nine years with three different teams, five years with the Clippers, then Minnesota and finally Boston, averaging 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
Olowokandi would miss a significant amount of time throughout his career. He played in just 45 games as a rookie. He then put together a healthy streak, and played in 242 of 246 games for LA over the next three years. But from 2002 through the end of his career, he would appear in only 233 of a possible 574 games.
His two best seasons were his final two in LA, when he averaged 11.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in 2001, and then 12.3 points and 9.1 rebounds in '02 (but only in 36 games). But once he left LA for Minnesota, he never again remained healthy and never again was able to consistently produce.
Other notable picks: Mike Bibby (2), Antawn Jamison (4), Vince Carter (5), Dirk Nowitzki (9), Paul Pierce (10), Al Harrington (25), Rashard Lewis (32)

38. Kwame Brown (Washington Wizards, 2001)

Michael Jordan had a lot of great moments in the NBA. Drafting Kwame Brown, is not one of them.
Kwame has been in the NBA for nine years, entering the league straight from high school. He has averaged just 6.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Brown was actually showing some signs of improvement early in his career, and in his third season in 2004, he averaged 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in 74 games with the Wizards. Washington then offered him a contract extension.
Thankfully for the Wizards, he turned it down, as he has never been able to improve on his showing in '04, invariably falling far short.
Brown did actually show some signs of life in 2006 with the LA Lakers, when he averaged 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in a seven-game playoff series against the Phoenix Suns. But the Lakers then drafted Andrew Bynum and Bown's role became very limited.
Brown did help the Lakers, as he was part of the trade that brought LA Pau Gasol. So at least he has that going for him.
This past year, he finished his second season with the Detroit Pistons (his fourth team), where he appeared in 48 games and averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds.
Other notable picks: Pau Gasol (3), Jason Richardson (5), Shane Battier (6), Joe Johnson (10), Richard Jefferson (13), Zach Randolph (19), Tony Parker (28), Gilbert Arenas (30)

39. LaRue Martin (Portland Trail Blazers, 1972)

So, who could be worse than Pervis Ellison, Michael Olowokandi, and Kwame Brown?
Say hello to LaRue Martin.
Martin played for Loyola in college and gained notoriety for outplaying Bill Walton when Walton was the best player in college basketball at UCLA. Portland then made him the first pick of the '72 draft.
Martin would only play four years in the NBA, all with Portland, averaging just 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds. He did not average over five points or five rebounds in either of his first two seasons, and played less than 13 minutes per game.
Before his third season, Portland drafted Bill Walton, but Walton missed most of his rookie season with injuries. Martin took advantage (slightly), having his best season with 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, playing in 81 games. The following season, however, would be his last, as Martin played just 14 minutes per game, and averaged four points and four rebounds per game.
Martin retired following the end of his fourth season in 1976. The Trail Blazers, clearly impacted by his retirement, went on to win the NBA title the following season.
Other notable picks: Bob McAdo (2), Paul Westphal (10), Julius Erving (12)

Ranking The Number One Picks: Too Early to Tell

2005: Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks (5 seasons, 331 games, 12.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2010 3rd Team All-NBA; 2010: 15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg).
2006: Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors (4 seasons, 301 games, 13.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg; 2010: 17.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg).
2007: Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers (3 seasons, 82 games, 9.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg; 2010: 11.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg).
2008: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (2 seasons, 159 games, 18.7 ppg, 6.2 apg, 2009 Rookie of the Year, 2010 All-Star; 2010: 20.8 ppg, 6.0 apg).
2009: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers (1 season, 0 games).
2010: John Wall, Washington Wizards (0 seasons, 0 games)

The Territorial Draft Pick Era

1950. Territorial Pick: Paul Arizin (Philadelphia Warriors, Villanova). Top Pick: Chuck Share (Boston Celtics, Bowling Green).
1951. Territorial Pick: Whitey Shoog (Minneapolis Lakers, Minnesota). Top Pick: Gene Melchiorre (Baltimore Bullets, Bradley University).
1952. Territorial Pick: Bill Mlkvy (Philadelphia Warriors, Temple). Top Pick: Mark Worlman (Milwaukee Hawks, West Virginia).
1953. Territorial Picks: Walter Dukes (New York Knicks, Seton Hall); Ernie Beck (Philadelphia Warriors, Pennsylvania). Top Pick: Ray Felix (Baltimore Bullets, Long Island University).
1954. No territorial pick. Top Pick: Frank Selvy (Baltimore Bullets, Furman).
1955. Territorial Picks: Dick Garmaker (Minneapolis Lakers, Minnesota); Tom Gola (Philadelphia Warriros, LaSalle). Top Pick: Dick Ricketts (St. Louis Hawks, Duquesne).
1956. Territorial Pick: Tom Heinsohn (Boston Celtics, Holy Cross). Top Pick: Si Green (Rochester Royals, Duquesne).
1957. No territorial pick. Top Pick: Hot Rod Hundley (Cincinnati Royals, West Virginia).
1958. Territorial Pick: Guy Rodgers (Philadelphia Warriors, Temple). Top Pick: Elgin Baylor (Minneapolis Lakers, Seattle University).
1959: Territorial Pick: Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia Warriorsn, Kansas); Bob Ferry (St. Louis Hawks, St. Louis). Top Pick: Bob Boozer (Cincinnati Royals, Kansas State University).
1960. Top Pick: Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati Royals, Cincinnati). [Robertson was a territorial pick, but since the Royals had the top pick, he was also recognized as the first pick in the draft.].
1961. No territorial pick. Top Pick: Walt Bellamy (Chicago Packers, Indiana).
1962. Territorial Picks: Jerry Lucas (Cincinnati Royals, Ohio State); Dave DeBusschere (Detroit Pistons, Detroit Mercy). Top Pick: Bill McGill (Chicago Zephyrs, Utah).
1963, Territorial Pick: Tom Thacker (Cincinnati Royals, Cincinnati). Top Pick: Art Heyman (New York Knicks, Duke).
1964. Territorial Picks: George Wilson (Cincinnati Royals, Cincinnati); Mandi Abdul-Rahman (Los Angeles Lakers, UCLA). Top Pick: Jim Barnes (New York Knicks, UTEP).
1965. Territorial Picks: Bill Buntin (Detroit Pistons, Michigan); Gail Goodrich (Los Angeles Lakers, UCLA); Bill Bradley (New York Knicks, Princeton). Top Pick: Fred Hetzel (San Francisco Warriors, Davidson).

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