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NBA PM: The NBA Draft Is A Crap Shoot

Drafting well isn’t as easy as you may think. A look back at the last fifteen years illustrates the randomness of the process.

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The Draft Is A Crap Shoot:  The NBA Draft is a huge part of team building in the NBA, and as costs for free agents soar under a new cap environment fueled by blossoming media rights fees, the value of getting the NBA draft right is going to matter more and more. While some teams have had more hits than misses in the Draft process, the history of each pick isn’t nearly as neat and tidy. Here is how the last fifteen drafts have played out in the top 10:

First Overall Pick

2015 Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky – Minnesota Timberwolves

2014 Andrew Wiggins, Kansas – Cleveland Cavaliers

2013 Anthony Bennett, UNLV – Cleveland Cavaliers

2012 Anthony Davis, Kentucky – New Orleans Hornets

2011 Kyrie Irving, Duke – Cleveland Cavaliers

2010 John Wall, Kentucky – Washington Wizards

2009 Blake Griffin, Oklahoma – L.A. Clippers

2008 Derrick Rose, Memphis – Chicago Bulls

2007 Greg Oden, Ohio State – Portland Trail Blazers

2006 Andrea Bargnani, Italy – Toronto Raptors

2005 Andrew Bogut, Utah – Milwaukee Bucks

2004 Dwight Howard, SW Atlanta Christian Academy (GA) – Orlando Magic

2003 LeBron James, St. Vincent-St. Mary HS (OH) – Cleveland Cavaliers

2002 Yao Ming, China – Houston Rockets

2001 Kwame Brown, Glynn Academy – Washington Wizards

2000 Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati – New Jersey Nets

Best Selection: LeBron James

Hard to make a case against LeBron James as the top number one pick over the last 15 years. Anthony Davis looks like he’s headed in the right direction, but King James is hands down the most accomplished and proven player of his generation.

Worst Selection: Anthony Bennett

The heart break of Greg Oden, the underwhelming play of Andrea Bargnani all get a hit tip here, but none of them have come near the utter collapse that’s been Anthony Bennett. It’s still early in his career, but comparatively, he may be the worst top overall pick in the history of the game.

Second Overall Pick

2015 D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State – Los Angeles Lakers

2014 Jabari Parker, Duke – Milwaukee Bucks

2013 Victor Oladipo, Indiana – Orlando Magic

2012 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky – Charlotte Bobcats

2011 Derrick Williams, Arizona – Minnesota Timberwolves

2010 Evan Turner, Ohio State – Philadelphia 76ers

2009 Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut – Memphis Grizzlies

2008 Michael Beasley, Kansas State – Miami HEAT

2007 Kevin Durant, Texas – Seattle Supersonics

2006 LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas – Chicago Bulls (Draft rights traded to Portland Trail Blazers)

2005 Marvin Williams, North Carolina – Atlanta Hawks

2004 Emeka Okafor, Connecticut – Charlotte Bobcats

2003 Darko Milicic, Serbia & Montenegro – Detroit Pistons

2002 Jay Williams, Duke – Chicago Bulls

2001 Tyson Chandler, Dominguez HS (Calif.) – L.A. Clippers (Draft rights traded to Chicago Bulls)

2000 Stromile Swift, LSU – Vancouver Grizzlies

Best Selection: Kevin Durant

A lot of very good players have come out of the second overall pick, but Kevin Durant is the best of the bunch since 2000.

Worst Selection: Hasheem Thabeet

There are a bunch of worthy candidates for this spot: Michael Beasley, Stromile Swift or Darko Milicic, for example. But none of them have ended up being as bad as Thabeet. Milicic gets railed on more than most because of the other players on the board in 2003, but at least Darko had some serviceable years in the NBA. Hard to say that about Thabeet.

Third Overall Pick

2015 Jahlil Okafor, Duke – Philadelphia 76ers

2014 Joel Embiid, Kansas – Philadelphia 76ers

2013 Otto Porter, Georgetown – Washington Wizards

2012 Bradley Beal, Florida – Washington Wizards

2011 Enes Kanter, Kentucky – Utah Jazz

2010 Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech – New Jersey Nets

2009 James Harden, Arizona State – Oklahoma City Thunder

2008 O.J. Mayo, USC – Minnesota Timberwolves

2007 Al Horford, Florida – Atlanta Hawks

2006 Adam Morrison, Gonzaga – Charlotte Bobcats

2005 Deron Williams, Illinois – Utah Jazz

2004 Ben Gordon, Connecticut – Chicago Bulls

2003 Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse – Denver Nuggets

2002 Mike Dunleavy, Duke – Golden State Warriors

2001 Pau Gasol, Spain – Atlanta Hawks

2000 Darius Miles, East St. Louis HS (Mo.) – L.A. Clippers

Best Selection: Pau Gasol

This one was tougher than you might think because James Harden has become an elite NBA player as has Carmelo Anthony. But the complete body of work Gasol has put in and the number of wins he has on his resume is awfully hard to ignore. If there is a hall of famer in the bunch, it’s likely Gasol.

Worst Selection: Adam Morrison

While the full story on Joel Embiid has yet to be written, the story on Adam Morrison has been and it’s not a good story at all. Morrison might not only be one the worst top five picks since 2000, he might be one of the worst top five picks in NBA history, especially considering how good he was in college.

Fourth Overall Pick

2015 Kristaps Porzingis, Baloncesta Sevilla – New York Knicks

2014 Aaron Gordon, Arizona – Orlando Magic

2013 Cody Zeller, Indiana – Charlotte Bobcats

2012 Dion Waiters, Syracuse – Cleveland Cavaliers

2011 Tristan Thompson, Texas – Cleveland Cavaliers

2010 Wesley Johnson, Syracuse – Minnesota

2009 Tyreke Evans, Memphis – Sacramento Kings

2008 Russell Westbrook, UCLA – Seattle Supersonics

2007 Mike Conley Jr, Ohio State – Memphis Grizzlies

2006 Tyrus Thomas, Louisiana State – Portland Trail Blazers

2005 Chris Paul, Wake Forest – New Orleans Hornets

2004 Shaun Livingston, Peoria HS (IL) – L.A. Clippers

2003 Chris Bosh, Georgia Tech – Toronto Raptors

2002 Drew Gooden, Kansas – Memphis Grizzlies

2001 Eddy Curry, Thornwood HS (IL) – Chicago Bulls

2000 Marcus Fizer, Iowa State – Chicago Bulls

Best Selection: Chris Paul

This one was tough as well as there is a case to be made here for Russell Westbrook too. However, Paul has the larger body of work and is generally considered the better overall player, but the gap between the two isn’t nearly as great as you would think. This one could go either way.

Worst Selection: Marcus Fizer

This one could have gone one of three ways: Fizer, Tyrus Thomas or Wes Johnson. Regarding Thomas and Johnson, while neither lived up to their draft status, both have had NBA careers. Fizer flamed out in the worst way, especially considering how good of a draft prospect he seemed to be coming into the NBA.

Fifth Overall Pick

2015 Mario Hezonja, FC Barcelona Basquet – Orlando Magic

2014 Dante Exum, Australia – Utah Jazz

2013 Alex Len, Maryland – Phoenix Suns

2012 Thomas Robinson, Kansas – Sacramento Kings

2011 Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania – Toronto Raptors

2010 Demarcus Cousins, Kentucky – Sacramento Kings

2009 Ricky Rubio, Spain – Minnesota Timberwolves

2008 Kevin Love, UCLA – Memphis Grizzlies

2007 Jeff Green, Georgetown – Boston Celtics

2006 Shelden Williams, Duke – Atlanta Hawks

2005 Raymond Felton, North Carolina – Charlotte Bobcats

2004 Devin Harris, Wisconsin – Washington Wizards

2003 Dwyane Wade, Marquette – Miami HEAT

2002 Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Italy – Denver Nuggets

2001 Jason Richardson, Michigan State – Golden State Warriors

2000 Mike Miller, Florida – Orlando Magic

Best Selection: Dwyane Wade

There are a couple of guys on the rise from this list, specifically DeMarcus Cousins. That said, no one this list has accomplished more than Wade and in the last fifteen years he is far and away the best player drafted with the fifth pick. He is a lock Hall of Famer and a multi-time NBA Champion.

Worst Selection: Nikoloz Tskitishvili

There are some stinkers on this list for sure: Shelden Williams and Thomas Robinson included. But none of them compare to how bad Nikoloz Tskitishvili turned out. The fifth pick has been spotty for sure, but Tskitishvili sets the bar for futility here.

Sixth Overall Pick

2015 Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky – Sacramento Kings

2014 Marcus Smart, Oklahoma St. – Boston Celtics

2013 Nerlens Noel, Kentucky – New Orleans Pelicans

2012 Damian Lillard, Weber State – Portland Trail Blazers

2011 Jan Vesely, Czech Republic – Washington Wizards

2010 Ekpe Udoh, Baylor – Golden State Warriors

2009 Johnny Flynn, Syracuse – Minnesota Timberwolves

2008 Danilo Gallinari, Italy – New York Knicks

2007 Yi Jianlian, China – Milwaukee Bucks

2006 Brandon Roy, Washington – Minnesota Timberwolves

2005 Martell Webster, Seattle Prep HS – Portland Trail Blazers

2004 Josh Childress, Stanford – Atlanta Hawks

2003 Chris Kaman, Central Michigan – L.A. Clippers

2002 Dajuan Wagner, Memphis – Cleveland Cavaliers

2001 Shane Battier, Duke – Memphis Grizzlies

2000 DerMarr Johnson, Cincinnati – Atlanta Hawks

Best Selection: Damian Lillard

This one was tough. Lillard has been an instant star in the NBA, while former Blazer Brandon Roy might be a bit more accomplished. A case can be made for either, but given that the sky seems to be the limit for Lillard going forward, he gets the edge here, but not by much. Also, while he was never a star, Shane Battier set the standard for being a model teammate and playing an important role for a rather lengthy NBA career. So he is worth noting in this context, but Lillard gets the nod as the top selection since 2000.

Worst Selection: Yi Jianlian

This one was tough, as there are a number of guys that could have landed here: Jan Vesely is already out of the league. Johnny Flynn flamed out almost as fast. Dajuan Wagner was an impact scorer coming into the NBA but never made it. All of them could have taken the top spot, but considering the hype surrounding Yi Jianlian (that he would be the next iconic Chinese player) and the fact that it never worked for him at this level puts him at the top spot. The expectations were so high for Jianlian and he failed to come anywhere close to what he was expected to be.

Seventh Overall Pick

2015 Emmanuel Mudiay, Guangdong Tigers – Denver Nuggets

2014 Julius Randle, Kentucky – Los Angeles Lakers

2013 Ben McLemore, Kansas – Sacramento Kings

2012 Harrison Barnes, UNC – Golden State Warriors

2011 Bismack Biyombo, Congo – Sacramento Kings

2010 Greg Monroe, Georgetown – Detroit Pistons

2009 Stephen Curry, Davidson – Golden State Warriors

2008 Eric Gordon, Indiana – L.A. Clippers

2007 Corey Brewer, Florida – Minnesota Timberwolves

2006 Randy Foye, Villanova – Boston Celtics

2005 Charlie Villanueva, Connecticut – Toronto Raptors

2004 Luol Deng, Duke – Phoenix Suns

2003 Kirk Hinrich, Kansas – Chicago Bulls

2002 Nene Hilario, Brazil – New York

2001 Eddie Griffin, Seton Hall – New Jersey

2000 Chris Mihm, Texas – Chicago Bulls

Best Selection: Stephen Curry

Over the last fifteen years, it’s pretty clear that Steph Curry is the best seventh overall pick. In fact, he may be the best seventh pick in the history of the draft. Other notable picks at seven include Kevin Johnson (1987), Chris Mullin (1985), Pat Riley (1967) and John Havlicek (1962). Considering these players, it’s close, but Curry is still in the early parts of his career so there are more accomplishments to be had.

Worst Selection: Eddie Griffin

Tough to put someone who died so early in life on this list. However considering how many assets the Rockets gave up to acquire Griffin and how poorly his career turned out, this one is hard to ignore even with the tragic circumstances of his death. In the span being looked at, the seventh pick hasn’t yielded a lot of misses and certainly none that are bigger than Griffin.

Eighth Overall Pick

2015 Stanley Johnson, Arizona – Detroit Pistons

2014 Nik Stauskas, Michigan – Sacramento Kings

2013 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia – Detroit Pistons

2012 Terrence Ross, Washington – Toronto Raptors

2011 Brandon Knight, Kentucky – Detroit Pistons

2010 Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest – L.A. Clippers

2009 Jordan Hill, Arizona – New York Knicks

2008 Joe Alexander, West Virginia – Milwaukee Bucks

2007 Brandan Wright, North Carolina – Charlotte Bobcats (Draft rights traded to Golden State Warriors)

2006 Rudy Gay, Connecticut – Houston Rockets (Draft rights traded to Memphis Grizzlies)

2005 Channing Frye, Arizona – New York Knicks

2004 Rafael Araujo, BYU – Toronto Raptors

2003 T.J. Ford, Texas – Milwaukee Bucks

2002 Chris Wilcox, Maryland – L.A. Clippers

2001 DeSagana Diop, Oak Hill Academy (Va.) – Cleveland Cavaliers

2000 Jamal Crawford, Michigan – Cleveland Cavaliers (Draft rights traded to Chicago Bulls)

Best Selection: Jamal Crawford

The top eighth pick since 2000 might be Rudy Gay. That said, it’s hard to overlook what Jamal Crawford has done, especially considering he is playing on his sixth NBA team. Crawford is constantly in the sixth man of the year discussion and has been amazingly dependable for most of his career.

Worst Selection: Joe Alexander

There are some duds on this list and one of the biggest might be Rafael Araujo. That said, Joe Alexander lands in the top spot for two reasons: he was projected to be a stud in the NBA and he flamed out massively. Araujo was a massive draft reach, so he gets a little bit of a pass, but could have very easily landed in the top spot.

Ninth Overall Pick

2015 Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin – Charlotte Hornets

2014 Noah Vonleh, Indiana – Charlotte Hornets

2013 Trey Burke, Michigan – Minnesota Timberwolves

2012 Andre Drummond, Connecticut – Detroit Pistons

2011 Kemba Walker, Connecticut – Charlotte Bobcats

2010 Gordon Hayward, Butler – Utah Jazz

2009 DeMar DeRozan, USC – Toronto Raptors

2008 D.J. Augustin, Texas – Charlotte Bobcats

2007 Joakim Noah, Florida – Chicago Bulls

2006 Patrick O’Bryant, Bradley – Golden State Warriors

2005 Ike Diogu, Arizona State – Golden State Warriors

2004 Andre Iguodala, Arizona – Philadelphia 76ers

2003 Mike Sweetney, Georgetown – New York Knicks

2002 Amare Stoudemire, Cypress Creek HS (Fla.) – Phoenix Suns

2001 Rodney White, UNC-Charlotte – Detroit Pistons

2000 Joel Przybilla, Minnesota – Houston Rockets

Best Selection: Amare Stoudemire

This one was tough because there are a couple of guys who could have fit here as equally as Stoudemire: DeMar DeRozan, Joakim Noah and Andre Iguodala are all very accomplished NBA players. That said, for a huge chunk of his career Stoudemire was the top player at his position, which got him the nod over a deserving field of candidates.

Worst Selection: Ike Diogu

This one was tough as well as there were some serious lets downs on this list: Patrick O’Bryant, Mike Sweetney and Rodney White. However, Ike Diogu won out because of expectations. He looked like a solid NBA player coming into the league, but just never made it. He is not as bad of a selection as some others listed here, but he certainly was a big miss.

Tenth Overall Pick

2015 Justise Winslow, Duke – Miami HEAT

2014 Elfrid Payton, Louisiana Layfayette – Orlando Magic

2013 C.J. McCollum, Lehigh – Portland Trail Blazers

2012 Austin Rivers, UNC – New Orleans Hornets

2011 Jimmer Fredette, BYU – Milwaukee Bucks

2010 Paul George, Fresno State – Indiana Pacers

2009 Brandon Jennings, Italy – Milwaukee Bucks

2008 Brook Lopez, Stanford – New Jersey Nets

2007 Spencer Hawes, Washington – Sacramento Kings

2006 Saer Sene, Senegal – Seattle Supersonics

2005 Andrew Bynum, St. Joseph (NJ) HS – L.A. Lakers

2004 Luke Jackson, Oregon – Cleveland Cavaliers

2003 Jarvis Hayes, Georgia – Washington Wizards

2002 Caron Butler, Connecticut – Miami HEAT

2001 Joe Johnson, Arkansas – Boston Celtics

2000 Keyon Dooling, Missouri – Orlando Magic

Best Selection: Paul George

Hard not to have Paul George in the top spot here. But before we declare him as the top guy, it’s worth mentioning that before his knees gave out, Andrew Bynum was a pretty special player. He struggled with injuries throughout his career, so that rules him out, but he was worth a mention here, as is Joe Johnson. Known mostly for his enormous contract Johnson has been a multi-time All-Star and a consistent performer for most of his NBA career. George gets the nod, but Bynum and Johnson were solid picks at the ten spot.

Worst Selection: Saer Sene

You could make a case for Luke Jackson since his body and back gave out on him. Jarvis Hayes had some upside but injuries ended his career early as well. But the worst spot belongs to Saer Sene and it’s not even close. This was a pick based strictly on upside and it never materialized. Considering what the tenth pick has produced historically, Sene gets the top spot for sure.

Curious how some of the other picks played out? You can look back at the history of every pick here.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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