Which NBA Draft Class is the best of All Time

There have been some incredibly talented players come through the NBA Draft system over the past 40 years, but sometimes those players are the shining lights of a dull cast. They say competition breeds success, and the players selected in these drafts have had to compete with the best of the best to make it.

1996

For some there can be no better NBA Draft class than those players who came through the system in 1996. The number one pick that year was Allen Iverson who helped redefine what playing point guard meant for a basketball player. He wasn’t alone in the draft that year, and there were some seriously talented stars lighting up the college scene at the same time.

The competition was so fierce that Kobe Bryant wasn’t able to shine brightest and was only the 13th pick, not that it held him back. Five of the top six picks in this year NBA Draft made the All-Star team, with the other being Marcus Camby – the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. Then there was Steve Nash who was the 15th pick, yet he was the NBA MVP in 2005 and 2006. A cluster of top players all came from this year’s draft, and it’s hard to argue there has been any better.

1st Round

First Round Player College
1. Philadelphia Allen Iverson Georgetown
2. Toronto Marcus Camby Massachusetts
3. Vancouver Shareef Abdur-Rahim California
4. Milwaukee (a) Stephon Marbury Georgia Tech
5. Minnesota (a) Ray Allen Connecticut
6. Boston (from Dallas) Antoine Walker Kentucky
7. LA Clippers Lorenzen Wright Memphis
8. New Jersey Kerry Kittles Villanova
9. Dallas (from Boston) Samaki Walker Louisvile
10. Indiana (from Denver) Erick Dampier Mississippi State
11. Golden State Todd Fuller North Carolina State
12. Cleveland (from Wash.) Vitaly Potapenko Wright State
13. Charlotte Kobe Bryant Lower Merion HS
14. Sacramento Predrag Stojakovic PAOK (Greece)
15. Phoenix Steve Nash Santa Clara
16. Charlotte (from Miami) Tony Delk Kentucky
17. Portland Jermaine O’Neal Eau Claire HS
18. New York (from Detroit) John Wallace Syracuse
19. New York (from Atlanta) Walter McCarty Kentucky
20. Cleveland Zydrunas Ilgauskas Lithuania
21. New York Dontae Jones Mississippi State
22. Vancouver (from Houston) Roy Rogers Alabama
23. Denver (from Indiana) Efthimis Rentzias PAOK
24. LA Lakers Derek Fisher Arkansas-Little Rock
25. Utah (b) Martin Muursepp BC Kalev Tallinn
26. Detroit (from San Antonio) Jerome Williams Georgetown
27. Orlando Brian Evans Indiana
28. Atlanta (from Seattle) Priest Lauderdale Peristeri (Greece)
29. Chicago Travis Knight Connecticut

NBA Draft Notes:

(a) Milwaukee traded the rights to Stephon Marbury to Minnesota for the rights to Ray Allen and a future first-round draft pick.
(b) Utah traded the rights to Martin Muursepp to Miami for a future first-round draft pick.

2nd Round

First Round Player College
30. Houston Othella Harrington Georgetown
31. Philadelphia Mark Hendrickson Washington State
32. Philadelphia Ryan Minor Oklahoma
33. Milwaukee Moochie Norris West Florida
34. Dallas Shawn Harvey West Virginia St.
35. Seattle Joseph Blair Arizona
36. LA Clippers Doron Sheffer Connecticut
37. Denver Jeff McInnis North Carolina
38. Boston Steve Hamer Tennessee
39. Phoenix Russ Millard Iowa
40. Golden State Marcus Mann Miss. Valley St
41. Sacramento Jason Sasser Texas Tech
42. Houston Randy Livingston Louisiana State
43. Phoenix Ben Davis Arizona
44. Charlotte Malik Rose Drexel
45. Seattle Joe Vogel Colorado State
46. Portland Marcus Brown Murray State
47. Seattle Ron Riley Arizona State
48. Philadelphia Jamie Feick Michigan State
49. Orlando Amal McCaskill Marquette
50. Houston Terrell Bell Georgia
51. Vancouver Chris Robinson Western Kentucky
52. Indiana Mark Pope Kentucky
53. Milwaukee Jeff Nordgaard Wisc.-Green Bay
54. Utah Shandon Anderson Georgia
55. Washington Ronnie Henderson Louisiana State
56. Cleveland Reggie Geary Arizona
57. Seattle Drew Barry Georgia Tech
58. Dallas Darnell Robinson Arkansas

1984

The draft class that brought Michael Jordan to the league wasn’t made up of just one star, there were plenty to choose from for NBA teams. In fact, the college scene leading up to the 1984 draft was so competitive that Michael Jordan was only the third pick. Of course, if teams knew how good he was going to be, he would have been number one.

There are some standout stars from this class including number one pick Hakeem Olajuwon and number five pick Charles Barkley. Both went on to have outstanding careers and are arguably in the top 20 players to ever step onto the basketball court. Below the NBA Draft top picks there are still plenty of top talents, including John Stockton, Kevin Willis, and Alvin Robertson.

1

Hous

   Hakeem Olajuwon           

Houston

2

Port

   Sam Bowie  Kentucky

3

Chi

   Michael Jordan           

North Carolina

4

Dall

   Sam PerkinsNorth Carolina

5

Phil

   Charles Barkley          

Auburn

6

Wash

   Mel Turpin Kentucky

7

SA

   Alvin Robertson          

Arkansas

8

LAC

   Lancaster Gordon         

Louisville

9

KC

   Otis ThorpeProvidence

10

Phil

   Leon Wood  Cal State-Full

erton

11

Atl

   Kevin Willis             

Michigan State

12*

Clev

   Tim McCormick            

Michigan

13

Phoe

   Jay Humphries            

Colorado

14

LAC

   Michael Cage             

San Diego State

15

Dall

   Terence Stansbury        

Temple

16

Utah

   John Stockton            

Gonzaga

17

NJ

   Jeff TurnerVanderbilt

18

Ind

   Vern Fleming             

Georgia

19

Port

   Bernard Thompson         

Fresno State

20

Det

   Tony Campbell            

Ohio State

21

Mil

   Kenny Fields             

UCLA

22

Phil

   Tom Sewell Lamar

23

LAL

   Earl Jones District of Co

lumbia

24

Bos

   Michael Young            

Houston

Sec

ond

Round

1

Ind

   Devin Durrant            

Brigham Young

2

Port

   Victor Fleming           

Xavier (OH)

3

Clev

   Ron Anderson             

Fresno State

4

Sea

   Cory Blackwell           

Wisconsin

5

Ind

   Stuart GrayUCLA

6

GS

   Steve BurttIona

7

GS

   Jay Murphy Boston College

8

Det

   Eric TurnerMichigan

9

Port

   Steve Colter             

New Mexico State

10

Wash

   Tony Costner             

St. Joseph’s

11

GS

   Othell Wilson            

Virginia

12

Phoe

   Charles Jones            

Louisville

13

Chi

   Ben ColemanMaryland

14

Dall

   Charles Sitton           

Oregon State

15

Sea

   Danny YoungWake Forest

16

Dall

   Anthony Teachey          

Wake Forest

17

Dall

   Tom Sluby  Notre Dame

18

Den

   Willie White             

Tennessee-Chattanooga

19

Chi

   Greg Wiltjer             

Victoria (Canada)

20

Wash

   Fred Raynolds            

Texas-El Paso

21

GS

   Gary Plummer             

Boston U

22

Port

   Jerome Kersey            

Longwood (VA)

23

Bos

   Ronnie Williams          

Florida

2003

While you could argue that LeBron James has carried this class all on his own, that would be unfair to the stars who came into the NBA in 2003. LeBron is not out on his own from this class, and he is joined by top NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and David West. The top picks from this draft all have won NBA Championships and are sure to be future Hall of Famers.

Not all are yet retired, and several are still playing at the top of the game, with James reaching the NBA Finals five years in a row. The pool of talent was so deep even second round picks have made their way to the NBA Finals.

These NBA Draft classes are undoubtedly the best in the history of the NBA, but only time will tell if they remain so. It’s hard to imagine a world where a better class could come through, but the class of 2009 are fighting for that spot.

1 Cleveland Lebron James 6-8 245 PG/SG Akron OH HSSr. 30 *New York Maciej Lampe 7-0 240 SF/PF (Poland) 1985
2 *Detroit Darko Milicic 7-1 253 PF (Serbia-Montenegro) 1985 31 *Cleveland Jason Kapono 6-7 218 SF UCLA Sr.
3 Denver Carmelo Anthony 6-7 234 SF Syracuse Fr. 32 *LA Lakers Luke Walton 6-9 245 SF Arizona Sr.
4 Toronto Chris Bosh 6-11 210 PF Georgia Tech Fr. 33 *Miami Jerome Beasley 6-10 241 PF North Dakota Sr.
5 Miami Dwyane Wade 6-5 212 SG Marquette Jr. 34 LA Clippers Sofoklis Schortsanitis 6-10 314 PF/C (Greece) 1985
6 *LA Clippers Chris Kaman 7-0 255 C Central Michigan Jr. 35 *Milwaukee Szymon Szewczyk 6-10 240 PF (Poland) 1982
7 Chicago Kirk Hinrich 6-4 190 PG Kansas Sr. 36 Chicago Mario Austin 6-8 265 PF Mississippi St. Jr.
8 *Milwaukee TJ Ford 6-0 162 PG Texas So. 37 Atlanta Travis Hansen 6-6 200 SG BYU Sr.
9 New York Mike Sweetney 6-8 260 PF Georgetown Jr. 38 Washington Steve Blake 6-3 175 PG Maryland Sr.
10 Washington Jarvis Hayes 6-7 220 SG/SF Georgia Jr. 39 New York Slavko Vranes 7-6 250 C (Serbia-Montenegro) 1983
11 Golden State Mickaël Pietrus 6-6 200 SG/SF (France) 1982 40 Golden State Derrick Zimmerman 6-2 195 PG Mississippi St. Sr.
12 Seattle Nick Collison 6-10 255 PF Kansas Sr. 41 Seattle Willie Green 6-4 204 SG Detroit Sr.
13 *Memphis Marcus Banks 6-1 200 PG UNLV Sr. 42 *Orlando Zaur Pachulia 6-11 260 PF/C (Georgia) 1984
14 *Seattle Luke Ridnour 6-2 175 PG Oregon Jr. 43 Milwaukee Keith Bogans 6-5 213 SG Kentucky Sr.
15 Orlando Reece Gaines 6-6 185 PG/SG Louisville Sr. 44 Houston Malick Badiane 6-11 234 PF/C (Senegal) 1984
16 Boston Troy Bell 6-1 183 PG Boston College Sr. 45 *Chicago Matt Bonner 6-10 237 PF Florida Sr.
17 Phoenix Zarko Cabarkapa 6-11 230 SF/PF (Serbia-Montenegro) 1981 46 *Denver Sani Becirovic 6-4 194 PG/SG (Slovenia) 1981
18 New Orleans David West 6-9 232 PF Xavier Sr. 47 Utah Mo Williams 6-2 190 PG Alabama So.
19 Utah Aleksandar Pavlovic 6-7 207 SG/SF (Serbia-Montenegro) 1983 48 New Orleans James Lang 6-9 316 PF/C Birmingham AL HSSr.
20 *Boston Dahntay Jones 6-6 210 SG Duke Sr. 49 Indiana James Jones 6-8 225 SF Miami Sr.
21 *Atlanta Boris Diaw 6-9 201 PG/SG (France) 1982 50 *Philadalphia Paccelis Morlende 6-2 185 PG (France) 1981
22 New Jersey Zoran Planinic 6-8 195 PG/SG (Croatia) 1982 51 New Jersey Kyle Korver 6-7 210 SF Creighton Sr.
23 Portland Travis Outlaw 6-9 190 SF Starkville MS HSSr. 52 *Toronto Remon Van de Hare 7-0 PF F.C. Barcelona (Spain) 1982
24 LA Lakers Brian Cook 6-10 240 SF/PF Illinois Sr. 53 *Chicago Tommy Smith 6-10 200 SF Arizona State Sr.
25 Detroit Carlos Delfino 6-7 191 SG/SF (Argentina) 1982 54 Portland Nedzad Sinanovic 7-1 C Zenica Celik (Bosnia-Herzegovina) 1983
26 Minnesota Ndudi Ebi 6-9 202 SF/PF Houston TX HSSr. 55 Minnesota Rick Rickert 6-11 216 PF Minnesota So.
27 *Memphis Kendrick Perkins 6-10 280 PF/C Beaumont, TX HSSr. 56 *Boston Brandon Hunter 6-8 260 PF Ohio Sr.
28 San Antonio *Leandrinho Barbosa 6-3 190 PG (Brazil) 1982 57 Dallas Xue Yuyang 7-0 225 PF/C (China) 1982
29 Dallas Josh Howard 6-6 203 SG/SF Wake Forest Sr. 58 *Detroit Andreas Glyniadakis 7-1 C Panathinaikos (Greece) 1981
Nicholas Norman is the founder of Distinct Athlete and one of the preeminent figures in the digital sports industry. Using his extensive background in sports media, he has built Distinct Athlete into one of the largest, most successful independently-owned sports blogs in the country. Nicholas Norman has worked in sports media for over 8 years, beginning with his time as a student at Troy University. His background includes six years working at the Forward Times Newspaper. Nicholas Norman founded DistinctAthlete.com in Jan. 2012.