Each year, teams place their hopes and expectations in the NBA Draft with the optimistic aspirations of selecting the next franchise-changing player. Sometimes teams are lucky enough to strike gold with one player and may thrive for the next decade. At other times, teams end up trading their draft pick just a year later. Sometimes the best player in the draft is the first overall pick and at other times the best player falls late into the draft. And sometimes the draft class is as deep as ocean, while at other times the draft is as shallow as a puddle.
For example, last year’s NBA Draft was one of the weakest that the NBA has ever seen. There is no unanimous Rookie of the Year and the player that may win it – Michael Carter-Williams – is on a team that will go down as one of the worst team’s in NBA history.
However, the good news is that this year’s upcoming draft in late June is supposed to be one of the better draft classes in recent history. This year’s draft is very deep, full of impact players, and may even have some future Hall of Famers, which are just some of the qualifications necessary to constitute a deep draft.
So, what are some of the best drafts in NBA history? Here is a list of the top 5 drafts that can boast the most All-Stars, Hall of Famers, and championship players in NBA history.
5 1985 Draft
The reason why the 1985 Draft was so unique is because it was the first year that the NBA used a lottery system for the draft. Four of the players that were drafted in this class, went on to become Hall of Famers; starting with Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing, whom the New York Knicks selected with the number one pick in the draft.
Patrick Ewing (1st Pick) – ESPN named Ewing as the 16th best college player of all-time. He won two gold medals in the 1984 and 1992 Olympics. And he was nominated as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, which made him a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Chris Mullin (7th Pick) – Much like Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin won two gold medals in the 1984 and 1992 Olympics. The left-handed sharp shooter from St. John’s is one of the best shooters that the NBA has ever seen. It is no coincidence that Mullin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
Karl Malone (13th Pick) – The Mailman was two-time NBA MVP, a 14-time All-Star, and was on the All-NBA team 11 times. Malone is number two on the all-time scoring list, has two gold medals and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
4 1970 Draft
This is six years prior to the merger between the ABA and the NBA, but many of the players drafted in this class also played in the NBA. Six players from this draft made it into the Hall of Fame.
Bob Lanier (1st Pick) – The big man from Buffalo, New York finished his NBA career with averages of 20.1 ppg, 10.1rpg, and 1.1 bpg. He was an 8-time NBA All-Star and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.
Pete Maravich (3rd Pick) – Pistol Pete was a player way ahead of his era. Maravich is really what paved the way for the creative side of basketball. He is still the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history, where he averaged 44.2 ppg. And this was prior to the 3-point line in place. Maravich was a five-time NBA All Star and won the scoring title in 1977.
Nate "Tiny" Archibald (19th Pick) – Tiny was selected late in the draft, but he would go on to have a successful NBA career. He won a NBA Championship in 1981, was a six-time All Star, and was the scoring champion in 1973.
3 2003 Draft
The only major blemish from this draft class was when Darko Milicic was drafted with the number two pick. Otherwise, this class has been one of the most dominant that the NBA has ever seen. An honorable mention from this class is Kyle Korver who set the NBA record for hitting at least one three-pointer in the most consecutive games.
LeBron James (1st Pick) – By the time LeBron is finished with his career, he may go down as one of the top three players in NBA history. LeBron has won two NBA Championships and was the Finals MVP both times. His accolades include being named Rookie of the Year, a four-time MVP, 10-time All Star, and has made the All-NBA Team seven times. He also won two gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Carmelo Anthony (3rd Pick) – After winning the NCAA Championship in 2003, Melo’s transition to the NBA game was seamless. Melo has already established himself as one of the best scorers of the past decade. Melo was the scoring champion in 2013, is a seven-time All-Star, and has won two gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Chris Bosh (4th Pick) – At just, 30 years of age, the left-handed big man has already won two NBA championships. Bosh is a 9-time All Star, won a gold medal in 2008 and is still in the prime of his career.
Dwyane Wade (5th Pick) – Wade is a three-time NBA Champion and won the Finals MVP in 2006. He is a 10-time All-Star and was the scoring champion in 2009 where he averaged 30.2 ppg. He also won the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics.
2 1996 Draft
To give you an idea of how deep this draft was, one-third of the players selected in this draft went on to become All-Stars and three of them went on to become MVP’s. There was so much talent in this class, that it was impossible to include all of them. Honorable mentions include Marcus Camby, Stephon Marbury and Jermaine O'Neal.
Allen Iverson (1st Pick) – Pound for pound the best player that the NBA has ever seen, the skinny shooting guard with nasty handles took the NBA by storm. Allen Iverson was Rookie of the Year, an 11-time All-Star, MVP in 2001, and was the NBA steals leader three times, and the scoring champion four times. Iverson officially retired this year and should be an automatic Hall of Famer.
Ray Allen (5th Pick) – By the end of Ray Allen’s illustrious career, he may go down as the best shooter in NBA history. Allen has won two NBA Championships with two different teams. He is a 10-time All-Star and the all-time leader in 3-pointers made. He also won a gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games.
Kobe Bryant (13th Pick) – Kobe Bryant is still the closest thing that we have ever seen to Michael Jordan. Bryant has won five NBA Championships and was the Finals MVP twice. He has been a MVP, a 16-time All Star, an 11-time All-NBA Team, and 9-time All-Defensive Team. He has also won a gold medal in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Steve Nash (15th Pick) – Steve Nash may be at the tail end of his career, but no one can take away the fact that he was a two-time MVP. The 40-year-old is an eight-time All-Star, made the All-NBA three-times, and has led the league in assists five times.
1 1984 Draft
Widely considered the best draft in NBA history, the 1984 class was the last class before the installment of the lottery system in 1985. Four of these players were Hall of Famers, included in the top 50 Greatest of All-Time, and could easily go down as the top players at their respective positions. Honorable mention goes out to Alvin Robertson (7th pick) who won the Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year in the same year.
Hakeem Olajuwon (1st Pick) – Hakeem may not be the best player in this draft, but he still ended up being one of the best players of All-Time. The Dream won two Championships and was the Finals MVP twice as well. He has won Defensive Player of the Year, MVP, and retired as the all-time leading shot blocker.
Michael Jordan (3rd Pick) – There is not enough space to write down all of MJ’s accolades. To sum it all up, Jordan had a statue of himself outside the arena he was still playing in and is still the best player in NBA history.
Charles Barkley (5th Pick) – The Round Mound of Rebound never won a title, but he was a 10-time All-Star and the MVP in 1993. At 6’4, Barkley also won the rebounding title two years in a row. Charles won two gold medals and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Today, he makes millions of people laugh on television every Thursday night on TNT.
John Stockton (16th Pick) – Stockton also never not have won a NBA championship, but he won many other awards. Stockton retired as the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals and was a 10-time All-Star.