Once again draft season is upon us. Plenty of players arrive surrounded by huge hype but, inevitably, some go on to have better careers than others. Having already looked at the worst picks in NBA history we decided to look at five of the best NBA draft picks of all time.
Before we dive into the names, however, there is one question to answer. What makes a good draft pick? For us, there are two things to consider. If the player comes out in the top order they need to have excelled in the NBA; being a steady player isn’t enough. If, however, a player is taken further down the running then it might be that a lesser career on paper could actually mean they’ve been a better value pick. So without further ado, here are the five greatest NBA draft picks ever.
Best NBA draft picks in history
5. Magic Johnson
Yes, yes we know. Magic Johnson was the first name called in the 1979 draft but there aren’t many players who can claim to have been instrumental in their team winning the NBA Championship during their rookie campaign. Johnson can. The gigantic point guard made the all-rookie team in his inaugural campaign with his displays in the playoffs particularly impressive. His 18.3 points per game combined with 10.5 rebounds and a career high 3.1 steals saw him named finals MVP as the Lakers lifted the Championship. By the time he retired, he was arguably the greatest in Lakers history. His trophy cabinet certainly makes a compelling case.
4. Manu Ginobili
Ginobili doesn’t fit the traditional draft prospect profile. The 22-year-old had impressed in Europe when the San Antonio Spurs took him at 57 in 1999. It wasn’t until three years later that he’d don the Spurs jersey though. After some teething issues – predominantly a niggling injury – he emerged as a vital cog in the San Antonio machine. Given that the Argentine long looked like being a bust for quite some time, the fact he ended up with four Championships, two All-Star acknowledgements and having his Spurs number retired is testament to not only his ability but his attitude too.
3. John Stockton
Stockton is proof that it’s not all about winning things. The Utah Jazz legend is the only player on this list that didn’t lift a Championship title but that doesn’t mean he’s not worthy of his spot amongst the best NBA draft picks of all time. He joined Utah as the number 16 overall pick in 1984 and helped his team to the playoffs in every season he played – 19 in total. As a player, he was sensational. He led the league in steals twice and assists for nine years on the spin. Consistency like that means he holds the NBA records for both. If anyone was deserving of the NBA crown, it was him.
2. Michael Jordan
That’s right, the indisputable G.O.A.T is only second on our list of the best NBA draft picks of all time. His entire career was blessed with success both as a team player and an individual. Jordan had stood out for the Tar Hills during his days at North Carolina college and joined the Chicago Bulls as the third pick of the 1984 draft, probably the best NBA draft class of all-time. Big things were expected of him – hence he’s only second – but he shattered those expectations. He played 13 years with the Bulls and two with the Washington Wizards across three stints in the league. In that time he was named MVP five times and finals MVP in each of the seasons when he won the NBA Championship.
1. Kobe Bryant
For our money, MJ will always be the G.O.A.T but LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant is a name that always comes up as a rival in those discussions. Bryant arrived in the draft with a sound reputation having come straight out of High School. Although he spent all 20 years of his career with the Lakers, it was actually the Charlotte Hornets who selected him at number 13 in 1996 before immediately trading him to the Lakers. The Hornets’ loss was the Lakers’ gain. Bryant helped his team to five Championship wins whilst making a remarkable 18 All-Star appearances and being named league MVP once. His career is up there with the absolute best players ever to grace the sport.