Every time the NBA draft comes up, people bring out two lists – Draft Steals and Draft Busts. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that players like LeBron James or Tim Duncan were actually number one picks, and sometimes, the teams that pick at the top spot actually get what they asked for.
2008, Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls – It’s still only four years, but Rose has already won the MVP award, along with the obvious rookie of the year in 2009. The injury this season might be a set back to his career or worse, but it’s still safe to assume that the Bulls have one of the best point guards in the NBA in Rose when he’s healthy. Too soon to say they regret not picking Russell Westbrook.
2004, Dwight Howard to the Orlando Magic – Things didn’t go so well for Howard and the Magic this year. A fallout with head coach Stan Van Gundy cost SVG’s job and also GM’s Otis Smith his position, but Howard is still considered the best center in the NBA, averaging 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds last season. He’ll miss the Olympics due to his back problem. There isn’t a player later in the draft that the Magic would have preferred to take.
2003, LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers – Yes, people in Cleveland hate LeBron, but they did get two MVP seasons from him and one NBA finals before he moved on to bigger and better with in Miami with the Heat, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who were later picks in the same draft. James averaged 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists during his final season with the Cavs.
1997, Tim Duncan to the San Antonio Spurs – Still with the Spurs, Duncan was everything the Spurs hoped he would become. Rookie of the year, 2 MVP awards, 3 Finals’ MVP awards, 4 NBA titles, including helping David Robinson finally win one. Duncan is still a double double kind of guy, averaging 15.4 points and 9 rebounds during last season.
1996, Allen Iverson to the Philadelphia 76ers – That Draft also had Kobe Bryant at #13, but it’s hard to say the Sixers ever regretted taking Iverson, who took a mediocre team to the NBA Finals in 2001 on his back, and for a game and a half, it looked like he might be able to win the title on his own.
1992, Shaquille O’Neal to the Orlando Magic – The Magic may not have enjoyed the best of Shaq, who moved on later to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat to win four NBA titles, but he did take the Magic to the NBA finals and is undoubtedly one of the best Centers in the history of the NBA.
1987, David Robinson to the San Antonio Spurs – There’s something about San Antonio that makes player stay there for a long time. The Spurs waited two years after their pick to get Robinson (Navy duty), getting 14 fantastic seasons out of him and two NBA titles, while Robinson won one MVP award, averaging 21.1 points and 10.6 rebounds during his career.
1985, Patrick Ewing to the New York Knicks – Ewing didn’t deliver the NBA title everyone wanted him to, but he probably did the best he could, taking the Knicks the furthest he possibly could, missing out on an NBA title in 1994. Ewing played in an era with better Centers than him – Shaq, Robinson, Olajuwon. Very different from today’s league. He averaged 21 points and 9.8 rebounds throughout his career.
We decided that three seasons in the league (Blake Griffin, but it’s actually only two) weren’t enough to determine if the player is the long-term superstar and franchise player that the number one label promises. But with 8-24, 33.3% by our calculations, there’s a decent chance Anthony Davis does turn out to be everything his short college career promises. The chances for a complete bust (Pervis Ellison, Joe Smith, Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown and Greg Oden) are far lower.