Which NBA Lottery Draft Class Was the Best?
This upcoming NBA Draft class has been particularly dissected and analyzed. There are probably a multitude of reasons for this - last year's class was especially disappointing, teams tanked hard at the end of the season, there seems to be some special talent at the top of the draft, and some teams who rarely visit the lottery (the Lakers, for example) have high picks.
It will be several years before we can sufficiently judge this year's class, but I thought it would be fun to look back at past lotteries to see what this class would have to accomplish if it wants to go down as the best or deepest ever.
First, some history. The lottery has only existed since 1985, and that year it consisted of only 7 teams. It went up to 9 teams in 1989, 11 teams the following year, 13 teams in 1995, and finally got up to our current 14 teams in 2004.
The table below details how each lottery class fared in their subsequent years. Obviously the most recent classes haven't had an opportunity to reach these goals, so the jury will constantly be out. But the earlier years are finished and in the recent years we can at least start to see some trends, whether they be upward or nonexistent.
Note: The number is total number, not total players. For example, LeBron James has won the MVP four times, so in 2003 it will be reflected as "4" for his contribution to the total number.
|Year||All-Stars||All-NBA||MVP||Finals MVP||Scoring Champ||Championships|
So what year wins each category? Let's take a look.
This draft class is miles ahead of every other one in regards to All-Star selections except for the 2003 class, which has 37 currently. Kobe, Iverson, and Allen - three of the best players of this generation - were all in this impressive class. And in case you don't remember, Kobe was barely a lottery player. He was the last pick of the lottery, number 13, and was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets. He only went to the Lakers after Kobe's agent said they refused to play for the Hornets franchise.
As just about all of the players from the 1996 class are retired or getting close to it, I would expect the 2003 to take the lead in the next couple years.
Most All-NBA Selections
26 - 1996: Kobe Bryant (15), Allen Iverson (7), Ray Allen (2), Stephon Marbury (2)
This race was a lot closer, with 1997 (Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, and Tracy McGrady) and 2003 (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade) each with 24 total. The 2003 class will likely surpass this in the next couple years, even if LBJ has to do it by himself.
If I had counted each year's top 14 picks as opposed to just the lottery, the 1985 class (Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Detlef Schrempf, and Karl Malone) would be tied with 26 as well. Hall of Famer Joe Dumars was the 18th pick in that draft, so the numbers for the first round are higher than for just the lottery.
4 - 2003: LeBron James (4)
No other class has more than two total and the only real threat to catch it in the next couple decades would probably be the 2007 class, just because of Kevin Durant, who got his first trophy this year. His fellow 2007 class member, Joakim Noah, got some MVP love this year as well, but it will likely be up to Durant to slow down LBJ's race to five.
Most Final MVP's
4 - 1997: Tim Duncan (3), Chauncey Billups (1)
The 2003 class is currently at three, thanks to LeBron and Dwyane Wade. So here is where this year's playoffs become interesting - if the Spurs and Heat both make the Finals, likely one of those three will have a good shot at winning it. LBJ will be the favorite, of course, but Duncan could take it home if the Spurs win the title. If it's close between him and other Spurs players, I'd imagine they would give it to Duncan as a career achievement thing since he would possibly retire after this season.
It looks like the road to titles will go through Oklahoma City for the next several years, so Durant or Russell Westbrook could pick up a couple in the future. And I bet 2009 class member Blake Griffin will get one before his career his over.
Most Scoring Champs
6 - 1996: Allen Iverson (4), Kobe Bryant (2)
From an offensive perspective, this 1996 lotto class is as good as it gets. Iverson and Kobe are two of the best pure scorers of all time, and Ray Allen is probably the greatest shooter of all time. Also, he didn't win any scoring titles but the 15th pick in the 1996 draft wasn't too shabby himself - Steve Nash.
Even still, I don't see this record lasting through the next decade. Kevin Durant already has four scoring titles of his own and he's only 25 years old. He's just hitting his prime. I think he can get a couple more over the next 10 years. In case you're wondering, Michael Jordan is the all-time leader with 10.
12 - 1992: Robert Horry (7), Shaquille O'Neal (4), Alonzo Mourning (1)
This category is a bit flawed, as you can see by Robert Horry's seven championships counting for over half of the 1992 class's number. But you can't discount Big Shot Rob's contributions to winning the titles, as shown by his nickname, even if he wasn't the best player on those teams.
If I had evened out the years and made every class top 14, the 1987 class (Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, David Robinson, Kenny Smith, and Dennis Hopson) would have been the leader with 15 titles. If you're curious, the 2003 class that we've talked about a lot is currently at eight.
Which One is the Best?
My vote is the 2003 class, though the 1996 currently has the most numbers. In a couple years, LeBron, Wade, and company will take over many of these records and go down as the best draft class to date. The most recent class with an outside shot of taking that distinction? The 2012 class with Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, and Andre Drummond.
As you can see, the 2014 class will have some lofty goals to meet. But if any of them - be it Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum, or Joel Embiid - can become a true superstar, then maybe we'll look back at this class in the same way as the 1996 or 2003 ones several years from now.