In this article, we’ll take a look at those who have been drafted with the most top picks by each NBA franchise, taken in the NBA Draft, and see what their records are after just their first year. We’ll take a look at the players who have had the most success in the NBA, as well as the ones that had the most success among their own franchise.
For years now, the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers have been the two most consistent teams in the NBA; they are almost always among the league’s best teams. They are also the two most consistently bad teams at drafting talent – as you’ll see in this article, they are the two franchises with the worst records in picking up NBA players.
This summer’s NBA draft was a historic one, with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls making selections that may never be surpassed. Cleveland, of course, used the #1 pick to draft the game’s reigning most valuable player, Kristaps Porzingis, who proved to be worthy of the honor. However, the Bulls were able to come away with another star player, who many believe will be the league’s best player in the coming years.. Read more about best players from every nba draft and let us know what you think.
For each of the 30 NBA clubs, the NBA Draft is an exciting time of year. It allows each club to acquire young and bright prospects in the hopes of developing them into potential impact players. Front offices looking for anything more than a rotating piece are looking for something towards the top. Instead, they’re hoping to discover a franchise-changing player who can lead them to many titles in the future.
In the past, being drafted first didn’t necessarily guarantee you got what you wanted. In the history of the draft, we’ve seen everything from championship players to failures. In this league, we’ve even seen players chosen at No. 60 (the final selection) become All-Stars.
With that said, several players have led the club to many titles. Their brilliance was cemented by their jersey hanging in the rafters, where they will be remembered for the rest of the team’s history. For those reasons, these are the best draft selections in the history of each club.
Bob Pettit, Atlanta Hawks
(No. 2 overall pick in the 1954 NBA Draft)
You have to go back to when the franchise was based in Milwaukee. In 1954, Pettit was selected with the No. 2 overall picks and he became the key face of the franchise after the Hawks moved to St. Louis. From 1954-1965, Pettit became the best player to ever throw on a Hawks uniform.
Pettit would have won the NBA Finals MVP title if trophies were handed out back then, particularly after hitting 50 points in the Hawks’ 110-109 series-clinching win in Game 6 in 1958. Atlanta hasn’t won a title in a long time. Pettit has two regular-season MVPs (1956, 1959), 11 All-Star appearances, and ten All-NBA First Team honors to his credit.
Larry Bird, Boston Celtics
(Number 6 pick in the 1978 NBA Draft)
Image courtesy of Getty Images
When you first saw Bird’s unathletic physique, you may not believe he was one of the best players of all time. Larry Legend has left a legacy like this. Bird averaged 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.7 steals in 12 years with Boston. He is the first player in NBA history to win three MVP awards in a row (1984-1986).
Bird was a three-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP. With the game on the line, no opposition team wanted Bird to have the ball in his hands. While his attitude may have come off as haughty to some, Bird earned his way up from a reputation for making the most difficult shots from wherever on the floor.
Buck Williams of the Brooklyn Nets
(No. 3 overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft)
Williams was the third overall pick in the NBA Draft in 1981, behind two Olympic teammates. Williams had a great career from 1981 to 1989, and when he retired, he was the franchise’s all-time points leader, a record that was only broken by Brook Lopez by four points. Williams has the most games played and total rebounds in the franchise.
Williams established himself as one of the greatest power forwards in the NBA during his eight seasons in New Jersey. He was named to three All-Star teams and four All-Defensive teams throughout his career. He was among the top three rebounders in the NBA in six of his eight seasons.
Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets
(Number 9 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft)
Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning are strong candidates, but the honor must go to Kemba Walker. For the time being, Walker is the greatest shooter the Hornets have ever had. Walker was the team’s all-time leading scorer when he departed at the age of 29. In addition, he leads the league in field goals and three-point field goals. He is second in the league in assists and third in steals.
In his final season, Walker made the All-NBA Third Team, while recording three straight All-Star appearances from 2017-2019. Walker should have offered a max contract, but the Hornets elected to go a different path. Had Walker stayed for another five years, he would have put together some records that likely would have never been broken.
Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
(Number 3 pick in the 1984 NBA Draft)
Jordan felt he had much to prove when he was chosen third overall. While Hakeem Olajuwon was a good selection at No. 1 in 1984, Jordan is not just the finest player the Bulls have ever chosen, but the best player in NBA history. From championships to memorable plays, the GOAT has been a presence in the world of basketball.
Jordan has six titles, a perfect 6-0 record in the NBA Finals, and six NBA Finals MVPs on his résumé. It doesn’t get much better than completing two three-peats. Scottie Pippen, Artis Gilmore, and Derrick Rose have all been apologized to.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers
(First overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft)
Outside of blocks, LeBron holds every significant record in Cleveland, but the local boy will always be remembered for guiding the Cavaliers to their first-ever NBA championship in 2016. When LeBron was drafted in 2003, he transformed the Cavaliers from laughingstock to championship contender almost quickly. Before he returned, those four years had been the lowest of lows when he departed in 2010.
When he returned, he gave the club four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. During his time with the Cavaliers, the team was fortunate enough to make five visits to the NBA Finals. There are still teams hoping to make the NBA Finals for the first time, but LeBron made sure it occurred many times in his home state.
Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks
(No. 2 overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft)
Dirk Nowitzki was never selected by the Mavericks. The Milwaukee Bucks chose Nowitzki in 1998 and then traded him to the Mavericks along with Steve Nash. As a result, we are unable to choose Nowitzki since he was not a first-round selection. If Luka Doncic stays in Dallas for another ten years, he’ll have this position all to himself, but for now, Jason Kidd, another terrific guard, gets the nod.
Kidd earned ten All-Star selections throughout his career and was a member of the 2011 NBA championship squad when he returned as a role player. Kidd was an excellent backup guard from 2008 to 2012, when he was in the later stages of his career. He led the league in assists five times during his peak and was named to nine All-Defensive teams.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
(No. 41 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft)
The two best players to ever play for the Nuggets, Alex English and Dan Issel, arrived to Denver in their latter years after being selected by separate clubs. Carmelo Anthony might be argued, but he only guided the club to one Conference Finals trip. Nikola Jokic is without a doubt the greatest draft choice the Nuggets have ever had, based on playoff and regular-season performance.
After being selected in the second round, Jokic is also the biggest steal in NBA history. This year’s MVP was awarded to Jokic by the league. He is considered as the all-time best passing center. In addition, he had guided the Nuggets to the Conference Finals. Give it time, and one day we could be talking about Jokic and the Nuggets in the NBA Finals.
Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons
(1981, No. 2 Pick)
Image courtesy of Getty Images
There’s a strong argument to be made for Ben Wallace or Joe Dumars, but it has to go to Thomas in the end. Thomas, who was drafted second overall in 1981, was a key part of the “Bad Boys” in the 1980s. In 1989 and 1990, he led the Pistons to back-to-back NBA championships. He still holds the record for most points, assists, and steals.
Thomas may be the greatest Pistons player of all time, but he also spent his entire career with the club. He’ll go down in history as one of the greatest 6-foot-1 players to ever play professional basketball.
Wilt Chamberlain, Golden State Warriors
(1959, Territorial Pick)
If we’re being precise, Chamberlain was chosen with a territorial selection by the Warriors. A territorial selection was a kind of special draft choice utilized by the Basketball Association of America in 1949, and then maintained by the National Basketball Association in 1950 when the league changed its name. NBA clubs took turns choosing collegiate basketball players in the draft. The league was attempting to increase popularity at the time, and this enabled clubs choose famous athletes in their region to join their squad.
The Warriors were still headquartered in Philadelphia at the time, but they were allowed to pick Chamberlain out of Kansas. Chamberlain’s NBA career has been well-documented. He is the all-time greatest rebounder and holds numerous NBA records that will almost certainly never be broken. Steph Curry is the obvious choice if we want to base this on actual draft selections, which weren’t introduced until 1966.
Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets
(First overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft)
With the exception of one season, Olajuwon spent his entire career with the Houston Rockets. When it comes to professional achievements, you name it, he’s done everything. In 1994 and 1995, he led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA championships. He was a 12-time All-Star, two-time Finals MVP, and two-time regular-season MVP.
Olajuwon holds the franchise scoring, rebounding, steals, and block records. Some may argue that James Harden or Moses Malone were the greatest Rockets to ever play. The Rockets never selected them, despite the fact that they are excellent players.
Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers
(Number 11 overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft)
Miller played from his debut season to 2005 after being selected No. 11 overall in the 1987 NBA Draft. Miller retired as the all-time leader in three-point field goals in basketball. Reggie Miller, the pioneer of what has become three-point specialists, came before the likes of Ray Allen and Steph Curry.
Miller was a five-time All-Star, but it seems like there could have been more. In the 1990s, he helped the Indiana Pacers reach the Conference Finals, but he couldn’t beat Michael Jordan. In any case, he is one of the greatest players to ever be chosen outside of the top ten.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
(First overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft)
He went on to earn Rookie of the Year despite missing his first season in the league after being selected first overall. Griffin has made five All-Star appearances and is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. He is one of just two players in NBA history to score over 10,000 points in a career while simultaneously ranking in the top five in rebounds and steals.
Griffin, who is most known for his appearances on “Lob City,” won the 2011 Slam Dunk Contest. His thunderous dunks entertained the crowd and drew media attention to the opposing team in the Los Angeles region.
Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers
(First overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft)
Someone is going to be dissatisfied here no matter what. To begin, it should be noted that the Lakers did not select Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Shaquill O’Neal. Despite popular belief, neither was Kobe Bryant, who was chosen by the Charlotte Hornets, thus we are unable to utilize him due to a technicality.
Magic Johnson, who won five titles and three Finals MVPs in the 1980s, is the only genuine surviving draft selection. Due to an HIV diagnosis, Johnson’s career was also cut short. Who knows whether Johnson could have stolen a few titles away from Michael Jordan if he hadn’t been ill.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
(Number 4 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft)
(Image courtesy of 94wip.radio.com)
Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol are two of Memphis’ best players. The issue with this award is that Gasol was not picked by the Grizzlies in the first place. He was selected by the Lakers, who then traded his rights to the Grizzlies for his brother Pau Gasol the next year. Conley, the club’s all-time top scorer, is therefore worthy of the title of greatest draft choice in franchise history.
Conley also holds the record for most assists, steals, and three-point field goals in NBA history. Despite the fact that Conley never made an All-Star appearance, he was rewarded with a five-year, $153 million deal in 2017, which at the time was the most expensive contract in NBA history. Conley is now pursuing a championship, although he may retire as a member of the Griz in the future.
Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat
(Number 5 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft)
When it comes to this discussion, there isn’t much to discuss. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Shaquille O’Neal are among the franchise’s all-time greats, yet they were either signed or moved. Wade was the original GOAT, chosen fifth overall in 2003, behind James and Bosh.
Wade delivered the best results he could. He was named MVP of the NBA Finals in 2006. Then he assisted in the recruitment of James and Bosh to Miami, where the Heat went on to win the NBA championship in 2012 and 2013. Wade took on a new role alongside James, but his only goal was to win. He accepted less money and competed like a Hall of Famer, earning the title of best Heat player of all time.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks
(First overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft)
This is a tough discussion with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis won back-to-back MVPs in 2019 and 2020. He won the Defensive Player of the Year. He led the team to the Conference Finals a few years back. He could have left and been paid just as much money with a major market. Instead, he stayed, unlike Kareem. He delivered on his promise to the city. His 50-point game makes him just one of seven players to ever record a performance like that in the NBA Finals, while his Finals MVP will cement his legacy in Milwaukee sports history.
Despite his brief time with the Bucks, Abdul-Jabbar guided them to their first NBA title in 1971. After joining the Lakers, he completed his career with six titles. Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time scoring leader and has earned three regular-season MVP awards. It would be enough to propel Giannis up if he could lead Milwaukee to another title.
Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
(No. 5 overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft)
Jordan Johnson/NBAE/Getty Images/Jordan Johnson/NBAE/Getty Images/Jordan Johnson/NBAE/Getty Images
This is a fact that cannot be disputed. Outside of Garnett, Kevin Love is the only other player who has made Minnesota relevant in the past 20 years. When Garnett was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the club made a playoff push each season. Since departing in 2007, the club has only made one trip in the playoffs.
Garnett has the all-time scoring, rebounding, assist, steal, and block records. In 2004, he earned the regular season MVP and led the club to their first and only trip in the Conference Finals. In a Minnesota jersey, no player has ever spoken trash or played the game like Garnett.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
(First overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft)
Credit: USA TODAY Sports/Derick E. Hingle
The Pelicans were climbing the Western Conference rankings and had a chance to win the No. 2 overall seed if DeMarcus Cousins had not been injured in 2018. Davis could still be in New Orleans today if the Pelicans had made a long playoff run. Davis devoted all he had to the city of New Orleans even if it didn’t happen.
Davis ultimately won an NBA championship in 2020, beating out Chris Paul and David West. Apart from that, Davis leads the team in points, rebounds, and blocks. When he was 26 years old, he quit the squad. That’s some serious skill right there.
Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks
(First overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft)
Ewing averaged 22.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game across 15 seasons. Those figures scream dominance. In an era when centers were the way of the game, he was the Knicks’ go-to option in the post. His years were the greatest for the Knicks franchise outside of their title-winning seasons in the 1970s, both in terms of individual achievement and team success.
After going two years without making the playoffs, the Knicks have now made the playoffs 13 times in a row. The Knicks have reached the playoffs twice since the mid-2000s. The Knicks were one game away from winning the NBA title in 1994. The squad returned to the NBA Finals in 1999. Their huge guy in the center was a major component of their success.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
(No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft)
Habit of Shooting Hoops
Which of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, or James Harden do you prefer? We could speak about Gary Payton if we go back to the Seattle days. Instead, the award goes to Durant, who played a key role in keeping Oklahoma City basketball relevant when the club relocated from Seattle.
After just four years in Oklahoma City, Durant won a scoring championship, was named regular-season MVP, and led the Thunder reach the NBA Finals in 2012. Durant ultimately won two championships and two Finals MVPs, while Westbrook averaged a triple-double and earned an MVP in 2017, and Harden won three scoring crowns. The others have yet to get their first ring.
Shaquille O’Neal, Orlando Magic
(First overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft)
While Dwight Howard led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009, Shaq remains the superior overall player when it comes to career accomplishments. In 1995, Shaq led the Magic to their first-ever NBA Finals appearance, averaging 25.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. When comparing the two center awards, Shaq contributed just as much to the Orlando Magic as Howard.
What people forget about Shaq’s participation in the Finals is that he was just 22 years old at the time. Shaq won four titles between the Lakers and the Heat in the end, but he also made a young expansion club prominent during the Michael Jordan era.
Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers
(First overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft)
(Image courtesy of EssentiallySports)
We can’t go with the current club leader in rebounds, who also has over 18,000 career points, due to a technicality that the 76ers never selected Dolph Schayes. In a career that spanned 1958 to 1973, Hal Greer amassed 21,586 points. In 1967, he led the 76ers to a championship, and his jersey was ultimately retired by the club.
Despite these two outstanding players, Allen Iverson is the best player Philadelphia has ever selected. Iverson became the No. 2 career scorer, earned an MVP in 2001, and led the club to its final NBA Finals trip after being drafted first overall in 1996. Despite being classified at 6-foot-0, the four-time scoring champion was an immediate threat.
Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
(Number 15 overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft)
(Image courtesy of Bleacher Report)
Nash was the No. 15 overall selection in 1996 and went on to become a Suns icon. He spent six years with the Dallas Mavericks after playing with the Suns from 1996 to 1998. He returned, winning back-to-back MVP awards in 2004 and 2005, and leading the Suns to playoff contention and a trip to the Conference Finals.
Fans in the Phoenix region clung to memories of the high-octane offense of the 2000s before Chris Paul and Devin Booker arrived. Nash, who led the league in assists five times during his career, all with the Suns, was in charge of the offense.
Clyde Drexler, Portland Trail Blazers
(Number 14 pick in the 1983 NBA Draft)
Bill Walton deserves credit for leading Portland to their lone title in 1977, when he was voted Finals MVP after averaging 18.5 points, 19.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 3.2 blocks. However, in the long run, the award should belong to Drexler, who was selected 14th overall in 1983.
Drexler holds the record for most points and steals. Until LaMarcus Aldridge shattered his record, he was the all-time leader in rebounds. Drexler did go on to win an NBA title, but it was with the Rockets. We might be talking about Damian Lillard in this position in a few years.
Oscar Robertson, Sacramento Kings
Territorial Pick (Territorial Pick, 1960)
Robertson was a territorial draft choice when the Kings were known as the Cincinnati Royals, as previously stated. Robertson attended the University of Cincinnati, making him an excellent choice. Robertson rose to prominence in the NBA, where he won a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971.
For the Royals in 1961, Robertson averaged a triple-double throughout the regular season. Until Russell Westbrook in 2017, he was the only player to ever achieve that accomplishment. Robertson was a member of the Cincinnati Reds from 1960 to 1970, appearing in three All-Star Games and winning three All-Star Game MVP awards.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
(First overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft)
When it comes to this subject, the Spurs should be the most talked-about team. David Robinson, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard were all selected by the club. Tim Duncan, on the other hand, deserves to be named the greatest draft choice of all time.
Duncan was a member of the Spurs from 1997 to 2016, winning five titles. Duncan earned three Finals MVPs, 15 All-Star appearances and All-NBA honors, as well as two regular-season MVP awards. For 20 years, he was the heart and soul of San Antonio, where he turned a small market team into the NBA’s talk of the town.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
(Number 9 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft)
DeMar DeRozan was the driving force behind the Raptors’ ascension to the top of the Eastern Conference from 2013 to 2018. Before their championship run in 2019, they had five straight playoff appearances, a club record, as well as their first-ever participation in the Conference Finals.
DeRozan averaged 19.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game over his nine seasons with the Raptors. He never won a title with them, but he will go down in history as the best player Toronto ever selected.
Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz
(Number 13 pick in the 1985 NBA Draft)
(Image courtesy of Sporting News)
Despite the fact that he never won a title with the Jazz, he did take the club to two NBA Finals in a row in 1997 and 1998, losing both times to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Malone put up a strong performance in the NBA Finals, averaging 24.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. He averaged 25.0 points per game on 51.6 percent shooting throughout his 19-year career, which helped him finish second all-time in scoring.
The runner-up in this category, John Stockton, teamed up with Malone to create a dangerous combination. Malone, on the other hand, was the driving force behind the team, earning two MVP awards (1997 and 1999) and making 14 All-Star appearances. While his lack of championship success is difficult to accept as a Jazz fan, it does not negate all he has achieved throughout his career.
Wes Unseld, Washington Wizards
(No. 2 overall pick in the 1968 NBA Draft)
Consider the tremendous potential that Washington has had in recent years. Gilbert Arenas had a lot of promise. John Wall was seen as a possible MVP contender. Bradley Beal came close to winning the scoring championship. All of these superstars, though, have fallen short in the playoffs, where Washington hasn’t reached the NBA Finals since Wes Unseld Srheyday. .’s
Unseld was not your traditional big-time superstar, averaging 10.8 points per game in 13 years. With that said, he contributed in other ways, averaging 14.0 rebounds per game. In his first five seasons in the NBA, his lowest season total was 15.9. Standing at 6-foot-7, Unseld went onto win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season in 1968-1969, averaging 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds for the Baltimore Bullets. Once the Bullets relocated to Washington, he helped the team win their lone championship in 1979, where he won Finals MVP.
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