NBA

Who Should Have Been The #1 Pick In Every Draft Since 1956

This experiment was tedious. It took forever. Sifting over 63 past drafts for hours in a dimly lit room, with nothing but a phone and a chicken sandwich for company, changes a man. But I decided to do this experiment to see how often GMs have gotten the draft right.

As it turns out, they’re about as good as most might think. Only 33% of teams picked the best player in the draft while holding the #1 pick, but only 14% of these elite players fell out of the top 10. As you’ll see, there were some instances where you could go with more than one player deserving of the top spot (usually found in the weaker drafts, I’m looking at you 2006).

If I ever fall into a deep dark state of depression I might do this again for the NFL. But anyways. The best player in the draft is followed by their real draft position, with the actual #1 pick that year in parentheses.

No territorial picks (sorry Wilt) since that’s just confusing.

1956:
Bill Russell – 3rd (Sihugo Green)

1957:
Sam Jones – 8th (Rod Hundley)

1958:
Elgin Baylor – 1st (N/A)

1959:
Bob Boozer – 1st (N/A)

1960:
Oscar Robertson – 1st (N/A)

1961:
Walt Bellamy – 1st (N/A)

1962:
John Havlicek – 7th (Bill McGill)

1963:
Nate Thurmond – 3rd (Art Heyman)

1964:
Willis Reed – 8th (Jim Barnes)

1965:
Rick Barry – 2nd (Fred Hetzel)

1966:
Dave Bing – 2nd (Cazzie Russell)

1967:
Walt Frazier – 5th (Jimmy Walker)

1968:
Wes Unseld – 2nd (Elvin Hayes)

1969:
Lew Alcindor – 1st (N/A)

1970:
Pete Maravich – 3rd (Bob Lanier)

1971:
Spencer Haywood – 30th (Austin Carr)

1972:
Julius Erving – 12th (LaRue Martin)

1973:
Doug Collins – 1st (N/A)

1974:
Bill Walton – 1st (N/A)

1975:
David Thompson – 1st (N/A)

1976:
Robert Parish – 8th (John Lucas)

1977:
Bernard King – 7th (Kent Benson)

1978:
Larry Bird – 6th (Mychal Thompson)

1979:
Magic Johnson – 1st (N/A)

1980:
Kevin McHale – 3rd (Joe Barry Carroll)

1981:
Isiah Thomas – 2nd (Mark Aguirre)

1982:
James Worthy – 1st (N/A)

1983:
Clyde Drexler – 14th (Ralph Sampson)

1984:
Michael Jordan – 3rd (Hakeem Olajuwon)

1985:
Karl Malone – 13th (Patrick Ewing)

1986:
Dennis Rodman – 27th (Brad Daugherty)

1987:
David Robinson – 1st (N/A)

1988:
Mitch Richmond – 5th (Danny Manning)

1989:
Glen Rice – 4th (Pervis Ellison)

1990:
Gary Payton – 2nd (Derrick Coleman)

1991:
Dikembe Mutombo – 4th (Larry Johnson)

1992:
Shaquille O’Neal – 1st (N/A)

1993:
Chris Webber – 1st (N/A)

1994:
Jason Kidd – 2nd (Glenn Robinson)

1995:
Kevin Garnett – 5th (Joe Smith)

1996:
Kobe Bryant – 13th (Allen Iverson)

1997:
Tim Duncan – 1st (N/A)

1998:
Dirk Nowitzki – 9th (Michael Olawakandi)

1999:
Manu Ginóbili – 57th (Elton Brand)

2000:
Jamal Crawford – 8th (Kenyon Martin)

2001:
Pau Gasol – 3rd (Kwame Brown)

2002:
Yao Ming – 1st (N/A)

2003:
LeBron James – 1st (N/A)

2004:
Dwight Howard – 1st (N/A)

2005:
Chris Paul – 4th (Andrew Bogut)

2006:
LaMarcus Aldridge – 2nd/Rajon Rondo – 21st (Andrea Bargnani)

2007:
Kevin Durant – 2nd (Greg Oden)

2008:
Russell Westbrook – 4th (Derrick Rose)

2009:
James Harden – 3rd (Blake Griffin)

2010:
Demarcus Cousins – 5th/Paul George – 10th (John Wall)

2011:
Kyrie Irving – 1st (N/A)

2012:
Anthony Davis – 1st (N/A)

2013:
Giannis Antetokounmpo – 15th (Anthony Bennett)

2014:
Joel Embiid – 3rd (Andrew Wiggins)

2015:
Karl-Anthony Towns – 1st (N/A)

2016:
Ben Simmons – 1st (N/A)

2017:
Donovan Mitchell – 13th (Markelle Fultz)

So Mike, you ask, what’s the point of all of this? Well, I’m not completely sure. Maybe the dog days of the offseason are getting to me. Maybe I’m procrastinating writing a football article. Or maybe we shouldn’t hound GM’s for making poor choices when it comes to drafts.

Look, you’re basing your pick off of what you think a player will be in 5 years. 5. Years. From Sihugo Green to Greg Oden, there are a lot of missed calls. But before you crucify your GM for taking Luke Kennard over Donovan Mitchell, or wonder how Manu fell to 57th, remember. It’s happened for over 60 years. Expect some misses.

Contact Mike Price at michaelgprice@yahoo.com