5 Worst Draft Classes in NBA History and the 5 Best that Dominated the League

It is fun to look back on NBA draft classes and NBA history. Sometimes we think we have a special draft class with many future superstars, and very few of them pan out. In other years, we think it is going to be a weaker class, but it is actually littered with future Hall of Famers. For this list, we are going to look at the 5 worst and 5 best draft classes.

NBA history was made in the worst and best draft classes

Worst: 2015

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 25: The top prospects pose for a group photo before the start of the First Round of the 2015 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 25, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
This draft was only 9 years ago, so I don’t think there will be any more surprise superstars, but there is room for improvement. This draft class had some top talent (Devin Booker and Karl Anthony-Towns) but after those two – it gets pretty meek. The only other 2 All-Stars in the class are D’Angelo Russell and Kristaps Porzingis. Both are good players who have had good seasons, but also inconsistent players, whether it be their play or health. Outside of 3 All-Star players, the top 10 was filled with disappointing players; Jahlil Okafor (#3), Mario Hezonja (#5), Willie Cauley-Stein (#6), Emmanuel Mudiay (#7), Stanley Johnson (#8), Frank Kaminsky (#9), and Justice Winslow (#10).

Best: 2009

NEW YORK – JUNE 25: The top prospects pose for a photograph prior to the 2009 NBA Draft at the Wamu Theatre at Madison Square Garden June 25, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The 2009 draft class did something that is very rare, it had 2 NBA MVPs. This loaded class is headlined by MVP guards Steph Curry and James Harden taken 7th and 3rd respectively. Along with the pair of MVPs, this draft class had 4 other All-Stars; Demar Derozan, Blake Griffin, Jeff Teague, and Jrue Holiday. Blake Griffin was the #1 overall pick and was a legitimate superstar in the 2010s, but that was only good enough to be the 3rd best player in his own class. Along with these All-Stars, this draft included many other good point guards who had long careers, like Brandon Jennings, Ricky Rubio, Ty Lawson, and Darren Collison.

Worst: 2002

NEW YORK – JUNE 26: Jay Williams shakes the hand of Commissioner David Stern after being drafted second overall by the Chicago Bulls during the 2002 NBA Draft at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on June 26, 2002 in New York, New York. (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2002 NBA draft class had one of the most intriguing and highly touted prospects ever in Yao Ming. Although he ended up having a great (albeit short) career, there wasn’t much else in this draft. Only 4 All-Stars total, the others being Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, and Caron Butler. This draft class did not have any MVPs or franchise-changing superstars. On top of that, picks 2-6 are pretty rough looking back on it; Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Drew Gooden, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, and Dajuan Wagner respectively.

Best: 1985

(Original Caption) New York: NBA draft, June 18th. (L-R): Wayman Tisdale, Oklahoma, #2 by Indian Pacers; Pat Ewing, Goergetown, #1 by Knicks; Benoit Benjamin, Creighton, #3 by Los Angeles Clippers
The 1985 draft class had a whopping 10 All-Stars, including Michael Adams, Joe Dumars, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, A.C Green, Xavier McDaniel, Chris Mullin, Charles Oakley, Terry Porter, and Detlef Schrempf. This draft was responsible for 2 of the iconic big men of the 1990s in Malone and Ewing. It also included an NBA Finals MVP in Joe Dumars. This draft was incredibly deep with talent, it also included Gerald Wilkins, Hot Rod Williams, Wayman Tisdale, Benoit Benjamin, Arvyadis Sabonis, Spudd Webb, and Mario Elie. The 1985 draft featured one of the most iconic #1 overall draft picks (that many accuse of being rigged) sending Patrick Ewing to the New York Knicks.

Worst: 2006

NEW YORK – JUNE 28: Andrea Bargnani selected number one overall by the Toronto Raptors speaks to the media during the 2006 NBA Draft on June 28, 2006 at The Theater at Madison Sqaure Garden in New York City. (Photo by Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2006 NBA Draft has some depth, with 5 All-Stars, including LaMarcus Aldridge, Kyle Lowry, Rajon Rondo, Paul Millsap, and Brandon Roy. However, there were no players in this class that truly reached a superstar level (unless you want to argue Rondo for a short period in Boston). Andrea Bargnani was the #1 overall pick, and he had a solid career. But, from a #1 overall pick expectation, he was closer to a bust. Picks #3-5 also ended up being true busts; Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, and Shelden Williams.

Best: 2003

NEW YORK – JUNE 26: LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers poses with his jersey during the 2003/2004 NBA Draft Portrait at Paramount Theatre Madison Square Garden on June 26, 2003 in New York, New York. (Photo by: Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images
The iconic 2003 draft class is often argued to be the best draft class in NBA history and it is a phenomenal draft class with one of the greatest prospects and players of all time, LeBron James. However, the reason it is only #3 is the depth of superstars. LeBron James is the only MVP in the class, although the 2003 draft class has a few other legitimate superstars in Dwayne Wade (an NBA Finals MVP), Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh. The 2003 class has 9 total All-Stars, but the prime years for the other 5 players were rather brief and insignificant. Josh Howard, Chris Kaman, Kyle Korver, David West, and Mo Williams being the other All-Stars. Still one of the greatest draft classes of all time, there was good depth in the draft with players like Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, Kirk Hinrich, T.J. Ford, and Luke Ridnour.

Worst: 2013

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 27: NBA Commissioner David Stern (C) poses with the 2013 NBA Draft Class including Nerlens Noel of Kentucky, Victor Oladipo of Indiana, Otto Porter of Georgetown, Alex Len of Maryland, Ben McLemore of Kansas, Trey Burke of Michigan, Anthony Bennett of UNLV and MIchael Carter-Williams of Syracuse during the 2013 NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 27, 2013 in in the Brooklyn Bourough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Yes, the 2013 Draft had Giannis Antentenkounmpo, but outside of the Greek Freak, this draft was brutally bad, taking the #2 worst spot on our list. It wasn’t expected to be a great draft, the Cavaliers had the #1 pick and there was no obvious prospect for them to take. However, no one expected that they would take the worst #1 pick of all time (and no, that is not an exaggeration). Anthony Bennett went #1 in this draft, and he played only 4 seasons in the NBA, averaging 12 minutes and 4 points a game. This draft only had 3 All-Stars, and the other 2 besides Giannis, are Rudy Gobert and Victor Oladipo (who only had 1 All-Star season). This draft also had CJ McCollum, who is one of the best players ever to notably not make an All-Star game, but that is not enough to make up for this bust of a draft class.

Best: 1984

(Original Caption) Former North Carolina star, College Player of the Year and star of the US Olympic gold medal winning basketball team, Michael Jordan holds up his Chicago Bulls jersey 9/12 at a news conference. Bulls General Manager Rod Thorn announced they have signed Jordan, their first round draft pick, to a multi-million dollar contract which is expected to make him the third highest paid in NBA history
The 1984 draft was home to the biggest draft mistake in league history. No one can fault the Rockets for taking MVP and 2-time Finals MVP, Hakeem Olajuwon at #1. But, the Portland Trailblazers will never live down taking Sam Bowie #2 overall over the one and only, Michael Jordan. This draft class has probably the greatest foursome in history, with 3 MVPs and another all-time great in Olajuwon, Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton. The draft class had 7 total All-Stars, the other 3 being Alvin Robertson, Otis Thorpe, and Kevin Willis. The depth was solid in this draft as it also included Sam Perkins, Jay Humphries, Vern Fleming, Tony Campbell, Ron Anderson, and Jerome Kersey. But, ultimately the depth is what kept this draft at #2 behind the greatest draft class of all time.

Worst: 2000

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JUNE 28: NBA Commissioner David Stern poses for a portrait with the Draft Class during the 2000 NBA Draft on June 28, 2000 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
You probably saw this coming, as the 2000 NBA draft is infamous for being so bad. Kenyon Martin went #1 in this draft, and he had a pretty good career, but will not be known as being one of the better #1 overall picks. This class had only 3 All-Stars; Jamal Magloire, Michael Redd, and Kenyon Martin. Kenyon was the only All-Star to be taken in the top 10, as every lottery pick in this draft were pretty disappointing picks. Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, Demarr Johnson, and Chris Mihm are some of the names that make up the top 8 in this draft.

Best: 1996

NEW YORK – JUNE 26: The Draftees pose for a group photo with NBA Commissioner David Stern after being selected in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft on June 26, 1996 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
The 1996 NBA draft class is the greatest of all time – it has incredible depth and is full of superstars. This draft class paved the way for the NBA post-Michael Jordan and contained so many of the stars of the 2000s. This class has 10 total All-Stars, but let’s start with the MVPs; Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Allen Iverson (#1 overall pick). Now, let’s look at the players who were legitimate superstars in the mid-2000s; Ray Allen, Jermaine O’Neal, and Stephon Marbury. That leaves you with 4 other All-Stars in Peja Stojakovic, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Zydrunas Ilgasukas, and Antoine Walker. But, that’s not all, this draft had many other NBA players who had long and impactful careers. Marcus Campby, Kerry Kittles, Erick Dampier, Derek Fisher, and Jeff McInnis were also taken in the 1996 draft.

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