During the NBA Draft, fans often look forward to who gets selected as the first overall pick due to the beaming potential they can possibly bring to the pros. For these cellar dwelling teams, these players will play a major role in turning the franchise around or might even become the new face of the team.
In this 2020 NBA Draft we saw the Minnesota Timberwolves select Georgia standout Anthony Edwards with their first overall pick but we have yet to see how the 6’5 guard will fare for the Timberwolves. Given that he is the first overall pick, one thing is for sure, fans and team management will be expecting him to prove to everyone that he deserved to be selected ahead of 59 other players in the draft.
Throughout the recent years, we’ve seen a couple of first overall picks that have successfully dominated the league. For this piece, let’s rank the NBA first overall picks since 2000.
20. Anthony Bennett
Year drafted: 2013
Career stats: 4.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.2 blocks
Anthony Bennett is by far one of the most popular NBA busts in recent memory. After the Cleveland Cavaliers selected him with their first overall pick in 2013 to everyone’s surprise including the UNLV standout himself, Bennett struggled big time in the league.
Although the Canadian big man had a decent career in college and became the first Canadian to be drafted first overall, his performance in college hardly translated in the pros as you can see in his statistics.
The 2013 first overall pick made a case to be one of the biggest busts in the NBA, as he became a journeyman in his four year stint in the league. In fact, Bennett also became the highest draft pick in NBA history to be ever assigned to the NBA G-League which isn’t a positive feat.
19. Kwame Brown
Year drafted: 2001
Career stats: 6.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.5 steals
Arguably one of the biggest busts of the millennium is Kwame Brown. Drafted first overall in the 2001 NBA Draft, Brown was handpicked by no other than Michael Jordan. Although he was unstoppable in the high school level which made him the first high school prospect to be selected as the top overall pick, unfortunately, the 6’11 center’s lack of skills was exposed in the NBA.
Brown could never become an All-Star center at the very least. In fact, he spent most of his years in the NBA as a big man off the bench. Although he has shown flashes of his talent including a monster double-double of 30 points and 19 boards in 2004 during a game against the Sacramento Kings, he hardly proved to everyone that he deserved to be selected first overall.
Unfortunately, a stint with championship laden teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons couldn’t save Brown’s career. Eventually, Brown became a journeyman in the latter parts of his career.
18. Greg Oden
Year drafted: 2007
Career stats: 8.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.4 steals
There are a number of reasons as to why some high profile players fail to perform well in the NBA level. One of them is injuries and there’s no doubt that Greg Oden was slowed down by such. The Trailblazers were high on the 7’0 big man after a productive stint with Ohio State, as they selected him over the likes of Kevin Durant and Al Horford. The franchise wanted Oden to be the franchise centerpiece that they can build around.
Unfortunately, knee injuries sidelined Oden for the most part of his career. In fact out of his seven years in the league, the Ohio state standout could only appear in just three seasons.
His last year in the league saw him suit up for the Miami Heat alongside the team’s Big Three serving as the team’s rotational big man. Oden came close to winning a championship, something that could’ve been a silver lining in his injury plagued career. However, the Spurs came in the way and denied him of that feat.
As a result, Oden hardly showcased his talent in the NBA. Thus, he became one of the players who weren’t able to reach their full potential due to injuries.
17. Andrea Bargnani
Year drafted: 2006
Career stats: 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 blocks, 0.4 rebounds
Awards: 1x All-Rookie First Team
The 2006 NBA Draft wasn’t really as stacked and fast forward to today, only a handful players from that class remain in the league. On the other hand at that time, the Raptors who had the first overall pick were in search for another star to pair with Chris Bosh.
With Bargnani giving a good account of himself in Europe, the Italian stretch big drew comparisons to German star Dirk Nowitzki due to his sweet shooting. As a result, the Raptors took a chance on the 7’0 Italian sensation.
If you look at his numbers, Bargnani wasn’t terrible. He managed to average double figures in his entire stay with Toronto. In his rookie year, he logged in 11.6 points per outing. Furthermore, he was productive alongside Bosh as they powered the Raptors to two straight postseason appearances.
When Bosh left the team to form the Big Three in Miami, the Italian center became the main leader of the team. Bargnani put on a good showing in Bosh’s absence as he registered 21.4 points per outing that year.
Unfortunately, the 2006 first overall pick could never put a team on his shoulders like the superstar everyone hoped he’d become. The Raptors failed to make the postseason under Bargnani’s leadership and the Italian center couldn’t nab a single individual accolade since his rookie season.
16. Markelle Fultz
Year drafted: 2017
Career stats: 10.7 points, 4.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks
It wasn’t long ago that Markelle Fultz was projected to be the first overall pick in the 2017 Draft. At that time, the Sixers were in need of a guard to play alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. With the franchise getting the first overall pick in a trade with the Celtics, the Sixers took an opportunity on Fultz.
Unfortunately, injuries and a broken jump shot prevented Fultz from making an immediate impact. After sitting out majority of his rookie season, Fultz did show flashes of his potential including a triple double against the Bucks in the Sixers’ final game of the season where he logged in 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, but it wasn’t enough to convince the Sixers to keep him. Eventually, the Sixers took the opportunity of Jimmy Butler’s falling out with the Timberwolves. As a result, Fultz found himself buried deep in the bench.
Fast forward to today, the former Washington star has been tearing it up for the Magic as he averaged a career-high 12.1 points per outing and helped the Magic make the postseason. Although those numbers are subpar for a player that was selected first overall, Fultz still has a lot of opportunities ahead of him to become a dominant guard in the NBA.
15. Kenyon Martin
Year drafted: 2000
Career stats: 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.1 blocks
Awards: 1x All-Star, 1x All-Rookie First Team
If you look at the numbers of Kenyon Martin, the Cincinnati big man had a decent career in the NBA. He made an immediate impact for the New Jersey Nets in his rookie year by averaging 12.o points per outing which came close to winning the Rookie of the Year. Furthermore, Martin was also part of the best Nets teams that appeared in the NBA Finals for two consecutive seasons.
The All-Star was also a force to be reckoned with when suiting up for the Nuggets. His defense gave the team energy as Martin’s presence on the court was impactful. In his seven season tenure with the Nuggets, the scrappy big man put up 12.3 points per game.
Although Martin was a solid starter for the most part of his career, he wasn’t a superstar that first overall picks often turn into. Instead, he was a solid starter that kept in step with the best big men in the league while complimenting star players such as Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd.
14. DeAndre Ayton
Year drafted: 2018
Career stats: 17.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.8 steals
Awards: 1x All-Rookie First Team
The Phoenix Suns have had a long playoff drought. However, they do have some silver linings such as the rise of Devin Booker and the promising development of DeAndre Ayton. The Bahamas center has been a double-double threat for the Suns, as he gives the team a towering presence in the paint. In fact, he became one of the few players to average a double-double as a rookie in the past decade, which was the first in the Suns’ record books.
Although Ayton has shown the Suns some promise, there are still some uncertainties whether he could reach the elite level of all-around big men. As of now, the 6’11 big man still has a lot to prove whether he deserved to be drafted ahead the likes of Luka Doncic and Trae Young, who have already established themselves as rising stars in the league.
13. Andrew Wiggins
Year drafted: 2014
Career stats: 19.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks
Awards: 1x Rookie of the Year, 1x All-Rookie First Team
Andrew Wiggins was a top prospect before the 2013 NBA Draft. A lot of NBA scouts salivated over Wiggins after a great showing with Kansas, as he seemed to have the right physical tools, athleticism, and versatility which the scouts believed were ingredients to unlimited potential.
Despite being the most sought after player during draft night, however, Wiggins has never suited up for the team that drafted him. With LeBron James making his return to Cleveland and his desire to have Kevin Love as a teammate, Wiggins got shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Although Wiggins didn’t play for the team that drafted him, the Canadian swingman wasn’t terrible individually. His stint with Minnesota saw him win the Rookie of the Year. He also averaged 19.7 points in six seasons in a Timberwolves uniform. Certainly, you cannot achieve all these things without talent.
Unfortunately, the knock in Wiggins’ performance in the league is his inefficiency and defense. Of course those resulted in a lack of team success as the Timberwolves only made it to the postseason once.
Now that Wiggins has been traded to the Warriors, we have yet to see whether the 2013 first overall pick can become an elite forward. With Klay Thompson out with another injury, more responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Wiggins to help the Warriors regain their championship glory.
12. Andrew Bogut
Year drafted: 2005
Career stats: 9.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 blocks, 0.6 steals
Awards: 1x NBA Champion, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 1x NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 1x League Leader in Blocks, 1x All-Rookie First Team
Defensive center Andrew Bogut may not have been a face of the franchise like a typical first overall pick. However, his career still saw him collect some milestones that manifests his mark on defense.
Unfortunately, the first ever Australian to be drafted first overall was hounded by injuries throughout his NBA stint. In fact, some people would remember the 7’0 center for his gruesome injuries like in 2010, where he had an awkward fall that dislocated his elbow. Because of an injury-riddled career, Bogut could never establish himself as a star in the league.
Nevertheless, he still emerged to be a defensive presence for the Warriors’ championship team in 2015. Furthermore in his prime years, we saw Bogut dominate the league in blocks at one point. If Bogut didn’t get injured a lot, who knows what more the Australian big man could’ve achieved in the league.
11. Zion Williamson
Year drafted: 2019
Career stats: 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.4 blocks
Awards: 1x All-Rookie First Team
Arguably one of the most hyped college prospects in recent memory, Zion Williamson didn’t really disappoint in his first season so far in the NBA. After playing for Duke, the burly forward has showed flashes of his potential including a career high 35 point explosion against the Lakers to go along with 11 rebounds.
It is worth noting, however, that there are still a lot of questions regarding how good Zion will be in the league, given how he missed a lot of action during his NBA debut season due to a knee injury.
But if the Duke standout can keep himself healthy and make the Pelicans a legit playoff contender, then Zion can surely say he deserved to be picked first overall.
10. John Wall
Year drafted: 2010
Career stats: 19.0 points, 9.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks
Awards: 5x NBA All-Star, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 1x All-Defensive Second Team, 1x All-Rookie First Team, 1x NBA Slam Dunk Champion
It wasn’t long ago when John Wall established himself as one of the rising stars of the league when the Wizards drafted him in 2010. His speed, quickness, and athleticism were what convinced the Wizards front office to make Wall the face of the franchise. The 6’4 guard was no doubt a force to be reckoned with during the past decade, as he racked up five straight All-Star selections.
Unfortunately, injuries started to slowdown Wall’s career. A foot injury has sidelined Wall since December 2019. Although Wall has been out of action since then, it is worth noting that he has been individually great for the Wizards when he was healthy. As a result, he deserves to be in the Top 10 of this list, especially when he’s gearing up for a comeback soon.
9. Karl-Anthony Towns
Year drafted: 2015
Career stats: 22.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 blocks, 0.8 assists
Awards: 2x NBA All-Star, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 1x Rookie of the Year, 1x All-Rookie First Team
Modern day big men are making waves in the NBA today and a reason for that is the fine play of Karl-Anthony Towns. The Dominican Republic center possessed the tools to flourish in the league as he is no doubt a walking double-double.
Offensively, Towns is always a nightmare matchup for any opposing team as he possesses an inside-and-outside game. At the same time, a steady improvement in his playmaking make him an even more dangerous player. He is indeed one of the premier big men we have today.
However, what prevented Towns from going up this list is a lack of team success. Although he has been racking up the individual accolades, the former Kentucky star has only brought his team to the postseason once in five years. Furthermore, his defense needs a little more improvement in order for him to solidify his stardom in the league.
8. Ben Simmons
Year drafted: 2016
Career stats: 16.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks
Awards: 2x NBA All-Star, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 1x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 1x Rookie of the Year, 1x Al-Rookie First Team, 1x League Leader in Steals
Ben Simmons was no doubt one of the most hyped prospects of the 2016 NBA Draft due to his size combined with his ability to put the ball on the floor. His all-around game was a huge upside that scouts salivated over. But despite the hype, Simmons has delivered in the NBA. As one of the franchise cornerstones alongside Joel Embiid, the Australian swingman has continued to do a little bit of everything.
However, injuries to the Australian star have prevented him from taking the Sixers to a deep playoff run, just like what happened in the 2020 NBA Bubble. Furthermore, his lack of a jump shot is a concern. Fortunately, Simmons has a lot of time to develop one given that he is still 24. With his prime years ahead, it won’t be surprising to see Simmons get a chance to take over the league.
7. Blake Griffin
Year drafted: 2009
Career stats: 21.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks
Awards: 6x NBA All-Star, 3x All-NBA Second Team, 2x All-NBA Third Team, 1x Rookie of the Year, 1x All-Rookie First Team, 1x NBA Slam Dunk Champion
There’s no question that one of the best first overall picks in this list is Blake Griffin. The 6’9 power forward makes a case to be one of the most powerful dunkers that we’ve seen in the modern era.
After sitting out his first year in the NBA due to a knee injury, Griffin wasted no time in making an impact. The former Oklahoma star posterized everyone who tried to get in his way, as he earned an All-Star declaration just in his first playing year. The rest of the players that have achieved this feat are Hall of Famers like Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, and Michael Jordan.
Griffin established himself as one of the premier big men in the league especially during the earlier parts of the past decade where he was part of the Lob City run alongside Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan. Although the Lob City era was put to an end in 2017 and Griffin was eventually shipped to the Pistons, the 2009 first overall pick was a force to be reckoned with. He put up 24.5 points per outing in his first season with the Pistons and was declared an NBA All-Star that year.
6. Kyrie Irving
Year drafted: 2011
Career stats: 22.4 points, 5.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.4 blocks
Awards: 1x NBA Champion, 6x All-Star, 1x All-Star MVP, 1x All-NBA Second Team, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 1x Rookie of the Year, 1x Rookie First Team, 1x Three Point Contest Champion
Kyrie Irving is one of the most elite guards today because of his ball-handling and scoring skills. The 2011 no. 1 draft pick was instrumental in bringing Cleveland its first NBA Championship when he shot the dagger during the dying moments of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.
The spitfire guard has so far showcased his talents with the Boston Celtics and now with the Brooklyn Nets ever since. It remains to be seen whether or not Irving can win a championship without LeBron James as a teammate. But with Kevin Durant returning for next season, Uncle Drew might inch his way closer to another ring.
5. Dwight Howard
Year drafted: 2004
Career stats: 16.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.9 blocks, 0.9 steals
Awards: 1x NBA Champion, 8x All-Star, 5x All-NBA First Team, 1x All-NBA Second Team, 2x All-NBA Third Team, 3x Defensive Player of the Year, 4x All-Defensive First Team, 1x All-Defensive Second Team, 1x All-Rookie First Team, 5x League Leader in Rebounds, 3x League Leader in Blocks, 1x Slam Dunk Champion
If you look at Dwight now, you’d be surprised as to how he made it in the Top 5. Before he was a role player for the Lakers, Howard was a legitimate inside presence for the Orlando Magic wherein he collected multiple individual awards. More importantly, he also made the Magic a playoff contender for the most part of his years there. In fact, he even led the team to a Finals appearance in 2009, where the Magic pulled an upset against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.
Although the All-Star center is no longer in his younger years, joining another contender in the Sixers may help him add another piece to his already decorated list of accolades.
4. Derrick Rose
Year drafted: 2008
Career stats: 18.8 points, 5.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks
Awards: 1x NBA MVP, 3x All-Star, 1x All-NBA First Team, 1x Rookie of the Year, 1x All-Rookie First Team
Add Derrick Rose to the list of players that were slowed down by injuries. Fortunately, the 6’2 guard has been showing signs of rejuvenating his career. For the past two seasons, Rose has played great basketball as the Sixth Man of the Timberwolves and Pistons.
But before a string of knee injuries, Rose was a dominant guard that took over the league with his thunderous dunks and insane crossovers. The former league MVP has also proven to be a great leader as he made the Bulls a relevant team again since the Michael Jordan era.
3. Yao Ming
Year drafted: 2002
Career stats: 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.9 blocks, 0.4 steals
Awards: 8x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Second Team, 3x All-NBA Third Team, 1x All-Rookie First Team
Yao Ming is so far the only Hall-of-Famer in this list, which is why he deserves to be in the Top Three. The Chinese center was a brute force for the Houston Rockets in the paint. With Yao around, the Rockets became contenders in the Western Conference. At 7’3 Yao used his size to anchor the paint and to dominate smaller centers in the post. He was simply a walking double-double.
Unfortunately, injuries slowed down the Rockets big man and prevented him from possibly winning a championship in the NBA. Nevertheless, Yao was still able to achieve a lot in just eight short seasons in the league which leaves us to question how dominant Yao could have been, had he been healthier throughout his career.
2. Anthony Davis
Year drafted: 2012
Career stats: 24.0 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.4 blocks, 1.4 steals
Awards: 1x NBA Champion, 7x All-Star, 1x All-Star MVP, 4x All-NBA First Team, 2x All-Defensive First Team, 2x All-Defensive Second Team, 3x League Leader in Blocks, 1x All-Rookie First Team
Arguably the best big man today, Anthony Davis has certainly made a name for himself in the NBA especially after winning his first championship this year. The seven time All-Star has been a dominant player when it comes to scoring, rebounding, and blocking shots. In fact, he has been named to the All-Star game in all of his years except his rookie season.
At only 27 years old, we are only approaching the prime years of AD. This only means that the Lakers star will only get better. With what he has so far achieved in his young career, Davis can cement his legacy as one of the best big men the league has ever seen.
1. LeBron James
Year drafted: 2003
Career stats: 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.8 blocks
Awards: 4x NBA Champion, 4x Finals MVP, 16x All-Star, 3x All-Star MVP, 13x All-NBA First Team, 2x All-NBA Second Team, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 5x All-Defensive First Team, 1x All-Defensive Second Team, 1x Rookie of the Year, 1x All-Rookie First Team, 1x League Leader in Points, 1x League Leader in Assists
If we’re talking about first overall picks, there’s no doubt that LeBron James makes a case to top the list. Based on his numbers and accolades, one can say James is indeed the best player in the world especially after winning his fourth NBA championship with the Lakers just this year.
The King is already 35 years of age. However, there are no signs of him slowing down anytime soon. With him getting close to the all-time scoring list and taking three different teams to the pinnacle of the NBA, I don’ think you can ask for more from any first overall pick. As a result, James easily towers over everyone in this list.