The 1984 would always be in the mix of the conversation on the greatest draft in the history of the NBA. Notable players include famous picks in the following order, Hakeem Olajuwon (1), Michael Jordan (3), Charles Barkley (5), Alvin Robertson (7), Otis Thorpe (9), Kevin Willis (11), John Stockton (16). This draft class has already seen some of its players in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. These players hold long-standing records such as Jordan (top four in career scoring), Stockton (top in career assists) and Barkley (19th in career rebounds). The 1984 class also saw multiple Most Valuable Player winners like Michael Jordan (five times), Hakeem Olajuwon (one time) and Charles Barkley (one time). That pedigree class also saw 29 total All-Defensive team selections and 47 total All-NBA team selections throughout the career spans of all the players. The Championship ring count is an incredible 13! Pretty crazy and pretty outstanding crop indeed. Say what you may about other years, but 1984 is definitely a class of legends due to their imprint on the history books.
Next comes the 1996 draft class of unconventional, flamboyant and entertaining players. Notable players from this draft include the following picks in order, Allen Iverson (one), Marcus Camby (two), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (three), Stephon Marbury (four), Ray Allen (five), Antoine Walker (six), Kobe Bryant (13), Peja Stojakovic (14), Steve Nash (15), Jermaine O’Neal (17), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (20) and Derek Fisher (24). This fabulous class saw 16 total All-Defensive team selections and 37 total All-NBA team selections throughout the career spans of all the players. This class had four Most Valuable Players titles, namely Steve Nash (two), Kobe Bryant (one) and Allen Iverson (one). The Championship ring count is a whopping 19! What a class of winners!
The only player within the top six picks of this draft not to ever make an All-Star team was Marcus Camby. He was, however, the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. He likely would have made a few All-Star squads if not for his untimely injuries. Two of the three best players in the 1996 Draft were actually not selected in the top six picks. Just look how remarkably gifted this draft class was.
Bryant and Nash are the two MVPs that draft beyond tenth position. The star power (and commercial value) of this class was impressive too, with a total of 58 All-Star appearances. In terms of total awards and total actual winning, there isn’t a more decorated draft class in NBA history than the Class of 1996.
So, how does the current 2017 class rank among the greats? Let’s take a closer look.
The 2017 NBA Draft broke the NBA records with 16 freshmen and two seniors taken in the first round, the youngest batch of rookies til date.
As per John Schuhmann from NBA TV, these young rookies have been killing it during crunch time. The clutch statistics ranking dated right until January 8th showed impressive figures. Focusing on the shooting department, the shooting percentage during the last five minutes of game time when points differential between two teams is within five points was superb. The 2017 draft class is edging off the veterans in the top five of the entire NBA. Below are some quick figures.
Three out of the top five players in this area are rookies. This is unprecedented excellence and good news for their teams. Now let us study individual rookies to unravel more gems.
Donovan Mitchell is the number 13th pick for the Utah Jazz. At six foot three, he possesses a wingspan of six foot ten. He is just 21 years old and is one of the most higher performing rookie who went under the radar due to his draft spot. This player exceeded expectations when he expanded his role within the offence as the starters Rudy Gobert and Joe Johnson both went down with injuries. With the back up point guard Raul Neto injured, the stage was set for Donovan’s showcase. He has been on a tear to begin the season and shows no sign of slowing down.
This rookie opens fans eyes with his high flying put-back dunks and most notably his 41 point night leading Jazz in a comeback win over Pelicans 114-108 on December 1st, 2017. Donovan now has 61 three-pointer makes right up till last December 6th. That mark is officially the highest for any NBA rookie player through his first 25 career games. Already one of the Utah Jazz’s top scorers, if he can somehow can help the Jazz push for a playoff spot without the traded Gordon Hayward, Donovan’s records will look ever more impressive as a rookie.
Lauri Markkanen is the seventh pick for the Chicago Bulls. Being drafted to a tanking Bulls team meant that there are more opportunities to clock decent minutes of play. While most rookies in tanking teams will start slow, Lauri has showed no rust. He became the first player in NBA history to make 10 three-pointers in just his first three games.
As per Micah Adams, Lauri is in rare air of the greats for averaging more made three-pointers per game than any rookie in the ENTIRE NBA history. Let us not forget that this 20 year old is also a seven footer. In the most recent January match-up between the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls, Lauri’s talents were in full display in an epic double overtime contest. Lauri posted stellar numbers of 33 points, 10 rebounds with eight for fifteen shooting for three pointers while Kristaps posted 24 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Images of Lauri turning into another Dirk Nowitzki or Kristaps Porzingis is genuinely fathomable now. Take some time to digest that. That kind of shooting bodes well for the Bulls’ future rebuild, for sure.
Ben Simmons, by right, belongs to the 2016 draft class but only got to start his rookie season in 2017 due to injury. This number one draft pick from the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers is an athletic, huge point guard is a unique specimen of power, intellect and all-around ability. He has the body of LeBron James, the handles of a guard and a court vision like a rookie Chris Paul. Ben is one of the few point guards out there who can drive to the basket with force like Russell Westbrook. His presence has made the Sixers improve much faster than the past few years. His complete package draws pundits’ forecasts that he might one day be a perennial MVP candidate.
Ben kick-started his career with a mark on the history books. He became the first Sixers player and just the 11th in NBA history to begin his career with two double doubles. His physicality and court awareness has already earned praises from veterans and even LeBron James himself was recorded saying Ben Simmons might one day surpass his excellence. Ben is now an integral piece in the Sixers’ team and instrumental in all of their wins thus far. Few rookies can start their campaign so strongly but his one year of injury rehabilitation has definitely strengthened Ben’s abilities.
Jayson Tatum joined the Boston Celtics as their number three draft pick. This lengthy and skilled rookie exuded promise with an NBA debut that mirrored the statistics of Celtics legend, Larry Bird. He went for a double double, smashing the long-held record by Larry Bird in 1979. Jayson clocked 14 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. Jayson’s first game was also the horrific injury night of Gordon Hayward. That incident did not faze him. It opened a gap in the team and guess who stepped up to the challenge for the forward position?
Being in the starting line-up actually allowed Jayson to showcase his maturity, steady shooting and poise. His maturity was seen on a game against the Phoenix Suns when he literally killed their spirits with a game-winning double-handed dunk before calming answering the postgame interviews without much excitement. His shooting accuracy has been consistently decent, currently sitting at 28th in the entire NBA with 49.9% in field goal percentage. His mental toughness was on full display in a game against the Miami Heat, when he dislocated his last finger in a gruesome injury and proceeded to get it popped back in-position, shrugging off any concern.
Just look at the Boston Celtics sitting atop the Eastern Conference, at 34-10, with a clear 5-game advantage over the second seeded Toronto and being just second overall behind the Western juggernaut Golden State Warriors. The impact of Jayson Tatum is great and he definitely earned his roster spot by being an integral piece to this newly formed Celtics team. Danny Ainge’s initial gamble to swap the number one pick for number three has panned out really good indeed.
Kyle Kuzma took the NBA by storm when he was drafted 27th by the Los Angeles Lakers. The fateful trade that sent the 27th pick from the Brooklyn Nets to the Lakers allowed the Purple-and-Gold to capture the hidden gem in this Flint Michigan product.
Kyle has since then showed the world that he is the Laker’ best offensive rookie from the draft. He surprised everyone by exceeding any expectations anyone had for him, stepping up big-time during the Summer League when Lonzo Ball got injured. His impact was key for the Lakers to clinch their inaugural title, sealing his crown for the Finals Most Valuable Player in the Summaer League.
Kyle went on to show that he is not a one-trick-pony. He again surprised everyone with his multiple 20-point games and even a career high of 38 points. With his 38 points, the Lakers snapped the Rockets’ 14-game winning streak, which is impressive on its own. His production even outshone greatly hyped sophomore, Brandon Ingram, especially with Kyle’s huge showing right out of the gate.
As per Shahan Ahmed quoting the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma is the first rookie in nba history to ever record 330 points, 120 rebounds and 30 made three pointers in his first 20 games. He also became the first Lakers rookie since the ‘Logo’, Jerry West, in 1961 to post at least 25 points in three consecutive games, according to Elias Sports Bureau. That is great news for the Lakers and an encouraging sign for the rookie’s potential. His zest for winning, competitive spirit and curiosity to learn has earned the praise of legends and veterans, such as Kobe Bryant, Reggie Miller, James Worthy, Magic Johnson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant.
Another Laker, Lonzo Ball, entered the league being draft number two. He proceeded to announce his entry with a bang, breaking Magic Johnson’s record for being the youngest Laker with multiple triple doubles as a rookie. He then went on to break LeBron James’ record for being the youngest player with a triple double. Subsequently, Lonzo bettered his performance by matching Lebron’s record age for being the youngest player to record a second triple double in his career.
As per NBA TNT, the first 26 games of LeBron’s career compared to Lonzo’s career showed encouraging signs. Apart from points per game, which LeBron is better at 18.7 compared to Lonzo at 8.9, the other facets of the game showed that Lonzo was better. Lonzo edged LeBron 6.9 to 6.0 in rebounds per game and again 7.0 to 6.0 in assists per game. In this first 26 games, Lonzo also had 2 triple doubles and LeBron had none. Record-wise, Lonzo has a leg up with 10-16 while LeBron was at 7-19.
According to sports media personality Colin Cowherd, Lonzo Ball is massively underrated. He mentioned that Ball ranks within top ten among all point guards in the NBA for rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Another potent fact is that he also leads the entire NBA in pass-aheads, meaning passes that travel at least 30 feet downcourt. The average time Lonzo takes to push the ball beyond the half-court line is 2.11 seconds, the fastest in the league among starting point guards. We are not even talking about rookie ranking, we are talking about ranking against grown men NBA players. This is not only flattering but also a reminder of the potential that Lonzo has shown in less than two months in the NBA.
In addition, Lonzo became the first Laker since 2008 to record double double without including points. On 9 January 2018, Lonzo Ball achieved the feat with five points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and 5 steals. His predecessor, Lamar Odom, achieved the same feat ten years ago on 28 March 2008 with 2 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
Lonzo is a highly polarizing player, in part due to his boisterous father, LaVar Ball. However, the critics and fans both have to acknowledge the influence that this rookie instantly has in changing the Lakers for the better. He makes the Lakers better the moment he sets foot on the court by pushing the pace and applying his savant basketball IQ to anticipate the opponents’ plays two steps ahead. Lonzo has helped coach Walton create a fun passing culture in the Lakers game that helps them win.
After ploughing through the illustrious first three months of this 2017 draft class, the figures and results have already opened our eyes to their capabilities, immediate impact and star potential. With history being re-written so often for this draft class and buzz aplenty revolving their stellar performances every few weeks, it is enticing to imagine their trajectory and future. Perhaps, when all is said and done, ten years down the road, we might even see this draft class produce an equally or, may we dare dream, a more decorated achievement list than the 1984 or 1996 draft classes.