NBA: Does Having #1 Pay Off?

NBA: Does Having #1 Pay Off?

words_Brandon Richard

They call it the NBA Draft Lottery. The NBA’s random ping-pong ball system used to choose the order of the Draft. Calling it a lottery implies that there’s a huge reward attached to winning it. However, that may not always be the case. For every Shaquille O’Neal, there’s a Michael Olowokandi. This year, the Washington Wizards have the first pick, and are expected to take Kentucky point guard John Wall. The last time the Wizards had the first overall pick, they drafted the biggest bust of the decade.¬† How does having the #1 overall pick really turn out for the teams that have it? Let’s take a look and see how the last 10 number picks have fared at the next level.

2000 – Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati
Selected By: New Jersey Nets
Seasons Played: 10
Honors: 2000-2001 All Rookie 1st Team; NBA All-Star (2004)
Best Season: 2003-2004: 16.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 BPG
Current Status: Martin is a solid role for the Denver Nuggets. After suffering a broken leg during his final season in college, he has continued to have an injury plagued career in the NBA, playing 70 or more games just 4 times in his 10-year career. Even with the injuries, Martin continues to post quality  numbers. He averaged 11.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG, and 1.9 APG in 58 starts this season.

2001 – Kwame Brown, Glynn Academy High School
Selected By: Washington Wizards
Seasons Played: 9
Honors: N/A
Best Season: 2003-2004: 10.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Current Status: Unfortunately, Kwame will be remembered as the biggest bust of his decade. After being selected first overall by then Wizards President of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan, Brown has had a rough career. He has essentially been reduced to a trade chip, and may be most remembered for being the key part of the deal that helped the Lakers land Pau Gasol. His most season recent in Detroit saw him post career lows in points, blocks, and minutes.

2002 – Yao Ming, Shanghai, China
Selected By: Houston Rockets
Seasons Played: 7
Honors: 2002-2003 All Rookie 1st Team; All-NBA 2nd Team x 2, All-NBA 3rd Team x 3; 7-Time NBA All-Star
Best Season: 2006-2007: 25.0 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.0 BPG. Unfortunately, cut short due to injury.
Current Status: Yao missed the entire 2009-2010 season with a broken left foot. When healthy, he’s right there with Dwight Howard for the best center in the league title. The problem is, he’s rarely healthy. In 2010-2011, Yao will attempt to comeback from his injury. It remains to be seen whether or not that will be in Houston, as Yao has the option to terminate his current contract and seek long-term security.

2003: LeBron James, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School
Selected By: Cleveland Cavaliers
Seasons Played: 7
Honors: 2003-2004 NBA Rookie of the Year; 2008-2009 NBA MVP; 2009-2010 NBA MVP; All-NBA 1st Team x 4, All-NBA 2nd Team x 2; NBA All Defensive 1st Team x 2; 6-Time NBA All-Star
Best Season: 2009-2010: 29.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 APG, 1.0 BPG
Current Status: Simply stated, LeBron is arguably the best player in the NBA. However, that off-the-charts talent has not landed him a NBA championship ring. In back-to-back seasons of leading his Cavs to the best record in the NBA, Cleveland suffered disappointing early exits. Those losses may have lead to LeBron making an exit of his own. LeBron, the most coveted free agent in NBA history, will officially be able to make a decision regarding his playing career on July 1st. Have we seen the last of “The King” in Ohio?

2004 – Dwight Howard, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy High School
Selected By: Orlando Magic
Seasons Played: 6
Honors: 2008-2009 Defensive Player of the Year; 2009-2010 Defensive Player of the Year; All-NBA 1st Team x 3, All-NBA 3rd Team x 1; NBA All-Defensive 1st Team x 2, NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team x 1; 4-Time NBA All-Star
Best Season: 2008-2009: 20.6 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 2.9 BPG
Current Status: Dwight is generally regarded as the best center in the NBA. He’s lead the league in rebounding and shot blocking in consecutive years, landing back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honors for his efforts. Much like LeBron, he’s had his team in position to contend for a NBA championship the last two seasons, only to come up short. The big question surrounding Dwight is whether or not he’ll ever put together the offensive game to match his defensive dominance. Apparently, Dwight heard the critics, as he’s taken out time to work with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon this summer.

2005, Andrew Bogut, Utah
Selected By: Milwaukee Bucks
Seasons Played: 5
Honors: All-Rookie 1st Team; All-NBA 3rd Team (2009-2010)
Best Season: 2009-2010: 15.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.5 BPG
Current Status: Andrew finally found his stride this past season. He posted career highs in points and blocks, while helping the Bucks surge as one of the surprise teams in the league. Unfortunately, a freak accident left Bogut with a dislocated elbow and several other arm-related injuries, ending his season prematurely. If Andrew is able to return healthy next season, he could be a threat to Dwight Howard’s reign as leading shot blocker and Defensive Player of the Year.

2006 – Andrea Bargnani, Rome, Italy
Selected By: Toronto Raptors
Seasons Played: 4
Honors: All-Rookie 1st Team
Best Season: 2009-2010: 17.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.2 APG
Current Status: Bargnani is showing signs of turning the corner and the ability to become a really solid pro. Though the Raptors have missed the postseason the two seasons, Bargnani has shown growth and improvement on the stat sheets. The pending (and expected) departure of Chris Bosh may require Bargnani to take his game to an all-new level next season.

2007, Greg Oden, Ohio State
Selected By: Portland Trailblazers
Seasons Played: 2
Honors: N/A
Best Season: 2008-2009: 8.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.1 BPG
Current Status: It’s hard to really get a feel for where Oden is as a NBA player. To say he’s even played 2 seasons is a stretch. He completely missed what was supposed to be his rookie season with a knee injury. Oden returned in 2008-2009, only to miss several games down the stretch with more knee issues. Once again, after an intense offseason of rehab, Oden got off to a hot start in 2009. He was averaging improved numbers across the board, only to suffer a fractured knee cap and once again miss the remainder of the season. After early comparisons to Sam Bowie, it’s starting to feel eerie for Blazer fans, as Kevin Durant develops into an elite perimeter player ala Michael Jordan.

2008 – Derrick Rose, Memphis
Selected By: Chicago Bulls
Seasons Played: 2
Honors: 2008-2009 Rookie of the Year; All-Rookie 1st Team; NBA All-Star (2010)
Best Season: 2009-2010: 20.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 6.0 APG
Current Status: Rose has already put himself in the conversation for the league’s best point guards. After a highly successful rookie campaign, Rose was selected as an All-Star in his second season, something the three previous #1 picks before him have not been able to do. With the aura of the city and cap space on Chicago’s side, it’s likely that Rose will get the help of an All-Star caliber free agent next season.

2009 – Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
Selected By: Los Angeles Clippers
Seasons Played: 0
Honors: N/A
Best Season: N/A
Current Status: Call it the Clipper Curse. Griffin suffered a stress fracture in his left knee during the Clippers’ final preseason game, causing him to miss his entire rookie campaign. The word out of LA-LA Land is that Blake is back, healthy, and ready to go. While the world is focused on John Wall and Evan Turner, Blake may end up being the best first year player during the 2010-2011 NBA season.

To break this down, the last ten #1 overall picks have produced 2 Rookie of the Year award winners, 5 NBA All-Stars, and 1 MVP. Two of the players (James and Howard) could be considered franchise players as things stand right now. Yao could have been part of that category with a clean bill of health, while Derrick Rose has all the potential to join those elite ranks as well. Does having the #1 overall pick in the draft pay off? Sometimes. If our assumptions are correct, John Wall has the distinct honor of being the first #1 of the next decade. Will his name rate with James, Howard, and Rose? Does he join Kwame Brown in the line of first overall busts? We’ll find out when the NBA season tips off in October.

The NBA Draft takes place tonight at 7 p.m. EST.

images via Sports Illustrated & ESPN