As the 2012 NBA Draft fast approaches, it is becoming increasingly evident that Anthony Davis of Kentucky will be selected first overall by the New Orleans Hornets, a team that is in a transition period after losing franchise player Chris Paul to Los Angeles. Although only 19, Davis was the 2012 National Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 2012. In short, he is the pretty obvious choice.
However, regardless of his many accolades, Davis is surrounded by a strong draft class, namely fellow Wildcat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal of Florida. Thus, it is very important that the Hornets make sure that Davis is the one who fits best into their lineup and future plans as a franchise, because they may not have the opportunity to draft first again for a long time.
After all, top NBA draft picks have been known to be make-or-break players for teams, and it is very hard to predict who will sink and who will swim in the NBA.
Remember in 1996 when Kobe Bryant (career 25.4 points per game, 4.6 assists per game, 5.4 rebounds per game) was drafted 13th overall the same year that Todd Fuller (career: 3.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg) was drafted 2 picks before him? Or, when Michael Olowokandi (career: 8.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) was drafted ahead of Mike Bibby, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce — all of whom are NBA superstars?
Even by evaluating the NBA draft from 2001-2011, one can see how much of an impact — or lack thereof — No. 1 picks have on a team:
2001: Center Kwame Brown ~ Career: 6.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg ~ Playing for Milwaukee Bucks
Who? If you have never heard of Kwame Brown, there is a reason for that. With names like Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas below him, Brown is no question the worst No. 1 pick of the 21st century. The expression “first is the worst,” although unfortunate, definitely applies here.
2002: Center Yao Ming ~ Career: 19.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg ~ Retired
Although Yao Ming is no longer playing in the NBA due to many issues, including an injury to his foot, he is a large improvement from Brown, although nowhere near perfect. Playing his whole career with the Houston Rockets, Yao respectably averaged a double-double. And looking back, although his draft class was very poor, an Amar’e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer would have been a definite improvement.
2003: Forward LeBron James ~ Career: 27.6 ppg, 6.9 apg, 7.2 rpg ~ Playing for Miami Heat
Hats off to the Cleveland Cavaliers for making one of the best decisions in choosing LeBron as their #1 pick amidst a draft class including Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Unfortunately, the Miami Heat, who drafted Wade 5th overall, have stolen the Cavaliers’ thunder by acquiring both Bosh and Wade in 2010. Nevertheless, the pick was risky due to an absence of college experience, but worth it given LeBron’s current dominant status in the NBA.
2004: Center Dwight Howard ~ Career: 18.4ppg, 13.0rpg ~ Playing for Orlando Magic
Another outstanding #1 pick made by the Orlando Magic drafting Dwight Howard out of high school. The 26-year-old has been a menace in the league since his entrance, averaging at least double-double every single year. Given that the only notable names from his draft class were Devin Harris, Luol Deng and Andre Igoudala, Howard was definitely the smart choice.
2005: Center Andrew Bogut ~ Career: 12.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg ~ Playing for Golden State Warriors
Although Andrew Bogut is nowhere near as bad as Brown, averaging 2x the points he scored and 1.5x the rebounds he brought in, you have to feel bad for the Milwaukee Bucks given the other players available to them: Deron Williams went 3rd overall, Chris Paul went 4th overall, and Andrew Bynum went 10th overall. Put simply, he’s average, which is not good enough when it comes to the first overall draft pick.
2006: Center Andrea Bargnani ~ Career: 15.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg ~ Playing for Toronto Raptors
Although the Toronto Raptors had pretty slim pickings, Andrea Bargnani would not have been my first choice, second, or third given the 2006 draft class. In my opinion, those should have gone to LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, and Rajon Rondo. Bargnani was one of three international players to be drafted in the last five (Ming, Bogut). However, just like Bogut, Bargnani is an average, nondescript player.
2007: Center Greg Oden ~ Career: 9.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg ~ Free Agent
Greg Oden is another #1 draft pick sob story as he has spent the majority of his career injured rather than playing. With players like Kevin Durant (especially), Al Horford, and Marc Gasol below him, one can see how much impact one draft pick can have. Oden was just recently dropped by the Portland Trail Blazers, who were very patient with him but had had it due to injury; he is currently a free agent.
2008: Gaurd Derrick Rose ~ Career: 21 ppg, 6.8 apg, 3.4 rpg ~ Playing for Chicago Bulls
Congratulations to the Chicago Bulls for making one of the smartest decisions in choosing Derrick Rose 1st pick overall. He is one of the top 5 players I, personally, would build a team around and has done extremely well for himself in the NBA thus far. Unfortunately, his torn ACL cost the Bulls a championship run this year, but they will be a force to be reckoned with once Rose gets back to full health, guaranteed. Notable fellow members in the 2008 draft class were Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and O.J. Mayo.
2009: Forward Blake Griffin ~ Career: 21.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg ~ Playing for Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin, just like Derrick Rose, is a fantastic first overall draft pick. Although the Los Angeles Clippers had to wait a year for him, this past season he truly proved that he is a beast on the court, averaging well over a double-double and, with the help of Chris Paul and others, leading them to the playoffs. Better yet, other than Griffin, nobody other than Brandon Jennings has really made an impact in the NBA.
2010: Point Gaurd John Wall ~ Career: 16.3 ppg, 8.2 apg ~ Playing for Washington Wizards
Although he was overshadowed by Blake Griffin in his rookie season, John Wall has been a very consistent NBA player since entering the league. Almost averaging a double-double, the 21-year old won Rookie of the Month for the Eastern Conference four months in a row (Griffin won it for all six months for the Western Conference). As time goes on, it will be interesting to see how Wall progresses with references to fellow members of his draft class, namely DeMarcus Cousins and Evan Turner.
2011: Guard Kyrie Irving ~ Career: 18.5 ppg, 5.4 apg ~ Playing for Cleveland Cavaliers
The current rookie of the year, Kyrie Irving brought a spark of hope to the Cleveland Cavaliers, two years after losing LeBron. He won Rookie of the Month for the Eastern Conference three months in a row (out of four) and led the Cavaliers to a 21-45 season, which seems lousy until you compare it to their ’10-’11 record of 19-63 (2 fewer wins and 18 more losses. Similar to Wall, Irving has so much room to grow, and will be exciting player to watch in the coming years.