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10 greatest NBA draft classes of all-time

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There are a few contenders for the best NBA draft class in history. Getting the draft right is an essential part of building an NBA franchise that can compete at the top end of the league season after season.

Being in the right place to pick when the top NBA draft classes enter the league is important, but knowing team needs and picking stars isn’t always as simple as it may seem.

Here is a look at the contenders for the greatest NBA draft class ever.

Best NBA Draft Class

An honorable mention to the 1970 NBA Draft class that was headlined by No. 1 pick Bob Lanier and No. 3 overall pick Pete Maravich (perhaps the best college player of all time). This draft produced six NBA Hall of Famers and eight Hall of Famers overall.


We start with a class that is an anomaly on this list. While the 1999 NBA Draft Class hasn’t produced a single Hall of Famer there are so many players in it that became All-Stars and that were massively important contributors and scorers to teams that lit up the league in the 2000s and even 2010s.


Nine All-Stars total were drafted here and that doesn’t even include Lamar Odom who somehow never made an All-Star game despite being a double-digit scorer in 12 NBA seasons.

Rip Hamilton, Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Ron Artest, etc. The list just keeps on going with perhaps the most important All-Star from this class being the final one that was drafted as the San Antonio Spurs took a 57th pick flyer on one Manu Ginobili.


This is the most recent class on this list because it seems unfair to judge many of the more recent groups against classes with a full body of work. While there are plenty of still active players in this class, there are three headliners that give this a place in the top 10.

Blake Griffin was a monster in his early years with the Clippers, while Steph Curry at No. 7 overall and No. 3 overall pick James Harden helped change the course of the league for the next decade-plus.


Curry is one of the greatest shooters to ever play the game, while Harden, among the best pure scorers ever, averages over 25 points per game for his career despite never averaging more than 16 points per game in his first three seasons in Oklahoma City.


The first 25 or so years of the NBA draft were a bit of a crapshoot. Scouting was still rudimentary and players were missed on more often than hit.

That is not the case with the top end of the 1960 draft. The first pick was Oscar Robertson, who was the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season. It took until Russell Westbrook 55 years later to change that.

Next up was West Virginia point guard Jerry West, the player that would become the silhouette for the NBA logo.

In addition to obvious Hall of Famers The Logo and The Big O, there were three other HoFers in this class in Lenny Wilkens, Tom Sanders, and Al Attles.


This draft had the potential to be much higher on this list if No. 1 overall pick Michael Olowokandi hadn’t been one of the biggest NBA draft busts of all time.

Paul Pierce is already a Hall of Famer and both Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter will join him there when they are eligible.

The greatest stat from this draft is that there are 48 players in history that have scored 20,000 or more points across the NBA and ABA (Steph Curry will make this 49 soon). The 1998 NBA Draft Class had four of them.

The three players mentioned above are led by Nowitzki who finished sixth all-time with 31,560 points. 1998 Class member Antawn Jamison is the fourth member with 20,042 points and was an 18.5 points per game scorer over his 16-year career.


This draft gave Michael Jordan his Chicago Bulls running mate for championship after championship in Scottie Pippen.

Pippen was taken at No. 5 overall by the Seattle Supersonics who traded him to the Windy City for the rights to No. 8 overall pick Olden Polynice. This did not work out to be a good trade for those in the Pacific Northwest.

Pippen arguably wasn’t even the best player in the class, however, with No. 1 overall pick David Robinson avoiding the knee issues that slow 7-footers down so often to become a two-time NBA champion and 10-time All-Star with the Spurs.

Reggie Miller, perhaps the second-best shooter in NBA history, rounds out a trio of players that combined high-level talent with the ability to be clutch when it mattered.


To those that value championships it is hard to look past the 1956 NBA Draft Class. No. 2 overall pick Bill Russell was taken by the St. Louis Hawks and traded to the Boston Celtics.

All he did in Beantown was win the NBA title 11 times and become a 12-time All-Star. Russell would later add another pair of rings as a coach.

In all, this draft produced four Hall of Famers and three of them were selected by the Celtics in the most productive two rounds of any team in NBA history. Along with the trade for Russell, the Celtics grabbed Tom Heinsohn with their territorial pick and K.C. Jones with the No. 13 overall pick. Elgin Baylor was taken in the fourteenth round by the Lakers as the other Hall of Famer.


This class was almost as good as the class that preceded it but it will forever be in the shadow of the Class of 1984.

In 1985, however, five Hall of Famers were brought into the league.

That group was led by Patrick Ewing and all the controversy that surrounded the New York Knicks winning the NBA Draft Lottery and the ability to take Ewing at No. 1 overall.

Future Hall of Famer Chris Mullin was taken at No. 7 before the Utah Jazz took Karl Malone at No. 13. Malone would pair with 1984 pick John Stockton to give the Jazz a pair of franchise cornerstones for the next decade. Joe Dumars and Arvydas Sabonis were the other Hall inductees taken here.


This draft class was so good that it contains a Hall of Famer that wasn’t even drafted. That player was Ben Wallace who became a Hall of Famer based on his defensive production, but the first round of this draft was also loaded with talent that blossomed in the league.

There are four first-round Hall of Famers here, with No. 1 overall pick Allen Iverson leading the way. Ray Allen (No. 5), Steve Nash (No. 15), and the late, great Kobe Bryant (No. 13) were also products of this draft.

Stephon Marbury shone brightly for a few seasons before fading, while international players Peja Stojakovic and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had very solid NBA careers.


If No. 2 pick Darko Milicic had ever become what was expected then the 2003 NBA Draft may have had the juice to overtake the 1984 Draft as the best NBA draft class ever.

The other four picks in the top 5 here are all first-ballot Hall of Famers when their time comes. Chris Bosh is already in the Hall – injuries ended his career far too soon. LeBron James is one of the greatest players to ever play the game, while Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade have both had monster careers in the NBA.

The draft lacks any depth after that – Josh Howard or Kyle Korver is the next best player – but four-fifths of that top 5 is something to behold.


Anyone that says any class other than the 1984 class is the best NBA draft class of all time is basically just wrong. You could make an argument that a draft class containing Michael Jordan and literally any set of players ever would be in the top 10 draft classes of all time, but this draft was so much more than just the GOAT.

Hakeem Olajuwon, John Stockton, and Charles Barkley are all top 50 all-time players at worst. Sam Bowie at No. 2 overall was an all-time NBA draft bust, but players like Alvin Robertson and Kevin Willis give this draft depth.

This draft produced five Hall of Famers – if you count Brazilian star Oscar Schmidt who never played in the league – with his Airness himself headlining the greatest NBA draft class ever.

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