Some of the all-time greatest players have come through the NBA Draft. But many are not certain which draft truly produced the best players. As a matter of fact, some of today’s greatest NBA players have originated from arguably the best draft classes ever. The likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are still playing at a high level, while we also recently saw Dwyane Wade hang it up for good.
But the likes of Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, and Kobe Bryant all were a part of some of the best draft classes in NBA history. It is time to rank the top ten greatest draft classes in NBA history.
10. 1992 Draft Class
Headlined by Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning
Two dominant NBA superstars and big men headline this pivotal draft class. Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning headline the 1992 NBA draft class. This draft class is certainly not a surprising inclusion, considering just how talented these two players were as soon as they entered the league.
Shaq averaged a monster 23.7 PPG and 10.9 RPG over his career, while Alonzo averaged 17.1 PPG and 8.5 RPG. Both big men ended up being in the Hall of Fame, thanks to an incredible draft class which also featured the likes of Christian Laettner and Jim Jackson.
Best Players: Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Latrell Sprewell, Christian Laettner, Jim Jackson, LaPhonso Ellis, Tom Gugliotta, Robert Horry, Doug Christie
9. 2008 Draft Class
Headlined by Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love
The 2008 Draft Class could be much higher if Rose managed to stay healthy. Because if he did, he would probably have an NBA title to his name. Still, Rose became the youngest MVP of the league and was truly one of the most exciting athletic forces we have ever seen.
Similarly, Russell Westbrook is probably the most unstoppable force in today’s game when he is on fire. His speed and strength outmatch everybody at his position, and his numbers are truly shocking. Russ also managed to win an MVP Award.
Lastly, Love is an NBA champion and one of the best power forwards in the past decade. He was a force with Minnesota, but became an extremely valuable shooter and rebounder for the Cavs and helped them win an NBA title.
Best Players: Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan, Serge Ibaka, Nicola Batum, Brook Lopez, Danilo Gallinari, Goran Dragic, Eric Gordon
8. 1998 Draft Class
Headlined by Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Paul Pierce
This draft class produced three future Hall of Famers and some of the most dominant offensive scorers in the modern era. Dirk was the best of the bunch, and might truly be a top 30 player of all time. Dirk’s pure dedication to the game and unique skillset earned him an NBA title by knocking off one
the great Miami Heat superteam led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Paul Pierce also won an NBA title by taking out Kobe Bryant’s Lakers and made an entire career out of being one of the most consistent scorers in the league and an extremely clutch performer. The Truth is truly a gift from the ’98 Draft Class.
VC is arguably the game’s greatest dunker, and one of the most iconic NBA legends in the modern era. Carter was also a damn good player, averaging a career 16.7 PPG over 22 seasons. It’s amazing how long he has played, but his All-Star years were truly a joy to witness.
Best Players: Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Antawn Jamison, Rashard Lewis, Mike Bibby, Jason Williams, Cuttino Mobley, Larry Hughes
7. 1985 Draft Class
Headlined by Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin
Another draft class produced three NBA Hall of Famers, including the likes of Karl Malone. Malone is a top-three scorer in the game, and a top-two player all-time in his position. Malone was unstoppable from mid-range and inside, and made it to two NBA Finals.
Ewing is a New York legend and an iconic figure from the early 1990s. Ewing was part of a supremely tough and talented Knicks team that was often a thorn in the great Michael Jordan’s side as he fought to make it to the top of the league. Ewing was also a great player, averaging 21.0 PPG and 9.8 RPG.
Finally, Mullin is a Hall of Famer and one of the game’s purest shooters. Mullin put up 18.2 PPG on 50.9% field goal shooting. Mullin was also a 5x All-Star and a part of a fantastic Golden State Warriors team in the early part of the ’90s.
Best Players: Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Joe Dumars, Charles Oakley, Detlef Schrempf, Xavier McDaniels, Terry Porter, Arvydas Sabonis, Michel Adams
6. 2009 Draft Class
Headlined by Stephen Curry, James Harden and Blake Griffin
Clearly, this draft class is one of the best ever. It produced a three-time NBA champion and two-time MVP in Stephen Curry, who happens to be the game’s greatest shooter. Nothing else needs to be said about Curry’s impact in the NBA.
James Harden also came into the league as a young player with great ball-handling ability. He later won 6th man of the year with the Thunder and even became the MVP of the league with the Rockets. Currently, Harden is the most dominant scorer in the game by averaging 34.4 PPG this season.
The 2009 Draft Class also produced ROY Blake Griffin, who was the best dunker in the league at that time. After sustaining a few injuries, he revolutionized his game to include a strong perimeter shot and excellent playmaking skills. Griffin is currently one of the best power forwards in the league.
Best Players: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Blake Griffin, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Ricky Rubio, Danny Green
5. 2011 Draft Class
Headlined by Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving
This draft class produced three NBA champions and three of the most clutch players in the league right now.
Leonard is a two-time DPOY and two-time Finals MVP, and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Leonard is also one of the best to ever play the small forward position and could be on his way to adding a potential third Finals MVP to his name in the near future.
Thompson and Kyrie are both NBA championships mainly thanks to their scoring prowess and clutch shot-making. Thompson is probably the second-best shooter ever behind Stephen Curry, while Kyrie Irving has one of the game’s best handles that we have ever seen. Irving hit one of the all-time great clutch shots to win the NBA title for the Cavaliers in 2015.
Best Players: Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Nikola Vucevic, Isiah Thomas, Tobias Harris
4. 1987 Draft Class
Headlined by Scottie Pippen, David Robinson and Reggie Miller
In terms of pure talent and impact on the game, this draft class is easily top five. What gives them the edge over both the 2009 and 2012 draft classes is the amount of sustained success of these three Hall of Fame players.
Reggie Miller had pure ice in his veins and was one of the most consistent clutch performers the game has ever seen. Miller could literally transform a deficit to a lead in his favor in a matter of moments and was also an iconic player in the ’90s.
Robinson was ultra-successful with the San Antonio Spurs, winning two NBA titles and having one of the all-time great resumes which include an NBA MVP and DPOY award. Robinson was a 10x All-Star and 10x All-NBA performer who is in the Hall of Fame.
To put the icing on the cake, this amazing draft class also produced 6x NBA champion, Scottie Pippen. While MJ was the man for the Bulls, they would not have won without the great Scottie Pippen. Pippen was LeBron James before LeBron James entered the league, utilizing exceptional playmaking and basketball I.Q. to help his team win consistently. Pippen is a top 50 player and completes an iconic draft class.
Best Players: Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Reggie Miller, Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant, Kenny Smith, Mark Jackson, Muggsy Bogues
3. 2003 Draft Class
Headlined by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony
One of the most iconic draft classes is the 2003 NBA draft which produced first-ballot Hall of Famers. LeBron James is clearly the best player of the past decade, and arguably a top-five player ever. Many regard him as the most talented player, winning four MVP Awards and 3 NBA titles.
Wade is a top-three shooting guard ever, and or forth possibly the best NBA Finals performance by leading the Heat over the favored Dallas Mavericks who had prime Dirk Nowitzki. Wade was an excellent defender, clutch performer, and one of the best guards we have ever seen. It’s truly amazing how one draft class produced two NBA champions who played on the same team.
Melo also came out of the 2003 Draft Class. While he hasn’t had the success in his career in comparison to Wade and James, Anthony is probably the best overall scorer out of them. Melo in his prime was just an unstoppable force and was an extremely clutch performer. Nobody must forget just how dominant Melo was offensively.
Best Players: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, David West, Kirk Hinrich, Boris Diaw, Josh Howard
2. 1996 Draft Class
Headlined by Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and Steve Nash
The ’96 draft class is the second-best draft class ever. It produced 5-time NBA champion and all-time clutch player Kobe Bryant, former NBA MVP Allen Iverson, and two-time MVP Steve Nash.
While Nash and Iverson never captured NBA titles, they were just sensational offensive performers. Nash had perfect playmaking ability, which led him to win two straight MVPs. Nash could create an offense on his own, including perfect shooting from anywhere on the floor. Iverson had a major impact on the game of basketball, remaining true to himself and leaving his heart on the floor every game. He carried an average Sixers team to the Finals and will forever be one of the best scorers ever.
Finally, Kobe Bean Bryant came into the league as a very raw rookie but ended up being the second-best shooting guard ever. Kobe’s killer instinct and shot-making ability will forever remain in our hearts.
The 1996 Draft Class might have been deeper. The likes of Ray Allen, Ben Wallace, and Marcus Camby also were produced in the ’96 Draft.
Best Players: Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O’Neal, Ben Wallace, Marcus Camby, Stephon Marbury, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antoine Walker,
1. 1984 Draft Class
Headlined by Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley
In terms of pure talent and dominance, this one is easily the best. Michael Jordan is the best player ever, while Hakeem Olajuwon is easily the most skilled big man ever. Charles Barkley was a force of nature who could not be stopped inside and is easily one of the best power forwards ever.
This draft class produced the 3 best players of any draft, with MJ and Hakeem winning 8 NBA titles combined. While Charles never won an NBA title, he was extremely dominant and probably would have won a couple of rings if it wasn’t for Jordan. Still, these three men are top 50 players of all time while many consider Jordan to be at number one with Olajuwon completing the top ten.
Best Players: Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Alvin Robertson, Otis Thorpe, Kevin Willis