The NBA Draft is a time of hope and optimism for every NBA franchise. Teams hope to strike gold in the draft, whether they have the first pick in the draft or the last one. Drafting a great player can immediately shape the future of a franchise, for both the short term and the long term.

Throughout history, there have consistently been Hall of Fame players drafted at various points in the draft. While the top three to five picks often yield the very best players coming out of college, there have been multiple diamonds in the rough that went unnoticed. As such, it is time to rank the greatest player with every draft pick.

 

No. 15 Pick: Kawhi Leonard

Team: Indiana Pacers

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With the 15th pick in the draft, the Indiana Pacers had the opportunity to draft Kawhi Leonard. The 2-time Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year would have made Indiana a much better franchise, and possibly would have formed an all-time great duo with Paul George. Unfortunately for the Pacers, they traded him to the Spurs where he won an NBA title and Finals MVP for them.

Runner-Up: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steve Nash

 

No. 14 Pick: Clyde Drexler

Team: Portland Trail Blazers

Clyde Drexler is one of the greatest shooting guards to have ever played. Career averages of 20.4 PPG and 6.1 RPG with accomplishments including 10 All-Star appearances and an NBA title with the Houston Rockets in the 1995 season. Drexler was a high-flyer and fan-favorite in his prime, and the dominant shooting guard in the game before Michael Jordan took over. Drexler is a valued member of the Hall of Fame and truly one of the best shooting guards ever.

Runner-Up: Hal Greer

 

No. 13 Pick: Kobe Bryant

Team: Charlotte Hornets

Credit: USATSI

No question here, Kobe Bryant is the man with the 13th pick. If things could go back in time, the Charlotte Hornets would not have given up the rights to Kobe Bryant. Bryant won 5 NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, 2 Finals MVPs, and an MVP Award in 2008. Bryant is recognized as a top-2 shooting guard ever and one of the 10 greatest players to have ever lived. Kobe will always remain in people’s hearts for his passionate play and dominant scoring ability.

Runner-Up: Karl Malone

 

No. 12 Pick: Julius Erving

Team: Milwaukee Bucks

No surprise here, Julius Erving is the greatest #12 pick in NBA history. What Dr.J did for the league was something special, because he brought a flair and excitement that had remained iconic throughout time. Erving is also the greatest ABA player as well, having the most accomplishments before the merger. Erving accomplished a total of 3 championships (1 NBA, 2 ABA) and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

Runner-Up: Chet Walker

 

No. 11 Pick: Klay Thompson

Team: Golden State Warriors

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Klay Thompson usurps Reggie Miller as the best #11 pick ever. It is fitting that he and Miller were drafted with the same pick because Miller was widely recognized as the greatest shooter before Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson began taking over the league. Klay has an unbelievable amount of achievements in his career, and hopefully has plenty more time to add to a future Hall of Fame career. Klay has made 5 All-Star Teams, 2 All-NBA Teams, won 3 NBA titles, and is recognized as one of the greatest shooters to have ever lived.

Runner-Up: Reggie Miller

 

No. 10 Pick: Paul Pierce

Team: Boston Celtics

“The Truth” Paul Pierce is one of the all-time great scorers in his position. Pierce remained loyal to the Boston Celtics, carrying a very poor squad every season until they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Pierce won the Finals MVP in 2008, winning an NBA championship and solidifying his stance as a Hall of Famer. Pierce is a Celtics legend and one of the greatest scorers of all time.

Runner-Up: Paul George

 

No. 9 Pick: Dirk Nowitzki

Team: Milwaukee Bucks

If only teams knew how good Dirk would have turned out, he would not have fallen so low. Dirk Nowitzki is quite possibly the best shooting big man ever because he dominated the game with his unblockable shot known as the one-legged fadeaway. Dirk worked harder on his game than most players at his position ever, and that is why he was gifted an MVP Award in 2007, and a Finals MVP in 2011.

Runner-Up: Tracy McGrady

 

No. 8 Pick: Robert Parish

Team: Golden State Warriors

Mandatory Credit: Tim DeFrisco/ALLSPORT

The Golden State Warriors selected Robert Parish, one of the enforcers and leaders of a storied Boston Celtics dynasty. Parish won 4 NBA titles starting at center and made 9 All-Star teams. The success Parish had on the team was due to his scoring and two-way play, as he averaged 14.5 PPG and 9.1 RPG on a stacked Boston Celtics squad. He beats out Jack Sikma because of the success he had in the postseason.

Runner-Up: Jack Sikma

 

No. 7 Pick: Stephen Curry

Team: Golden State Warriors

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It is amazing how Curry has changed the modern game so much. His ability to drain threes has shown every team in the league that there is no point in playing slow and that taking more threes meant more points. Curry has won 2 MVPs, including a unanimous win, and 3 NBA titles. Stephen Curry also proved that you don’t have to be an incredibly gifted physical specimen to dominate the NBA, and he is the best #7 pick ever.

Runner-Up: John Havlicek, Bernard King

 

No. 6 Pick: Larry Bird

Team: Boston Celtics

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No question here, Larry Bird is the greatest #6 pick ever. Bird was the epitome of a dominant small forward who did everything perfectly in the game of basketball. He was a phenomenal shooter and scorer, while also being one of the all-time great passers and rebounders at his position. Bird won 3 NBA titles and 3 MVPs, solidifying his spot as a top-2 small forward ever.

Runner-Up: Adrian Dantley, Damian Lillard

 

No. 5 Pick: Dwyane Wade

Team: Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade was the definition of the big-time performer and two-way dominance. Wade is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best shooting guards who have ever lived. Wade, in his prime, won the Finals MVP Award as a member of the Miami Heat in a historically great Finals performance against the Dallas Mavericks in 2006. Wade won two more NBA titles with a Superteam Heat squad alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh as the undisputed closer for the team and primary offensive option. Wade’s ability to close games, dominant on both ends, and win titles means he’s the greatest 5th pick ever.

Runner-Up: Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett, Walt Frazier

 

No. 4 Pick: Russell Westbrook

Team: Seattle SuperSonics

With the #4 pick in the draft, the SuperSonics selected Russell Westbrook to lead their franchise going forward. Westbrook certainly did that and is truly an Oklahoma City icon now. Russ won an MVP Award as a member of the Thunder and has made a total of 9 All-Star Teams along with 8 All-NBA Teams. Russ is also the most athletically gifted point guard we have ever seen, and the best #4 pick ever.

Runner-Up: Chris Paul, Dave Cowens, Chris Bosh, Dikembe Mutombo

 

No. 3 Pick: Michael Jordan

Team: Chicago Bulls

Fadeaway World

Michael Jordan should have been the greatest #1 pick ever, but the Houston Rockets drafted Hakeem Olajuwon instead. Jordan went #3 to Chicago, and eventually became the greatest and most impactful player in NBA history. His numbers and records speak for themselves, 6-0 in the NBA Finals with 6 Finals MVPs. 10 scoring titles and a Defensive Player of the Year Award means that MJ dominated the league every single year he was playing.

Runner-Up: Wilt Chamberlain, Dominique Wilkins, Pete Maravich, Kevin McHale, Carmelo Anthony

 

No. 2 Pick: Bill Russell

Team: St. Louis Hawks

Nobody would have thought any #2 pick in any draft would win 11 NBA titles. But that is what Bill Russell did when he was traded to the Boston Celtics. Russell is the single greatest winner in sports history, winning 11 rings in 12 Finals appearances. Russell was the defensive monster and undisputed leader of the franchise, using incredible defensive awareness and shot-blocking to his advantage. Bill Russell is the greatest second pick her, passing the likes of Kevin Durant.

Runner-Up: Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Isiah Thomas, Rick Barry

 

No. 1 Pick: LeBron James

Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

Credit: NBA.com

The Cavaliers did the obvious move and drafted young phenom, LeBron James, with the #1 pick. We knew he was destined for greatness, but he may have exceeded expectations. LeBron has 3 titles and 3 Finals MVPs, to go along with 4 MVP Awards and 9 total trips to the NBA Finals in his career. LeBron has been the best player on his team every year in the league and is truly one of the all-time greatest icons of the sport.

Runner-Up: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Shaq O’Neal