It's been two decades since Kenyon Martin was taken with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2000. Over the years, the league has been filled with new superstars. To nail the draft, it's never easy because you don't truly know what your draft selection will turn into as he progresses in his career.
The pick could be a phenom or could be a total waste of money and time. The first picks of the drafts from the last 20 years are overall aren't always the best. Only seven of the best picks of the last 20 drafts have been the No. 1 overall pick. The picks outlined below are the best picks from each draft and have stood out amongst their draft companions. Let's take a look at the best draft pick from each of the drafts from 2000 to 2019.
2001 NBA Draft - Tony Parker
After 2000, the drafts get harder to sort through. In 2001, Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol were taken right after Kwame Brown at No. 1 overall, which we know is one of the biggest busts in history. Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, and Gilbert Arenas came from this draft, but the best pick had to be Parker. With four NBA championships he separates himself from the one championship Chandler won with the Mavericks and the two Gasol won with the Lakers.
His 2007 NBA Finals is what also puts Parker ahead of the rest. The six-time All-Star has his jersey retired by the San Antonio Spurs, where he helped former a Big 3 with Tim Duncan and Man Ginobili.
2002 NBA Draft - Yao Ming
The 2002 draft was lackluster in star talent. Carlos Boozer, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Caron Butler all made All-Star appearances, but no other player shined the way Ming did. Ming finished his career with eight All-Star appearances and five All-NBA selections. Not to mention, Ming was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player, becoming an international star in China.
What Ming did on the floor, 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds in his career, made him a superstar with Tracy McGrady. Had a foot injury not hampered Ming's later stages of his career, he would have played past the age of 30.
2003 NBA Draft - LeBron James
This should feel like an honor because the top half of this draft is too good. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony came from this draft. At the end of the day, nobody is greater than LeBron from this draft. The four-time NBA Finals MVP gets a lot of flack for only winning four championships in 10 appearances, but let that sink in for a moment. He made the finals at least one decade's worth of his career.
LeBron is chasing down Michael Jordan's legacy as being named the greatest player of all time. For now, he remains No. 2, but he will always be the best draft pick from 2003.
2004 NBA Draft - Dwight Howard
Outside out Andre Iguodala, there is no real competition for this award from 2004. Iguodala won an NBA Finals MVP in 2015, but Howard was one of the best players in the league from 2004 to 2014. Howard made an All-Star appearance every year from 2007 to 2014, as well as All-NBA First Team from 2008-2012.
From 2009 to 2011, Howard was the best defensive player in the league, winning Defensive Player of the Year. He was a five-time rebounding champion and three-time blocks champion. Howard was a role player for the Lakers winning the 2020 championship, cementing his legacy as a Hall of Famer player.
2005 NBA Draft - Chris Paul
From this draft, Andrew Bogut and David Lee both helped Golden State win championships. Deron Williams was a multi-All-Star selection. No player stands out like Chris Paul though. Paul is an 11-time All-Star and eight-time All-NBA selection. Paul owns franchise records for assists and steals with two different franchises in the Pelicans and Clippers.
Paul has made every team he has played for better. The Pelicans made it as far as the second round during the early phases of their career. The Clippers were the same and transitioning towards being a competitive franchise. The Rockets made a Western Conference Finals, the Thunder made an improbable playoff run last year, and the Suns are contending for the No. 1 seed this year. Despite never making the NBA Finals, Paul is a true game-changer.
2006 NBA Draft - Kyle Lowry
No disrespect to LaMarcus Aldridge or Rajon Rondo, but Lowry gets the narrow nod here for a couple of reasons. While Rondo has won two championships with two different franchises, Lowry was a six-time All-Star, which is just one short of Aldridge's seven. What makes Lowry stand out above Lowry is his contributions toward Toronto's 2019 NBA championship.
">December 6, 2020
Lowry was the No. 24 overall pick and eventually blossomed into an All-Star towards the later years of his career. It should be noted that if Brandon Roy never suffered his career-altering injuries, he might have been the next big superstar. Roy became an eventual state-winning basketball coach. Both have rings, but Lowry has the one at the highest level.
2007 NBA Draft - Kevin Durant
Portland has been kicking themselves for years after selecting Greg Oden at No. 1 instead of Durant. There are some strong prospects in this draft with Al Horford, Mike Conley Jr., and Marc Gasol. It all comes back to Durant, who is a two-time NBA Finals MVP, 11-time All-Star, and four-time scoring champion.
Durant has a chance to move his legacy towards being of the top-10 players of all time if he can win his third championship and lead Brooklyn all the way. Durant gets a lot of criticism for joining the 73-win Warriors squad. His two Finals MVP have asterisks to some despite his incredible resume. This postseason will be one of his biggest moments when it's all said and done.
2008 NBA Draft - Russell Westbrook
If Derrick Rose never tore his ACL, would be talking about someone else? When Rose won the MVP, he was the youngest to ever do it. The Bulls might have won an NBA championship had this injury never happened. Instead, we are talking about a future Hall of Famer that has carved out a legacy as one of the hardest-working players on the floor.
Westbrook became the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in 2017 when he won the MVP. He paired with Durant to lead the Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012. The only thing that Westbrook lacks is a championship. If Westbrook goes out, he will go out playing his way. No superteams, no joining forces. Just Russ being Russ.
2009 NBA Draft - Steph Curry
How do you choose between Blake Griffin, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, and the greatest shooter of all time? In this situation, it's pretty easy because all you have to do is measure championship rings. Griffin and DeRozan are All-Stars but never made it to a Western Conference Final. Harden played in the NBA Finals in 2012 with Durant and Westbrook but came up short. Curry owns three championship rings, the most three-point field goals in postseason history, and is now the Warriors' all-time leading scorer.
Curry just passed Wilt Chamberlain to own that award. You know, the man that once scored 100 points in a basketball game? Curry is the, no doubt, king of the 2009 draft.
2010 NBA Draft - Paul George
Fun fact about the 2010 draft. Not a single All-Star from this draft has played in an NBA Final. That includes John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Gordon Hayward. Wall seems to be a name that floats around as the best from this draft, but he has not been the same since his injury, which has allowed George to take over due to consistency. George has made the most All-Star teams with seven and also owns five selections on the All-NBA Team.
Also, George has made the All-Defensive squad four times in his career. George nearly led the Pacers to upset victories over the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals but came up short against LeBron, Wade, and Co. Now in L.A., he is trying to write his own legacy.
2011 NBA Draft - Kawhi Leonard
George is trying to write his own legacy but also with the help of the best pick from the 2011 draft. The two California natives teamed up with the Clippers and are hoping that their second season can get the Clippers to the Finals for the first time in franchise history. Outside of L.A., Leonard is the clear best player out of the 2011 draft. Leonard owns two NBA Finals MVP trophies with the Spurs and Raptors.
We are watching Leonard's prime seasons, which have also included two Defensive Player of the Year Awards, six selections to the All-Defensive team, and his place as a top-5 player in the league. If Leonard can lead his third franchise to an NBA title, he will get looks at being a top-15 player of all time.
2012 NBA Draft - Anthony Davis
Shoutout to Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard for giving us daily reminders of how great of shooters they are, but neither player has ever played for an NBA championship. Davis tried his best to get New Orleans to that position, but the team could never make it out of the second round. After joining the Lakers, Davis was able to get that first ring, but even if there were no rings, Davis would still be the best player from this draft.
With eight All-Star appearances, he is one of the best offensive and defensive power forwards in the league. As of late, he has developed somewhat of an outside shot. As a complete player, Davis checks every box when healthy.
2013 NBA Draft - Giannis Antetokounmpo
Remember when Giannis was taken with the No. 15 overall picks? Power forwards like Anthony Bennett (No. 1 by the Cavaliers) and Cody Zeller (No. 4 by the Hornets) were taken before him. Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, and Steven Adams are just a few centers to be named. The Milwaukee Bucks struck a gold mine when the team drafted the "Greek Freak."
A two-time MVP, Giannis has grown to be the face of the league. With many prime seasons left, he is one of the most dominant players in the paint. He is also a defensive force, who will battle Rudy Gobert, also taken from this draft, for Defensive Player of the Year at least over the next four to five seasons. The last box he is trying to check is that NBA championship.
2014 NBA Draft - Nikola Jokic
Talk about another diamond in the rough. Jokic was taken with the No. 41 overall pick by the Nuggets and has grown to be the leading candidate to win the MVP. There are some other interesting prospects like Julius Randle, Zach LaVine, and Andrew Wiggins. Joel Embiid would have potentially tied Jokic had he not been injured, as Embiid was once the No. 1 contender to Jokic for the MVP.
In the end, Jokic changes the outcomes of games on all cylinders. He is averaging close to a triple-double as a center. There is no other center in the league that can pass and shoots the way he does. LaVine, one of the best shooters in this draft, would likely have a battle from "The Joker" in any shooting challenge because he is just that good.
2015 NBA Draft - Karl-Anthony Towns
D'Angelo Russell and Kristaps Porzingis have fallen off the map. Devin Booker is tied with Towns for the most All-Star appearances with two, but Towns gets the nod for making an All-NBA Team in 2018 when the Timberwolves made the playoffs. However, if Towns continued to fall out of the national spotlight, Booker could be on the rise, especially with the Suns playing as well as they are now.
Towns need a change of scenery. The last place Timberwolves are wasting his prime seasons. Towns are averaging 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in his career. Surely, the team can get a nice haul in return.
2016 NBA Draft - Ben Simmons
Jaylen Brown is playing on the level of Ben Simmons this season, while Brandon Ingram is also transitioning towards being considered for All-Star teams. As for Simmons, he has produced at a high level for three straight seasons. A three-time All-Star, Simmons made his first of likely man All-NBA teams last year. He was also named to his first All-Defensive First Team. Simmons recently said that he believes he is the Defensive Player of the Year, especially after dropping over 40 points against lead contender Rudy Gobert.
Despite not being a scorer, Simmons can run the offense, assist, and defend. He is truly a unique point guard for his length and abilities on both sides of the floor.
2017 NBA Draft - Jayson Tatum
Tatum gets the nod for now, but Donovan Mitchell could easily take this spot as soon as next year. For now, Tatum and Mitchell are tired with two All-Star appearances, but Tatum owns an All-NBA Third Team selection. Bam Adebayo, a recent All-Defensive Second Team selection, helped the Heat make the NBA Finals, including ousting Tatum's Celtics in the Conference Finals last season.
In terms of consistency, Tatum's career numbers are better. Again, this is all too narrow though, and could change. The Jazz are the No. 1 seed in the West and are gunning for the championship. Tatum has played in the Eastern Conference three times and has come up empty. Mitchell could see his name here if he can make it to the championship.
2018 NBA Draft - Luka Doncic
The sample sizes are getting smaller, but outside of Trae Young and Luka Doncic, who stands out from this draft? Young made his first All-Star team last year and is a scoring machine. In contrast, Doncic is just the better player all around, plain and simple. Doncic is 22 years old and owns these slash lines
- 28.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 8.6 APG, 1.0 SPG (2020)
- 28.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 8.8 APG, 1.0 SPG (2019)
- 21.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 6.0 SPG, 1.1 SPG (2018)
Have you ever seen a player this young produce at this high of a level? He already owns the Mavericks record for career triple-doubles. It's scary to think how much better he is going to be.
2019 NBA Draft - Zion Williamson
Williamson and Ja Morant are going to be constantly grouped, but for now, Williamson has already proved he is the best. After being named the fourth-youngest NBA All-Star starter, Williamson is proving in his first full season that he is a star in the making.
This is no disrespect to Morant, who has the Grizzlies battling for a playoff seed, but Williamson's overall numbers are better. That includes a slash line of 26.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. As the two grow, both players will be representing their teams in the All-Star Game for many years to come.
2020 NBA Draft - LaMelo Ball
While Anthony Edwards is likely to win Rookie of the Year if Ball stayed healthy all season the award would have been his. Ball is the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. Edwards is a pure scorer and is going to be a prime swingman for years to come, but Ball is able to do a little bit of everything.
">January 10, 2021
We have a superstar in the making and the Hornets have their first true franchise player since Kemba Walker left for Boston. Can the Hornets build around Ball? That remains to be unseen, but if Ball continues to develop, his name will rule the 2020 draft for many years to come.