Some pretty great players have come out of the draft in the last decade, but some of today’s top superstars came within three years. Two of the top two MVP candidates for this season even came from the same draft. These two drafts have it covered when it comes to long forwards, dominant centers, and deep-range shooters.
With Anthony Davis headlining the 2012 class and Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic battling for the top name from 2014, it begs the question, which draft class is better?
2012 Draft Class
Davis remains the best player from the 2012 class and is a top-10 player in the league when healthy. Davis nearly won an MVP during his time in New Orleans in 2018, but ultimately finished third. He cost the Lakers a fortune in the trade market, but it panned out as Davis solidified the team’s defense in the middle and the Lakers won an NBA championship in 2020. With 20 and 10 potential every night, Davis is our modern-day Tim Duncan.
If Lillard left Portland, he would likely be an NBA champion by now. Instead, Lillard remains on the path towards “greatest players without an NBA championship” due to his loyalty. However, Lillard keeps opposing fans on their toes because no game is over until it’s over as long as Lillard is shooting the ball. With five All-NBA Team appearances, Lillard leads the 2012 class.
Green is one of the greatest steals from the prized 2012 class. Along with Green, the Warriors selected Harrison Barnes and traded for Festus Ezeli. All three were core members of the 2015 NBA champion Warriors. As for Green is a former Defensive Player of the Year and is one of the best “glue guys” in all of the league.
Beal is battling Steph Curry for the NBA scoring title this season. He has consistently been one of the best shooters in the league. When the offseason comes, a team will pay a high price to pry Beal from the Washington Wizards. With three All-Star appearances, two coming post-John Wall era, Beal has made his brand well known in the league.
Middleton is the Scottie Pippen to Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee. What’s keeping Middleton from rising in the ranks is the Bucks achieving greatness and winning an NBA championship. With that said, Middleton has been a consistent force at small forward, averaging close to 20 points and six rebounds the last three seasons. Not too bad for the No. 39 pick in the draft, just four spots below Draymond Green.
Barnes was widely viewed as an NBA star after a stellar All-American season at North Carolina, which is why the Warriors took him with the No. 7 overall pick. Barnes may not have made an All-Star team, but he was the team’s starting small forward during their championship season in 2015.
Drummond is easily the best rebounder from the class and he has the stats to prove it. Drummond has led the league in rebounding four different seasons. The Pistons’ last playoff appearance featured Drummond on the team. Now, the Lakers are hopeful that Drummond is their final piece towards repeating as NBA champions.
Crowder has been a solid player in the league after being taken in the second round. He has always been known as an average outside shooter, but a far better defender. Crowder was a key contributor for the Miami Heat last season on their way to making the NBA Finals. Now with the Suns, he is looking to make his second trip to the big stage.
Rivers has Sixth Man of the Year talent but doesn’t get a chance to put everything together. Rivers once averaged 15.1 points in 2017-2018 for the Clippers but has bounced around three teams in the last four years. Rivers has prime seasons left, but where will he get a chance to showcase his talent?
Ross, the 2013 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion, was once averaging 20 points per game for the Magic this season. He has been enjoying his two best seasons this last two years, averaging a career-high 15.1 points per game last season. Ross will likely be a highly vetted trade chip in the offseason.
2012 Draft Class Accolades
NBA Championships: 7 (Draymond Green x3, Harrison Barnes x1, Festus Ezeli x1, Anthony Davis x1, Dion Waiters x1)
MVP Awards: 0
All-NBA Teams: 12 (Damian Lillard x5, Anthony Davis x4, Draymond Green x2, Andre Drummond x1
All-Stars: 24 (Anthony Davis x8, Damian Lillard x6, Bradley Beal x3, Draymond Green x3, Andre Drummond x2, Khris Middleton x2
2014 Draft Class
Jokic appears to be headed towards winning the MVP this season and it will be a true Cinderella story. Jokic, the No. 41 overall pick in the 2014 draft, is nearly averaging a triple-double. Jokic has helped turn the Nuggets into Western Conference contenders and is gaining attention as one of the best passing centers of all time.
After years of trusting the process, Embiid has the 76ers contenders in the Eastern Conference. Embiid and Jokic are the only two players in the draft to make an appearance on the All-NBA Team; however, Embiid leads all draftees with four All-Star appearances. Embiid is likely the runner-up in the MVP race this season.
Randle has made a case to win Most Improved Player of the Year with his first All-Star appearance. Randle’s play had the Knicks win nine games in a row and has New York excited about basketball for the first time since Carmelo Anthony’s team in 2013. Fans in the area have wondered, is this the new coming of Patrik Ewing?
After winning a Slam Dunk Contest in 2015 and 2016, LaVine went from dunker to superstar. LaVine made his first All-Star appearance this season, after being snubbed last year. LaVine has put up highlights similar to Damian Lillard at times. Every time LaVine shoots the ball, Bulls fans believe it is going to go in.
Despite being drafted with the No. 1 overall pick, Wiggins has yet to make an All-Star team. Wiggins did win Rookie of the Year in his first season but has yet to show his superstar talent. For now, it appears that Wiggins is just a third option on a contending team. Wiggins is a true scorer, having averaged 19.1 points in his career.
Gordon and LaVine are two of the best modern-day dunkers we have ever seen. Gordon should have a Slam Dunk Contest championship but was subsequently robbed last season. Gordon hasn’t lived up to expectations as a No. 4 overall pick but provides teams with a starting caliber power forward. Fun fact, now two members of the Nuggets starting lineup are from the 2014 class.
Smart has the potential to win Defensive Player of the Year one day in his career. A two-time All-NBA Defensive First-Team selection, Smart has made his career based on being an ultimate role player. Smart is a well-respected starting guard and has woven his way towards being a leader in the Boston Celtics locker room.
After a few years of adjusting to the league, Warren established himself as a pure scoring threat. Warren averaged 19.6, 18.0, and 19,8 points over the last three seasons. Warren was recently named to the All-Bubble Team after averaging 31.0 points in eight games.
Harris is the winner of the Three-Point Showdown in 2019 and is one of the leaders in three-point field goal percentage this year. Harris is a modern-day Kyle Korver. All Harris needs to do is knock down long shots for the Brooklyn Nets. This year, he is averaging a career-high in points per game.
Clarkson is the 2021 Sixth Man of the Year Award winner after averaging 18.4 points per game during the regular season. Clarkson enjoyed three and a half successful seasons with the Lakers before being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018 to help LeBron James make a run to the NBA Finals. Clarkson was then traded to the Utah Jazz in 2019 and has served as the main bench piece ever since.
Both the Pistons and Bulls made a mistake in giving up on Dinwiddie. Since joining the Nets, he has been a bonafide bench scorer, averaging as much as 20.6 points per game last season. Despite suffering an injury this year, many expect Dinwiddie to contend for the Sixth Man of the Year Awards in the future.
2014 Draft Class Accolades
NBA Championships: 0
MVP Awards: 0
All-NBA Teams: 4 (Nikola Jokic x2, Joel Embiid x2)
All-Stars: 9 (Joel Embiid x4, Nikola Jokic x3, Julius Randle x1, Zach LaVine x1)
Which NBA Draft Class Is Better: 2012 or 2014?
This is an easy debate as the 2012 class is much more established than the 2014 class. While the 2014 class features the top-two MVP candidates this year, the 2012 class is much more rounded. Outside of Jokic and Embiid, there are no other superstars that have accomplished as much as members of the 2012 class. Randle, LaVine, and potentially Wiggins down the line, could be trending towards matching others from the 2012 class, but that is a big if.
From the 2012 class, you have two different players in Davis and Green that were true contributors on championship teams and own dazzling resumes. A team of Davis, Green, Lillard, and Beal would easily win a championship against the 2014 headliners of Jokic, Embiid, Randle, and LaVine. If the 2014 class wants to receive more respect, they have a lot of work to do to catch up.