The 10 Best NBA Draft Classes Of All Time

By: 03.13.14  •  18 Comments
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh (photo. David Alvarez)

The 2014 NBA Draft has seen an enormous amount of hype, if it yields anything less than three or four future stars, it will be considered a disappointment. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum and Julius Randle highlight a cast of talented youngsters. Assuming some of these NBA hopefuls reach their ceilings, we could be looking back at this draft class as one of the best ever.

That said, where would it fall? Does the 2014 class have the kind of talent to match previous super drafts? Does the group of draftees coming this season stack up to some of the Hall of Fame, championship-winning classes of the past?

Taking a look back at previous NBA Drafts, it’s clear the 2014 class has a long way to go if they’d like to be mentioned among the all-time greats. For some added spice we’ve included the best picture, and No. 1 single from the year of each draft.

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10. 1969
Notables: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jo Jo White, Norm Van Lier and Bob Dandridge
Best Picture: Oliver
No. 1 Single: The Archies – “Sugar, Sugar”
This wasn’t a particularly deep draft. Van Lier was a three-time All-Star and led the league in assists during the ’70-71 season. Dandridge was a four-time All-Star and was the third-best player on the Alcindor-Big O Bucks championship. He was also the second-best player on a Bullets championship squad. White was a key piece for the Celtics on the way to two championships. White was an All-Star in seven consecutive seasons, the pinnacle of his career may have come from winning the ’75-76 Finals MVP.

However as you can see the main reason for the selection of the 1969 Draft was Abdul-Jabbar. At the time, Lew Alcindor was the most sought after prospect ever. His 273.4 career win shares are the most all time–for reference, Michael Jordan collected 214 win shares over his prestigious career.

Jabbar won six championships, a record six MVPs, and appeared in a record 18 All-Star Games. On paper, I believe Jabbar has the best arguable case to be the “GOAT” over Jordan. His longevity helped him accumulate an enormous number of records: points, games, rebounds (third) and blocks (third). He matches Jordan in championships while being recognized as the league’s Most Valuable Player one more time. He is also the only player to win the Finals MVP award on two different teams. If Jabbar was the only player drafted in 1969, this draft would still be on my list.

9. 1970
Notables: Bob Lanier, Dave Cowens, Calvin Murphy, Tiny Archibald, Dan Issel, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, Rudy Tomjanovich and Geoff Petrie
Best Picture: Midnight Cowboy
No. 1 Single: Simon and Garfunkel – “Bridge over Troubled Water”
A loaded class of players just under the superstar level. Lanier was a double-double machine. He had eight All-Star appearances yet never made an All-NBA team. Cowens was instrumental in two Celtic championships. He was the Celtics best player during both championship runs–no offense to Hondo or White, but never received the Finals MVP award. Cowens notched the league MVP in ’72-73 despite being bumped to the All-NBA Second Team behind Abdul-Jabbar.

Murphy, Archibald, Issel, Tomjanovich and Petrie all had varying levels of success, playing at high levels and producing some impressive stat lines–most notably, the Kentucky Colonels Issel, who started his career with three-straight 27-point, 11-rebound per game seasons.

Finally we have the Pistol. In a large part the Pistol can thank his epic nickname for being the most memorable player of this draft class. Maravich was a talented scorer, and his 31.1 points per game in ’76-77 won him the scoring title. He was a five-time All-Star and yet he only played in 26 career playoff games. He was kind of like old day T-Mac: great numbers but failed to find success in the postseason and cement his legacy.

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