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LeBron James, Derrick Rose & The Best & Worst NBA Draft Classes From 2001-2012

The NBA Draft is incredibly interesting to compare, especially when you look at the whole picture and each individual that was taken. The pieces shuffle dramatically when mixing and matching the “What if?” possibilities. Fans swear their franchises, and thank their lucky stars for management. They wish that their favorite college star fell one more pick and they are discouraged when they pass up a “guaranteed” star. After looking at the drafts from 1989-2000, it made sense to look at the drafts from 2001-2012 to see how they stacked up to each other.

The format I used in the previous article worked quite well because most of the players had retired or were in the waning years of their career. This draft was much trickier because all of these players are in separate sections of their career. So the key for me was allowing the categories to shape most of my opinions for the older players, but forcing other factors to determine my value for players who have recently entered the league. I changed the “Championships” category to “Bill Simmons Top 50 Assets” because none of these particular players from 2007-2012 have won a championship yet. I also changed the restriction of All-NBA and All-Defensive teams to include players who made the Second or Third team because it reflects a top 15 ranking of the best players chosen by the coaches, a similar style to the All-Star team.

I typically find Player Efficiency Rating to be an excellent measurement of a player’s offensive production (it doesn’t account for defense) but it was common to find centers and power forwards with bloated numbers, while shooters and defensive stalwarts saw their number dip (to properly look at a three-point shooter, it would be best to check out his eFG percentage). The reason I mention this is because you shouldn’t compare some of the members on this list to each other and you shouldn’t compare this list to 1989-2000. Players in this era haven’t played post-prime, leaving their numbers much higher than a player that played in a few subpar years to finish out his career.

[RELATED: Allen Iverson, Michael Redd & The Best And Worst NBA Draft Classes From 1989 To 2000]

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12. 2012 NBA DRAFT

They need more time to prove themselves as they’ve only played one season in the NBA. Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal had very efficient seasons and showed signs that they will become big-time threats in the NBA, but injuries cut both of their seasons short. Damian Lillard won the Rookie Of The Year award and showed the ability to handle point guard duties while scoring at a high rate. He’ll have to improve his defense if he wants to become one of the best guards in the NBA.

11. 2006 NBA DRAFT

If Brandon Roy was still healthy and producing the numbers that he did during his three-year peak, this draft might be ranked a bit higher. Since Roy is hurt, and most likely out of basketball, this draft looks a bit more unimpressive. Rajon Rondo and LaMarcus Aldridge have developed into All-Stars but it is yet to be seen if they will be able to lead their team to the promised land. Rudy Gay was traded because of his contract and was deemed a less important part to a playoff team.

10. 2002 NBA DRAFT

Yao Ming and Amar’e Stoudemire lead this draft with a combined 14 All-Star teams and 10 All-NBA teams. Yao and Stoudemire had separate career paths, with Yao using post moves and proper footwork to do most of his damage while Stoudemire relies heavily on his athleticism and ability to hit his midrange jumper. Tayshaun Prince was an invaluable defender for the Pistons and was one of the key reasons why they were able to capture a championship in 2004.

9. 2004 NBA DRAFT

Dwight Howard is leaps and bounds better than the rest of this group and even if you have a negative opinion of him now, you can’t deny his résumé. This draft had a lot of players who would be seen as franchise players but were mostly suited to play the second banana role. Only Tony Allen was able to win a championship and he did so as a role player who would come off the bench to provide a defensive spark. He didn’t have the responsibility he now has in Memphis. This might be the best defensive draft we’ve seen as six different players have made an All-Defensive team.

8. 2011 NBA DRAFT

There are a lot of good players on this list but only one great one. Kyrie “Uncle Drew” Irving can torch up a court but has trouble staying healthy. A few of these players can become great and have flashed signs of doing so (Tobias Harris, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker). I just have trouble projecting them as better than some other drafts that have a few more perceived “surefire” stars.

7. 2010 NBA DRAFT

Paul George‘s play during these playoffs nearly made me put the 2010 Draft into the sixth ranking, but I would have only done so if he would have led the Indiana Pacers to the NBA Championship. The other “if” that changed this draft’s ranking is centered on DeMarcus Cousins and his inconsistent play, propensity to get into trouble and hazy future. This draft was still very strong and thanks to George, John Wall, Greivis Vasquez and Larry Sanders making big steps in becoming vastly better this year. It still has a chance to get even better, too.

6. 2005 NBA DRAFT

Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA and has demonstrated so by posting a PER that is off the charts. He is a coach on the court — which may or may not have had something to do with his teammates’ occasional annoyance with him — but still, he has been able to make five All-NBA teams in a very competitive position. Deron Williams may not be up to Paul’s caliber but is a very good point guard in his own right, getting back on track during the second half of this season. David Lee may be a horrid defender, allowing the most points in the paint among centers, but he’s a talented offensive player who shares the ball.

5. 2009 NBA DRAFT

This is when the drafts start to get REALLY good. James Harden was forced to leave Oklahoma City but was rewarded with added responsibility that helped shed some light on how great a player he is. His ability to get to the free throw line and take shots at the rim or from three-point range makes him a delight to watch. Blake Griffin got better in the post and Steph Curry had one of the best shooting performance we’ve ever see during the playoffs. This guard-heavy draft still has possible permanent All-Stars fixtures in Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Ricky Rubio.

4. 2007 NBA DRAFT

Kevin Durant didn’t win the MVP but may have deserved so if he had put up that kind of season during any other year. Durant is the most efficient player in the NBA and may reach Larry Bird status if he can win some championships and continue churning out 50-40-90 seasons. The rest of this draft can be summarized with the words “late bloomers.” Marc Gasol and Mike Conley made huge progress this year by stepping up with the departure of Rudy Gay, getting the Memphis Grizzlies into the Western Conference Finals. Joakim Noah, Tiago Splitter and Jeff Green all became integral parts of playoff teams, the former becoming the heart and soul of his team when Derrick Rose was unable to return from injury.

3. 2008 NBA DRAFT

This is the deepest draft the NBA has ever had. These are some of the players I had to leave off of the top 10: George Hill, Ryan Anderson, Nikola Pekovic, DeAndre Jordan, Omer Asik, JaVale McGee and Goran Dragic. All of those players deserve to be on this list, but the fact that they aren’t shows how good the 2008 Draft was. Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love are all part of the NBA’s elite, but injuries have slowed Rose and Love. Brook Lopez, Serge Ibaka and Roy Hibbert are already showing signs of becoming dominant big men, a position that typically takes years to master due to the footwork and technique needed. Eric Gordon and Danilo Gallinari are two players that have to get over injuries if they want to continue progressing towards All-Star-level production.

2. 2001 NBA DRAFT

The key for draft this being being ranked so high is because of the players’ all-around dominance. Pau Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Shane Battier and Tony Parker were key reasons why their teams won NBA Championships. The group as a whole made All-Star teams, All-NBA teams, All-Defensive teams, won championships, won slam dunk contests, were the centerpiece of the NBA’s moneyball article, and have rules named after them. Throw in awesome nicknames like Agent Zero, Hibachi, and Z-Bo, and you have my attention.

1. 2003 NBA DRAFT

This draft was the best. You can’t dispute that. LeBron James has won MVPs, Sportsman of the Year awards, and a championship. Carmelo Anthony is one of the best scoring threats in the NBA and just won his first scoring title. Dwyane Wade won two NBA championships and was one of the best shooting guards of my generation. These three players were integral parts of Team USA and helped spark the debate of whether this team was better than the 1992 “Dream Team.” David West, Chris Bosh and Mo Williams round out the rest of the best draft class.

What do you think of this list?

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