As the 2020 NBA Draft commences tonight, the consensus seems to be that the talent pool isn’t very deep.
Even the Top 3 projected picks (Melo Ball, Anthony Edwards (19.1 ppg) and James Wiseman) come with some reservations. Melo took a circuitous route to the league, dropping out of high school to play overseas and then returning to the states to play his final HS season, but never playing college ball.
Edwards and Wiseman had cups of coffee as dominant college players in 2019. The jury is still out on the remaining players in this year’s Draft class and whether there’s some superstar potential lingering after the first three to five picks.
The pendulum could swing either way, with this being one of the weaker classes in modern history or a group that proves to have tremendous staying power. Then there’s always the sleepers that we all missed.
With that being said, we won’t know until a few years from now what type of class this 2020 crop will be, but here are the top five draft classes of the last 25 years:
The 1996 draft class included Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson.
Those two names alone make this class ring bells, but when you consider the likes of Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Peja Stojaković, Stephon Marbury, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Jermaine O’Neal, Marcus Camby, and Antoine Walker, among others like Žydrūnas Ilgauskas, Kerry Kittles, and Derek Fisher, this group could be the greatest we’ve seen in the last two and a half decades.
One-third of the ’96 first-round picks were eventually named All-Stars. Three of them – Iverson, Nash, and Kobe – would go on to become league MVPs.
The 2003 crop, with LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade, is still getting it in with LeBron’s final NBA chapters with the Lakers still being written. The class had fifteen players that combined for 26 championships.
And it just wasn’t top heavy. Solid players like Kirk Hinrich, TJ Ford, David West, Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard, Steve Blake, Mo Williams, and Kyle Korver, among others, made this group one of the deepest Draft classes ever.
The top 10 picks from the class of ’99 included Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Wally Szczerbiak, Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, and Jason Terry.
And let’s not forget about Andrei Kirilenko and the artist formerly known as Ron Artest. And when Manu Ginobili, a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer gets taken with the 57th overall pick, that’s something to brag about.
The 2011 draft was headlined by Kyrie Irving, but the best player of the group was Kawhi Leonard, now a two-time Finals MVP, who was taken with the 15th pick. I wonder how the Indiana Pacers feel right about now since they traded the sophomore stud out of San Diego State to the Spurs on Draft night.
With those two headlining the show, you also have Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vučević, Iman Shumpert, Tobias Harris, Kenneth Faried, Jimmy Butler, and others. And let’s not forget the diminutive sensation Isaiah Thomas, who was taken with the very last pick.
The #1 overall pick, Michael Olowokandi, was one of the biggest busts ever, but the ’98 class still gets past the velvet rope due to the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Larry Hughes, Paul Pierce, Tyronn Lue, Rashard Lewis, Cuttino Mobley, Al Harrington, and Rafer Alston.