September 24, 2017

What are the chances a #1 draft pick becomes a bust (or a NBA legend)?

2017/08/22 1:41 pm 1:41 pm1:41 pm0 0 comments

We all know that being the number one pick is a loaded title. On one hand, you have cemented yourself in NBA history. Whether you never play one minute or end up scoring 30,000 points in your career, you’ll always be remembered.

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The question that comes up then is how will you be remembered? Will you be remembered as a legend or will you go down in infamy? We decided to look at some history to determine the likelihood.

Looking at the last 25 years (from 1991-2015), we categorized all the players into five buckets based on their careers. And from those, the odds are pretty good the #1 draft pick’s career… well, can be anything. It’s not an easy bet (as NetBet live betting is) to determine if Markelle Fultz or Ben Simmons will turn out to be an all star or a role player.

So we carefully placed the draft picks into five categories based on their careers. Those five player categories are (from bad to excellent) draft bust, role player, all-star, superstar to what every rookie wants and hopes to be; an NBA legend. It didn’t take long to see that being chosen #1 doesn’t lock you into a superstar or legendary career. From 1991 to 2015, the 25 draft picks were almost evenly distributed across all the categories.

Star or Bust: The #1 Draft Picks from Last 25 Years
Busts 5
Role Players 3
All-Stars 6
Superstars 7
Legends 4

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As you can see the players were distributed pretty evenly. With 5 busts, 3 role players, 6 all-stars, 7 superstars, and 4 legends, it further confirms that there’s no set path for #1 draft picks. Yes, more than half turn out to be an “All Star” or “Superstar” but it’s not a significant difference. Take away one or two and it’s pretty much even. Take a look at how we categorized the last 25 NBA #1 Draft picks:

Star or Bust: The Last 25 #1 Draft Picks
Draft Player Team Status
1991 Larry Johnson Charlotte Hornets all-star
1992 Shaquille O'Neal Los Angeles Lakers legend
1993 Chris Webber Sacramento Kings superstar
1994 Glenn Robinson Milwaukee Bucks all-star
1995 Joe Smith Golden State Warriors role player
1996 Allen Iverson Philadelphia 76ers legend
1997 Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs legend
1998 Michael Olowokandi Los Angeles Clippers bust
1999 Elton Brand Chicago Bulls all star
2000 Kenyon Martin New Jersey Nets role player
2001 Kwame Brown Washington Wizards bust
2002 Yao Ming Houston Rockets all star
2003 LeBron James Miami Heat legend
2004 Dwight Howard Orlando Magic superstar
2005 Andrew Bogut Milwaukee Bucks role player
2006 Andrea Bargnani Toronto Raptors bust
2007 Greg Oden Portland Trailblazers bust
2008 Derrick Rose Chicago Bulls superstar
2009 Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers superstar
2010 John Wall Washington Wizards superstar
2011 Kyrie Irving Cleveland Cavs superstar
2012 Anthony Davis New Orleans Hornets superstar
2013 Anthony Bennett Cleveland Cavaliers bust
2014 Andrew Wiggins Minnesota Timberwolves all star
2015 Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves all star

Obviously how we bucketed the players is subjective, but the logic was pretty simple; in what role did that player find himself the majority of their career and how consistent were they in that role? Were they the primary player and made a couple all star teams, but never played for a competitive team? Did they win an MVP? Were they never the first option? What was their career high or rookie ppg? Outside of players like Kenyon Martin and Elton Brand, who made all-star teams but weren’t really primary players, it wasn’t very difficult. That’s because their names alone were enough to Shaquille or Kwame? LeBron or Andrea? Iverson or Olowokandi?

Then again, we have the luxury of assessing a #1 draft pick after they’ve been in the league a few years.

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