Best Draft Classes in NBA History

The NBA Draft is an annual event in which the league gains a new group of eager young players ready to make their names legendary. Some draft classes are better than others, producing the star players who make the hall of fame and create a more exciting game. As the draft approaches this year, we can reflect on the best draft classes in history in hopes that this draft makes the cut. These are our top picks for the best draft classes in NBA history.

NBA Draft Picks 1950


The 1950 NBA Draft took place on Tuesday, April 25, in Chicago and resulted in a total of 121 picks. The first pick of the draft was Chuck Share, but the all-stars produced by this draft include Paul Arizin, Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, and Larry Foust.

Arizin and the others were four future Hall of Famers who averaged career win shares between 108.8 and 58.5. Arizin played with the Warriors from 1951 to 1962 and made the All-Star Game 10 times in his career. He averaged 22.8 points and 8.6 rebounds during his career.

Bob Cousy played for the Boston Celtics during the 1950s and 1960s and was known for his revolutionary passing and handling skills. His team won six NBA championships, and he played in 13 consecutive NBA All-Star Games.


With a total of eight Hall of Famers and 12 All-Stars, 1970 was a momentous year for the NBA Draft. The 1970 draft took place on Monday, March 23, in New York City and produced the most Hall of Famers of any draft year. The top three picks for the 1970 draft were Bob Lanier, Rudy Tomjanovich, and Pete Maravich. Each of them played for at least 10 seasons, had 46.7 win shares, and scored over 10,000 points during their careers.

Bob Lanier was a center for the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks and is often considered one of the most talented centers in the history of the game. Lanier was 6 feet 10 inches tall and averaged 20.1 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game during his career.

Rudy Tomjanovich follows Lanier as one of the most successful players from the 1970 draft. Tomjanovich played for the San Diego Rockets and won a championship in 1994. Following his career as a player, he became a coach and consultant.


Some may cite 1984 as the best NBA Draft class in history because of Michael Jordan, the legend often considered the greatest basketball player in the history of the sport. The 1984 NBA Draft took place on Tuesday, June 19, in New York City and resulted in a total of 228 picks. The first overall pick during this draft was Hakeem Olajuwon, who went on to have 162.8 win shares during his career. Other notable picks from this draft class include John Stockton and Charles Barkley.

Barkley played for the 76ers, Suns, and Rockets during his time in the league. He was the fourth player to hit 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists during a career. He retired from the game in 2000 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.

John Stockton was a 10-time All-Star who holds the single-season assists record at 1,164 in one season. When he retired, he held the records for steals and assists, at 3,265 steals and 15,806 assists. He played for the Jazz and won gold medals at the 1996 and 1992 Olympics.


The 1985 draft took place on Tuesday, June 18, in New York City. It resulted in a total of 162 picks and featured players like Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, and Terry Porter. This draft class produced 10 All-Star players and Karl Malone, who trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain in career wins.

Though Patrick Ewing never won a championship, he did average 22 points and 10 rebounds per game during his career with the New York Knicks. Remembered as one of the most effective and consistent centers, Ewing appeared in the NBA Finals twice and won two Olympic medals.

Karl Malone earned the nickname “The Mailman” because of how consistently he delivered on the court. He finished his career with 36,928 points. He and Stockton were a famous duo that used the pick-and-roll to get to the basket.

NBA Draft Picks 1987 David Robinson and Scottie Pippen


The San Antonio Spurs picked David Robinson as the overall first pick, which sets this draft class apart as one in which the highest performing player was the first pick. Also known as “The Admiral,” David Robinson won the 1995 MVP Award and won the Spurs two NBA titles.

Scottie Pippen, who played alongside Michael Jordan, was another pick from the 1987 draft who elevated the talent pool. He played for 17 seasons as a small forward who was a seven-time All-Star and helped lead the Bulls to six NBA championships.


The 1996 draft took place on Wednesday, June 26, in East Rutherford and resulted in a total of 58 picks. Some of the best players from this draft include Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, and Allen Iverson. This draft class includes three league MVPs and a three-point leader.

Kobe Bryant played for the Lakers and is often considered one of the best players, and though he wasn’t the first overall pick, he was the player from this draft with the most win shares at 172.7. Bryant was a five-time NBA champion, 18-time NBA All-Star, and made NBA All-Defensive 12 times during his career.

Ray Allen is a Hall of Famer who played in the league for 19 years. He played for the Heat, the Celtics, the Thunder, and the Bucks. Allen won two championships and ended his career with 24,505 points, 5,272 rebounds, and 4,361 assists.


Michael Olowokandi was the first overall pick for the 1998 draft class, but he didn’t end up being a high performer. Instead, some of the most notable players from this class include Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, and Vince Carter.

Dirk Nowitzki played for the Mavericks from 1999 to 2019. He’s a 14-time NBA All-Star and has a good shot at being a first-ballot inductee for the Hall of Fame in 2023. Nowitzki scored 31,560 points over the course of his career and finished with 11,489 rebounds.


Some of the top players from the 1999 draft include Shawn Marion, Elton Brand, and Jason Terry. The 1999 draft took place on Wednesday, June 30, in Washington D.C. Rather than being star-studded, this draft is deep with players who were All-Stars and NBA honorees.

Jason Terry, who was the 10th pick, played in the league for 18 seasons and won a championship with the Mavericks. Corey Maggette is another notable player who played for 13 years and averaged 16 points per game.

NBA Draft Picks 2003


LeBron James was an anticipated arrival in the draft class of 2003, and he lived up to the hype. The 2003 draft took place on June 26 in New York City and some other notable players include Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. This draft class currently has nine All-Star players, including Chris Bosh and James Howard.

After 19 seasons, LeBron James has proven himself as one of the greatest players in the game. He currently plays for the Lakers but has also played for the Heat and the Cavaliers. Though this draft class doesn’t perform well in terms of depth, it does offer several memorable players who average over 100 career win shares each, which is part of why it makes the cut for best draft classes.Stephen Curry Golden State Warriors Nike 2020/21 Swingman Jersey - Royal - Icon Edition


The 2009 NBA Draft took place on Thursday, June 25, in New York City. Some notable players from this draft include Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Blake Griffin. This draft produced some of the most memorable players from this decade, as Steph Curry and James Harden near or surpass 100 career win shares.

James Harden averages 22 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per game. Stephen Curry is a guard who plays for the Golden State Warriors and averages 25.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. Curry is an eight-time All-Star player and has a player impact estimate of 15.5.


The 2011 draft is memorable because it included picks for a few of the league’s current top players. The 2011 NBA Draft took place on June 23 in Newark and produced 60 total picks. Some notable players from this class include point guard Kyrie Irving and guard Klay Thompson.

The Cavaliers agreed to take on Baron Davis’s contract in exchange for the first-round pick, which resulted in them getting Kyrie Irving, a high-performing player from this class. Kyrie Irving currently plays for the Nets and averages 27.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. Klay Thompson plays for the Warriors and averages 20.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game.

These are the best draft classes in NBA history. From 1950 to 2018, the NBA Draft has produced celebrated players, including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. To find memorabilia, sports collectibles, and officially licensed sports apparel for all leagues, don’t forget to check out Fanatics’ extensive collection of shirts, hats, and more.



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