5 Best NBA Draft classes of all time
Since being founded in 1946, there have been 72 NBA drafts in history. The draft has produced countless legends and players in the NBA, keeping the league alive and booming. The lottery was introduced in 1985 to give bad teams an advantage and a chance to select the best players in the draft.
In this list, we are going to rank the five greatest NBA draft classes in history. Each draft class will be judged based on star power and depth, which will include notable role players. Even busts from the lottery and steals from the second round can affect the rankings.
But before we get to the top five greatest draft classes in NBA history, we’ll take a look at some honorable mentions.
1970 NBA Draft Class
Notable Members: Bob Lanier (1st), Rudy Tomjanovich (2nd), Pete Maravich (3rd), Dave Cowens (4th), Sam Lacey (5th), John Johnson (7th), Geoff Petrie (8th), Calvin Murphy (18th), Nate Archibald (19th), Charlie Scott (106th), Dan Issel (122nd), Randy Smith (205th)
A very underrated class, the 1970 NBA draft produced seven Hall of Famers – Lanier, Maravich, Cowens, Murphy, Archibald, Scott, and Issel. Lanier was a beast for the Pistons while “Pistol” Pete was captivating fans in Atlanta and New Orleans. Cowens is a Celtics legend, and Murphy and Archibald are two of the best point guards ever.
Issel, who was picked in the eighth round, spent six seasons in the ABA before making it to the NBA as part of the Nuggets. On the other hand, Tomjanovich, Lacey, Johnson, Petrie, and Smith were All-Stars during their careers, which makes the 1970 class a very strong draft. The 1970 NBA draft class also holds the record for the most number of selections with a whopping 239 players.
1987 NBA Draft Class
Notable Members: David Robinson (1st), Scottie Pippen (5th), Kenny Smith (6th), Kevin Johnson (7th), Horace Grant (10th), Reggie Miller (11th), Muggsy Bogues (12th), Mark Jackson (18th), Reggie Lewis (22nd), Sarunas Marciulionis (127th)
The 1987 draft class has a good case of making the top five since they have star power in Robinson and Pippen. “The Admiral” was an MVP and Pippen helped Michael Jordan win six titles. Miller was a legend in Indiana while Johnson is the same in Phoenix. Smith, Grant, Bogues, and Lewis had good careers, and Jackson sits fourth in the all-time leader for career assists.
Marciulionis, who was selected 127th overall, did not play in the NBA until 1989 and he made an impact on the game. He is considered as one of the greatest international players ever and he is even a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame along with Robinson, Pippen, and Miller.
2011 NBA Draft Class
Notable Members: Kyrie Irving (1st), Enes Kanter (3rd), Jonas Valanciunas (5th), Kemba Walker (9th), Klay Thompson (11th), Kawhi Leonard (15th), Nikola Vucevic (16th), Tobias Harris (19th), Kenneth Faried (22nd), Nikola Mirotic (23rd), Jimmy Butler (30th), Chandler Parsons (38th), Isaiah Thomas (60th)
It might be too early to tell if the 2011 NBA draft class will make it into the top five but it has several good players who could be great. Irving is already a champion and he plays for a historic franchise like the Celtics. Walker is considered as the greatest Hornet of all time while Thompson could end his career as the second greatest shooter ever behind teammate Stephen Curry.
Leonard and Butler are two of the best two-way players in the NBA today with Leonard possibly becoming one of the best ever. The 2011 draft class was hurt by Kanter and Valanciunas not living up to their hype but got good value with Parsons, and Thomas, who was the last pick and became an All-Star.