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Top 10 No. 1 draft picks in the Lottery Era (PART I)

Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 20 Mar 2019, 14:54 IST

If something comes even close to a Leprechaun’s pot of gold in the fable of a basketball franchise,it surely is the first pick in the NBA draft. The NBA draft over the years due to various reasons have become a crap-shoot with practically no realistic assurances about any player eventually making it big in the league except for may be the “first pick” where most years remains a unanimity in who was the best collegiate player coming out that season. They can serve as the cornerstone for a team years to come, can save and even change the face of the franchise.

Orlando Magic since its inception in 89 have been the luckiest whilst winning the draft lottery 3 times,hence coming out with the No.1 pick on three separate times. So, which teams have made the best use of these golden jackpots. In our first installment we count down from No. 10-6.

The Clippers had finished the previous season 19-63 and had the third best chance of securing the first pick(17.7%). The Clippers picked the unanimous pick for that years draft, the highlight machine Blake Griffin. The dunkalacious Power Forward had an amazing year at Oklahoma in his sophomore year, going on to sweep all six of the national player of the year awards in a year where he averaged  22.7PPG  and 14.4RPG,while hitting 64.6% from the field.

His career didn’t start off on the right note as he had to be sidelined for what was to be his rookie season,with an injury to his knee.  He came back stronger than ever and certainly has lived up to his reputation in the NBA proving to be a cornerstone for the Clippers and instrumental to bringing Chris Paul to join him in LA. The hype surrounding his athletic play got him selected into the All-Star game in his rookie year as well as wins in the Slam Dunk event and ending up as the rookie of the year.

Even with an atrocious shooting game and a more than questionable defense, his athleticism and  offense around the basket puts him in the plus list. LA’s second team have now found a identity a demi-god for them to worship as he climbs the ladder of heaven each time to strike down some sweet dunks.

Yao Ming pick by Houston transformed the face of NBA forever. The 7 ft 6 in gentle giant from Shanghai,China brought the NBA to a new audience of more than a billion people.  Although that was quite an achievement, that won’t be his lasting legacy. The soft spoken Yao let his play on the court do the talking for him. When Houston selected Yao with the 1st overall pick of the draft, he became the first international player ever to be selected first overall without having previously played U.S. college basketball.

Many pundits and former greats like Charles Barkley had predicted that Yao wouldn’t be able to cope with the level of basketball in the NBA. He certainly did and then some. His immense popularity made his participation in All-Star games only a formality.

His presence propelled the Rockets into the playoffs in his sophomore year. He became everything that the Rockets had wanted out of the big Chinese. However bone injuries and infections kept his career checkered. Yao was forced to retire in 2011 with his niggling injuries. In a career that spanned only eight years he had the most profound effect on basketball than any other foreigner ever did. He was the leader and the heart-throb of his team. In him, the NBA found more than a superstar. He will always be a classical case of  “what could have been”!!


Derrick Rose was  certainly not the unanimous pick that year. It was a call between him and a certain Michael Beasley. The Memphis guard suddenly shot into this high a prominence with a strong showing  in the NCAA tournament, and the rest as they say is history.

Rose has now gone onto multiple All-star selections,regular season MVP award,leading the Chicago Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals and earning himself a max contract. While Beasley is now on his 3rd team having faced  suspension due to consumption of narcotics and faces issues with not getting himself engaged into the game.

Certainly a job well done by the people at the front office in Chicago, the NBA is still yet to see the peak of this skillful athlete. We all wish him a speedy recovery!!


In the first 15 years of Magic history they were lucky enough to have won three draft lotteries. With the third of their picks in 2004 they picked another big man (other no.1 picks were Shaquille O’Neill and Chris Webber) who was to re-write their history once again.

He set about breaking records from his rookie season and finished as the youngest player in NBA history to record a season average of a double-double. It was not until his second year in the NBA that Howard had converted into a full-fledged centre after adding 20 pounds to his frame in the off-season. His honours continued as he went on to become the youngest player ever to score 20 or more points and grab 20 or more rebounds in a single game.

The breakthrough into the All-Star game became just a formality in the years to come. His pinnacle with the Magic came when he lead the team to the NBA Finals in 2009. In-competencies of the Magic front office finally put an end to their rise with Howard. Short visits to the play-offs became the norm for the Magic in the following years eventually leading to the big man’s falling out with the coach and getting dillusional about the future with the Magic. In August,2012 Howard ended up as a Laker in a three way deal that involved the Magic, the Lakers and the Nuggets.


Iverson was “the answer” to all of Philadelphia’s prayers in the 1996 draft. He was a phenom, a cult hero who carried the hopes and aspirations of a whole city on his little shoulders while he was in Philly. He never cared for how little he was, as he flung all 1.83m(6ft) of his frame hurling himself towards stardom ,multiple all-star appearances and accolades from basketball fans round the world. Leading a side filled with mediocrity to the NBA Finals nearly single-handedly against the Lakers might have been the peak of his career .

Iverson was a polarizing figure to say the least but was a pleasure to watch on the court. A natural scorer with the deadliest of crossovers, his play left even the crowd wanting for more and always delivering the punch line at the end. He embodied the phrase “against the odds”. Physically he was a little puppy amongst the big dogs. But,the puppy had the nastiest bite,the biggest heart.

One of his famous moves that sticks in my mind would be his crossover dribble which made Michael Jordan look a mere mortal:

Published 30 Sep 2012, 15:38 IST
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