Ranking the 5 best #1 NBA draft picks in the past 5 years: Where are they now?

Detroit Pistons Introduce First NBA Draft First Overall Pick Cade Cunningham.
Detroit Pistons Introduce First NBA Draft First Overall Pick Cade Cunningham.

Cade Cunningham went first overall in the 2021 NBA Draft, as expected, and the Detroit Pistons' hopes are all on his shoulders for the foreseeable future. Being the first pick of the NBA Draft naturally comes with expectations, and while there are some so-called busts, others have answered the call.

Whether Cunningham fulfills expectations or not in the NBA is yet to be seen, but the guard coming from Oklahoma State seems to have a great package for today's NBA.

Ranking the five-best #1 NBA Draft picks of the previous five NBA Draft classes, excluding 2021

This article is all about the first overall picks and how they have performed in the NBA. Although diehard NBA fans may know about some of the all-time greats who went on to be legends of the NBA after being the first pick of their draft class, we will only take a look at the five most recent #1 picks.

There's been some criticism of the current collegiate level and how some players do not fully develop their game due to the one-and-done trend. However, some of the most recent #1 picks proved some of that to be wrong.

Without further ado, let us take a look at the current state of the #1 picks of the five NBA Draft classes that preceded the 2021 group and how they rank amongst each other.

#5 Markelle Fultz - 2017 NBA Draft

Markelle Fultz #20 of the Orlando Magic.
Markelle Fultz #20 of the Orlando Magic.

The Philadelphia 76ers selected Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. The decision might not've been a bad one, but Fultz struggled to be on the court with the 76ers, playing only 14 games in his first season due to injuries and a mysterious issue with his shoulder (scapular muscle imbalance).

He then played only 19 games as a sophomore before being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. Fultz was traded to the Orlando Magic on February 7th, 2019 and he found his feet with the Magic in the 2019-20 NBA season, averaging 12 points and five assists per game in 72 appearances.

His shooting has not been the same from his collegiate days at Washington, where he made 41.3% of his threes. However, he found a nice groove with the Magic, although his 2020-21 campaign was cut short by an ACL injury.

#4 Anthony Edwards - 2020 NBA Draft

Anthony Edwards #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Anthony Edwards #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Anthony Edwards with the first pick of the 2019 NBA Draft, ahead of talents like James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball. Although the start of his rookie season did not look sensational as he struggled with his shooting efficiency, Edwards eventually showed his potential, especially his athleticism.

He was one of the frontrunners to win the 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year, but Ball took said honor in front of him. Still, Edwards' progression was noticeable and he might explode in the 2021-22 NBA season for the Timberwolves.

Through his first 17 games, Edwards made 35% of his field goals, while coming off the bench. Then, he became a starter and improved mightily, averaging 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game (55 starts) and making 43% of his field goals.

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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