The first pick in the NBA draft is coveted by organizations because they can up ticket prices, sell a romance to season ticket holders, and develop talent for two years before we see what we see. But the reality is the number one draft pick has won 13 NBA titles the last twenty years (1999-2018). However, only 6 NBA players are responsible for those 13 titles.
Shaquille O’Neal. David Robinson. Tim Duncan. LeBron James. Andrew Bogut. Kyrie Irving. 4 of the 6 have more than one title, Andrew Bogut and Kyrie Irving being the exceptions.
Number two draft picks have won 8 NBA titles in that same twenty year time span. Only Kevin Durant has won repeat championships. For the others it was one and done. Darko Milicic. Tyson Chandler. Jason Kidd. Alonzo Mourning. Danny Ferry. Gary Payton.
The drop-off from number one to number two doesn’t diminish how special a top-5 pick is. They are earmarked for All-Star, face of the franchise and NBA champion. Whether they meet their potential has to do with injury, luck, basketball gods and organizational acumen and their particularly talent ceiling.
What if I told you that of the past 20 NBA champions, 20 of those teams had a top-5 draft pick on the roster and 20 of those 20 teams had a top-5 pick in the starting lineup. 100% accuracy, a top-5 pick on your team puts you closer to a NBA title than not having a top-5 pick.
A top-5 pick that makes it to the NBA title parade is athletic and explosive, in other words fast and quick. They have offensive talent, basketball I.Q., a high motor, a commitment for defense, a team ethic and they work on their game consistently. Good luck trying to find those variables in teenagers but it’s not the teenager you are banking on, it is the 27 year old. Development, coaching, a willingness to take criticism, mental toughness and self-motivation are the supportive frameworks that allow talent to embrace the NBA game.
All top-5 picks are not the same, but these found a way to get it done.
1999. David Robinson ( #1 Spurs, 1987). Tim Duncan (#1 Spurs, 1997)
2000-02. Shaquille O’Neal (#1 Orlando, 1992)
2003. Danny Ferry (#2 Clippers 1989). David Robinson. Tim Duncan.
2004. Chauncey Billups (#3 pick, Boston 1997). Darko Milicic (#2 Detroit, 2003). Rasheed Wallace (#4 Washington, 1995)
2005. Tim Duncan.
2006. Alonzo Mourning (#2 pick, Charlotte 1992). Dwyane Wade (#5 pick, Miami 2003). Gary Payton (#2 pick Seattle, 1990). Shaquille O’Neal.
2007. Tim Duncan.
2008. Kevin Garnett (#5, Minnesota 1995). Ray Allen (#5, Minnesota 1996).
2009. Pau Gasol (#3, Atlanta 2001). Lamar Odom (#4 Clippers, 1999). Adam Morrison (#3 Charlotte, 2006)
2010. Pau Gasol. Lamar Odom. Adam Morrison.
2011. Jason Kidd (#2, Dallas 1994). Tyson Chandler (#2, Clippers 2001)
2012. LeBron James (#1, Cleveland 2003). Chris Bosh (#4, Toronto). Eddy Curry (#4 Chicago, 2001). Juwan Howard (#5, Washington, 1994). Dwyane Wade.
2013. LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh. Juwan Howard.
2014. Tim Duncan.
2015. Andrew Bogut. (#1, Milwaukee, 2005). Shaun Livingston (#4, Clippers 2004)
2016. Kyrie Irving (#1, Cleveland 2011). Kevin Love (#5, Memphis 2008). LeBron James.
2017. Kevin Durant (#2 pick, Seattle 2007). Shaun Livingston.
2018. Kevin Durant (#2 pick, Seattle 2007). Shaun Livingston