Every once in a while, comes a time that a singular NBA Draft can completely alter the course of the league for decades to come. Filled with players that are considered generational talents. That was the case for a few different drafts throughout history, but some stand out far more than the others. So, we come to the question of what is the most talented NBA Draft Class in league history?
What Is The Most Talented NBA Draft Class? The NBA Draft class that is widely considered to be the most talented is 1984. The 1984 NBA Draft class was a year that featured Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton among many other athletes that would go on to be household names. It’s hard to beat arguably the greatest player in league history, one of the best centers to ever play, a bruising forward in Barkley and the best passer the world has ever seen in Stockton.
We have to discuss the 1984 class a little further though, along with a few other drafts that came close to being better.
The1984 NBA Draft Class
We need to give a little bit more depth into this particular draft class because it was that good. Jordan, as we all know, is arguably the best player to ever suit up. He’s won six championships, never losing in the NBA Finals, and making the Chicago Bulls a team that was feared for years and years. The future GOAT didn’t even go number 1… or number 2!
|1984 NBA Draft – 1st Round|
|1||Akeem Olajuwon||C||Houston Rockets||Houston (Jr.)|
|2||Sam Bowie||C||Portland Trail Blazers (from Indiana)||Kentucky (Sr.)|
|3||Michael Jordan||G/F||Chicago Bulls||North Carolina (Jr.)|
|4||Sam Perkins||F/C||Dallas Mavericks (from Cleveland)||North Carolina (Sr.)|
|5||Charles Barkley||F||Philadelphia 76ers (from L.A. Clippers)||Auburn (Jr.)|
|6||Melvin Turpin||C||Washington Bullets (traded to Cleveland)||Kentucky (Sr.)|
|7||Alvin Robertson||G||San Antonio Spurs||Arkansas (Sr.)|
|8||Lancaster Gordon||G||Los Angeles Clippers (from Golden State)||Louisville (Sr.)|
|9||Otis Thorpe||F/C||Kansas City Kings||Providence (Sr.)|
|10||Leon Wood||G||Philadelphia 76ers (from Denver)||Cal State Fullerton (Sr.)|
|11||Kevin Willis||F/C||Atlanta Hawks||Michigan State (Sr.)|
|12||Tim McCormick||C||Cleveland Cavaliers (traded to Seattle)||Michigan (Sr.)|
|13||Jay Humphries||G||Phoenix Suns||Colorado (Sr.)|
|14||Michael Cage||F/C||Los Angeles Clippers (from Seattle)||San Diego State (Sr.)|
|15||Terence Stansbury||G||Dallas Mavericks||Temple (Sr.)|
|16||John Stockton||G||Utah Jazz||Gonzaga (Sr.)|
|17||Jeff Turner||F/C||New Jersey Nets||Vanderbilt (Sr.)|
|18||Vern Fleming||G||Indiana Pacers (from New York)||Georgia (Sr.)|
|19||Bernard Thompson||G/F||Portland Trail Blazers||Fresno State (Sr.)|
|20||Tony Campbell||G/F||Detroit Pistons||Ohio State (Sr.)|
|21||Kenny Fields||G/F||Milwaukee Bucks||UCLA (Sr.)|
|22||Tom Sewell||G||Philadelphia 76ers (traded to Washington)||Lamar (Sr.)|
|23||Earl Jones||C||Los Angeles Lakers||UDC (Sr.)|
|24||Michael Young||G/F||Boston Celtics||Houston (Sr.)|
|25||Devin Durrant||F||Indiana Pacers||Brigham Young (Sr.)|
Olajuwon went on to pick up 162.8-win shares throughout his entire career and some believe that he’s the greatest center to ever play. He was consistently dominant on the court and won multiple championships thanks to his dominance in the paint.
Stockton was a 10-time All-Star who has the single season record for assists at 1,164 and also holds the all-time record in both assists and steals.
Then Barkley comes in as a guy that played for multiple teams but was the fourth player to hit 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists throughout his career. These four in particular have 47 combined All-Star appearances, 45 All-NBA selections, 23 All-Defensive selections, 10 scoring titles, five steals’ titles, three rebound titles, nine assists’ titles, three block titles, seven MVP awards and eight NBA Championships. Is this really a debate on whether or not this class was the greatest of all time? Other notable players with high win shares include Sam Perkins, Kevin Willis, Otis Thorpe, Alvin Robertson and Michael Cage.
The 1996 NBA Draft Class
The 1996 class was unbelievably good. They had enough top tier players coupled with great class depth. The start of it all was Kobe Bryant, picked at a lowly 13th overall. Bryant was selected alongside the sharpshooter Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Stephon Marbury, Peja Stojakovic, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Allen Iverson, Jermaine O’Neal and Derek Fisher just to name a few.
That’s right, all of these guys came into the league during the same draft. That’s just insane to think about. In this class, we got to see the all-time three-point leader, three different MVPs of the league and a combined 64 All-Star game appearances.
Kobe was an 18-time All-Star with the Lakers and won five championships with them along with an MVP in 2008. Allen used to be the three-point champion before Steph Curry came along and took the crown. Though Allen still made 2,973 three-pointers throughout his career and is a good 400 over any other player not named Curry. Allen almost won MVP, but his best season was robbed of him due to a phenomenal Allen Iverson campaign.
Iverson averaged 26.7 points per game throughout his career and was an 11-time All-Star himself.
Then there’s Nash, one of the best passers to ever play in the league at the time. He never played in the NBA Finals but won two MVP awards and almost got a third in 2007. These were three consecutive years as well. Steve led the league in assists in five different years and had 10,335 dimes in total.
Now, these were just the most notable names. Other guys that were mentioned earlier like Camby, Marbury, Fisher and O’Neal were all incredibly talented players that were stars on their respective teams at one point. It’s not like they were just above average players. These were studs at different points in their careers. I feel like this class was JUST BARELY under the 1984 one, but boy was this a close race.
The 2003 NBA Draft Class was top heavy
The 2003 draft was another one that almost deserved the top spot. The only reason it didn’t was because the top guys in this class completely carried the rest of the pack. It was one of those years where the early selections dominated while some of the later picks just never panned out. LeBron James leads the way in this class. Dwyane Wade follows, along with Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Korver, Boris Diaw and David West. All of these guys were great players.
LeBron alone could skyrocket this draft class as people have him up there alongside Michael Jordan as the best players to ever play. Wade is another Hall of Fame talent, just like Bosh and Anthony. If you just take LeBron, Melo, Bosh and Wade, you will find that they combine for 47 All-Star games and 29 All-NBA selections. LeBron, Bosh and Wade in particular also teamed up for multiple championship runs together with the Miami Heat. The depth of this class doesn’t reach further than the seventh player. If you look at the 1984 class, the seventh best player in terms of win shares was Kevin Willis at 81.8. In 2003, the seventh best player was Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich was a guy that never made it into the All-Star game and had a massive 25-win share difference from Willis. If there was just a little more talent in the back end of the class, this could easily be the top pick. It just didn’t pan out like that.