Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 at 8:00 am  |  27 responses

Decade’s Best: Draft Class

2003 easily takes the cake.

by Nada Taha

In the past decade of NBA drafts, stars have been born and first rounders have been disappointments. We’ve seen career-altering injuries and sleeper picks live up to their potential.

Every team enters the draft hoping to pick a franchise player who they can build around and who can lead them to a championship. But who’s to say those players are as good as advertised?

Just glancing at the top three of every draft for the past nine years says a lot. Yao Ming, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol. LeBron James. Those names bring a connotation of success. They changed the face of their team. They led them to a ring or had them so close they could smell it.

But bring up names like Stromile Swift, Darko Milicic or dare I say it, Kwame Brown, and the first thoughts that come to mind are you seriously considering how much better you could have done in the NBA.

The draft is like buying something off eBay. The pictures look great. The seller’s reputation has been good in the past and the price is great. But when that item arrives at your door and you open the box, it’s not always as good as it looked on screen.

2000 7 3
2001 15 5
2002 11 4
2003 13 7
2004 15 3
2005 11 2
2006 8 1
2007 10 0
2008 12 0
2009 3 N/A

Naming top players from a draft is pretty easy. But naming a top draft class is another story. Most draft classes have a façade. They boast a LeBron but hide a Darko. But others with some scratches on the surface, upon further inspection house gems like Michael Redd, Carlos Boozer or Monta Ellis.

Ask anyone what was the best draft class of the past decade and 99 percent will say 2003 with no hesitation. Hell, it’s in the same breath as 1996 and 1984.

It’s not easy to deny that the 2003 draft was possibly one of the best of all time. Seven All-Stars. Future hall-of-famers. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Do I even need to continue? Yes? How about true franchise players like Carmelo Anthony (who’s lighting it up this season) and Chris Bosh.

But what makes a draft class the best? Is it superstars? Depth? Franchise players?

Is the 2003 draft the best of the decade statistically? Or is it just being measured by intangibles?

To figure out if it truly is the best draft class, I measured the number of All-Stars and starters based on career mpg averages. Statistically speaking, the 2001, 2004 and 2008 classes give 2003 a run for its money.

Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, and Joe Johnson are all draftees of a stacked 2001 class with 15 starters and five All Stars – two of which (Gilbert Arenas, Mehmet Okur) were second rounders.

You can’t overlook the 2004 class with players like Dwight Howard, Devin Harris, and Andre Iguodala holding down the top 10 and Kevin Martin, Josh Smith and Jameer Nelson filling the other spots of 15 starters in that class.

And although it was followed by a draft class as weak as Chris Brown’s apology, 2008 was a big year. The word starter is seen more times than not in the top 15 picks with Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo and Russell Westbrook doing the top four justice.

Taking statistics and adding the X-factor to the mix, loosens up the tight race for best draft class, especially when 2003 boasts four All-Stars in its top five and numerous franchise players.

A draft class is no joke when it not only has MVPs and rings, but future HOFs as well. Considering the ’01 and ’04 classes have had some time to beef up their credentials, I’d have to say ’08 is the biggest competitor for LBJ’s class.

Do we really have any doubt that Rose, Beasley, Mayo, and Eric Gordon will be All-Stars in due time?

What makes 2003 the best class however, is the depth and the short amount of time it took for these players to prove their worth and rise above and beyond the expectations that come with getting a team cap so early on on draft night.


For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.

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  • J

    first. this one is unanimous.

  • Trout

    Freaakin’ yeah …

  • http://dsjfhklf.com Jukai

    I don’t get what determines who “starters” are.
    Starters right now for 2003? That could be it, since I count 13: Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Kaman, TJ Ford, David West, Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins, Josh Howard, Steve Blake, Mo Williams, Keith Bogans…
    But there have been other starters! Kirk Hinrich and Luke Ridnour have been starters the majority of their careers, despite taking backseats to younger more promising point guards at this moment. Zaza Pachulia, Willie Green, and Luke Walton have all been starters at least a whole year (I think).
    If we did this by ‘majority of their careers,’ we’d actually have 14 starters (subtract Keith Bogans, add Hinrich and Ridnour)

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    James, Carmelo, Wade, Bosh, Diaw, David West,Mo Williams, Hinrich, Barbosa, Josh Howard, Perkins, Pietrus, Darko (who isnt top 5 talent but is top 30), Kaman, TJ Ford, Jarvis Hayes, Nick Collison, Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake, Keith Bogans, Matt Boner, Kyle Korver, Willie Green, James Jones, Luke Walton, Dahntay Jones, Sasha Pavlovic, Marcus Banks……………………………………WOW

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    ***************I didnt mention Zaza and Luke on my wow list because i hate them both

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    Me and Jukai posted the exact same thing at the exact same time though. That sh!t is weird as fu(k.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    Looking at ESPN.com now, it turns out i forgot Kapono! And Marquis Dainels/Quinton Ross both went undrafted.

  • http://www.digitalthread.com AlbertBarr

    That is a ridiculously deep draft looking back.

  • Hussman25

    Great Draft… Def the best of this Decade…

  • jumpman3224

    2009 has more than 3 starters so far…DeRozan, Jennings, Flynn, Curry, Evans and Cassipi are all starting. I’m not saying this draft is near 2003 or even 2001, but I don’t think it gets enough credit.

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  • jumpman3224

    Also, how sick was the 1996 draft class. 10 first round all-stars! 11 total if you count Ben Wallace. I can’t see that ever being matched again. Also, Three different MVPs (could be duplicated by 03). A 4-time DPOY (again if you count Ben).

  • ab_40

    Rose, Beasley, Mayo, and Eric Gordon I see these guys as starters and borderline all stars in the future but no real starting guard of forward in an all star game talent. they are overrated.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    jumpman: between Wallace and Camby alone, 96 was the best defensive class. Ever.

  • Charles Kirk

    @ AB_40

    Out of Rose, Beasley, Mayo, and Eric Gordon you do realize that these guys are all potential NBA stars right. But I do agree that they have all been overrated in the media. Especially Rose I think this year exposed alot of holes in his game that weren’t nearly as noticeable last year.

  • Michael Scorn

    2003 has already produce several champions with Wade, Darko, Walton, Perkins. I wish the rest of the draft class could keep up.

  • LA Huey

    @BETCATS, 1984 Class has the all-time leader in blocked shots and a few DPOYs between Jordan and Dream. It’s arguable.

  • Vince5

    Well, 2003 is the decade’s best, everybody’s agree.

  • Teddy-the-Bear


  • http://myspace.com/weezyleezy337 GametimeWeezy

    guys guys, just because a player is in the league still, doesnt mean he should get credit for making a draft class good. you guys are mentioning guys like kapono??? pachulia???? luke fricken walton???? come on! theres the ’84 class, theres the ’96 class and theres the ’03 class. END OF STORY!

  • http://myspace.com/weezyleezy337 GametimeWeezy

    BET…..marcus banks??? wtf??

  • David

    I’m yet to be convinced that Beasley or E Gordon will ever make an all star team.

  • http://dsjfhklf.com Jukai

    GametimeWeezy: Uh… they were all starters at one point or another. They are not only in the league, they’re massive contributing members of their teams. Dur hur.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    All those guys listed ARE part of the ’03 draft class… So what are you complaining about Weezy?

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2009/12/decades-best-draft-class/ oinestep

    Yao Ming……conotes success?

  • http://myspace.com/weezyleezy337 GametimeWeezy

    kapono, pachulia and luke walton contibute massively? no i hear u they were starters at one time or another…but i mean come on. every draft class produces starters. but the BEST draft classes produce Hall-Of-Famers. but i do hear what youre saying about the depth of that class. i just think its a stretch to say quinton ross and willie green and scrubs like marcus banks have anything to do with determining which draft class is greater then the next.

  • http://myspace.com/weezyleezy337 GametimeWeezy

    and i wasnt complaining…i was jus like reading the names and im like, okay yea i guess it was a deep class, but kyle korver? really? dur hurrr? lol. lebron, melo, d-wade, bosh, josh howard…kaman, david west, perk, dahntay jones. hinrich, barbosa, mo williams…yea it was a deep class. but when i read zaza and marcus banks i was like..ummm no