The Deepest Draft Classes Since 1981. (Part 1)



The Number One Pick?
The 2011 Draft class seems to be one of the weakest in a long time; but which classes were the strongest?  The following series of charts and articles(PART 2,  PART 3, PART 4) will be an attempt to determine the answer.  The depth of each draft class from 1981 to 2010 was measured by the number of players they placed in the top 50 during each season of their career.  The top 50 players are measured by minutes played; while this measure may seem inadequate, it is probably the best measure of talent that can be used to compare one large group of players to another large group of players.  I understand the limitations of using minutes played; comparing one player to another player using only minutes played would be idiotic, but large groups smooth out the differences in minutes played that are due to coaching preferences, team injury situations, and other distortions of talent evaluation.  Another thing to mention about the method is that the draft classes from 2006-2010 cannot be really measured accurately, as their careers are still unfolding.  The results from those years should be disregarded.

Here’s the rating system:   Each draft class that leads the league, during a given season, in number of top 50 players gets 5 points, the second and third place classes get 3 points, and the fourth and fifth place classes are given 1 point.  Remember, this study is attempting to find out the deepest draft classes, not the most top heavy.  Click HERE to get in-depth, year-by-year stats.

For The Complete Chart 1981-2010, Click HERE
I think the 1984, 1996, and 2003 drafts had the best top talent, but were they the deepest?  The table shows the top ten draft classes since 1981.  On this table is total points (explained earlier), number of times the class led the league, the year the class had its best season and how many top 50 players it had that year, and what season of its career did the class peak.


Notable Observations:

Most of the best draft classes seem to have the ability to simultaneously take over the league from their predecessors and prevent the younger classes from pushing them from the top.
Two NBA Finals’ MVPs

The class of ’98, who had to wait until January ’99 to start their lockout-shortened rookie year, did pretty well for themselves and did not peak until their 11th year. The average class peaks around their 6th or 7th season, then the younger classes start to take over. Once you get past one of the worst number one picks in NBA history, Michael Olowokandi, it was a really good draft. Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, and Rashard Lewis were all drafted that year; and there were at least 5 or 6 more good players drafted in 1998.

And With The Third Pick…

Class of ’84: Jordan, Olajuwon, Barkley, and Stockton: The greatest player; a top 2 or 3 center; an undersized, versatile, rebounding machine, all-time great power forward; and the NBA’s all-time leader in steals and assists. Don’t be fooled by the top heaviness; there were some other good players in this draft: Big Smooth Sam Perkins, Steal Machine Alvin Robertson and even great coach, but not-so-great player Rick Carlisle. I don’t want to turn this into a list of the 1984 draftees, but you get the idea.

The 1992 class was very interesting:  Shaq, Zo, Spree, and others were in this draft, but that’s not the interesting part – this class(as a whole) peaked after only its 3rd season.


We’ll Miss You.

The class of ’96 is one of my favorites; Kobe, Iverson, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, and the undrafted Ben Wallace highlight this class.




What A Class, But Where’s AI? PART 2




PART 2   PART 3

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One Response to The Deepest Draft Classes Since 1981. (Part 1)

  1. Ryan says:

    Undrafted Ben Wallace, that's right.

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