#1 vs. #2

elindholm

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How successful have teams been at picking the right player #1? There are lots of cases where the best player in the draft came at #3 or lower, but that starts getting complicated to analyze.

So, simple question, once it's down to that coin flip at the top: Who had the better career in each draft, #1 or #2?

1980: #1 Joe Barry Carroll, #2 Darrell Griffith, tossup
1981: #1 Mark Aguirre, #2 Isiah Thomas, #2
1982: #1 James Worthy, #2 Terry Cummings, #1
1983: #1 Ralph Sampson, #2 Steve Stipanovich, #1
1984: #1 Hakeem Olajuwon, #2 Sam Bowie, #1
1985: #1 Patrick Ewing, #2 Wayman Tisdale, #1
1986: #1 Brad Daugherty, #2 Len Bias, #1
1987: #1 David Robinson, #2 Armon Gilliam, #1
1988: #1 Danny Manning, #2 Rik Smits, #1
1989: #1 Pervis Ellison, #2 Danny Ferry, tossup

1980s: 7 wins for #1, 2 wins for #2

1990: #1 Derrick Coleman, #2 Gary Payton, #2
1991: #1 Larry Johnson, #2 Kenny Anderson, #1
1992: #1 Shaquille O'Neal, #2 Alonzo Mourning, #1
1993: #1 Chris Webber, #2 Shawn Bradley, #1
1994: #1 Glenn Robinson, #2 Jason Kidd, #2
1995: #1 Joe Smith, #2 Antonio McDyess, tossup
1996: #1 Allen Iverson, #2 Marcus Camby, #1
1997: #1 Tim Duncan, #2 Keith Van Horn, #1
1998: #1 Michael Olowokandi, #2 Mike Bibby, #2
1999: #1 Elton Brand, #2 Steve Francis, tossup

1990s: 5 wins for #1, 3 wins for #2

2000: #1 Kenyon Martin, #2 Stromile Swift, #1
2001: #1 Kwame Brown, #2 Tyson Chandler, #2
2002: #1 Yao Ming, #2 Jay Williams, #1
2003: #1 LeBron James, #2 Darko Milicic, #1
2004: #1 Dwight Howard, #2 Emeka Okafor, #1
2005: #1 Andrew Bogut, #2 Marvin Williams, tossup
2006: #1 Andrea Bargnani, #2 LaMarcus Aldridge, #2
2007: #1 Greg Oden, #2 Kevin Durant, #2
2008: #1 Derrick Rose, #2 Michael Beasley, #1
2009: #1 Blake Griffin, #2 Hasheem Thabeet, #1

2000s: 6 wins for #1, 3 wins for #2

2010: #1 John Wall, #2 Evan Turner, #1
2011: #1 Kyrie Irving, #2 Derrick Williams, #1
2012: #1 Anthony Davis, #2 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, #1
2013: #1 Anthony Bennett, #2 Victor Oladipo, #2
2014 or later: too soon to tell

(early) 2010s: 3 wins for #1, 1 win for #2

Overall: 21 wins for #1, 9 wins for #2, 5 tossups.

So if you count the tossups as ties, the #1 pick wins right around 2/3 of the time. Not as decisive as I would have expected, even for something as simple as choosing between the top two "consensus" picks.
 

sunsfan88

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#1 player always has more pressure because if any player picked after starts outproducing him then he will start hearing people saying how they should have picked that player over him.

Now if your talented enough like Davis, Towns, Wall etc then that pressure doesn't matter and you'll go out there and kill it anyway.
 

Russ Smith

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I guess you touched on it sometimes #3 is the best player. Clearly was the case with Jordan in 84 although Olajuwon was really good. 2003 there were several guys better than Milicic what a franchise changing mistake that was for Detroit.

In 1980 I was still young but I have a vague memory that the Warriors picked Joe Barry because Griffith told them not to pick him? People called him Joe Barely Cares his whole career but he was actually a pretty good player for the Warriors. People just wanted to see more emotion from him, wasn't a superstar but was a very good offensive player. the big knock on him was rebounding, never had a single season of double digit rebounds.
 

DWKB

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Since 1985, #1 have averaged 22.6 PER while #2 has avg 13.1 PER.

Since 1985, #1 have avg 70+ WS while #2 is around 57 WS.
 

Covert Rain

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How successful have teams been at picking the right player #1? There are lots of cases where the best player in the draft came at #3 or lower, but that starts getting complicated to analyze.

So, simple question, once it's down to that coin flip at the top: Who had the better career in each draft, #1 or #2?

1980: #1 Joe Barry Carroll, #2 Darrell Griffith, tossup
1981: #1 Mark Aguirre, #2 Isiah Thomas, #2
1982: #1 James Worthy, #2 Terry Cummings, #1
1983: #1 Ralph Sampson, #2 Steve Stipanovich, #1
1984: #1 Hakeem Olajuwon, #2 Sam Bowie, #1
1985: #1 Patrick Ewing, #2 Wayman Tisdale, #1
1986: #1 Brad Daugherty, #2 Len Bias, #1
1987: #1 David Robinson, #2 Armon Gilliam, #1
1988: #1 Danny Manning, #2 Rik Smits, #1
1989: #1 Pervis Ellison, #2 Danny Ferry, tossup

1980s: 7 wins for #1, 2 wins for #2

1990: #1 Derrick Coleman, #2 Gary Payton, #2
1991: #1 Larry Johnson, #2 Kenny Anderson, #1
1992: #1 Shaquille O'Neal, #2 Alonzo Mourning, #1
1993: #1 Chris Webber, #2 Shawn Bradley, #1
1994: #1 Glenn Robinson, #2 Jason Kidd, #2
1995: #1 Joe Smith, #2 Antonio McDyess, tossup
1996: #1 Allen Iverson, #2 Marcus Camby, #1
1997: #1 Tim Duncan, #2 Keith Van Horn, #1
1998: #1 Michael Olowokandi, #2 Mike Bibby, #2
1999: #1 Elton Brand, #2 Steve Francis, tossup

1990s: 5 wins for #1, 3 wins for #2

2000: #1 Kenyon Martin, #2 Stromile Swift, #1
2001: #1 Kwame Brown, #2 Tyson Chandler, #2
2002: #1 Yao Ming, #2 Jay Williams, #1
2003: #1 LeBron James, #2 Darko Milicic, #1
2004: #1 Dwight Howard, #2 Emeka Okafor, #1
2005: #1 Andrew Bogut, #2 Marvin Williams, tossup
2006: #1 Andrea Bargnani, #2 LaMarcus Aldridge, #2
2007: #1 Greg Oden, #2 Kevin Durant, #2
2008: #1 Derrick Rose, #2 Michael Beasley, #1
2009: #1 Blake Griffin, #2 Hasheem Thabeet, #1

2000s: 6 wins for #1, 3 wins for #2

2010: #1 John Wall, #2 Evan Turner, #1
2011: #1 Kyrie Irving, #2 Derrick Williams, #1
2012: #1 Anthony Davis, #2 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, #1
2013: #1 Anthony Bennett, #2 Victor Oladipo, #2
2014 or later: too soon to tell

(early) 2010s: 3 wins for #1, 1 win for #2

Overall: 21 wins for #1, 9 wins for #2, 5 tossups.

So if you count the tossups as ties, the #1 pick wins right around 2/3 of the time. Not as decisive as I would have expected, even for something as simple as choosing between the top two "consensus" picks.

No doubt at the end of the day it's all a crap shoot. It's sort of like that old lottery commercial....you can't win if you don't play. If the Suns get the #1 or #2 and it doesn't pan out I will be disappointed but I can at least say they maximized their chances. If they continue to draft in the teens because they wanted to sell tickets in the short? That pisses me off.
 

Hoop Head

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How successful have teams been at picking the right player #1? There are lots of cases where the best player in the draft came at #3 or lower, but that starts getting complicated to analyze.

So, simple question, once it's down to that coin flip at the top: Who had the better career in each draft, #1 or #2?

1980: #1 Joe Barry Carroll, #2 Darrell Griffith, tossup
1981: #1 Mark Aguirre, #2 Isiah Thomas, #2
1982: #1 James Worthy, #2 Terry Cummings, #1
1983: #1 Ralph Sampson, #2 Steve Stipanovich, #1
1984: #1 Hakeem Olajuwon, #2 Sam Bowie, #1
1985: #1 Patrick Ewing, #2 Wayman Tisdale, #1
1986: #1 Brad Daugherty, #2 Len Bias, #1
1987: #1 David Robinson, #2 Armon Gilliam, #1
1988: #1 Danny Manning, #2 Rik Smits, #1
1989: #1 Pervis Ellison, #2 Danny Ferry, tossup

1980s: 7 wins for #1, 2 wins for #2

1990: #1 Derrick Coleman, #2 Gary Payton, #2
1991: #1 Larry Johnson, #2 Kenny Anderson, #1
1992: #1 Shaquille O'Neal, #2 Alonzo Mourning, #1
1993: #1 Chris Webber, #2 Shawn Bradley, #1
1994: #1 Glenn Robinson, #2 Jason Kidd, #2
1995: #1 Joe Smith, #2 Antonio McDyess, tossup
1996: #1 Allen Iverson, #2 Marcus Camby, #1
1997: #1 Tim Duncan, #2 Keith Van Horn, #1
1998: #1 Michael Olowokandi, #2 Mike Bibby, #2
1999: #1 Elton Brand, #2 Steve Francis, tossup

1990s: 5 wins for #1, 3 wins for #2

2000: #1 Kenyon Martin, #2 Stromile Swift, #1
2001: #1 Kwame Brown, #2 Tyson Chandler, #2
2002: #1 Yao Ming, #2 Jay Williams, #1
2003: #1 LeBron James, #2 Darko Milicic, #1
2004: #1 Dwight Howard, #2 Emeka Okafor, #1
2005: #1 Andrew Bogut, #2 Marvin Williams, tossup
2006: #1 Andrea Bargnani, #2 LaMarcus Aldridge, #2
2007: #1 Greg Oden, #2 Kevin Durant, #2
2008: #1 Derrick Rose, #2 Michael Beasley, #1
2009: #1 Blake Griffin, #2 Hasheem Thabeet, #1

2000s: 6 wins for #1, 3 wins for #2

2010: #1 John Wall, #2 Evan Turner, #1
2011: #1 Kyrie Irving, #2 Derrick Williams, #1
2012: #1 Anthony Davis, #2 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, #1
2013: #1 Anthony Bennett, #2 Victor Oladipo, #2
2014 or later: too soon to tell

(early) 2010s: 3 wins for #1, 1 win for #2

Overall: 21 wins for #1, 9 wins for #2, 5 tossups.

So if you count the tossups as ties, the #1 pick wins right around 2/3 of the time. Not as decisive as I would have expected, even for something as simple as choosing between the top two "consensus" picks.

Great list, I wish you would have included the top 3 picks in it though. The best player has gone #3 quite a few times and those 3 picks are the ones actually determined by the lottery. I know the Suns finished with the second most ping pong balls but who knows how that will play out. Looking over past drafts and remembering some #2 picks, there were quite a few times where someone really questionable was selected there, especially in the last decade. The bust vs boom potential of the #2 pick has to be the worst of any 1st round pick, I can't recall a player taken #2 based solely on potential that panned out. Looking at your list you can see quite a few #2 picks that were taken on potential not performance, like Shawn Bradley, Sam Bowie, Hasheem Thabeet, Stromile Swift, and Darko.

Here are some years that stand out where #3 was better than #2, and had a better career with some cases the best player taken in the top 3. When drafting top 3 I don't think you can use potential as a tie breaker between two players, they have to have shown something prior to coming into the NBA. For some reason being NBA ready seems to be a knock on college players, teams want someone who can develop and grow rather than draft a player who has shown flashes of what they'll be at their peak.


1980 - Kevin McHale was better than Carroll or Griffith
1982 - Dominique Wilkins was better than Cummings, arguably better than Worthy
1984 - Michael Jordan was definitely better than Bowie at #2, Olajuwon was a defensible pick
1989 - Sean Elliott was better than Ellison and Ferry
1993 - Anfernee Hardaway was clearly better than Shawn Bradley (#2)
1994 - Grant Hill and Kidd (#2) were better than Glenn Robinson (#1)

1997 - Chauncey Billups was better than Keith Van Horn

2001 - Pau Gasol was better than Brown and Chandler
2003 - Carmelo Anthony was clearly better than Darko, Darko had nothing but upside and also huge bust potential.
2005 - Deron Williams was better than Marvin Williams in college and he's probably had the better career of the 2. Williams was a 6th man for NC in college who drafted on potential.
2008 - O.J. Mayo was better than Beasley, ironically his attitude was a question mark so Beasley went higher.
2009 - James Harden was a better prospect than Hasheem Thabeet, who was nothing but upside.
2010 - Derrick Favors was/is better than Evan Turner
2011 - Enes Kanter is better than Derrick Williams
2012 - Bradley Beal is better than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
2013 - Otto Porter was/is better than Anthony Bennet and on par with Oladipo
2014 - Joel Embiid is a better player and prospect than Jabari Parker (#2) but injuries have hurt Embiid a lot.
2015 - Jahlil Okafor was the better prospect than D'Angelo Russell (#2) and is the better player still, despite the logjam in Philly. Not sure what the Lakers were thinking there. They'd probably like a do-over, especially if they have the chance to take Ball this year.


Since 1985, #1 have averaged 22.6 PER while #2 has avg 13.1 PER.

Since 1985, #1 have avg 70+ WS while #2 is around 57 WS.

Did you find those stats somewhere or did you compile them yourself? I'd like to see how the #3 pick pans out.
 

chickenhead

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The lottery affects things as well, as the top 2 players are not necessarily drafted by the two worst teams in the league, especially by record. And there are one-year aberrations like Duncan going to the Spurs. I think he would have found success anywhere, but he easily could have initially been in more of a "best player in a bad team" situation like Davis, for example.
 

JCSunsfan

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So, after #1. Which has been historically the best pick in the draft?
 
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