This List of NBA #1 Picks is Wrong and I'm Here to Right It

Or WRITE it? Get it?? Please don't leave :(.

Andrew Bailey did himself a list ranking every #1 NBA Draft Pick since 2000 but I don't really care about the bottom 10. I'm upset about the top ten:

He used a combination of advanced numbers, regular/postseason statistics, team success, and a fan vote for his rankings. This feels easier to go from the top down so below are the rankings the way that I would have them.

1. LeBron James, 2003

A lock. I was ready to listen to arguments for Michael Olowokandi but alas, that was the 1998 Draft and thus he's disqualified here. LeBron wins by default.

2. Dwight Howard, 2004

There's an argument that peak Anthony Davis is better than peak Dwight Howard. But if this list is taking individual accolades and team accomplishments into consideration, Howard is comfortably ahead of Davis. Dwight spent eight seasons in Orlando and this past season was AD's eighth (to be fair, all NBA teams for this season have yet to be named). In their first eight seasons, Dwight has him bested in All-NBA appearances (5 to 3), All-Defense teams (5 to 4), Defensive Player of the Year awards (3 to 0) and playoff series wins (6 to 1). Dwight played in a weaker era for bigs and in a weaker conference. I get it. He also made five straight First-Teams and won three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards. He has to be above AD here, as much as it pains me to say it.

3. Anthony Davis, 2012

Much better. 

4. Derrick Rose, 2008

Rose has a case here to be as high as two, as only he and LeBron have won MVP's. His lack of a real prime is what hurts him here, as he only made three All-Star games and has only one All-NBA appearance on his resumé. If he had even one more All-NBA selection then he'd have to be top-three. But his lone appearance was First Team All-NBA and none of the guys after him can make that claim. His playoff appearances, while also limited, are memorable. He averaged 27 PPG over consecutive postseasons, has a Conference Finals appearance, and bounced back four years after the MVP year to average 20 a game for Chicago over 12 playoff games.

5. Blake Griffin, 2009 

6. Kyrie Irving, 2011

This is a tough one and I can see either side of it. Blake had more individual success (more All-Star games and All-NBA appearances) but Kyrie has had more team success (10 postseason series wins to Blake's 3) and bigger playoff moments. Kyrie has only two All-NBA selections for his entire career, Third Team in 2015 and Second Team in 2019 (with Boston). Blake made three straight Second Teams and then added in a Third Team appearance in 2015. Blake finished 3rd in MVP voting for 2013-14 and Kyrie has never finished in the top 10 so I'm giving him the nod here but Kyrie is right behind him.

7. Yao Ming, 2002

Yao has eight All-Star appearances but it's tough to go by those for him, due to his international success. Making five All-NBA teams in six years (two Second Teams, three Third Teams) and holding his own against Shaq, fresh off of three Finals MVPs, does more justice to Yao. He was a problem:

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8. John Wall, 2010

9. Ben Simmons, 2016

Similarly to Dwight vs. AD, if you told me Simmons was a better player or you preferred him to Wall, I'd understand. It would upset me as the Junior VP Carrier of John Wall's water, but I'd understand. Simmons "only" has two All-Star appearances, with zero appearances on the All-NBA or All-Defense teams (that will change soon). Wall has a Third Team, a second-team All-Defense selection and he never scored 1 point in a playoff game. He gets the nod here.

10. KAT, 2015

I love KAT. Really, I do. But him being seventh on the original list is absurd. He has two All-Star appearances and a Third-Team All-NBA selection and that's about it. He shouldn't be ahead of Rose despite the injuries D.Rose battled. Wall and Simmons have more playoff success. He has a fair chance to rise up this list soon, but for now, he's 10th.

Bonus: Zion Williamson

The article had Zion 11th based on what he showed during his rookie season. I think he can slide up to about number three on here by the time he's 25. Zion averaged nearly a 24/7/2 on 59/46/65 shooting in his first 19 games. In today's Small Sample Size Theater, we'll take a look at every season where a player averaged 23+ PPG, 6+ RPG, and shot at least 58% from the field. The list is Kareem, Barkley (3x), Wilt (2x), McHale, Shaq (3x), Amare, and Zion. They held their numbers up over the course of a full season, but Zion is two years younger than anybody else on that list. I'm betting on him staying healthy enough to jump as high as two on this list by the time his second contract is finished.