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June 24, 2008
by Jeff Pyatt
In preparation for Thursday's NBA Draft and to complement the RCS Top Ten Draft Picks That Shaped A Team, we thought it would be fun to think about the best draft class ever. To that end, we sorted the NBA Hall of Famers by draft year and, with a little help from our friends at Real Clear Markets, created a graph.
This model clearly has some limitations for determining the best draft class. Among other things, it under-represents some draft years, including 1984, which has at least three not-yet-inducted Hall of Famers (Jordan, Stockton, Olajuwon). And it also assumes, for the purposes of comparison, that all Hall of Famers are equal. Bailey Howell = Larry Bird? Definitely not.
Nonetheless, it is interesting to see that although five draft years ('51, '71, '73, '75, '77) before 1986 don't yet have any HOFers, the 1970 draft produced five and three other years (1950, 1953, 1965) produced four.
Of these four great drafts, the most interesting -- and, in my opinion, the best -- was '65. In this year the San Francisco Warriors had the first pick; the New York Knicks had the second. But because of a rule allowing a team to forgo their first round pick to take a player from the region, the Knicks were able to utilize their "territorial pick" to nab Princeton's Bill Bradley (HoF '82).
It may not be too surprising therefore, given the Warriors' misfortune, that 1965 was also the year the territorial pick -- a rule that had been in place since the first draft in 1948 -- met its demise.
Update: Correction. There are actually only three HOFers in the 1953 draft class and five in the 1950 class.
Update: And to continue the conversation about the limitations of this analysis, Briggs points out in the comments that "The 70s are also partially underrepresented because of players that went to the ABA before the NBA and thus weren't part of an NBA draft class."