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Afternoon talker: What is the value of the No. 1 vs. No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Sports Updated: May 20, 2011 - 2:10 PM

As you all know by now, the Wolves have the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft. The Cavaliers have the No. 1 overall pick. Some folks have been asking us: Is there really that big of a difference between having the first and second picks in the NBA draft, since it seems to often be a crap shoot and often features a heated debate about which of two players should be chosen No. 1 overall?

Well, in an attempt at clarity we went back and charted the top two picks in each of the past 15 drafts to attempt to draw some conclusions. Here is a summary, with the better of the two players from that year (in our mind) in bold, along with a note about that year:

2010: No. 1 – John Wall, Washington; No. 2 – Evan Turner, Philadelphia

Note: Jury is still out, of course, but it is trending in Wall’s favor.

2009: No. 1 – Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers; No. 2 – Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis
Note: This one’s a slam dunk. See what we did there?
2008: No. 1 – Derrick Rose, Chicago; No. 2 – Michael Beasley, Miami
Note: Remember, this was a legitimate debate at one point. No offense to Beasley, but …
2007: No. 1 – Greg Oden, Portland; No. 2 – Kevin Durant, Seattle (now OKC)
Note: This was also a debate. Local Quipster just admitted last week that he was wrong about Oden and we were right
about Durant.
2006: No. 1 – Andrea Bargnani, Toronto; No. 2 – LaMarcus Aldridge, Chicago (traded to Portland)
Note: Bargnani’s numbers are way better than we would have imagined, but we still give the nod to Aldridge for his emerging stardom.
2005: No. 1 – Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee; No. 2 – Marvin Williams, Atlanta
Note: We scored this one a draw because neither man nor team deserved to win considering that Chris Paul and Deron Williams were chosen with the next two picks.
2004: No. 1 – Dwight Howard, Orlando; No. 2 – Emeka Okafor, Charlotte
Note: Superman over Clark Kent.
2003: No. 1 – LeBron James, Cleveland; No. 2 – Darko Milicic, Detroit
Note: Biggest margin ever?
2002: No. 1 – Yao Ming, Houston; No. 2 – Jay Williams, Chicago
Note: Injuries have decimated both players, but Yao had a string of really high-performance seasons.
2001: No. 1 – Kwame Brown, Washington; No. 2 – Tyson Chandler, L.A. Clippers (traded to Chicago)
Note: Chandler hasn’t been great, but he’s a nice contributor for a playoff team a decade later.
2000: No. 1 – Kenyon Martin, New Jersey; No. 2 – Stromile Swift, Vancouver (now Memphis)
Note: Worst draft ever?
1999: No. 1 – Elton Brand, Chicago; No. 2 – Steve Francis, Vancouver (traded to Houston)
Note: This was a tough call, but we felt Brand had a couple more good years than Francis.
1998: No. 1 – Michael Olowokandi, L.A. Clippers; No. 2 – Mike Bibby, Vancouver (now Memphis)
Note: The Kandi-man couldn’t.
1997: No. 1 – Tim Duncan, San Antonio; No. 2 – Keith Van Horn, Philadelphia
Note: Van Horn had a surprisingly acceptable career in retrospect.
1996: No. 1 – Allen Iverson, Philadelphia; No. 2 – Marcus Camby, Toronto
Note: Camby was hardly a bust, but AI wins this one handily.
*If you add up the totals, that's 10 No. 1 picks with the edge, 4 No. 2 picks and one draw. Those numbers certainly don't bold well for your Timberwolves.
*Even more damaging is the search for franchise players on both sides of the coin. With No. 1 overall picks, we find 6 in the past 15 years: Griffin, Rose, Howard, LeBron, Duncan, Iverson. Additionally, Brand and Ming were very good for several years, and Wall might wind up being a franchise guy as well. With No. 2 picks, we count exactly 1 franchise player -- Durant. Maybe Aldridge will get there at some point, but we're guessing he's not quite at that level.
*When a No. 1 pick lost (or tied) in the battle, it was always a big man -- Olowokandi, Brown, Bogut, Bargnani and Oden (yes, Bargnani plays small and has hardly been a bust, but that doesn't change the fact that he's 7 feet tall and that he lost the battle to No. 2 Aldridge). Since it seems likely that guard Kyrie Irving will go No. 1 this year, the big man factor will not be in play for your Timberwolves.
*Conclusion: There is a fairly significant difference between No. 1 and No. 2, which means it was a pretty big deal for the Wolves to continue their habit -- and we're just saying it's a habit -- of sliding below their projected ping-pong ball spot.
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