Analysis for picks #1 to #10:
- Gordon Hayward, (52.07)
Hayward has consistently improved his statistical outputs year after year since entering the league in 2010 out of Butler with the 9th pick. He now finds himself as the offensive centerpiece of a constantly-on-the-cusp Jazz team – where it’s clear that if they finally just put it all together, they can be special. While draft analysts once wondered about Hayward’s lack of top-notch athleticism or ability to develop a consistent jump shot, he has proven that he can shoulder the load for his team during a long and grueling season and shoot from the outside as well, as last year he knocked down threes at a nearly 35% clip while taking a high volume of about 5 per game. Overall, he’s proven that he is an all-around offensive threat, and there is still much more to come in writing his legacy with the Jazz.
- Damian Lillard, (54.45)
Lillard has become a legitimate offensive superstar since being taken with the 6th pick in 2012. Despite his usage rate continuing to climb, his PER has improved right along with it as he has taken his Portland team from irrelevance to a consistent playoff power. He’s a deadly 3-point shooter who also happens to be such a great athlete that he was able to participate in a dunk contest despite being a 6’3” point guard. His scoring outputs have increased year after year, and he also set a new career mark in APG last season with 6.8. Even better yet, he’s proven that he can come up big in clutch situations, especially in playoff time (just ask James Harden). The perennial All-Star should continue to improve as he nears his prime and the Blazers become better and better.
- Jae Crowder, (56.12)
In the years following being picked with the 34th pick in 2012, Crowder has developed a reputation as being an incredibly scrappy, underrated forward. He can do a little bit of everything, including the ability to shoot, rebound, pass, and defend. His numbers have improved as well, as his PER and points/40 minutes have increased each year he’s been in the league. His hard-nosed playing style has him poised to be a key contributing member to a Celtics team that should contend for a top 3 seed.
- Paul George, (57.92)
George has become an all-around superstar since being taken 10th in 2010, and is arguably one of the top players of the draft class (John Wall and Demarcus Cousins the others) despite being taken later than both other stars. George has carved out a role as a dominant player by becoming possibly the second best two-way star in the NBA (behind Kawhi Leonard), as he has the ability to defend the 2, 3, and 4 with lockdown precision and additionally can put up 20+ points per game. As added bonuses, George has even developed a consistent 3-point shot and shown the ability to rebound and pass at high levels.
- Kemba Walker, (60.15)
After showing nice progress over several years, Walker finally broke out in a big way last season, becoming the true offensive centerpiece of the Hornets. The former 9th overall pick in 2011 posted the highest PER and points per game totals of his career, while at the same time improving his True Shooting percentage despite taking on an elevated Usage Rate. Already a great shot creator and driver, Walker showed improved shooting last season and has a lot to build upon for next year.
- Jimmy Butler, (68.47)
Despite being taken with the last pick of the first round in 2011, Butler has emerged as one of the biggest defensive stars in the league. His perimeter defense skills are rivaled by few, and he is generally viewed as the premier example of what effort and hustle can do for a player’s defensive ability. However, Butler has truly become a borderline all-around star with the continued development of his offensive game, as his scoring and assist numbers have greatly improved over the past two seasons. It remains to be seen how Butler will fit in with these new-look Chicago Bulls, but if history tends to repeat itself, Butler is in line for another strong season.
- Hassan Whiteside, (76.28)
Whiteside is a wildly talented – yet also untrustworthy – star who was taken with the 33rd pick of the 2010 draft. After off-court issues and immaturity kept him off the NBA courts for several years, Whiteside had a coming out party after signing with the Miami Heat in 2014-15. He basically had the role of being a big, long enforcer around the rim on both ends, staying in the paint for either putback dunks or rim protection. Since re-entering the NBA for good, Whiteside’s become an absolute force in the paint; but on the other hand, he can’t do much else, with an inability to defend on the perimeter or shoot from anything resembling distance, and as a result can slow down an offense trying to feed him the ball inside; all problems in a league trending toward small ball. Regardless of his deficiencies, when he’s on the court, Whiteside is an incredible talent and will be an All-Star candidate for the foreseeable future.
- Isaiah Thomas, (79.97)
Since being dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2011 draft (the last overall pick), Thomas has made every team that passed on him regret it. An undersized (5’9”), quick, and crafty point guard coming out of Washington, Thomas was overlooked years ago due mostly to his height; yet since then, he has morphed his game into that of an offensive superstar. Thrust into a prominent role his rookie year, Thomas impressed by averaging 11.5 points per game and 4.1 assists per game. However, as his usage rate and minutes have climbed, his stats have only improved, as he now averages 22.2 ppg and 6.2 apg. Thomas’ shooting and driving offensive capabilities have made him one of the top guards in the league, and subsequently one of the biggest steals in the history of the draft.
- Draymond Green, (82.3)
Green has transformed himself into many things since being taken with the 35th pick in 2012. He’s become one of the most versatile players (if not the most versatile player) in basketball through his ability to both play five positions on offense and guard five positions on defense – and not only in bits and pieces, but consistently throughout a game. His ability to run the point yet also guard an opposing center – as well as his DPOY caliber defense – has made him one of the most valuable players in the NBA and the engine that makes the best team in the league run. However, he’s also become possibly the most polarizing figure in the sport; you either love his grit, effort, and hustle or you hate him because you think he plays dirty. Regardless of individual opinions, the stats speak for themselves, as he averaged 14 ppg, 7.4 apg, 9.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg, and 1.5 spg last season; numbers that nobody else in the league was able to match.
- Kawhi Leonard, (89.57)
Leonard has steadily improved each season since being taken with the 15th pick in 2011. He now finds himself as a perennial All-NBA first-teamer and MVP candidate, built on the strength of his consistently unbeatable defense. Last year’s DPOY, the Spurs know that they can give Leonard any assignment in the league at the 2, 3, or 4 and have their centerpiece shut them down for 48 minutes. However, Leonard had always been a strong defensive player, but the growth of his offensive game transformed him from a borderline all-star into one of the best players in the world, as his 3-point shooting percentage took a near 10% jump last season, and his scoring per game topped 20 for the first time in his career. Through hard work and dedication to his craft, Leonard has become the best two-way player in basketball – and has most certainly made the 14 teams that passed up on him look back on the draft with regret.
Data courtesy of ESPN, NBA.com, Basketball-Reference, and CBS Sports. Thanks for reading!
Written by Ben Koch
Cover Photo Credits: Getty Images