NBA Draft: Comparing the careers of each No. 1 pick

The 72nd NBA Draft takes place tomorrow and the Phoenix Suns have the top pick for the first time in franchise history. With the draft having always been an important time for teams to hopefully revitalize their franchises, let’s take a look back at the past careers that former No. 1 overall picks have had.

The two who never played in the NBA

Clifton McNeeley was the first player ever selected in the NBA (then known as the BAA) Draft by the Pittsburgh Ironmen in 1947. Just like his NFL counterpart, McNeeley never played in the NBA. He had no interest in playing for the team and Pittsburgh ended up folding before the season started.

In the 1951 NBA Draft, the Baltimore Bullets selected Gene Melchiorre with the No. 1 pick. However, he never played in the league as Melchiorre was barred for life from the league due to a point-shaving scandal he admitted to being involved in during his college years at Bradley.

 

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All-Star Appearances

The 71 players to have been selected with the 1st pick have made a combined 257 All-Star appearances between them. Out of the 71 No. 1 picks, 27 were never All-Stars, while 44 were at least once. Below is a pie chart showing how many times each of those 44 was an All-Star.

All-Star

The first player taken with the top pick to be an All-Star was Ray Felix, who did so his rookie season in 1953-54.

David Thompson is the only No. 1 pick to be an NBA All-Star (x4) and an ABA All-Star (x1). For the above pie chart, I did not count his ABA All-Star appearance.

Players selected 1st overall with the at least 10 All-Star appearances

Player All-Star App Career Length
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 19 1969-89
Shaquille O’Neal 15 1992-2011
Tim Duncan 15 1997-2016
LeBron James 14 2003-present
Oscar Robertson 12 1960-74
Elvin Hayes 12 1968-84
Magic Johnson 12 1979-91, 95-96
Hakeem Olajuwon 12 1984-2002
Elgin Baylor 11 1958-72
Patrick Ewing 11 1985-2002
Allen Iverson 11 1996-2010
David Robinson 10 1987-2003

All-NBA teams

Out of the 71 players taken with the top pick, 30 made at least one of the NBA’s three All-NBA teams. It is important to note that the All-NBA Third Team was not added until the 1988-89 season.

All-NBA

Elgin Baylor was the first No. 1 pick to make an All-NBA Team (and All-NBA First Team) in 1958-59, his rookie season. Oscar Robertson was the first to make the All-NBA Second Team in 1969-70. James Worthy and David Robinson were the first to make the All-NBA Third Team in 1989-90.

David Thompson is the only No. 1 pick to make an All-NBA Team (x2) and an All-ABA Team (x1). For the above pie chart, I did not count his All-ABA Team appearance.

Andrew Bogut is the only No. 1 overall pick to make an All-NBA Team but never be an All-Star.

Most All-NBA appearances by 1st overall picks 

Player All-NBA Teams First Team Second Team Third Team
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 15 10 5 Started his last season
Tim Duncan 15 10 3 2
Shaquille O’Neal 14 8 2 4
LeBron James 14 12 2 0
Hakeem Olajuwon 12 6 3 3
Oscar Robertson 11 9 2 Did not exist
Elgin Baylor 10 10 0 Did not exist
Magic Johnson 10 9 1 0
David Robinson 10 4 2 4

LeBron James has the most All-NBA First Teams by a No. 1 pick. Patrick Ewing (6) has the most All-NBA Second Team appearances. Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson have the most All-NBA Third Teams.

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ROY, DPOY, Sixth Man and MIP

Since the 1952-53 season, the NBA has given out the Rookie of the Year (ROY) to the player deemed the best rookie. Out of the 65* players drafted No. 1 overall, 22 (33.84%) have won the ROY award.

*Does not the first five No. 1 overall picks who played before the award started, as well as Ben Simmons since he is a finalist for the 2017-18 ROY Award.

Player ROY Year
Ray Felix 1953-54
Elgin Baylor 1958-59
Oscar Robertson 1960-61
Walt Bellamy 1961-62
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1969-70
David Thompson 1975-76 (ABA)
Ralph Sampson 1983-84
Patrick Ewing 1985-86
David Robinson 1989-90
Derrick Coleman 1990-91
Larry Johnson 1991-92
Shaquille O’Neal 1992-93
Chris Webber 1993-94
Allen Iverson 1996-97
Tim Duncan 1997-98
Elton Brand 1999-00
LeBron James 2003-04
Derrick Rose 2008-09
Blake Griffin 2010-11
Kyrie Irving 2011-12
Andrew Wiggins 2014-15
Karl-Anthony Towns 2015-16

Starting in the 1982-83 season, the NBA has given out the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) and the Sixth Man of the Year Awards. In 1985-86, they started giving out the award for Most Improved Player (MIP). Since the inception of these three awards, only six No. 1 overall picks have won one of them.

 Player Sixth Man MIP DPOY
Bill Walton 1 0 0
Danny Manning 1 0 0
Pervis Ellison 0 1 0
Hakeem Olajuwon 0 0 2
David Robinson 0 0 1
Dwight Howard 0 0 3


MVP

The NBA MVP award was first given out in the 1955-56 season. Oscar Robertson was the first No. 1 overall pick to win the award in 1963-64. In total, only 10 top picks have won the award.

*LeBron is one of three finalists for MVP this year and has a chance to win his fifth.

Player MVP (Years Won)
Kareem Abdul Jabbar 6 (1970-71, 1971-72, 1973-74, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1979-80)
LeBron James* 4 (2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13)
Magic Johnson 3 (1986-87, 1988-89, 1989-90)
Tim Duncan 2 (2001-02, 2002-03)
Oscar Robertson 1 (1963-64)
Bill Walton 1 (1977-78)
Hakeem Olajuwon 1 (1993-94)
Shaquille O’Neal 1 (1999-00)
Allen Iverson 1 (2000-01)
Derrick Rose 1 (2010-11)

Championships and Finals MVP

Out of the 71 players taken with the first pick in the NBA draft, 21* (29.57%) of them have won wither an NBA Championship or an ABA Championship*.

*Elgin Baylor played nine games in the 1971-72 season before retiring due to nagging knee problems which had limited him to only two games the prior season. That year the Lakers finally broke through and won the NBA championship, but Baylor was not an active player on the roster. The team did give him a ring but he is not listed as an NBA Champion on Pro-Basketball Reference so I did not count him.

*Art Heyman won an ABA Championship in 1967-68 with the Pittsburgh Pipers

No. 1 overall picks with multiple NBA Championships

Player Championships Teams
Kareem Abdul Jabbar 6 Lakers (5), Bucks (1)
Magic Johnson 5 Lakers (5)
Tim Duncan 5 Spurs (5)
Shaquille O’Neal 4 Lakers (3), Heat (1)
James Worthy 3 Lakers (3)
LeBron James 3 Heat (2), Cavs (1)
Bill Walton 2 Trail Blazers (1), Celtics (1)
Mychal Thompson 2 Lakers (2)
Mark Aguirre 2 Pistons (2)
Hakeem Olajuwon 2 Rockets (2)
David Robinson 2 Spurs (2)

Of course, the group of players gets even smaller when just looking who has won an NBA Finals MVP. Only eight players taken with the first overall pick have won the award.

Player Number of Finals MVPs
Magic Johnson 3
Shaquille O’Neal 3
Tim Duncan 3
LeBron James 3
Kareem Abdul Jabbar 2
Hakeem Olajuwon 2
Bill Walton 1
James Worthy 1

Hall of Fame

17 of the players who have been selected with the first pick in the NBA Draft have been enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Player Year Drafted Year Inducted
Elgin Baylor 1958 1977
Oscar Robertson 1960 1980
Walt Bellamy 1961 1993
Elvin Hayes 1968 1990
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1969 1995
Bob Lanier 1970 1992
Bill Walton 1974 1993
David Thompson 1975 1996
Magic Johnson 1979 2002
James Worthy 1982 2003
Ralph Sampson 1983 2012
Hakeem Olajuwon 1984 2008
Patrick Ewing 1985 2008
David Robinson 1987 2009
Shaquille O’Neal 1992 2016
Allen Iverson 1996 2016
Yao Ming 2002 2016

*Retired No. 1 picks not yet eligible for HOF: Tim Duncan, Elton Brand, Kenyon Martin, Andrea Bargnani, Greg Oden

*No. 1 picks still playing in NBA: LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Anthony Bennet (G-League),  Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz

*No. 1 picks playing overseas: Andrew Bogut

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Info and Notes:

Featured Image: “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1974” by Frank Bryan is a public domain image

https://www.basketball-reference.com/draft/ (used to take note of honors for each player taken with the 1st pick)

https://www.basketball-reference.com/awards/hof.html (Find when players were inducted into Hall of Fame)

All charts and tables made using Google Spreadsheet

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Looking at LeBron James’ historic first-round in the playoffs and beyond

The Cleveland Cavaliers survived their first-round matchup against the Indiana Pacers almost entirely because of the stellar play of LeBron James. Cleveland will need more of the same starting tonight as they take on the top-seeded Toronto Raptors. Before the playoffs move on, let’s take a look at how historical LeBron has been and may continue to be.

LeBron’s first-round marks

By defeating the Pacers in seven games, LeBron is now 13-0 in first-round playoff series. This gives him the second-best first round mark since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in the 1983-84 season, only behind Derek Fisher and Robert Horry (16-0). However, he did have his record for most consecutive first-round wins (21) get snapped by Indiana.

LeBron had three 40+ point games in the first round against Indiana. This moved him past Jerry West (20) for second place all-time. He now has 22 and is only behind Michael Jordan (38). His buzzer-beater to win game five was the fourth of his career in the playoffs. Since LeBron entered the league, Paul Pierce is the only other player with at least two.

LeBron has now had at least 11 playoff games with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. The players who have the second most (Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Russell Westbrook) have only four such games in the playoffs. According to Pro Basketball Reference, only 24 players have ever had one such game in the playoffs.

At halftime of game seven, LeBron had 26 points. This made him the first player to have at least that many points in the first half of a game seven since Pierce in 2008. LeBron finished that game with 45 points, the second most ever in a game seven win only behind Sam Jones (47) in 1963.

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LeBron’s historic averages not so historic for him

Through the seven games in his first-round series, LeBron averaged 34.4 points, 10 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1 block. According to Pro Basketball Reference, LeBron is on pace to have only the sixth occurrence (fourth for him) of a player averaging at least 30, 9, and 7 in the playoffs.

Player Year Games MP Points TRB AST FG% 2P% 3P%
Oscar Robertson 1962-63 12 47.5 31.8 13.0 9.0 47.0% 47.0% N/A
LeBron James 2008-09 14 41.4 35.3 9.1 7.3 51.0% 57.1% 33.3%
LeBron James 2014-15 20 42.2 30.1 11.6 8.5 41.7% 46.5% 22.7%
Russell Westbrook 2016-17 5 38.8 37.4 11.3 10.8 38.8% 44.7% 26.5%
LeBron James 2016-17 18 41.3 32.9 9.1 7.8 56.5% 62.5% 41.1%
LeBron James 2017-18 7 41.1 34.4 10.0 7.7 55.3% 61.2% 35.3%

LeBron still has anywhere between 4 to 21 possible games to play this postseason to keep up these averages. However, it seems likely that he will considering how much he has to do in order for the Cavaliers to perform well and win thus far in the playoffs.

According to Pro Basketball Reference, there have been only 32 times in NBA history a player played at least 7 playoff games (averaging at least 30 min per game) with a usage percentage of at least 34. While LeBron’s usage percentage (34.6) is currently 27th among those, he is up there in age at 33 years old.

Only four players have been this age or older with a usage percentage as high in the playoffs. Michael Jordan in the 1997 playoffs (35.5 USG% in 19 games) and Kobe Bryant in the 2012 playoffs (35.8 USG% in 12 games) were both also 33.

Then you have Karl Malone (34.1 USG% in 20 games) and Jordan again (36.6 USG% in 21 games) who both did it in the 1998 playoffs. Give LeBron’s natural physical ability and conditioning, it seems very likely that he can keep up his current usage rate if he has to despite his age.

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Info and Notes:

Featured Image: “LeBron James” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

LeBron’s playoff stats for 2018 from Pro Basketball Reference

ESPN Stats and Info Twitter for LeBron stats 

Pro Basketball Reference for 40, 10, 5 playoff games 

Pro Basketball Reference for LeBron’s historical averages 

Pro Basketball Reference for LeBron’s usage rate

Table made using Google Spreadsheets

How common is a 30 PPG season in the NBA?

MVP favorite James Harden finished the 2017-18 season averaging over 30 points-per-game (PPG). This poses the question, how common a feat has this been throughout NBA history? The information in this article was all compiled using Pro Basketball Reference’s player season finder and only counts qualified players (those who played a minimum number of games).

The first season where a player averaged at least 30 PPG in a season took place in 1959-60. That year saw Wilt Chamberlain (37.6) and Jack Twyman (31.2) be the first to accomplish the milestone. Since then it has happened 65 more times, with Harden being the latest.

A history of 30 PPG seasons 

Below is a timeline of how many players have averaged at least 30 PPG in a season since the first occurrence back in the 1959-60 season.

Seasons with 30 PPG

Below is a chart of the players with the most 30 PPG seasons. As you can see, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Oscar Robertson combined have accounted for 21 of the 67 times a player has averaged at least 30 PPG in a season.

Players 30 PPG

*Dominique is Dominique Wilkens.

The average age of a player when they have reached the 30 PPG milestone is 25.88. The two youngest players to average 30 PPG are LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The only players to average 30 PPG being 30 or older are Rick Barry (30), Allen Iverson (30), Jerry West (31) and Michael Jordan (32).

30 PPG age

Best statistical numbers for 30 PPG seasons

Finally, let’s take a look at the best statistical numbers put up in a season where a player has averaged at least 30 PPG.

Most points per game Wilt Chamberlain: 50.4 1961-62
Most made 2pt field goals per game Wilt Chamberlain: 20.0 1961-62
Most made 3pt field goals Stephen Curry: 5.1 2015-16
Most made free throws per game Jerry West: 10.6 1965-66
Most rebounds per game Wilt Chamberlian: 27.2 1960-61
Most assists per game Oscar Robertson: 11.5 1964-65
Most steals per game Michael Jordan: 3.2 1987-88
Most blocks per game Bob McAdoo: 3.3 1973-74
Least turnovers per game Michael Jordan: 3.0 1989-90
Least personal fouls per game Wilt Chamberlian: 1.5 1961-62
Highest field goal percentage Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 57.7% 1970-71
Highest three-point percentage Stephen Curry: 45.4% 2015-16
Highest free throw percentage Stephen Curry: 90.8% 2015-16
Highest effective field-goal percentage Stephen Curry: 63.0% 2015-16
Highest true shooting percentage Stephen Curry: 66.9% 2015-16

*Three-pointers were not implemented in the NBA until the 1979-80 season
*Blocks and steals were not kept track of until the 1973-74 season

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Notes and Info:

Featured Image: “Michael Jordan” by Kip-koech is licensed under CC BY-2.0

All info is from Pro Basketball Reference

Charts and graphs made using Google Spreadsheet on Google Docs

A look at triple-doubles in the NBA since 1983-84

The 2017-18 NBA season was yet another year where triple-double milestones were set. In November, Lonzo Ball became the youngest player to ever record a triple-double, only to have it broken by Markelle Fultz on the last day of the season. Meanwhile, fellow rookie Ben Simmons finished with 12 triple doubles, the most by a rookie since Oscar Robertson.

Nikola Jokic recorded the fastest triple-double in history, doing so in only 14 minutes, 33 seconds.  Finally, Russell Westbrook became the first player to ever average a triple-double in two seasons.

A history of triple-doubles since 1983-84

With all the triple-doubles taking place over the last two seasons, I decided to take a historical look at how common they are. I started with the 1983-84 season, as that is the first year that Basketball-Reference.com’s database has full regular season game logs.

chart

As one can see, the last three seasons have been historical in terms of the number of triple-doubles produced around the NBA. Three of the four years that saw the most triple-doubles have happened during this time. A lot of this has to do with last year’s MVP Russell Westbrook, who has produced the three seasons with the most triple-doubles since 1983-84.

Here is a representation of the graph above so that the leader for each season can be seen.

Season Triple Doubles Triple Doubles Leader
2017-18 108 Russell Westbrook (25)
2016-17 117 Russell Westbrook (42)
2015-16 75 Russell Westbrook (18)
2014-15 46 Russell Westbrook (11)
2013-14 46 Lance Stephenson (5)
2012-13 42 Rajon Rondo (5)
2011-12* 18 Rajon Rondo (6)
2010-11 37 LeBron James (4)
2009-10 23 LeBron James (4)
2008-09 30 LeBron James (7)
2007-08 40 Jason Kidd (13)
2006-07 32 Jason Kidd (12)
2005-06 37 Jason Kidd (8)
2004-05 32 Jason Kidd (8)
2003-04 32 Jason Kidd (9)
2002-03 42 Kevin Garnett (6)
2001-02 29 Jason Kidd (8)
2000-01 45 Jason Kidd (7)
1999-00 38 Jason Kidd (5)
1998-99* 18 Jason Kidd (7)
1997-98 22 Grant Hill, Jason Kidd (4)
1996-97 50 Grant Hill (13)
1995-96 50 Grant Hill (10)
1994-95 28 Jason Kidd (4)
1993-94 36 David Robinson (5)
1992-93 43 Charles Barkley (6)
1991-92 25 Four tied at 2*
1990-91 42 Magic Johnson (13)
1989-90 61 Magic Johnson (11)
1988-89 78 Magic Johnson (17)
1987-88 53 Magic Johnson (12)
1986-87 62 Fat Lever (16)
1985-86 37 Larry Bird (10)
1984-85 50 Magic Johnson (14)
1983-84 32 Magic Johnson (11)

* 1991-92 Michael Jordan, Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson
* 1998-99 (50 games) and 2011-12 (66 games) were both shortened due to lockouts

Triple Double leaders.png

Rusell Westbrook still has a ways to go to catch Jason Kidd for the most total seasons leading the league in triple-doubles. However, in his four seasons, Westbrook has a total of 96 triple-doubles (avg. of 24 per season). In his 11 seasons, Kidd had a total of 85 triple-doubles (avg. of 7.72 per season), 11 less than Westbrook had produced in the last 4 years.

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Sources and Tools:

Featured Image: “Russell Westbrook” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pgl_finder.cgi (used to find triple-double numbers from 1983-84 until 1998-99)

http://www.espn.com/nba/statistics/player/_/stat/double-doubles/sort/tripleDouble/year/2000 (used to find triple-double numbers from 1999-00 until 2017-18)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_lockout

Charts and graphs made using Google Spreadsheets