By Josh Redetzke

Today’s lottery will award a lucky team the top pick in this years draft. A prize (Rose or Beasley) that will have a chance to turn a franchise around as well as join an exclusive group of players. The following is a ranking of the number one picks over the past 23 years of the draft lottery.

23) Kwame Brown – 2001
Career stats: 7.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.7 bpg, 48% fg (7 seasons)
Comments: When you are Michael Jordan’s selection for the #1 pick in the draft, expectations are going to be high. Kwame Brown simply couldn’t handle them. The effort was never there to match his size and ability. Under different circumstances, he might have been groomed into a decent post player. Right now, however, he can only be considered the worst #1 pick in lottery history.

22) Michael Olowokandi – 1998
Career stats: 8.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.7 apg, 1.3 bpg, 44% fg (9 seasons)
Comments: I’ll never understand how anyone could watch the Kandi Man lumber down the court and think that he should be the top choice in the draft. Sure he was a track star and could run a 4.5 40 at 7-feet, but what had he done against real competition? I guess guys like Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, and Paul Pierce were all too proven and came from colleges that were too big and scary. Somehow, Olowokandi nearly averaged a double-double for two years with the Clippers, culminating with 12.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in 02-03. But after a trade to Minnesota, his career went south and he soon found himself out of basketball.

21) Greg Oden – 2007
Career stats: Incomplete
Comments: Since he has never played a minute in the NBA, Oden must start near the bottom. Obviously, he can shoot up the chart very soon. With a good supporting cast around him in Portland, Oden shouldn’t have a problem (assuming his injuries are a thing of the past)…. Oden finds a place in front of Kandi Man and Kwame because he was more productive sitting out a year than they were over their entire careers.

20) Andrea Bargnani – 2006
Career stats: 10.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.6 bpg, 40% fg (2 seasons)
Comments: Obviously, the young Bargnani has plenty of time to move up this list. Unfortunately, he has been bitten by the sophomore slump and seems to have regressed in his second season. Despite standing nearly seven feet tall, Bargnani is completely uninterested in rebounding or blocking shots and is more concerned with jacking up three pointers. Until he develops a more well-rounded game, he may not reach his full potential.

19) Pervis Ellison – 1989
Career stats: 9.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.6 bpg, 51% fg (11 seasons)
Comments: “Never Nervous” Pervis was once nicknamed “Out of Service” Pervis, and for good reason. In 11 seasons of basketball, Ellison played more than 69 games just once. An injury cut short his rookie season and he appeared to be a complete bust after two years. However, he came back in 91-92 and put up an impressive 20 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game. The following season started off well, but injuries derailed the rest of his career completely.

18) Joe Smith – 1995
Career stats: 11.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.9 bpg, 46% fg (13 seasons)
Comments: Few #1 picks have jumped around more than Joe Smith. The forward from Maryland has played for eight different teams, including five in just the past three seasons. He played decently well his first few seasons in the league, but Smith never became the star the first pick in the draft is supposed to be. Interestingly, the fifth pick in 1995 was Kevin Garnett, whose team was penalized numerous draft picks when they were caught tampering while trying to acquire Smith as a free agent. The lost picks hurt KG’s teams down the road and Smith was never healthy or effective enough to warrant the heavy price. At this point in his career, Smith has found a niche as a solid veteran forward and is used as a valuable role player.

17) Andrew Bogut – 2005
Career stats: 11.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.0 bpg, 53% fg (3 seasons)
Comments: Bogut may not be the franchise savior that Chris Paul turned out to be, but he is steadily developing into a solid center. The Buck’s big man nearly averaged a double-double this year with 14.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He also improved greatly on the defensive end, blocking 1.7 shots per game, good for 9th in the league. If Bogut can add a little more offense to his game to go along with his passing and rebounding skills, he could be an All-Star someday. Winning a few more games with the Bucks might

16) Kenyon Martin – 2000
Career stats: 14.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.2 bpg, 48% fg (8 seasons)
Comments: K-Mart’s career started off well as he put up decent numbers for some good New Jersey Net teams. When Martin left Jason Kidd and took the big bucks in Denver, his production took a hit (partially due to injuries; he only played 2 games during the 06-07 season). Considering how weak the draft class of 2000 was, Martin
was probably the best pick the Nets could have made.

15) Danny Manning – 1988
Career stats: 14.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.9 bpg, 51% fg (15 seasons)
Comments: Manning’s time in the NBA began with a torn ACL just 26 games into his rookie season. He responded quite well after the injury, becoming a consistent scorer and decent rebounder. Manning averaged a career high 22.8 points per game during the 92-93 season and earned his first of two all-star berths. After leaving the Clippers during his sixth season, more knee problems limited his effectiveness,
though he did win the Sixth Man of the Year award in 97-98.

14) Derrick Coleman – 1990
Career stats: 16.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 bpg, 45% fg (15 seasons)
Comments: DC put up a lot of huge numbers during his career. Three times he averaged more than 20 points a game and five times he averaged more than 10 rebounds. Coleman was pretty consistent with his numbers through his first eight seasons in the league. He was also consistently missing in action. In fifteen seasons, Coleman played in more than 68 games just twice (Not coincidentally, those two were his best years). DC was also a terrible three-point shooter, but that didn’t stop him from jacking up 1,105 in his career (he made just under 30%).

13) Larry Johnson – 1991
Career stats: 16.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.4 bpg, 48% fg (10 seasons)
Comments: Larry Johnson took the league by storm with a shiny smile, nightly double-doubles, and those hilarious Granmama commercials. During his first five seasons, there were few forwards better than LJ. He twice averaged more than 20 points a game and along with Alonzo Mourning he formed an intimidating front line. Then, LJ went to play for the Knicks and his career crashed and burned (that seems to happen to a lot of people). He never averaged more than 5.8 rebounds as a Knick and he lost his scoring touch and explosiveness. After five disappointing seasons in New York, LJ never played again.

12) Glenn Robinson – 1994
Career stats: 20.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 0.6 bpg, 46% fg (11 seasons)
Comments: Big Dog was a model of consistency for a number of years. He averaged over 20 points a game in eight of his first nine seasons in the league and finished second on the Buck’s all-time scoring list. Unfortunately, he developed a reputation as a sourpuss who detracted from the team’s chemistry. His career derailed quickly after stops in Atlanta and Philadelphia, although he did help the Spurs win a championship in 04-05 as a bench player.

11) Yao Ming – 2002
Career stats: 19.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.8 bpg, 52% fg (6 seasons)
Comments: Yao was a risky pick for the Rockets, especially after the Shaun Bradley era left behind a poor track record for seven and a half foot centers. Throw in the language and cultural barriers and it became difficult to predict how well he could fare in the NBA. However, Yao steadily improved each season and soon became one of the best centers in the league. Unfortunately, injuries have severely cut short the past three seasons in a row. Yao is only 27 years old and still in his prime, but it remains to be seen whether he can stay on the court for a full season after all of these breakdowns.

10) Brad Daugherty – 1986
Career stats: 19.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.7 apg, 0.7 bpg, 53% fg (8 seasons)
Comments: Daugherty’s excellent career was cut tragically short by recurring back problems. When healthy, he was one of the best big men in the league. Even though he only played eight years, he made the all-star team five times and is currently the second leading scorer in Cavs history. He wasn’t much of a shot blocker, but he passed the ball very well for a center and averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game three times.

9) Elton Brand – 1999
Career stats: 20.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.1 bpg, 51% fg (9 seasons)
Comments: Even though, at 6’8”, he is a little on the short side, there aren’t many forwards as good and dependable as Elton Brand. After putting up 20 and 10 during his first two years in the league, the Bulls idiotically traded him to the Clippers. He has been putting up great numbers ever since. Brand missed most of this season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon which could slow down the rest of his career.

8) Chris Webber – 1993
Career stats: 20.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.4 bpg, 48% fg (15 seasons)
Comments: The best member of Michigan’s Fab Five nearly joined up with Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando to form one of the scariest front lines in NBA history. Instead, a draft day trade sent him to Golden State for Anfernee Hardaway (it worked out okay for Orlando since they made the Finals the following year). Webber had a good rookie season, but disagreements with coach Don Nelson led him to be traded to Washington. While there, Webber became one of the best all-around forwards in the game. He could score (averaged over 20 a game ten times). He could rebound (led the league in 98-99 with 13.0). He could pass, block shots, and play inside or outside. Webber’s best seasons were with a very good Sacramento squad, but that team could never reach the finals. Ironically, it was Shaq’s Lakers that usually blocked the way.

7) Dwight Howard – 2004
Career stats: 16.5 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.7 bpg, 57% fg (4 seasons)
Comments: The previous big man taken directly from high school had disastrous results (Kwame Brown). Luckily for the Magic, Howard has been the anti-Kwame. In just his fourth season, Howard led the NBA in rebounding with a robust 14.2 per game to go along with a 20.7 scoring average and 2.1 blocks per game. During his memorable win in the slam dunk contest, he put his freakish athleticism and engaging personality on display. At only 22 years of age, Howard is just getting started, which is frightening. If he can improve his Shaq-like free throw percentage, the sky is the limit for Superman.

6) Patrick Ewing – 1985
Career stats: 21.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.4 bpg, 50% fg (17 seasons)
Comments: We’ll never know for sure if the draft lottery of 1985 was fixed, but one thing we are sure about is Ewing’s place among the greatest centers of the NBA. His production and consistency were incredible. Ewing averaged more than 20 points a game for 13 straight years and averaged a double-double for 9 consecutive seasons. He was also an outstanding shot blocker, finishing 6th on the all-time list. If you need any more accolades, you can read about them in the basketball Hall of Fame. Sadly, he will also be remembered for the one thing he couldn’t achieve; a championship.

5) Allen Iverson – 1996
Career stats: 27.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 6.3 apg, 2.3 spg, 43% fg (12 seasons)
Comments: Even though he is the only true guard on this list (and the smallest player), Allen Iverson has the highest career scoring average. That should tell you something about his talent and tenacity. AI is a four-time scoring champion, a three-time steals champion, and he almost never leaves the court, averaging more than 40 minutes a game in every season but one. Iverson has put on a lot of miles and bruises over the years, but he is still going strong. He is sure to end his career as one of the greatest scorers of all time.

4) David Robinson – 1987
Career stats: 21.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 3.0 bpg, 52% fg (14 seasons)
Comments: Robinson’s statistics compare closely to Patrick Ewings. The Admiral was a bit better shot blocker, currently sitting one spot ahead of Ewing on the all-time list. He also has the rare distinction of being the only player in NBA history to win a rebounding, blocked shot, and scoring title as well as a Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and MVP award. What truly sets Robinson apart from Ewing is that he won a championship, ironically during his worst statistical season and the last of his career. Robinson played second fiddle to Tim Duncan that year, but he went out on top like few great players get to do.

3) LeBron James – 2003
Career stats: 27.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.8 spg, 47% fg (5 seasons)
Comments: The only thing keeping LeBron from being number one on this list is that he needs a few rings on his fingers. Few players in NBA history can fill up a box score quite like LeBron. He won his first scoring title this season by averaging 30 points a game and then “chipped in” with 7.9 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. Considering he is only 23 years old, James has plenty of time to earn some jewelry. Do I really need to say more about King James? I don’t think so…. He could eventually take over the top spot on this list.

2) Shaquille O’Neal – 1992
Career stats: 25.2 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.4 bpg, 58% fg (16 seasons)
Comments: Shaq was the easiest pick in the history of the lotto (in a year that included another legit top overall pick in Alonzo Mourning) and he has delivered. But does he deserve the top spot ahead of Tim Duncan? Like Duncan, Shaq has won four championships and numerous awards throughout his career. He was a much better scorer. Duncan’s highest average was 25.5 in 01-02. Shaq surpassed that ten times and won the scoring title twice. Duncan never averaged 13 rebounds a game, something Shaq did three times. I guess you could say that Shaq’s best years were better than Duncan’s best. On the negative side, Shaq was such a poor free throw shooter that it became a well-known strategy (Hack-a-Shaq). He also moved around from team to team whereas Duncan stayed loyal to the franchisethat drafted him. From a marketing standpoint, Shaq surely gets the nod over Duncan, although that lead to movies like Kazaam and Steel. Its a very close race, but…

1) Tim Duncan – 1997
Career stats: 21.6 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.4 bpg, 51% fg (11 seasons)
Comments: I have to give the nod to Duncan. He will go down as one of the most fundamental, accomplished, and dependable players in the history of the league. In 11 seasons, Duncan has never failed to average a double-double. He is a four-time NBA champion, two-time MVP, seven-time All-Defensive 1st Team, nine-time All-NBA 1st Team, and just an all-around nice guy. What puts him over Shaq is the fact that Duncan isn’t finished collecting championships. Winning is everything and Duncan’s Spurs will go down in history as an NBA dynasty. Shaq never won a title with the team that drafted him and Timmy has won four. That stat alone makes him the best #1 pick of the lottery era.

Draft lotto history:

Year – Top pick (2nd pick, best remaining pick)

1985 – Patrick Ewing (No. 2 Wayman Tisdale, No. 13 Karl Malone)
1986 – Brad Daughtery (No. 2 Len Bias, No. 25 Dennis Rodman)
1987 – David Robinson (No. 2 Armon Gilliam, No. 5 Scottie Pippen)
1988 – Danny Manning (No. 2 Rik Smits, No. 5 Mitch Richmond)
1989 – Pervis Ellison (No. 2 Danny Ferry, No. 14 Tim Hardaway)
1990 – Derrick Coleman (No. 2 Gary Payton, No. 27 Elden Campbell)
1991 – Larry Johnson (No. 2 Kenny Anderson, No. 4 Dikembe Mutombo)
1992 – Shaquille O’Neal (No. 2 Alonzo Morning, No. 24 Latrell Sprewell)
1993 – Chris Webber (No. 2 Shawn Bradley, No. 3 Penny Hardaway)
1994 – Glenn Robinson (No. 2 Jason Kidd, No. 3 Grant Hill)
1995 – Joe Smith (No. 2 Antonio McDyess, No. 5 Kevin Garnett)
1996 – Allen Iverson (No. 2 Marcus Camby, No. 13 Kobe Bryant)
1997 – Tim Duncan (No. 2 Keith Van Horn, No. 9 Tracy McGrady
1998 – Michael Olowakandi (No. 2 Mike Bibby, No. 9 Dirk Nowitzki)
1999 – Elton Brand (No. 2 Steve Francis, No. 3 Baron Davis)
2000 – Kenyon Martin (No. 2 Stromile Swift, No. 43 Michael Redd)
2001 – Kwame Brown (No. 2 Tyson Chandler, No. 3 Pau Gasol)
2002 – Yao Ming (No. 2 Jay Williams, No. 9 Amare Stoudemire)
2003 – LeBron James (No. 2 Darko Milicic, No. 5 Dwyane Wade)
2004 – Dwight Howard (No. 2 Emeka Okafor, No. 17 Josh Smith)
2005 – Andrew Bogut (No. 2 Marvin Williams, No. 4 Chris Paul)
2006 – Andrea Bargnani (No. 2 LaMarcus Aldridge, No. 6 Brandon Roy)
2007 – Greg Oden (No. 2 Kevin Durant, No. 3 Al Horford)

*If the list extended back two years earlier (to cover the past 25 years), the first spot would be Hakeem Olajuwon. The Dream was a destructive force who just eviscerated his main rivals. At his peak, he took down Shaq, Ewing, and particularly David Robinson. Olajuwon won just 2 rings, but he played in an era with the greatest player of all time (Jordan). Dream is the best #1 pick of the past 25 years, and the ironic thing is that he wasn’t even the best player from his draft. Meanwhile Dream’s teammate Ralph Sampson would check in at 10, one spot behind Chris Webber, due to playing in an NBA Finals and being part of the team to take down the Lakers in the height of the Showtime era.