Historical NBA Draft Rankings Since 2005
- The Minnesota Timberwolves have drafted the best NBA players by value (12.16) since 2005, the highest out of every NBA franchise.
- Chris Paul, the No. 4 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, is the best player drafted (based on the statistics of his first four years in the NBA) since 2005.
- Isaiah Thomas, the 60th pick in 2011, was the best player drafted in the second round since 2005.
- Since 2005, the Dallas Mavericks have drafted the most busts, with 71.4% of their draft picks not panning out.
- The Boston Celtics made the best draft-day trades in 2005, acquiring Rajon Rondo from the Phoenix Suns in 2006.
With the Next Pick in the NBA Draft...
As is tradition every year, a new crop of NBA hopefuls gets selected in the league’s summertime draft. Using data from 2005 until now, we’ll analyze how each franchise has performed in regards to their drafting ability, and which players have left the biggest mark on their respective teams.
Draft pick scores were calculated using a simple formula – we’ve added up the level of a given players’ availability, offense, and defense based on our own scoring system and then used a scaling multiplier to adjust each player’s value based on when they were drafted.
First-round draftees get all of the attention, but who are some second-round gems that took the league by storm? Also, which franchises are notorious for drafting busts?
Read on to learn more about who’s made the right decisions, and who’s been fumbling them.
Boom or Bust
Atop the draft food chain lies the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have found the most value from their picks over the last 16 years. With an average score of 12.16, they are 0.23 points above the next leading team, the Miami Heat.
In recent history, the T-Wolves’ best draft pick was the selection of Karl Anthony-Towns, the first overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. A dominant center, Anthony-Towns has averaged a 22.9–3–11.6 (points–assists–rebounds) stat line throughout his career. The team also found a gem a year prior in Zach LaVine (although he’s been traded since), and recent first overall selection Anthony Edwards has shown plenty of promise. Although they can clearly draft well, the franchise has unfortunately never won an NBA championship thus far.
At the bottom of the list sits the Dallas Mavericks, who ended up with an uninspiring score of 7.66. Even though they apparently have a lot less drafting prowess than the No. 1 ranked Timberwolves, they won an NBA championship in 2011, spearheaded by former superstar Dirk Nowitzki, who will soon be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
While the Mavericks don’t have quite as flashy a draft history as other teams do, they hit an absolute home run when they acquired Luka Doncic from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Trae Young in the 2018 NBA Draft. Both have become franchise players for their respective teams and will be forces to be reckoned with in the NBA for a long time.
Since 2005, Chris Paul has been the best draft pick we’ve seen. He was the 2005-06 NBA Rookie of the Year and has been an NBA All-Star 11 times throughout his career, among a plethora of other accolades. Having played for a handful of teams around the league, Paul is currently playing a major role on the Phoenix Suns’ championship run, a team that doesn’t have a Larry O’Brien trophy under their belt … yet.
Coming in at No. 2 is Isaiah Thomas, who was actually the last draft pick of his class! A true journeyman player, Thomas has been a key addition to teams around the league, most famously in 2016-17 for the Boston Celtics where he averaged a colossal 28.9 points per game.
The third-best player was Rajon Rondo, selected 21st overall by the Boston Celtics in 2006. Known for his playmaking abilities, Rondo averaged more than 10 assists per game throughout multiple seasons of his career. He won a championship with the Celtics in 2008 and another with the Lakers in 2020.
Next is John Wall, the first overall pick 11 years ago, who's averaged just under 20 points per game throughout his career. While he’s shown flashes of greatness throughout his time in the league, Wall has been dealing with injuries since entering the league, leaving us to wonder just how special he could’ve been if he could remain healthy.
Rounding out the top-five best draft picks since 2005 is Marc Gasol. Gasol won the 2019 NBA Championship during the Toronto Raptors’ historic run but spent most of his career with the Memphis Grizzlies, anchoring the center position for them. To date, his career stat line is a respectable 14–3.4–7.4.
Who Would’ve Thought?
As we now know, there are certainly second-round draft picks who can become legends in their own right. Thomas and Gasol were considered to be the biggest second-round gems since 2005 and also claimed the Nos. 2 and 5 spots, respectively, in the “Top 30 Draft Picks Since 2005” ranking.
At the No. 3 spot is Chandler Parsons, selected by Houston in the 2011 NBA Draft. Parsons was off to a great start in his NBA career, averaging nearly 15 points a game over his first four seasons, but got hit by the injury bug quite hard soon after that. To make matters worse, he was involved in a car crash in the winter of 2020, likely ending his professional career altogether.
Nicknamed the "Mississippi Bullet," Monta Ellis had a great run in the NBA, averaging between 19 and 25.5 points a game from the 2007-08 to 2011-12 season. His rookie season wasn’t anything to write home about, but he won the NBA Most Improved Player award in his sophomore season, kicking off his steady incline. Unfortunately, Ellis never secured a championship for himself and hasn’t played since 2016-17.
Our fifth second-round gem is Serbian powerhouse Nikola Jokic, who has become an integral part of the Denver Nuggets’ recent success. Jokic, arguably the best playmaking center in the league, has gotten better with every season and will look to carry a young, electric Nuggets team to their first-ever NBA championship.
Swing and a Miss
Not every draft pick is going to pan out. In fact, a lot don’t. Out of the 30 NBA franchises, the Dallas Mavericks have drafted the most busts in the league. Considering they’ve also gotten the least value out of their picks since 2005, this is a concerning stat for the team. The team blundered a lot throughout the 2000s and 2010s, and one of their biggest mistakes was drafting Kelly Olynyk 13th overall in 2013 (who was flipped to Boston in the same draft and ended up with a bust in Shane Larkin), two picks before generational talent Giannis Antetokounmpo was selected.
A year prior, the Mavericks made a similar mistake by drafting Tyler Zeller 12th overall and trading him for three more picks in the same draft, none of which came even close to comparing to three-time All-Star, six-time NBA All-Defensive player, and three-time NBA champion-to-be Draymond Green, who was selected after all of their picks.
Not far behind in the bust category are the Los Angeles Clippers. They also know a thing or two about missing out on great players in favor of ones who just don’t seem to pan out. For example, in 2005, the team had three second-round picks and didn’t use any on "Lemon Pepper" Lou Williams, who would go on to be one of the best scorers off the bench in the modern NBA. Some consider Williams to be the second-best player in that draft, behind Paul.
The Clippers, like the Mavericks, also gaffed their 2013 draft when they selected Reggie Bullock 25th overall instead of Rudy Gobert. Bullock has bounced around the league and hasn’t been able to establish himself as a starter, whereas Gobert has become one of the best defenders in the sport.
There is over an 8 percentage point gap between the bust percentage of the Clippers and the next leading team, meaning that Dallas and Los Angeles have been especially underwhelming with their draft choices and management since 2005.
Pulling the Trigger
Let’s look at some trades that were absolutely epic for one team and disastrous for the other.
In 2006, the Rajon Rondo trade was considered to be one the greatest trades in NBA history. After being drafted 21st overall by the Phoenix Suns, Rondo was shipped to the Boston Celtics along with another player and cash considerations in exchange for a future first-rounder. Phoenix literally paid Boston to take Rondo off their hands, which was a colossal mistake, as he would go on to collect numerous accolades, including a championship with the Celtics just two years later.
Although the consequences weren’t as seismic as the Rondo deal, Gasol was drafted by one team and promptly dealt to another. His defensive prowess, three All-Star appearances, 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year Award, and two-time All NBA Player status would’ve definitely been appreciated by the Lakers had they not shipped him off so quickly to the Grizzlies. Although, the Lakers probably aren't complaining after they acquired Gasol's brother, Pau, as part of the package.
Next, the Nuggets unknowingly lost out on who ended up being the cornerstone of the Utah Jazz franchise, Donovan Mitchell. The team drafted him right before the 2017-18 season and traded him for two players who never panned out. With just four seasons under his belt, Mitchell has brought new life to the Jazz, averaging over 23 points a game and already being twice named an All-Star.
Luckily for the next two teams, both ended up winning this colossal 2018 NBA Draft day trade. As mentioned, the Hawks and Mavericks swapped Luka Doncic for Trae Young, a move that greatly benefited both franchises and will continue to do so well into the future.
Foundation for the Future
If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that striking gold in the draft does not necessarily mean that success will translate into championships – for example, the Minnesota Timberwolves have gotten the most value from their picks since 2005 but have not yet won an NBA title. On the other hand, the Dallas Mavericks have gotten the least value from their picks over the last 16 years but won a championship in 2011.
Also, first-round draft picks tend to get the most hype, but there is an extensive list of second-rounders, including the likes of Draymond Green and Lou Williams. Both have left their long-lasting marks in the NBA.
The Mavericks were also deemed to be the franchise that drafted the most bust-prone prospects, followed closely by the Los Angeles Clippers. The reality is, there’s an element of luck involved when it comes to selecting prospects in the annual draft. Some kids that are destined for success end up being bounced from the league within a few years, while other lesser-known ones dominate at the professional level.
At Lines.com, there’s no guessing needed. We deliver you the most recent sports news, rumors, betting information, and our own opinion pieces to make sure you’re up to date with what’s going on across your favorite leagues – whether you’re a casual fan or a general manager of a struggling organization, we’ve got you covered.
Methodology and Limitations
We collected NBA player statistics data from www.sports-reference.com for every player that was drafted since 2005, which was a total of 960 players. We filtered the data to only include players’ statistics from the first four years of their career in order to reflect their success during their “rookie contract.” Additionally, when looking at team draft success, a player’s statistics counted for the first team he played. For example, if a player was drafted by Team A but played their first NBA game for Team B, the player’s statistics were counted for Team B. Similarly, if a player played their first game for Team B and was traded within his first four years to Team C, all four years of his statistics were counted for Team B.
No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content is exploratory and is presented for informational purposes only.
Fair Use Statement
There’s been lots of hits and misses in NBA drafts throughout the sport’s history, and especially since 2005. If you know someone who might be interested in learning more about them, feel free to send this article their way. We just ask that you do so for noncommercial use only and to provide a link back to the original page so the contributors can earn credit for their work.
Photo: Getty Images