Friday, June 20, 2014

Power Rankings: NBA Draft Classes

Coming up in the next week is the first draft Adam Silver will be presiding over.  Many people are saying that this is possibly one of the deepest draft classes of all time with three potentially interchangeable superstars at the top of the class.  So this got me thinking about the best draft classes over the last 25 years since this will be the 26th draft that is only two rounds.  This makes the NBA draft one of the most competitive drafts as you have only 60 selections to pick from the whole crop of college kids that are eligible as well as all the International players that are able to be selected.

To evaluate each draft class, I developed a formula that incorporates both objective and subjective criteria.  The formulas takes into account how many All-Stars and all-NBA players that are from the class, as well as a ranking of the best top picks and best players to emerge from each class.  This is to reward classes that produced transcendent talents.  To evaluate the depth of the class, notable second round picks are also counted and factored in, with extra points given if 2nd rounders made All-Star or all-NBA teams.  Part of a strong draft class also is getting the top picks right so penalties were taken from draft classes for top 10 picks that flopped and players that never played in an NBA game.  Here is the formula to generate each draft's score.  Flipped rank means 1st place is a 25, 2nd a 24, etc.

Score = (All Stars) + (All NBA players) + (Flipped Rank of #1 pick / 2) + (Flipped Rank of Best Player / 4) + (Notable 2nd Rounders / 2) - (Top 10 Flops) - (Players That Never Played / 2)

I hope all that makes sense (probably not).  So let's start looking at the power rankings of the last 25 draft classes.

25.  2013 Draft Class
1st Pick: Anthony Bennett (23rd)
Best Player: Michael Carter-Williams (25th)
All Stars: 0
All NBA: 0
Never Played: 18
Top 10 Flops: 4 (Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter, Alex Len, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 0

I know the jury is still out on this draft class since it was only last year.  The number of players that haven't surfaced in the NBA will most likely go down over the next couple years as more International players make the trip across the pond to America.  However, even for just being a year old, this class has the potential of being historically bad.  There are only a couple players that have the potential of being All Stars at some point in the future.  I'm giving guys like Nerlens Noel and CJ McCollum the benefit of the doubt for being injured for most if not all of last season.  Anthony Bennett very well might be the worst top pick in history, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt as well for now.  This class might move a little bit up the rankings list over the next couple years, but it's the worst right now.

24.  2000 Draft Class
1st Pick: Kenyon Martin (16th)
Best Player: Michael Redd (24th)
All Stars: 3 (Kenyon Martin, Jamaal Magloire, Michael Redd)
All NBA: 1 (Michael Redd)
Never Played: 8
Top 10 Flops: 5 (Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, DerMarr Johnson, Chris Mihm)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2 (Michael Redd, Brian Cardinal)

The true sign of a draft class flop is when your only player to make an All NBA team is a 2nd rounder whose career was cut short due to injuries.  Kenyon Martin was a solid player for a long time, but there was very little after him that worked out the way it was supposed to.  I mean, Chris Mihm a top 10 pick?!?  Mark Madsen even went in the first round of this draft!  There just wasn't any talent in the year 2000.

23.  2010 Draft Class
1st Pick: John Wall (13th)
Best Player: Paul George (21st)
All Stars: 2 (John Wall, Paul George)
All NBA: 1 (Paul George)
Never Played: 11
Top 10 Flops: 3 (Evan Turner, Wesley Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 1 (Lance Stevenson)

Once again, the jury is still out on some of this class, but we have a pretty good indication that this wasn't a strong year for NBA prospects.  There are maybe a couple more potential future All Stars in this class in guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors.  The flops definitely outnumber the hits, and most of the hits are role-players at best; guys like Greg Monroe and Gordon Hayward.

22.  2011 Draft Class
1st Pick: Kyrie Irving (6th)
Best Player: Kyrie Irving (17th)
All Stars: 1 (Kyrie Irving)
All NBA: 0
Never Played: 9
Top 10 Flops: 6 (Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Jas Vesely, Bismack Biyombo, Jimmer Fredette)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2 (Chandler Parsons, Isaiah Thomas)

This draft gave us one of the better players to come around in awhile in Kyrie Irving.  He was able to jump into the league with minimal college experience and instantly become a star.  However, this draft is defined by its flops.  Over half (and that's being generous at times) of the top 10 picks haven't worked out, at least so far.  Two of the top 10 picks have already switched teams so they can ride someone else's bench.  There is still hope for this class with rising stars Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, and Reggie Jackson working their way to be future All Stars.

21.  2006 Draft Class
1st Pick: Andrea Bargnani (19th)
Best Player: LaMarcus Aldridge (19th)
All Stars: 4 (LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Rajon Rondo, Paul Millsap)
All NBA: 3 (LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Rajon Rondo)
Never Played: 8
Top 10 Flops: 5 (Adam Morrison, Shelden Williams, Randy Foye, Patrick O'Bryant, Mouhamed Sene)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2 (Daniel Gibson, Paul Millsap)

This is a very interesting class.  There are some great players that have been All NBA, but one of them (Roy) has already retired and another (Rondo) is fighting off injuries and struggling with not being the 5th best player on the court at all times.  Five top 10 picks are already out of the league.  Aldridge is the only one that looks like he has any staying power and potential of being an all-time great.  The more recent classes rated below this definitely have a chance to pass this one up over the next 5 years or so.

20.  1989 Draft Class
1st Pick: Pervis Ellison (21st)
Best Player: Shawn Kemp (22nd)
All Stars: 9 (Sean Elliott, Glen Rice, Mookie Blaylock, Tim Hardaway, Dana Barros, Shawn Kemp, B.J. Armstrong, Vlade Divac, Cliff Robinson)
All NBA: 3 (Glen Rice, Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp)
Never Played: 6
Top 10 Flops: 7 (Pervis Ellison, J.R. Reid, Stacey King, George McCloud, Randy White, Tom Hammonds, Pooh Richardson)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3 (Sherman Douglas, Cliff Robinson, Haywoode Workman)

The first draft to be limited to just two rounds had some great highs and great lows.  It started with one of the biggest flops for a number one in history.  Ellison highlighted an overall disappointing top 10 of this draft.  However, with that said, this draft is tied for second with the most number of All Stars to emerge from the group.  On the other side, only three of the nine were strong enough to make an All NBA team.  Many of them, like Barros and Armstrong, had one or two seasons that garnered that kind of recognition and then fell back into obscurity for the rest of their careers.

19.  2012 Draft Class
1st Pick: Anthony Davis (12th)
Best Player: Damian Lillard (14th)
All Stars: 2 (Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard)
All NBA: 1 (Damian Lillard)
Never Played: 7
Top 10 Flops: 2 (Thomas Robinson, Austin Rivers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 0

When all is said and done, this could be the best draft of the last 5 years.  Even though these players are just two years from being drafted, two players have emerged as perennial All Stars in Davis and Lillard.  Guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, and Terrence Ross have shown the potential to end up on All Star teams in the future.  Only two players in the top ten have appeared to be flops so far, and one of them, Thomas Robinson, could easily turn his career around after a tumultuous two years where he has already played for three teams.  Once he settles in one place, he could become a solid contributor.  Here are a couple observations.  Only two years removed from the draft, this draft class has the least amount of players that haven't played in the league to date since 2005.  On the flip side, as of right now none of this draft's 2nd round picks look like they will be stick around the league and be solid contributors to a team.

18.  1995 Draft Class
1st Pick: Joe Smith (20th)
Best Player: Kevin Garnett (10th)
All Stars: 6 (Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Theo Ratliff, Michael Finley)
All NBA: 2 (Antonio McDyess, Kevin Garnett)
Never Played: 8
Top 10 Flops: 4 (Joe Smith, Bryant Reeves, Shawn Respert, Ed O'Bannon)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2 (Eric Snow, Fred Hoiberg)

This draft produced one of the best players of the last 20 years one of the more disappointing number one picks of the last 20 years.  Kevin Garnett definitely developed into more than many anticipated and helped bring about the current trend of drafting unproven potential over something more proven.  On the other hand Joe Smith, who did have a solid trailblazing career, never developed into the superstar expected out of a top pick in the draft.  The best this class had to offer was very good, however it turned out to be a very thin draft, as there were more players the caliber of Cherokee Parks than the caliber of Rasheed Wallace.

17.  1991 Draft Class
1st Pick: Larry Johnson (15th)
Best Player: Dikembe Mutombo (16th)
All Stars: 7 (Larry Johnson, Kenny Anderson, Dikembe Mutombo, Steve Smith, Terrell Brandon, Dale Davis, Chris Gatling)
All NBA: 2 (Larry Johnson, Dikembe Mutombo)
Never Played: 10
Top 10 Flops: 4 (Billy Owens, Doug Smith, Luc Longley, Mark Macon)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 1 (Randy Brown)

This class contains one of my all-time favorite players in Dikembe Mutombo, who will go down as one of the greatest defenders of all time.  Larry "GandMaMa" Johnson was one of the best players in the NBA when he was healthy.  The problem was his career died off too soon (signing a big deal with the Knicks tends to do that to good players).  There were some solid players, but very few stars and very little depth as the second round turned out to be quite weak.  The only notable 2nd rounder is notable for being a Jordan teammate.  This is enough to make a 2nd rounder notable, but in Luc Longley's case, only having this recognition is enough to make you a top 10 flop.

16.  2007 Draft Class
1st Pick: Greg Oden (24th)
Best Player: Kevin Durant (5th)
All Stars: 4 (Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol)
All NBA: 4 (Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol)
Never Played: 11
Top 10 Flops: 3 (Greg Oden, Yi Jianlian, Corey Brewer)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 4 (Glen Davis, Josh McRoberts, Marc Gasol, Ramon Sessions)

In another draft of great dichotomies, this draft solved one of the biggest debates over who should go number one by simultaneously producing arguably the worst top pick in history and arguably the best pure scorer of this generation.  I won't say Greg Oden is the worst number one pick in this time frame because he actually showed the potential that garnered that top pick in the few games he was healthy.  However, Kevin Durant may go down as a top 10 player of all time.  This draft also produced one of the best 2nd round picks of the last 25 years in Marc Gasol.  With as great as the top talent is in this class, it couldn't overcome such a disappointing top pick and 11 players never making it to the league, including a first rounder that never made the league, to make it higher on this list.

15.  1998 Draft Class
1st Pick: Michael Olowokandi (25th)
Best Player: Dirk Nowitzki (9th)
All Stars: 5 (Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Rashard Lewis)
All NBA: 3 (Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce)
Never Played: 2
Top 10 Flops: 3 (Michael Olowokandi, Raef LaFrentz, Robert Traylor)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3 (Ruben Patterson, Rashard Lewis, Cuttino Mobley)

This draft class is very similar to the 2007 class we just looked at.  It produced some of the best talent over the last 25 years, with Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce being two of the greatest players of the last decade and Vince Carter creating some one of the most explosive highlight reels the game has ever seen.  However, Michael Olowokandi.  I said Oden wasn't the worst top pick because he at least showed promise when he was healthy.  The Kandi Man never showed any of the potential and promise that garnered his top pick.  With as strong as some of the other talent in this class was, this pick single-handedly set the Clippers back for the next decade as Olowokandi never became anything more than a big body to take up space.

14.  2002 Draft Class
1st Pick: Yao Ming (9th)
Best Player: Yao Ming (20th)
All Stars: 4 (Yao Ming, Amare Stoudemire, Caron Butler, Carlos Boozer)
All NBA: 3 (Yao Ming, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer)
Never Played: 9
Top 10 Flops: 4 (Jay Williams, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Dajuan Wagner, Chris Wilcox)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3 (Carlos Boozer, Matt Barnes, Luis Scola)

This is the draft of what if's.  What if Yao had been able to stay healthy for an extended period of time?  He was quite possibly the best in the league for a stretch there, at least when he was on the court.  Injuries ended his promising career way too early.  What if Amare could have stayed healthy?  He was the biggest surprise of the class showing a well-rounded, highly explosive style.  Again, injuries slowed this superstar (again, once he became a Knick).  What if Nikoloz Tskitishvili's physical abilities were actually able to translate to the basketball court?  Instead, he became one of the worst players in the league and a laughing stock.  And finally, what if Jay Williams didn't crash his motorcycle and end his career after his first season?  He was one of the best college point guards in some time and had showed some great promise in his rookie season.  He even recorded a triple-double in a game as a rookie.  A gruesome motorcycle accident made his story one of the great draft tragedies of the last 25 years.  This could have been a top 10 class if everything played out right.

13.  1994 Draft Class
1st Pick: Glenn Robinson (14th)
Best Player: Jason Kidd (8th)
All Stars: 5 (Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Juwon Howard, Eddie Jones)
All NBA: 4 (Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Juwon Howard, Eddie Jones)
Never Played: 9
Top 10 Flops: 3 (Sharone Wright, Lamond Murray, Eric Montross)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2 (Howard Eisley, Vashon Lenard)

This is a draft where so many things worked out the way they were supposed to.  Glenn Robinson had a solid career and contributed one of the better starting fives of the late 90's to early 00's in Milwaukee alongside Ray Allen and Sam Cassell.  Jason Kidd become one of the most productive point guards of all time and is now a head coach in his first year out of uniform.  Grant Hill was one of the best players in the league throughout the 90's until injuries slowed him down.  His longevity was still impressive, retiring only just recently.  All five of this draft's All Stars were in the top ten picks.  There wasn't much to speak of outside the top ten.  There were solid careers from guys like Jalen Rose, Eric Piatkowski, and Charlie Ward.  However, it's the strength of the top that makes this draft in the middle of the pack.

12.  2004 Draft Class
1st Pick: Dwight Howard (5th)
Best Player: Dwight Howard (11th)
All Stars: 5 (Dwight Howard, Devin Harris, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Jameer Nelson)
All NBA: 2 (Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson)
Never Played: 13
Top 10 Flops: 3 (Shaun Livingston, Rafael Araujo, Luke Jackson)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3 (Anderson Varejao, Chris Duhon, Trevor Ariza)

This was thought to be a very weak draft talent-wise.  However, it is actually quite surprising what it produced.  It's height on this list is all because of the name at the top.  Dwight Howard, who has the distinction of being the last high school player taken with the first pick, has become the best big man since Shaq.  Players like Harris, Deng, Iguodala, and Nelson have shown signs of greatness, but have rounded out to be solid contributors to the NBA.  Al Jefferson is one of the few players to make an All NBA team without making an All Star team.  Another notable player that is a part of this class, who is probably the best player never to make an All Star team or All NBA team, is Josh Smith.  Seriously, how is that possible?

11.  2009 Draft Class
1st Pick: Blake Griffin (10th)
Best Player: James Harden (13th)
All Stars: 5 (Blake Griffin, James Harden, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday)
All NBA: 3 (Blake Griffin, James Harden, Stephen Curry)
Never Played: 10
Top 10 Flops: 3 (Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, Jordan Hill)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 4 (DuJuan Blair, Patrick Beverly, Danny Green, Patty Mills)

This is a class that has reached great heights very quickly and can still get better.  It all starts with Blake Griffin, who started his career a year late thanks to an injury, but has become one of the most exciting players in the league.  Harden is a superstar now with Curry and DeRozan on the brink.  Adding to this group are players like Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, and Jeff Teague who could be All Stars at some point in their career as well.  This could be a top five draft class in the coming years, even with one of the worst flops in recent memory in the very lanky Hasheem Thabeet.

10.  2001 Draft Class
1st Pick: Kwame Brown (22nd)
Best Player: Tony Parker (12th)
All Stars: 8 (Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas, Mehmet Okur)
All NBA: 6 (Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas)
Never Played: 8
Top 10 Flops: 5 (Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry, Eddie Griffin, DeSagana Diop, Rodney White)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3 (Gilbert Arenas, Mehmet Okur, Earl Watson)

We have arrived at the top 10 with a very surprising draft class.  When you think of this class, it's hard to not gravitate to the top and one of the worst and most head-scratching number one's of all time in Kwame Brown.  He is the perfect example of the dangers of drafting unproven potential.  However, if you can get passed the disgrace that is Kwame Brown, the stats are pretty amazing.  This class produced 8 All Stars and 6 All NBA players.  Two of the All Stars (Arenas, Okur) and one all NBA team member (Arenas) were 2nd rounders.  That speaks to just how deep this draft was.  Only 8 players never played in the league, which is impressively low in the era of international draft picks.  Speaking of international, Tony Parker is one of only four international players to be chosen as the best from his draft class.

9.  1990 Draft Class
1st Pick: Derrick Coleman (18th)
Best Player: Gary Payton (7th)
All Stars: 6 (Derrick Coleman, Gary Payton, Tyrone Hill, Jayson Williams, Antonio Davis, Cedric Ceballos)
All NBA: 2 (Derrick Coleman, Gary Payton)
Never Played: 2
Top 10 Flops: 5 (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Felton Spencer, Lionel Simmons, Bo Kimble, Willie Burton)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 4 (Toni Kukoc, Bimbo Coles, Antonio Davis, Cedric Ceballos)

The draft class of 1990 brought us one of only two players that have already been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Gary Payton.  It also produced a solid top pick that could have been an all time great if it weren't for injuries in Derrick Coleman.  Several solid players found their way onto All Star teams in their career, including two 2nd round picks, while others like Dennis Scott and Kendall Gill enjoyed long productive careers as well.  Remarkably, only two players from this draft never appeared on an NBA court which really shows the depth of talent in this class.

8.  1997 Draft Class
1st Pick: Tim Duncan (3rd)
Best Player: Tim Duncan (3rd)
All Stars: 3 (Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, Tracy McGrady)
All NBA: 3 (Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, Tracey McGrady)
Never Played: 10
Top 10 Flops: 5 (Antionio Daniels, Tony Battie, Ron Mercer, Adonal Foyle, Danny Fortson)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 1 (Mark Blount)

Overall, this was not a very strong draft.  Ten players never played, and only one player from the second round was notable (and I got to say, Mark Blount is really stretching the definition of notable).  Half of the top ten picks flopped.  Players like Daniels and Fortson enjoyed decent careers, but nothing close to what you expect from a top ten pick.  So why is this draft in the top ten?  Tim Duncan.  One of the most anticlimactic first pick announcements produced one of the least flashy players of all time that just happened to be one of the best players of all time.  Billups and McGrady are also very solid contributors to this class as each had a good run of a few years as one of the best players at their position in the league, but The Great Fundamentalist is what makes this draft special.

7.  2008 Draft Class
1st Pick: Derrick Rose (8th)
Best Player: Russell Westbrook (18th)
All Stars: 5 (Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert)
All NBA: 4 (Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Goran Dragic)
Never Played: 10
Top 10 Flops: 2 (Michael Beasley, Joe Alexander)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 4 (Mario Chalmers, DeAndre Jordan, Omer Asik, Goran Dragic)

All you need to do to find the greatness of this draft is look at the top five picks.  They contain three players that are, arguably, top 20 players in the game today.  Derrick Rose, if he can keep his knees healthy, is one of the best players around.  Westbrook has become one of the biggest physical presences at point guard in recent memory.  Kevin Love is a double-double machine that will be getting a sweet payday in the near future.  Add to that two big men in Lopez and Hibbert that, when on top of their game, are top 5 centers in the league, and a very strong group of second rounders, including Dragic who made his first All NBA list this last season, and it becomes obvious why this is a special draft.  This draft has potential to improve its score too, with rising stars like Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, and George Hill well on their way to making an All Star Team in the future.

6.  1993 Draft Class
1st Pick: Chris Webber (7th)
Best Player: Chris Webber (15th)
All Stars: 7 (Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Vin Baker, Allan Houston, Sam Cassell, Nick Van Exel)
All NBA: 5 (Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Vin Baker, Sam Cassell)
Never Played: 11
Top 10 Flops: 5 (Shawn Bradley, Isaiah Rider, Calbert Cheaney, Bobby Hurley, Rodney Rodgers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3 (Lucious Harris, Nick Van Exel, Bryon Russell)

With seven All Stars, including their top pick Chris Webber, the 1993 draft class became one of the deeper draft classes of the 90's.  Webber became a dominant power forward for a decade, and Penny Hardaway was the original Robin to Shaq's Batman.  Sam Cassell was one of the most consistent point guards in the league for a long time, and Mashburn and Baker both had strong careers as well.  Bobby Hurley may have been an All Star instead of a flop if it hadn't been for a devastating car accident that ended his career.  This also seemed to be the year of the skyscrapers as both Shawn Bradley (7'6") and Gheorghe Muresan (7'7") were drafted that year.  Neither did anything in their careers, but that was expected out of the second round pick Muresan, not out of the second overall pick Bradley.

5.  2005 Draft Class
1st Pick: Andrew Bogut (17th)
Best Player: Chris Paul (6th)
All Stars: 5 (Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger, David Lee)
All NBA: 5 (Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum, David Lee)
Never Played: 5
Top 10 Flops: 3 (Marvin Williams, Charlie Villanueva, Ike Diogu)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 5 (Brandon Bass, Ersan Ilyasova, Monte Ellis, Amir Johnson, Marcin Gortat)

The first draft class in the top 5 produced two of the best point guards of the last 10 years in Deron Williams and Chris Paul, who is one of the best players, period, of the last decade.  Two of the top players of the draft class, Andrew Bynum and Danny Granger, seem to have their best days behind them thanks to injuries.  David Lee quietly seems to average a double-double every year.  Andrew Bogut, when healthy, can be a solid contributor but has really been more of a disappointment than anything because of the injuries.  Two things, other than Chris Paul, that set this class apart are only three flops in the top ten picks and five solid second round selections.  The fact that guys like Monte Ellis and Marcin Gortat were second round selections in this draft show just how much talent this draft held.

4.  1999 Draft Class
1st Pick: Elton Brand (11th)
Best Player: Manu Ginobili (23rd)
All Stars: 9 (Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Wally Szczerbiak, Richard Hamilton, Shawn Marion, Ron Artest, Andrei Kirilenko, Manu Ginobili)
All NBA: 5 (Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Shawn Marion, Ron Artest, Manu Ginobili)
Never Played: 12
Top 10 Flops: 1 (Jonathan Bender)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2 (Calvin Booth, Manu Ginobili)

This draft class is a great example of being strong top to bottom.  There are no all-time greats in this class, although an argument could be made for Ginobili.  However, they are all just good.  Nine All Stars in this draft, from first pick Elton Brand to second to last pick Manu Ginobili.  I think the most telling part of this draft is only one flop in the top ten in Jonathan Bender (again, unproven potential ... one of only two high schoolers taken in the first round).  The top ten picks that didn't make an All Star team were Lamar Odom, Andre Miller, and Jason Terry.  This may be the strongest top ten picks on this list.  A guy like Ron Artest, who was a strong college player at St. John's, had to go 16th in this draft.  This draft was deep.

3.  1992 Draft Class
1st Pick: Shaquille O'Neal (2nd)
Best Player: Shaquille O'Neal (4th)
All Stars: 5 (Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Christian Laettner, Tom Gugliotta, Latrell Sprewell)
All NBA: 3 (Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Latrell Sprewell)
Never Played: 6
Top 10 Flops: 3 (Walt Williams, Todd Day, Adam Keefe)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2 (P.J. Brown, Popeye Jones)

These last three draft classes are a step above the rest.  First, we have the class of 1992, which gave us the one and only Shaq, who is, arguably, one of the top 3 centers of all time.  If this would have been it, this class would have been with Tim Duncan's 1997 class.  However, this class also has the second current Hall of Famer in Alonzo Mourning, who would be remembered almost as fondly as Shaq if not for some health issues that took some years off his career.  Sprewell was a top player for quite some time in the league as well, although history remembers him for other reasons.  Laettner and Gugliotta also had solid careers.  In this class, you also had names like Jim Jackson, Robert Horry, Doug Christie, and Jon Barry.  So not only did this draft class have a historic talent (or two), but it also proved to be a very strong and deep class.

2.  2003 Draft Class
1st Pick: LeBron James (1st)
Best Player: LeBron James (1st)
All Stars: 8 (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Chris Kaman, David West, Josh Howard, Mo Williams)
All NBA: 4 (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade)
Never Played: 11
Top 10 Flops: 3 (Darko Milicic, T.J. Ford, Michael Sweetney)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 7 (Luke Walton, Steve Blake, Zaza Pachulia, Matt Bonner, Mo Williams, James Jones, Kyle Korver)

I will be honest with you.  I, much like you most likely, expected this to be the number one draft class when I started this, and for good reason.  First, we have a once in a generation freak talent in LeBron.  He is the best player the league has seen since Michael Jordan and is still in his prime adding to his legacy.  That right there would make this an impressive draft class, but then added to it is Anthony, Bosh, and Wade which are all top 10 players in the league.  This class produced the most impressive list of superstars the league may have ever seen.  It's a shame the Pistons didn't have just a peak into a crystal ball to see first, how bad Darko would be, and second, that a string of four All Stars and three future Hall of Famers would be picked right after him.  Also a part of this class are now-seasoned veterans Nick Collison, Luke Ridnour, Boris Diaw, and Kendrick Perkins to show that this class wasn't just top heavy but was deep as well.

1.  1996 Draft Class
1st Pick: Allen Iverson (4th)
Best Player: Kobe Bryant (2nd)
All Stars: 10 (Allen Iverson, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Jermaine O'Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas)
All NBA: 7 (Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Jermaine O'Neal)
Never Played: 11
Top 10 Flops: 3 (Lorenzen Wright, Kerry Kittles, Samaki Walker)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2 (Othella Harrington, Shandon Anderson)

Let me paraphrase SNL's Stefon when I say, "This class has everything!"  It had a total of 10 All Stars and 7 All NBA players, both are the most in the last 25 years.  It also produced the best shooting guard not named Michael Jordan in Kobe, the best 6'0" player in league history in Allen Iverson, the best 3 point shooter in league history in Ray Allen, and a 2-time MVP in Steve Nash.  Even the busts in the top 10 picks had solid 10 year careers.  Marcus Camby was also in this class, and although he never made an All Star team of an All NBA team, he was a Defensive Player of the Year.  Also included in this class is Derek Fisher, who helped the Lakers win all their titles and recently was hired as Phil Jackson's protege in New York.  Like I said, I thought the class of 2003 would be the best (and it was really close), but you can't argue with the resume Kobe and Co. have put together.

So there is the last 25 years of NBA Drafts in a nutshell.  Many of the recent draft classes may be quite different if we revisit this in a year or two.  Where will the 2014 Draft Class with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid will end up?  Time will only tell...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Year in Review: Terry's Top 10 Films of 2013

For yet another year, it takes me halfway through the following year to publish my top 10 list of the year before.  I blame my busy schedule.  I could put out my list a little earlier, but I don't feel right about settling on a top 10 list without at least seeing all the Best Picture nominees.  Sometimes I get grief for fixating a little too much on the Best Picture nominees, especially last year when eight of the nine nominees found their way into my top ten.  (That is not the case this year.)  There are still many top films from 2013 I haven't seen (viewed only 70% of Todd's Top 10, 40% of Zach's Top 10), but if I wait to see them all you will never see my list.

Last year was a fairly strong year in film with many great films coming from many different genres.  In my top 10 alone (which only contains five Best Picture nominees this year, thank you very much), there are heart-warming inspirational stories, fun family films, dark psychological thrillers, intense sci-fi visual effects masterpieces, and futuristic ground-breaking original stories.  However, what ruled this year for me was the "based on a true story" genre.  Hollywood seemed to really take the perspective of Jack's future father-in-law to heart in that there are so many great non-fiction stories out there, why waste your time with fiction.  Half of the films on my top ten list (and one honorable mention) are based on true stories.  Whether it be a story focused on a high-profile public icon or an average guy faced with an impossible situation, Hollywood truly found some powerful stories and the real life people that made them possible.

Films seen: 46
"Thumbs Up" Percentage: 67%
Best Actor: Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis
Best Actress: Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks
Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
Supporting Actress: June Squibb - Nebraska
Breakout Performances: Michael B. Jordan - Fruitvale Station, Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave
Most Overrated: American Hustle
Most Underrated: Side Effects
Biggest Surprise: The World's End
Biggest Disappointment: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Bottom Five: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, About 111 Girls, The Wolverine, Oz the Great and Powerful, Now You See Me

Top 10 List

Honorable Mention: Rush, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska

10.  Before Midnight (dir. by Richard Linklater)

I am a recent fan of this series, but I can't help but be fascinated by the story of Jesse and Celine, portrayed by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.  We get a window into their relationship together every 9 years with this being the third installment.  I will say it was the weakest of the three "Before" films so far as it, for the first time, I felt produced some less than genuine, authentic moments.  However, this is being very picky as we should be allowed to be when it comes to such a beautiful and original franchise as this.  Once again the film is driven by wonderfully rich dialogue that truly allows us to see into these characters souls and, in this one especially, see how they have changed since they first met 18 years ago.  I hope we get the fourth installment in 2022.

9.  Her (dir. by Spike Jonze)

Every now and then a film comes along that is so original and groundbreaking in its premise that it's just fun to experience it.  Ever rarer are the times when these groundbreaking stories are so well executed that they become one of the best films of that year.  It's the difference between Synecdoche, New York and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Her belongs in that second category.  Looking ahead to, I'm sure, the not-too-distant future, it tells the story of a man falling in love with his computer that is designed to think and have a full range of emotions.  Joaquin Phoenix gives a brilliant performance as he appears to be talking to himself the majority of the time, but Scarlett Johansson makes the film work as she brings Samantha to life in a way that you forget you are watching a man interact with a computer.  It simply turns into one of the most unique love stories you will ever see.

8.  Philomena (dir. by Stephen Frears)

In the first of the true stories to come across my list, we have the tale of a sweet, endearing old Irish lady and a smug, sarcastic, self-righteous British reporter (basically, the perfect stereotype of a British reporter).  Martin Sixsmith (News at 10) has decided to write a human interest story about Philomena Lee who is looking for her son that was taken from her as a toddler.  Going into this movie, I thought I had a grasp on what it was going to be.  It really was so much more than I thought.  It really surprised me in its depth and emotion.  Judi Dench once again shows why she is one of the most decorated actresses of the last 20 years, but the real revelation was Steve Coogan.  Up until now, when I thought of Steve Coogan, I thought of things like Tropic Thunder and singing "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus" in Hamlet 2.  In this film, he reinvents himself and shows what he is truly capable of, both in his acting and screenwriting.  It is one of those films you never get tired of seeing.

7.  Fruitvale Station (dir. by Ryan Coogler)

With the second true story of the top ten comes one of the independent darlings of the year.  This film tells of the last 24 hours in the life of Oscar Grant, a young Oakland man wrongfully gunned down by law enforcement officers.  Of all the characters created in 2013, Oscar might be the most well-rounded and complete of them all.  Michael B. Jordan brilliantly brings to life the spirit of Oscar, a young troubled ma trying to do what is right but often falling short.  It is a tragic story that breaks your heart knowing the eventual outcome and seeing the life that wasn't able to play its course.  Soon after it starts, you forget you are watching a drama with actors and start to think of it as a documentary with archival footage, which is the best a film like this can hope for.

6.  Saving Mr. Banks (dir. by John Lee Hancock)

In what became possibly the best feel-good movie of the year, we have the third true story of the top ten.  This tells the story of Walt Disney's attempts to woo author P.L. Travers to let him make her beloved Mary Poppins into a movie.  As we watch the struggle and debate progress, we also see why Travers holds this story so tightly as we learn about her childhood and the story of her father.  Emma Thompson is spot-on perfect as the tight-lipped, highly skeptical Travers, and Tom Hanks brings Walt Disney back to life in a way few others could.  This is one of those films that makes you laugh, makes you cry, and finds you finishing the movie with a smile on your face and the warm and fuzzies in your heart.  It's another film that I can't get enough of.

5.  Frozen (dir. by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee)

This is not a true story (however it would be cool if Olaf were real).  Following the film about Walt Disney, we have a Disney animated film.  More times than not recently, an animated film has been making it into my top ten.  Usually it is the Pixar installment of the year, but Monsters University didn't quite reach the heights of the original.  Instead we have a return to old-school Disney with this movie musical that is the best Disney has put out since the days of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.  Frozen is different though.  It has the feel of a classic Disney film with the princesses and the beautiful original music, but as the movie goes on you realize it is less about the princesses finding their Prince Charming and more about them finding each other.  It has all the magic that you expect out of one of Disney's best efforts and songs that you can't help but hum for days (or months) after.  It is a film that is impossible to not like and easy to love.

4.  Side Effects (dir. by Stephen Soderbergh)

With one of the biggest surprises of the year comes this very underrated film.  I'm always a sucker for a good psychological thriller; one that loops a story around to the point that you are constantly questioning what is real and what isn't until the final twist at the end that makes sense (or doesn't) of the last two hours.  The best in this category 2013 had to offer was Side Effects, the story of a young woman who is dealing with some life-altering side effects to her psychiatric medication.  As if The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo didn't prove enough just how talented and diverse of an actor Rooney Mara is, she proves it once again with this brilliant performance.  It's one of those films that forces you to say at the end, "Stop!  Rewind that!" because you want to experience the whole film again knowing how it all ends up just so you can make sense of it all.  Also, when a film is made with a good Jude Law performance, well that is an accomplishment in itself.

3.  Captain Phillips (dir. by Paul Greengrass)

An average ordinary day, all of a sudden, becomes a life-threatening ordeal.  This is the story of Captain Phillips, as Tom Hanks portrays the titular character who has his freighter ship boarded by Somali pirates.  This true story leaves you on the edge of your seat from start to finish as Paul Greengrass once again shows that he is the master of this type of film.  Much like he did in United 93, Greengrass finds unrecognizable young actors to portray his villains.  This time around, the leader of the group is played by Barkhad Abdi, who gives a truly landmark performance in his first acting role.  Much like how I described Fruitvale Station, this film forces you to forget you are watching a dramatization.  It becomes real.  Tom Hanks gives one of his best performances as he subtly explores the full range of emotions this experience takes his character through.  Between Hanks, Abdi, and the dramatic story portrayed, it is a film you won't soon forget.

2.  Gravity (dir. by Alfonso Cuaron)

Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I went to the theatre one day to experience a double feature of Captain Phillips and Gravity.  I was so emotionally exhausted the rest of the day that I couldn't useless for anything else.  I love movies about space (Apollo 13 is my favorite movie of all time) which made this film even more anticipated than it already should have been.  In what became the most intense 91 minutes of the year, I sat on the edge of my seat with my jaw dropped as I watched George Clooney and Sandra Bullock find to stay alive after an unforeseen catastrophe strikes their spaceship.  The story is great, the performances are top notch, but the real story here is the amazing achievement of Cuaron's directing.  The visuals are beautiful and haunting at the same time.  It is a movie worth watching just to look at, but the story  and struggle of the main characters make it truly special.  Oh yeah, and it's in space!  I thought for sure this would be my top movie of the year.

1.  12 Years a Slave (dir. by Steve McQueen)

For the third year in a row, my top film of the year was the winner of the Best Picture Oscar.  It's good to know the Academy has been getting it right.  This is the true story of Solomon Northup, a 19th century Black man that is kidnapped from his home in the north and enslaved for 12 years.  It's a star-studded affair along the lines of Saving Private Ryan where every supporting character is played by a recognizable face.  Like I said, it was going to take something special for Gravity to not be my top movie of 2013, and this was that good.  The moving and inspiring story portrayed is one of the most powerful stories put to film in recent years.  Every performance is spot on, from Chiwetel Ejiofor's Solomon to slavemasters Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender to fellow slave Lupita Nyong'o, and help bring to life the incredible vision of director Steve McQueen.  This is a movie that will be remembered for years to come as a film that brought an era to life much like Schindler's List brought the Holocaust to life.  This movie will go down as a landmark achievement as one of the greatest and most important movies of our generation.

So there's my top 10 list.  Hopefully, my top 10 list of 2014 can come out before we are too far into 2015...