Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Year in Review: Terry's Top 10 Films of 2014

I have a rule that I have developed over the last couple years.  I will not publish my top ten films of the year until I have at least seen all of the Oscar Best Picture nominees.  With the busy schedule I keep, this usually means I don't catch all of them until they are all out to rent or buy.  This week I finally saw the last of 2014's eight nominees (and I am glad I did as that last film made my top ten, but more on that later).  I am just happy I am able to put this list out before we reach the midpoint of 2015 ... barely.

Of the 37 movies I have seen from 2014, I gave seven 4 star ratings.  That is my lowest total of 4 stars since 2006.  There were not many great films, but I will say there were a whole lot of good films.  I may have only given seven 4 star ratings, but I also only gave seven ratings under 3 stars.  That is partially because, with a busy schedule, I am very selective in what films I see.  However, I also think there was a lot of quality.  Maybe not high quality, but quality nonetheless.  Anyways, here is the list.

Honorable Mention
Life Itself


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

A Most Violent Year

10.  Edge of Tomorrow
(dir. by Doug Liman)
I don't know how, but it feels like recently the phrase "Tom Cruise Movie" has become synonymous with mediocrity.  I honestly don't know how.  Outside of a couple duds (which, let's face it, everyone has), Cruise has been a steady and bankable action star especially recently with films like Jack Reacher, Oblivion, and the Mission Impossible franchise.  Edge of Tomorrow might be the best of the group.  It truly feels like a throwback action film that is just fun from start to finish.  Cruise and Emily Blunt are great as the two heroes out to save the world.  This is a strange action mix of Groundhog Day and Source Code as Cruise continually relives the same day that he always dies at the end of.  With each new reliving of that same day, he learns a little more about what he has to do to save the world, as he goes from clueless desk jockey to ultimate action hero.  My only two complaints with the film are the title and the timing.  The original title of Live. Die. Repeat. was such a better title for this film.  The timing was another issue I had.  Tom Cruise was just a little too old for this role.  If this had been made about 10 years ago (or with a different lead), it would have potentially been even better.  I can't complain too much about Tom Cruise though.  I would just love to see him throw in a few more critically acclaimed roles that could get him in awards talk again, but I don't see that happening in the near future.  As long as the quality stays up, I don't mind.

9.  Begin Again
(dir. by John Carney)
Possibly my favorite film of the last decade was Once, a small, simple love story with music at the center.  So when I heard director John Carney would be exploring a similar story with Begin Again, it quickly became one of my most anticipated films of the year.  I knew it would be different with big names like Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Mos Def, and Catherine Keener (a far cry from Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) being involved.  It definitely wasn't on the same level of Once, but it was very good in its own way.  Although the characters and details of the story are different, the basic stories of the two films are the same.  Two people develop an incredible bond with the help of music that forces each of them to reevaluate and reassess their lives.  The performances are great, the music is great, the film is great.

8.  Birdman
(dir. by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
I hate putting this film on my list, and it has nothing to do with the film itself.  It had no business winning Best Picture!  However, with that said, Birdman is very good in its own way.  It is such a strange and bizarre film to get the attention it got.  A movie star haunted (quite literally) by his career-defining role tries to reinvent himself through the theater.  It's a simple premise, but nothing about the execution is simple and conventional which is what makes this film endlessly interesting and engaging.  There are two things I love about this movie and one thing I hate.  First, I love the way it is shot.  Sure, there are several camera tricks involved, but it appears to be one continuous shot from start to finish of this movie.  We marvel at the brilliance of one continuous shot that will last 5 minutes or so in other films.  This is one continuous shot for a whole film!  Second, many of the actors seem to be playing slightly slanted (or dare I say ... almost sideways?) versions of themselves.  Michael Keaton plays a washed-out actor known for playing a superhero that is trying to resurrect his career.  Michael Keaton IS a washed-out actor known for playing a superhero that is trying to resurrect his career.  Edward Norton plays a neurotic method actor that everyone loves on stage but hates off stage.  Edward Norton IS a neurotic method actor that everyone loves on stage but hates off stage!!!  Add to that performances by Emma Stone and Naomi Watts that also don't stray too far from reality, and you have a cast playing with their own lives.  This could have been a lot higher on this list if it weren't for the ending.  I hated the ending.  The movie goes about 5 minutes too long.  Chop off that ending, and I would be a little more okay with this film winning Best Picture.  Never mind ... I will never be okay with this winning Best Picture.

7.  The Imitation Game
(dir. by Morten Tyldum)
This biopic is a story I feel has been told before.  In fact, there were two biopics (The Theory of Everything being the other) nominated for Best Picture this year that basically tell the same story.  This one just tells it a lot better.  The obvious comparison for these films about genius minds tortured from within is 2001's A Beautiful Mind, which is an all-time favorite of mine (RIP John and Alicia Nash).  Although The Imitation Game is nowhere near A Beautiful Mind, it is its own type of brilliance as the story plays out quite differently from its doppelganger.  Alan Turing is a genius mind obsessed with puzzles that is given the task of breaking the Nazi coding system during World War II.  With the help of his companions, played by the likes of Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode, he creates the first computer to do it.  All the time, he is haunted by the fact that he is homosexual, something that was illegal in England at the time.  I love watching brilliant minds solve puzzles.  It is one of the things that makes A Beautiful Mind so great.  However, what makes this film unique and special in its own way is Turing's "demon."  It is so different than any of the other similar films because of society's view of homosexuality then, society's view of homosexuality now, and ultimately, how the story is shaped by these perspectives.  It is a fascinating story that, much like John Nash, is one that needed to be told.

6.  The Lego Movie
(dir. by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)
This movie was just plain fun.  Whoever came up with this idea is a genius.  From the very beginning, you realize this would be a movie unlike any other you have seen.  At no point does the LEGO-ness feel like a gimmick.  It stays fresh from start to finish in a way few films are able to accomplish.  All this can be said about many films, but what makes this one special is the ending.  The heart comes out at the end in a way changes your perspective on the whole film.  It gives this silly little LEGO movie meaning and purpose that puts it on par with the Toy Story franchise in how it can relate to multiple age groups on multiple levels.  To paraphrase it's Oscar nominated song, everything was awesome.

5.  Whiplash
(dir. by Damien Chazelle)
As a musician and a teacher, this film automatically appealed to me on a different level.  However, I was not fully prepared for the chaotic ride this film takes you on.  Miles Teller plays an ambitious young drummer looking to impress the dictatorial (emphasis on "dic(k)") band director played by J.K. Simmons.  Simmons's character seems to be never satisfied simply for the sake of never being satisfied.  His search for approval drives the young pupil to the brink of insanity.  Watching this train wreck spiral out of control is sad, frustrating, inspiring, exhausting, and absolutely enthralling.  This film also produced my favorite quote of the year.  "The two worst words in the English language are 'good job.'"

4.  American Sniper
(dir. by Clint Eastwood)
This was the last of the Best Picture nominees I needed to see to make this list, and I am so glad I waited for it.  Bradley Cooper plays real life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American military history.  This film basically becomes a sniper version of 2009's The Hurt Locker, as it tells of the troubled life of a successful military man in the middle of the most recent conflicts in the Middle East.  While Kathryn Bigelow's masterpiece focuses more on the exploits of the deployment, Clint Eastwood's masterpiece focuses much more on the struggle it is to come home.  Being a successful soldier does not necessarily translate to being a successful member of society.  Kyle's wife, played brilliantly by Sienna Miller, learns this fact the hard way as Chris struggles to turn off the instincts that make him such a great soldier.  What makes this so perfect is the subtlety it deals with the subject.  It addresses it without ever really talking about it.  Bradley Cooper gives the best performance of his already impressive career as he is becoming one of the best actors of his generation.

3.  Gone Girl
(dir. by David Fincher)
Some directors just know how to make a certain genre.  With Martin Scorsese, it is mobster drama.  With Quentin Tarantino, it is dialogue driven homage.  With David Fincher, it is crime drama.  From Se7en to The Game to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fincher has shown time and time again that he is the master of this domain.  Gone Girl is the latest to enter his canon, and it belongs solidly on his list of masterpieces.  Ben Affleck plays a troubled and shady character who is trying not to become a suspect in his wife's disappearance and possible murder.  This really feels like several different films thrown into one, as you are not really sure what is going on until halfway through the film.  Rosamund Pike gives a performance that should finally make her a household name.  Supporting characters played by Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, and Tyler Perry (yes, that Tyler Perry) round out a truly perfect cast.  This film leaves you guessing from start to finish at what is really going on, and it never seems to be what is expected.  It truly is Fincher at his best.

2.  Selma
(dir. by Ava DuVernay)
What an important story this is to tell, and what an important time to tell it.  Selma tells the inspiring story of Martin Luther King, Jr. leading his peaceful, non-violent march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery.  Led by David Oyelowo as MLK, this film does the very difficult task of blurring the lines between dramatization and reality.  You forget at times that you are not watching this happen live instead of watching a movie made 50 years later.  This film stirred so many emotions for me.  First, the story itself is so inspiring.  To see a group of people mistreated so universally by those around them, and to see a reaction come from such a place of strength and bravery is one of the greatest tales of the human condition I have seen in some time.  However, it also forces me to look at our current culture now and the issues with discrimination that have emerged once again.  People on every side of the current argument could learn from a film like Selma.  It is illogical to hate someone on the basis of something someone can't choose, like skin color.  However, whether any action is spurned by race or not, the other main lesson that can be learned from Selma is the way you fight violence towards minorities is through the strength of non-violence that Dr. King showed on that bridge leaving Selma.  How badly this generation needs their own Martin Luther King, Jr....

1.  Boyhood
(dir. by Richard Linklater)
With the strength of all the films on this list, there was no question what the top film on this list would be.  I cannot remember a movie-going experience quite like seeing Richard Linklater's Boyhood.  That is exactly what seeing this movie is too: an experience.  This film tells the story of growing up over a 12 year period.  The movie was filmed in short episodes with one being shot every year for 12 years.  We truly see the characters grow up.  This could have easily become just a gimmick of the film, but it truly worked and told a story from start to finish.  The best part was the story was very subtle, much like growing up actually is.  This is a film everyone needs to see.  It is a landmark achievement in filmmaking that should go down in history with some of the all-time greats.  It tells the story of a generation because, honestly, it took that long to make it.  It is one of the best films to come out in some time and will set a standard for films moving forward.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Power Rankings: NBA Draft Classes - 2015 Edition

With the end of the NBA season now here (congratulations to the Golden State Warriors by the way), the NBA Draft is very quickly upon us.  Last year, I posted a ranking of the best draft classes over the last 25 years.  I decided that, with another draft class to add to the rankings and more knowledge about some of the younger classes, it was time to reevaluate.  I revisited every draft class and evaluated the best and worst of each.  In last year's Power Ranking, I went into detail on how the scoring system works.  I made one slight modification to the scoring system.  Each draft class gets an additional point for every league MVP to be won by a member of the draft class, with another added point awarded for each player from the draft class to win the MVP.  I thought it would make sense to consider how many times that draft class produced the best player in the league for a season and how many players were able to accomplish that feat.  With that said, let the countdown begin!

The average score of the 26 draft classes is just above a 12.5.

26.  2013 Class
# 25 last year
Score: -9.25
1st Pick: Anthony Bennett (26th)
Best Player: Giannis Antetokoumpo (26th)
All Stars: 0
All NBA: 0
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 12
Top 10 Flops: 4
Worst Flop: Anthony Bennett (1st - Cleveland Cavaliers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 0

Last year, I said the jury was still out on this class.  Although they improved their score slightly, David Stern's last draft is starting to look like an all-time worst.  There is some promising talent in this class that is still developing (Victor Oladipo, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Kelly Olynyk), and the emergence of the Greek Freak gives this class some hope.  However, they join the most recent draft as the only ones not to log an All Star or All NBA selection, half the top 10 looks to be busts, and the whole second round was a waste.  The most notable player not picked in the first round might be a player who wasn't even drafted: Matthew Dellavedova.  On top of that, Anthony Bennett is on track to be the worst top pick the NBA has ever seen.  At least a bust like Greg Oden could blame injuries, and a bust like Michael Olowokandi still had a 10 year semi-productive career.  If nothing changes, Bennett could be out of the league by the end of next season with nothing to blame but his poor performance.

25.  2014 Class
NR last year
Score: -4
1st Pick: Andrew Wiggins (14th)
Best Player: Andrew Wiggins (23rd)
All Stars: 0
All NBA: 0
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 18
Top 10 Flops: 3
Worst Flop: Joel Embiid (3rd - Philadelphia 76ers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 1

Yes, even the most recent class bested the 2013 class.  This class will only be moving higher in the future as Andrew Wiggins continues to develop into the All Star everyone expects him to be.  Add to that guys like Jabari Parker coming off injury, Marcus Smart, and others, this is a solid class.  One player that can truly make this a special class is Joel Embiid.  If he is able to come back from injury and be the talent everyone thinks he can be, then this could be a top 10 class.

24.  2000 Class
# 24 last year
Score: 1.5
1st Pick: Kenyon Martin (16th)
Best Player: Michael Redd (25th)
All Stars: 3 (Kenyon Martin, Jamaal Magloire, Michael Redd)
All NBA: 1 (Michael Redd)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 8
Top 10 Flops: 6
Worst Flop: DerMarr Johnson (6th - Atlanta Hawks)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 1

This class seems to be pretty set in its place in history as most of these players are now out of the league.  There are some impact players still in the league like Mike Miller, Jamal Crawford, and Hedo Turkoglu, but they are definitely in the twilight of their careers.  It is pretty telling just how weak the draft is when your only All NBA player was originally a 2nd round pick.

23.  2010 Class
# 23 last year
Score: 4.25
1st Pick: John Wall (13th)
Best Player: DeMarcus Cousins (24th)
All Stars: 3 (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George)
All NBA: 2 (DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 11
Top 10 Flops: 4
Worst Flop: Al-Farouq Aminu (# 8 - LA Clippers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2

There is some other decent talent in this draft class, but the success of this class revolves around Wall, Cousins, and George.  Wall and Cousins have had questions about effort and motivation, while George will be trying to regain his form after a horrific injury playing with Team USA last summer.  If they can actually look like the players their talent says they should be, this draft class could still improve its positioning.

22.  2006 Class
# 21 last year
Score: 6.25
1st Pick: Andrea Bargnani (20th)
Best Player: LaMarcus Aldridge (14th)
All Stars: 5 (LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap)
All NBA: 3 (LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Rajon Rondo)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 8
Top 10 Flops: 7
Worst Flop: Adam Morrison (# 3 - Charlotte Bobcats)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 4

When this class was good, it was great.  Aldridge is one of the better players in the league right now, and Paul Millsap might be the best 2nd round selection in the last 10 years.  However, this is by far the worst top 10 of any draft class on the list.  I counted 7 flops in the top 10, but let's look at it a little closer.  Outside of Aldridge, the other two "successes" are Rudy Gay, who has played for three teams in his nine year career, and Brandon Roy, who after being the Rookie of the Year was forced into early retirement due to bad knees.  So Aldridge is the only top 10 pick still making an impact on his original team (well, after the draft day trade for Tyrus Thomas).

21.  2011 Class
# 22 last year
Score: 8.75
1st Pick: Kyrie Irving (8th)
Best Player: Kyrie Irving (20th)
All Stars: 3 (Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler)
All NBA: 2 (Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 7
Top 10 Flops: 5
Worst Flop: Derrick Williams (2nd - Minnesota Timberwolves)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2

The two best players from this draft class just faced off in the NBA Finals.  With Klay and Kyrie leading the class, and the emergence of Jimmy Butler and Isaiah Thomas, this class ended up having a solid core.  However, when it missed, it was bad.  From Derrick Williams to Jonas Valanciunas to Bismack Biyombo to the great Jimmer Fredette, this class had more duds than studs.

20.  2004 Class
# 12 last year
Score: 9
1st Pick: Dwight Howard (9th)
Best Player: Dwight Howard (17th)
All Stars: 5 (Dwight Howard, Devin Harris, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Jameer Nelson)
All NBA: 2 (Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 13
Top 10 Flops: 4
Worst Flop: Luke Jackson (10th - Cleveland Cavaliers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2

This draft class tumbled down the rankings this year for one primary reason: Dwight Howard.  We have gotten used to looking at Dwight Howard as a possible all-time great big man, but this season started to make everyone wonder if Dwight Howard will ever become what we hoped he could be.  Sadly, it looks like his best is behind him, which means he will never reach the lofty heights he once had the potential of attaining.

19.  1989 Class
# 20 last year
Score: 9.75
1st Pick: Pervis Ellison (22nd)
Best Player: Shawn Kemp (16th)
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)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 6
Top 10 Flops: 6
Worst Flop: Pervis Ellison (1st - Sacramento Kings)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2

This is a draft class full of good players with very few great players.  Add to that a major bust out of your first overall pick, and you take what could have been one of the better all-around draft classes and put it in the back third of this list.

18.  2007 Class
# 16 last year
Score: 9.75
1st Pick: Greg Oden (24th)
Best Player: Kevin Durant (10th)
All Stars: 4 (Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol)
All NBA: 4 (Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol)
MVP's: 1 (Kevin Durant - 2014)
Never Played: 11
Top 10 Flops: 4
Worst Flop: Greg Oden (1st - Portland TrailBlazers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 5

This draft class produced possibly the biggest disparity between the first and second picks.  The Blazers went with Oden, who barely saw the court due to injuries.  The Sonics (damn you, Clay Bennett) went with Durant, who looks like he could be an all-time great.  However, recent injuries force you to question just how long Durant will be able to be as great as he has been.  If things go poorly and Durant ends up never recovering from his current injuries, this may go down as the draft of greatness that never was.

17.  2001 Class
# 10 last year
Score: 11
1st Pick: Kwame Brown (25th)
Best Player: Tony Parker (19th)
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)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 8
Top 10 Flops: 5
Worst Flop: Kwame Brown (1st - Washington Wizards)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3

This draft class is just below average out of the 26 classes.  There were a lot of really good players that came out of this class, however all that is overshadowed by the big bust at the top in Kwame Brown.  Not even Michael Jordan coming out of retirement could make Kwame work in the NBA.  This pick I think single-handedly started the conversation of disallowing high schoolers from entering the Draft.

16.  1991 Class
# 17 last year
Score: 11.25
1st Pick: Larry Johnson (15th)
Best Player: Dikembe Mutombo (8th)
All Stars: 7 (Larry Johnson, Kenny Anderson, Dikembe Mutombo, Steve Smith, Terrell Brandon, Dale Davis, Chris Gatling)
All NBA: 2 (Larry Johnson, Dikembe Mutombo)
MVP's: 0
HOF: 1 (Dikembe Mutombo)
Never Played: 10
Top 10 Flops: 4
Worst Flop: Billy Owens (3rd - Golden State Warriors)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 1

This is another draft class with a lot of good players but few great ones.  Even Billy Owens, the Draft's biggest flop, was a solid pro, but when he is the only player out of the top five not to be an All Star, it makes him a flop.  This draft does have one of the few Hall of Famers from these draft classes so far, but also had a lackluster 2nd round with very little value.  All this adds up to an average class.

15.  1995 Class
# 18 last year
Score: 11.5
1st Pick: Joe Smith (21st)
Best Player: Kevin Garnett (5th)
All Stars: 6 (Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Theo Ratliff, Michael Finley)
All NBA: 2 (Antonio McDyess, Kevin Garnett)
MVP's: 1 (Kevin Garnett - 2004)
Never Played: 8
Top 10 Flops: 4
Worst Flop: Bryant Reeves (6th - Vancouver Grizzlies)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2

This draft class was helped by the scoring change of adding in points for MVP awards.  Kevin Garnett you could say led to the phenomenon of picking high schoolers that led to terrible picks like Kwame Brown going first.  He also remains one of the few players still on a roster that was drafted in the '90s.

14.  1993 Class
# 6 last year
Score: 13
1st Pick: Chris Webber (11th)
Best Player: Chris Webber (21st)
All Stars: 7 (Chris Webber, Anfernee Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Vin Baker, Allan Houston, Sam Cassell, Nick Van Exel)
All NBA: 5 (Chris Webber, Anfernee Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Vin Baker, Sam Cassell)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 11
Top 10 Flops: 5
Worst Flop: Shawn Bradley (2nd - Philadelphia 76ers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3

The first draft class to be above the average line, the 1993 class got a lot of stuff right at the top of the draft as five of the top 11 became All Stars.  Chris Webber became one of the best personalities in the NBA for more than a decade, and Penny Hardaway became the first of Shaq's many mini sidekicks.  I think the most important lesson learned from this draft class came from Shawn Bradley.  Just because you are taller than everyone doesn't mean you will be better than everyone.

13.  2005 Class
# 5 last year
Score: 13
1st Pick: Andrew Bogut (19th)
Best Player: Chris Paul (13th)
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)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 5
Top 10 Flops: 4
Worst Flop: Ike Diogu (9th - Golden State Warriors)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 4

This draft class dropped greatly in the rankings this year.  What was a top five class last year is now out of the top ten.  There are a few things that play into this.  First, the MVP's won by players in other draft classes have allowed them to hop over the class of 2005.  Also, I may have been a little more critical of Chris Paul's place among the all-time greats than I was last year.  Ranking these players is so hard!

12.  1994 Class
# 13 last year
Score: 13.25
1st Pick: Glenn Robinson (18th)
Best Player: Jason Kidd (6th)
All Stars: 5 (Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Juwan Howard, Eddie Jones)
All NBA: 4 (Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Juwan Howard, Eddie Jones)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 9
Top 10 Flops: 2
Worst Flop: Sharone Wright (6th - Philadelphia 76ers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2

This is an interesting draft class to be this high.  There is not much that separates this class from some of the so-so classes near the bottom of this class.  The difference with the 1994 class comes from a couple different things.  First, Jason Kidd is one of the best point guards to be drafted in the last 26 years.  Second, there were very few mistakes made in the top 10 of this draft.  With only two flops in the top ten, this is one of the best top tens of any class.  It turned out to be not very deep though, as all of this class's All Stars came from the top ten.

11.  1990 Class
# 9 last year
Score: 13.5

1st Pick: Derrick Coleman (17th)
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)
MVP's: 0
HOF: 1 (Gary Payton)
Never Played: 2
Top 10 Flops: 6
Worst Flop: Chris Jackson (3rd - Denver Nuggets)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3

This is an interesting class, headlined by Gary Payton, one of the more versatile point guards of his generation.  It is forgotten just how good Derrick Coleman was for awhile in the early '90s.  Injuries derailed what could have been a great career.  Could we be looking at Dwight Howard following a similar career path to Derrick Coleman?

10.  2002 Class
# 14 last year
Score: 13.75
1st Pick: Yao Ming (6th)
Best Player: Yao Ming (18th)
All Stars: 4 (Yao Ming, Amare Stoudemire, Caron Butler, Carlos Boozer)
All NBA: 3 (Yao Ming, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 9
Top 10 Flops: 4
Worst Flop: Nikoloz Tskitishvili (5th - Denver Nuggets)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3

It is amazing to think about how good Yao could have been if he hadn't gotten hurt.  Thinking about his foot problems that ended his career makes me nervous looking at the future of a player like Kevin Durant.  Seeing a player like Carlos Boozer come out of the second round adds to the overall depth and strength of the draft class.

9.  1998 Class
# 15 last year
Score: 15
1st Pick: Michael Olowokandi (23rd)
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)
MVP's: 1 (Dirk Nowitzki, 2007)
Never Played: 2
Top 10 Flops: 3
Worst Flop: Michael Olowokandi (1st - LA Clippers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 4

This draft class hopped into the top 10 this year, which is strange when you consider that Michael Olowokandi is one of the worst top picks in draft history.  However, he was one of the few misses in this draft which produced three of the best players of the last 15 years in Carter, Pierce, and former MVP Dirk.  Also, it helps that only two players drafted that year never saw the court in the NBA, which is tied for the lowest number of any draft class.

8.  2012 Class
# 19 last year
Score: 16
1st Pick: Anthony Davis (5th)
Best Player: Anthony Davis (11th)
All Stars: 2 (Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard)
All NBA: 2 (Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 5
Top 10 Flops: 1
Worst Flop: Thomas Robinson (5th - Sacramento Kings)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 1

Before it is all said and done, this could be competing with some of the best draft classes on this list.  This class took a big leap this year with the emergence of Anthony Davis as the next great superstar.  Damian Lillard has also shown the ability to be a perennial All Star as well.  Part of what makes this draft class strong is we simply don't know enough about some of the top picks to determine whether they are busts or not.  As it stands now though, there is only one bust, Thomas Robinson, and even he has shown signs of being a solid NBA pro.  He has just been hurt by playing on 4 teams in his first 3 seasons.  Add to that only 5 players not playing yet from this class, and recent NBA Finals hero Draymond Green coming from this class's 2nd round, and you have a class that will be fun to track over the next 10 years.

7.  1999 Class
# 4 last year
Score: 17.75
1st Pick: Elton Brand (12th)
Best Player: Manu Ginobili (22nd)
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)
MVP's: 0
Never Played: 12
Top 10 Flops: 1
Worst Flop: Jonathan Bender (5th - Indiana Pacers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2

This draft class does not have any all-time greats in it, but it produced about as many good players as any other draft class.  With six of the top 10 ending up All Stars, and the best player from the class being the second to last pick of the draft, you have a strong draft class and a deep class.  Its drop in the rankings this year is due to the fact that it didn't have an all-time great, and therefore did not have an MVP in this class.

6.  1997 Class
# 8 last year
Score: 18
1st Pick: Tim Duncan (2nd)
Best Player: Tim Duncan (3rd)
All Stars: 3 (Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, Tracey McGrady)
All NBA: 3 (Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, Tracey McGrady)
MVP's: 2 (Tim Duncan - 2002, 2003)
Never Played: 10
Top 10 Flops: 5
Worst Flop: Adonal Foyle (8th - Golden State Warriors)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 1

This is a great example of how one transcendent player can save a draft class from infamy.  If it wasn't for Tim Duncan being one of the best players of all time, there would be very little in this class to talk about.  However, Duncan is one of only three multiple MVP winners drafted in this era and has single-handedly placed this class in the top ten.

5.  2009 Class
# 11 last year
Score: 18.25
1st Pick: Blake Griffin (7th)
Best Player: Stephen Curry (12th)
All Stars: 6 (Blake Griffin, James Harden, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague)
All NBA: 3 (Blake Griffin, James Harden, Stephen Curry)
MVP's: 1 (Stephen Curry - 2015)
Never Played: 10
Top 10 Flops: 3
Worst Flop: Hasheem Thabeet (2nd - Memphis Grizzlies)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 3

This draft class is on the rise and should continue to improve year after year.  There are truly four players (Griffin, Harden, Curry, DeRozen) that have the potential of being some of the league's best players for the next decade.  This year saw the emergence especially of Harden and reigning league MVP and NBA champion Curry, who many are saying could go down as one of the greatest shooters the league has ever seen.

4.  2008 Class
# 7 last year
Score: 19.5
1st Pick: Derrick Rose (10th)
Best Player: Russell Westbrook (15th)
All Stars: 5 (Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert)
All NBA: 5 (Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan, Goran Dragic)
MVP's: 1 (Derrick Rose - 2011)
Never Played: 10
Top 10 Flops: 2
Worst Flop: Michael Beasley (2nd - Miami Heat)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 4

It is strange to have a class of players still in the prime of their career where the one player to win a league MVP is not the current best player from the class.  However, thanks to Derrick Rose's constant knee injuries over the last few years, he is constantly trying to work his way back to the lofty heights he once knew.  In the mean time, players like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love have taken the torch as the best the class has to offer, and they ain't bad either.  This is also the first class to boast two All NBA players from its 2nd round.  There are also other players like Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, and George Hill that could potentially make an All Star Team or All NBA team before all is said and done.  This draft class, although already up to 4th, can still move higher if all works out well.

3.  1992 Class
# 3 last year
Score: 21.75
1st Pick: Shaquille O'Neal (3rd)
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)
MVP's: 1 (Shaquille O'Neal - 2000)
HOF: 1 (Alonzo Mourning)
Never Played: 6
Top 10 Flops: 4
Worst Flop: Todd Day (8th - Milwaukee Bucks)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2

This draft class was special, as it produced two of the greatest centers the league has ever seen.  Shaq and Zo may be the best top two picks of any draft class discussed here.  This class also has one of the most decorated collegiate players of all time in Christian Laettner who many people view as a bust, but he did make an All Star team in a career that lasted more than a decade.  With time, this class will probably lose a little ground to some of the younger classes that could potentially pass it up.  It won't be easy though as they are over two points passed 4th place right now though, and their score isn't done either as Shaq will definitely end up in the Hall of Fame before all is said and done.

2.  2003 Class
# 2 last year
Score: 32
1st Pick: LeBron James (1st)
Best Player: LeBron James (1st)
All Stars: 9 (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Chris Kaman, David West, Josh Howard, Mo Williams, Kyle Korver)
All NBA: 4 (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade)
MVP's: 4 (LeBron James - 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013)
Never Played: 11
Top 10 Flops: 4
Worst Flop: Darko Milicic (2nd - Detroit Pistons)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 6

Having the best player of a generation would be one way to have a top draft class, which this class has.  However, this class has four of the best players of the last decade in James, Anthony, Bosh, and Wade.  It is also tied for the second most All Stars of any draft class on the list, with that list expanding this last season with Kyle Korver making his first All Star Game in his 12th season.  It is very possible for this score to keep growing as LeBron could still win more MVP awards and will eventually be a Hall of Famer.  This may not be the best draft class on this list, but it is definitely the best draft class of this generation.

1.  1996 Class
# 1 last year
Score: 34.25
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)
MVP's: 4 (Allen Iverson - 2001; Steve Nash - 2005, 2006; Kobe Bryant - 2008)
Never Played: 11
Top 10 Flops: 3
Worst Flop: Lorenzen Wright (7th - LA Clippers)
Notable 2nd Rounders: 2

When I added the new category of MVP awards in the scoring system this year, I thought it might change our top draft class on the list in what was a very close competition last year.  However, it just made this draft class look even more impressive.  It still has more All Stars than any other class and more All NBA players than any other class.  It is tied with 2003 for most MVP awards, but where LeBron has won all the trophies for the 2nd place class, this is the first class to have multiple players win an MVP, and it has three.  Steve Nash is only the 3rd player in this era to have multiple MVP awards.  Marcus Camby was the second overall pick, and although he never made an All Star Game or All NBA Team, he did win a Defensive Player of the Year Award.  Forget this era, this may be the greatest draft class the NBA has ever seen.