NBA Draft 2012: Ranking the First Overall NBA Draft Picks from Last 25 Years

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IMay 31, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: Ranking the First Overall NBA Draft Picks from Last 25 Years

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    Being the first overall pick in the NBA draft is a blessing and a curse.  On one hand, the lucky individual can say that out of all of the college prospects available, they were deemed to be the best.  On the other hand, they are probably under the most pressure out of all active players in their first year in the league.

    Take last year's No. 1 pick, Kyrie Irving.  He only had 11 college games under his belt, but the Cleveland Cavaliers had enough faith in him to use the first pick on him.  Today, he is the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year.

    In other cases, you have guys like Greg Oden, who were picked first and never lived up to the hype.

    Seeing as how the draft lottery was last night and there's only a month to go until the big night, let's rank each of the first overall picks from the past 25 years and see how they stack up.

No. 25: Greg Oden, 2007

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    At 7'0", 285 pounds, Oden certainly had NBA size.  In one year at Ohio State University, he had established himself as a powerful inside presence with the potential to be a great rebounder and shot blocker on the professional level.  Thus, the Portland Trail Blazers used the top pick on him.

    What followed was a bunch of bad luck and a multitude of knee and leg injuries.  Oden missed the entire 2007-2008 campaign recovering from microfracture surgery and has not played since breaking his kneecap on Dec. 5, 2009. 

    The saddest part is that he's only 24 and in a perfect world, his career would just be starting or entering its prime.

    Even worse for the Trail Blazers, Kevin Durant was picked right after Oden.

No. 24: Pervis Ellison, 1989

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    In four years at Louisville, "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison gained a reputation as a strong power forward who could both score and rebound.  The Sacramento Kings picked him first with the hope that he could lead their franchise to success. 

    Sadly, injuries limited him to 34 games his rookie season and he was traded to the Washington Bullets that offseason.

    He went on to have a couple of good seasons and was named Most Improved Player in 1992 but like Oden, knee problems derailed his career and kept him from reaching his potential.  By the time he retired, he had gone from being "Never Nervous" to "Out of Service" Pervis.

    And to think that the Kings passed on two future stars in Tim Hardaway and Shawn Kemp to draft him.

No. 23: Michael Olowokandi, 1998

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    In Olowokandi's defense, his draft class wasn't exactly laden with talent.  Still, his junior season at the University of the Pacific was good enough that the Los Angeles Clippers took him with the first overall pick.

    On the professional level, "The Kandi Man" was never the scoring and rebounding machine he was in college, never averaging more than 12 points and nine boards per game.

    In terms of players drafted after him, do the names Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce ring any bells?

No. 22: Kwame Brown, 2001

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    Entering the NBA right out of high school, Brown was drafted by the Wizards in Michael Jordan's first experience as a front office man.  At 6'11", 270 pounds, he looked like a dominant center just waiting to happen.

    Instead, Brown gained a reputation as a lazy player with a bad attitude and by nothing short of a miracle, he is still in the league today.  For his career, he has averaged just 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds while playing for seven teams.

    Regarding players who were drafted after him, I have two words for you: Pau Gasol.

No. 21: Derrick Coleman, 1990

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    Coleman was not a bad player by any means.  Over the first five years of his career, he was an effective scorer and rebounder for the New Jersey Nets, averaging a double-double for three of those seasons.

    However, like Brown, Coleman had a bad attitude, just gliding by in games and stopping the full effort once he felt he had hit his quota for the night.  He was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1995 and while he had a few more good seasons, he went on the decline rather quickly due to his poor attitude and gaining weight.

    Sure enough, taken right after Coleman in that year's draft was future Hall of Famer and phenomenal leader, Gary "The Glove" Payton.

No. 20: Joe Smith, 1995

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    In two years at Maryland, Smith averaged 20.2 points and 10.7 rebounds.  The 6'10" forward was drafted by the Golden State Warriors and in two and a half years with the team, he proved to be an effective scorer who could also pull down some rebounds.

    However, after a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1998, his numbers took a nosedive.  He managed to stick around until 2011, playing for 10 more teams along the way.

    Ready for the worst part?  During the 1995 draft, when the Minnesota Timberwolves made the fifth pick, they selected a high school stud named Kevin Garnett.  Ironically, he and Smith would later become teammates.

No. 19: Andrea Bargnani, 2006

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    You would think that for someone 7'0", 256 pounds, Bargnani would be a strong low-post presence.  Instead, his defensive game has proven to be nonexistent as he prefers to be a scorer.

    As a result, the Raptors have continued to struggle to find their strong big man who can bring some defense to the table.

    In Bargnani's defense, the 2006 class wasn't exactly stellar.  Still, with names like Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo behind him, it's hard not to put him this low on the list.

No. 18: Andrew Bogut, 2005

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    For the most part, Bogut has done a decent job in his NBA career.  While not the same scorer he was at the University of Utah, he has made a name for himself as a strong defender and prolific shot blocker.

    Yet, the man has always had a problem staying healthy.  Since debuting, he has only played two full seasons.

    Still, when he's at 100 percent, he's a veritable force on the inside.

No. 17: Yao Ming, 2002

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    As the NBA's first Chinese player, Yao was a lot of fun to watch.  He was a great rebounder and blocker and for someone 7'6", he had one of the prettiest jump shots I'd ever seen.

    Unfortunately, because of his size, he was subject to chronic leg injuries, which forced him to miss the entire 2009-2010 season.  The following year, he was only able to appear in five games before getting hurt again.  Prior to this past year, he retired.

    Though his career was cut short, he was still great to watch when healthy.

No. 16: Kenyon Martin, 2000

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    Though Martin's attitude has always been a sensitive subject, he has been a pretty solid power forward since being drafted by the Nets out of Cincinnati. 

    His scoring has been consistent and while his rebounding isn't as high as it should be for someone his size, he has always played tough and put in a hard effort.

    Like so many people named before him, Martin's greatest issue has been staying healthy.  Since making his NBA debut, he has appeared in over 70 games just four times.

    Still, considering how weak his draft class was, it's hard to ask much more of the guy.

No. 15: John Wall, 2010

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    Considering how he entered the league after just one year at Kentucky, Wall has done a good job playing for the Wizards. 

    He is committed to being a team player and though his field goal percentage may say otherwise, the only reason he takes so many shots is because he doesn't exactly have a solid go-to guy.

    Still, despite his inconsistent offensive game, Wall is a good passer and unbelievable defensive pest.  His career is only two seasons old, but he has plenty of time to become an elite point guard, which he will be.

No. 14: Blake Griffin, 2009

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    Before we go any further, let me just say this: Blake Griffin is overrated.  His defensive game has more holes than Spongebob and when it comes to his scoring, it wouldn't hurt to do more than dunking.

    Still, the fact remains that he has averaged a double-double in his two seasons since being drafted out of Oklahoma.  Though I may have issues with how he plays, he's certainly doing something right.

    More importantly, the fans love him!

No. 13: Kyrie Irving, 2011

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    Despite his limited college experience, Irving defied expectations his rookie year.  He averaged 18.5 points and 5.5 assists while making 47 percent of his field goals and shooting 40 percent from downtown.  Naturally, he was named Rookie of the Year.

    The only real mark against him is his assist total, but the Cavaliers are rebuilding.  In due time, that number will rise and so will Cleveland's position in the standings.

No. 12: Glenn Robinson, 1994

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    In two years at Purdue, Robinson was a phenomenal scorer and averaged 27.5 points and 9.7 rebounds. 

    Once the Bucks drafted him, his talents quickly transitioned to the professional level and he averaged 21.9 points his rookie year.

    The man they called "Big Dog" went on to become a reliable scorer before chronic knee troubles forced him to retire at 32.  His career may have been short, but his 20.7 career scoring average is damn impressive.

No. 11: Danny Manning, 1988

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    When the Clippers drafted him out of Kansas, the 6'10" Manning had a reputation as a good scorer who could also rebound. 

    His rebounding never quite followed him to the NBA, but he was still able to become a reliable bench scorer in his 15-year career. 

    In 1998, he was named Sixth Man of the Year when he averaged 13.5 points off the bench for the Phoenix Suns.

    He may not be the best in terms of other first overall picks, but when it comes to reliability, Manning is definitely top notch.

No. 10: Larry Johnson, 1991

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    For someone just 6'6", Johnson proved to be quite the double-double machine while playing for Jerry "The Shark" Tarkanian at UNLV. 

    His explosive style of play led the Charlotte Hornets to use the first pick on him and his college game followed him to the pros as he 19.2 points and 11 boards as a rookie.

    His scoring would permanently drop once he was traded to the defense-oriented New York Knicks in 1996, but his toughness never deserted him and he was a valuable contributor until a balky back forced him to retire at age 31.

    Though he was gone from the game too soon, we'll always have memories of this.

No. 9: Elton Brand, 1999

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    Like most power forwards who played for Mike Krzyzewski, Brand was a threat on both ends of the court. 

    Once the Chicago Bulls drafted him and he made his professional debut, he became a double-double machine and while his team was awful, he could always be counted on to have a big game.

    Today, shoulder problems have robbed the 33-year-old Brand of his former playing style.  Despite that, he still goes out and plays hard night after night and is the unquestioned leader of the Philadelphia 76ers.

No. 8: Dwight Howard, 2004

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    Say what you want about his prima donna-like attitude or the fact that he has no offensive game outside of the paint.  The fact remains that Howard can PLAY. 

    Since the Orlando Magic drafted him, he has single-handedly brought the franchise out of the doldrums and into perennial contention, having taken them to the NBA Finals in 2009.

    Throw in his six All-Star selections and three Defensive Player of the Year trophies, and it's clear that his career has been successful.

No. 7: Allen Iverson, 1996

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    Iverson's career can be defined by two things: his selfish attitude and his incredible scoring ability. 

    Though his attitude got him traded three times and pretty much ran him out of the league after a 14-year career, his four scoring titles and career mark of 26.7 points per game are hard to argue.

    Throw in his 11 All-Star selections, and it's clear that he'll be remembered more for his skills.

No. 6: Chris Webber, 1993

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    One of Michigan's "Fab Five," Webber was drafted by the Orlando Magic and immediately traded to the Golden State Warriors.  He went on to have a successful career that lasted 15 years and saw five All-Star berths.

    In that time, Webber was the unquestioned leader of the Sacramento Kings teams that often came so close to a trip to the NBA Finals, only to be stopped by the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    With his scoring and rebounding abilities, Webber could easily be one of the best players never to win a ring.

No. 5: Derrick Rose, 2008

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    It's hard to say anything bad about Derrick Rose.  In just a few years, the man has turned the Chicago Bulls from a young and inexperienced squad into one that could regularly contend for a title.

    He balances his scoring and passing almost perfectly and while he still has a lot to learn at age 23, the Chicago native has the Bulls playing their best ball since the Jordan years, and his 2011 MVP Award shows it.

No. 4: LeBron James, 2003

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    Though he is one of the NBA's biggest villains, James is still a phenomenal player.  Since being drafted right out of high school, he has turned himself into the best all-around player in the NBA, taking home three MVP Awards and eight All-Star berths.

    This season, for which he won his third MVP trophy, James averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists.  Put him on any other team, and maybe he would have averaged a triple-double.

    He hasn't won a ring yet and many of his critics are hoping he never will, but don't count him out just yet. 

    James is a great player and though I personally can't stand him, it would be a crying shame to see him retire without having won at least one championship.

No. 3: David Robinson, 1987

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    Though drafted in 1987, Robinson did not debut until 1989 due to his compulsory military service, having played his college ball at the U.S. Naval Academy. 

    Despite his delayed start, "The Admiral" scored, rebounded and blocked his way to 10 All-Star games and two NBA championships, not to mention the 1995 MVP Award.

    In 14 seasons, Robinson averaged 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and three blocks and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.  He was one of my favorite players growing up and I'm not ashamed to admit that I miss watching him play.

No. 2: Shaquille O'Neal, 1992

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    I love Robinson, but O'Neal was the most dominant center of his generation.  While the former had a certain finesse to his game, Shaq mostly just fought and charged his way into the paint before unleashing a powerful dunk or going up for a rebound.

    In 19 years, he accomplished more than most NBA players do in an entire career.  The former LSU Tiger took home four championship rings, an MVP trophy, two scoring titles and 15 All-Star selections.  Upon retirement, he had finished with career marks of 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

    He works as a broadcaster today and while entertaining, I know we all miss the Shaq of old.

No. 1: Tim Duncan, 1997

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    Before David Robinson retired, he made sure he left the Spurs with a suitable man to take his place.  That man was Tim Duncan, who has been nothing but exceptional for San Antonio since coming to them out of Wake Forest.

    In his 15 seasons in the Lone Star State, Duncan has stayed committed to excellence day in and day out.  His efforts have earned him and his team four championships.  He has earned himself two MVP Awards and 13 trips to the All-Star Game.

    Currently, he has the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals yet again and the way they're playing now, I smell a fifth championship coming.