Predicting Where This Year's NBA Rookie Class Will Rank with Best of Last Decade

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2012

DENVER - DECEMBER 2:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Denver Nuggets and LeBron James #23 of the Clevelenad Cavaliers cover each other during the fourth quarter December 2, 2003 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.  Anthony had 26 points; James 19, in the Nuggets' 115-103 win.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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The NBA's 2012 rookie class is a highly-anticipated bunch, and it has a chance to make a bigger splash in the league than the last few rookie classes. But how will it stack up against the best classes of the past decade?

In addition to having potential stars such as Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Jonas Valanciunas and Damian Lillard, the 2012 group has deep talent through the first 45 picks.

Some of them are already making history. Take Lillard, for example. Portland's public relations department reminds us how rare his opening-day company is.


Damian Lillard joins Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as only players in NBA history with at least 20 points and 10 assists in NBA debut.

— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) November 1, 2012



Davis is also on a fast track toward stardom, and several second-rounders have a chance to be impact players. But before we anoint this class as the best group since 1984-85, let's recall some of the best classes of the past 10 years and see if they will measure up.

The 2005 class not only features two of the best point guards of this era, but it was also has a deep cast of competitors.

Behind Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Andrew Bynum, the 2005 lot included playmakers such as Danny Granger, David Lee, Monta Ellis and Marcin Gortat.

This year's collection might eventually be able to rival the 2005 class in some areas, but it won't match the point guard prowess that Paul and Williams brought to the league. Enjoy a complimentary sampling of their Jazz-Hornets days:

What about the exciting 2008 class, which includes Olympic-caliber stars Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love?

This year won't match that elite firepower at the top, but shouldn't it rival 2008 in the depth department?

That's a tall order. as 2008 boasts late first-round and second-round picks such as Roy Hibbert, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum and Goran Dragic, making it one of the best international classes in years.

This year's Perry Jones, Jae Crowder, Quincy Acy and Tyshawn Taylor might be able to challenge them. But remember that 2008 can go even deeper, with the likes of Mario Chalmers, DeAndre Jordan and Omer Asik for good measure.

Unless the 2012 rookies wildly exceed our expectations, they will fall short of the 2008 standard. But that's nothing for them to be ashamed of, as the 2008 lineup is stellar.

Matching the depth of 2005 and 2008 might be too much to ask of the 2012 crew, and matching the star power of the iconic 2003 class is out of the question. So what's the good news for the 2012 outfit?

The good news is that it will be the fourth-best rookie class of the last decade. Here we rank and defend each class:

1. 2003—This was a legendary class due to the Big Four of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, D-Wade and Chris Bosh.

2. 2008—Rose and Westbrook are the two most explosive point guards in NBA history, while Goran Dragic was a huge steal, picked 45th in that class.

3. 2005—Paul and Williams are perennial All-NBA selections, and Ersan Ilyasova and Monta Ellis are second-round steals.

4. 2012—his Kentucky-laden crop will be known for its swingmen and post players, and the success of late-first round picks Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones will define it as an overachieving group.

5. 2004—I project the 2012 class to edge 2004 out, but '04 is still terrific. It boasts four All-Stars plus Al Jefferson and Josh Smith, but the second-round picks were disastrously bad.

6. 2009—Guards ruled this rookie class. There are endless starting-caliber guards from the first round.

7. 2010-—2009 draftee Blake Griffin is a part of this rookie class, and he and John Wall carried the group.

8. 2007—Kevin Durant is the only superstar in this class, but role players abound. For example, Aaron Brooks, Arron Afflalo and Tiago Splitter were picks 26-28.

9. 2006—Flops include Adam Morrison and Patrick O'Bryant. Surprises included Rajon Rondo and Paul Millsap.

10. 2011—Kyrie Irving can ball, and the talent is evenly spread throughout the class, but it's underwhelming.

Overall, the 2012-13 rookie crowd isn't blessed at the point, but they compensate for it at the 2-4 positions. More than anything else, they will be classified as "winners." They will overachieve and be the fourth-best class in the last decade.