Ranking Each NBA Team's Best Rookie Ever
While not every NBA team has enjoyed the ultimate success of winning a championship, each and every one has had at least one special rookie in their existence.
Evaluating college prospects accurately is not something that everyone can do as it is an inexact science. There are a multitude of variables that play into success at the NBA level, with many of those variables being uncontrollable by an organization.
Few things can create a spark in a fanbase more than a talented rookie, as young players bring a promise of a bright future with them.
Just like in any competitive setting, certain teams have had more success in cultivating rookies than others. According to NBAUniverse.com, the Golden State Warriors have had six of their rookies win the Rookie of the Year Award, which is the most among all teams.
The players on this list all had exceptional rookie seasons , even if some of their careers fizzled out slowly after that.
All statistics used in this article are from Basketball-reference.com.
Atlanta Hawks: Bob Pettit
The Atlanta Hawks selected Bob Pettit with the second overall pick of the 1954 draft and were not disappointed.
In his rookie season, Pettit averaged 20.4 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Pettit was awarded the 1955 Rookie of the Year Trophy for that effort, as he was a key member of that year's Milwaukee Hawks team.
The Hawks finished with the worst record in the conference during Pettit's rookie year, so it's scary to imagine how bad they would have been without Pettit.
Pettit played for the Hawks franchise for his entire NBA career, which would explain why he is one of the best Hawks in history.
While not related to his rookie year, Pettit was the first player to win the Most Valuable Player Award in 1956.
Boston Celtics: Larry Bird
Larry Bird was drafted with the sixth pick in 1978 draft. Due to the rules at the time, Bird was allowed to stay at Indiana State University for another season
When Bird got to the NBA during the 1979-80 season, he had one of the best rookie seasons in history, as he averaged 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 47.4 percent from the field.
Not surprisingly, Bird was rewarded with the Rookie of the Year Award as he finished above future rival Magic Johnson in the voting.
From the start, Bird proved that he was a special player, which he continued to show until he retired from the league in 1992.
Brooklyn Nets: Buck Williams
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The New Jersey Nets used the third overall pick on Buck Williams in the 1981 NBA Draft, and he rewarded them with 15.5 points and 12.3 rebounds during his rookie season.
With the strong performance of Williams, the Nets were able to win 20 more games than they won during the pervious season.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Williams finished his season with 11.4 Win Shares which turned out to be the highest score of his career.
After his first five seasons in the league, Williams was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Charlotte Bobcats: Emeka Okafor
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The Charlotte Bobcats were going to select the big man that the Orlando Magic didn't in the 2004 NBA Draft, as the Magic held the number one pick and the right to select either Dwight Howard or Emeka Okafor.
As history shows, the Magic decided to draft Howard right out of high school, which in turn allowed the Bobcats to select Emeka Okafor who was the Most Outstanding Player from the 2004 NCAA Championship.
In his debut season, Okafor won the Rookie of the Year Award, as he averaged 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game for a terrible Bobcats team.
Okafor has never averaged more points than he did his rookie season, as his scoring production regressed consistently after his first season.
Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan
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While there was considerable hype surrounding Michael Jordan, few would have thought that the Chicago Bulls had selected the best player in NBA history with the third pick of the 1984 draft.
During his first season in the Windy City, Jordan averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while shooting 51.5 percent from the floor.
Jordan posted a PER of 25.2 as a rookie, which was second in the league behind only Larry Bird.
At the end of his first season, Jordan was appointed to the All-NBA Second Team. While that was a great honor for the rookie, he would end up being named to the First Team 10 times.
Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James
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LeBron James was hailed as the NBA's next great player when the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him with the first pick during the 2003 draft.
LeBron has never failed to produce on the basketball court and that includes his first season in which he won the Rookie of the Year Award.
In his first season with the Cavs, James averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while playing 39.5 minutes per night. LeBron also brought hope and optimism to the Cavalier franchise, which is something that cannot be measured quantitatively.
The 2004 Rookie of the Year Award race will always be remembered, as LeBron beat fellow future Hall of Fame member Carmelo Anthony to win the prize.
Dallas Mavericks: Jason Kidd
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The Dallas Mavericks made a spectacular second round selection when they scooped up Jason Kidd during the 1994 NBA Draft.
Kidd made an impact from the start, as he averaged 11.7 points, 7.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals during his rookie season. As a point guard, Kidd has always found a way to fill up the stat sheet, and that started during his first season.
When Kidd entered the league, he was not an efficient of a three-point shooter as evidenced by his 38.5 percent conversion rate from behind the arc as a rookie.
Kidd had two separate tenures as a member of the Mavericks, although he was never with the team during his prime.
Denver Nuggets: Carmelo Anthony
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The Denver Nuggets were fortunate that Carmelo Anthony fell to them during the 2003 NBA Draft, as he was the most talented scorer that the franchise ever had.
During his rookie season, Anthony averaged 21 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 42.6 percent from the floor. While Anthony was without a doubt one of the best two rookies in league during the 2004 season, he finished behind LeBron James in the Rookie of the Year Award voting.
Anthony aided the Nuggets playoff run during his rookie season, as finished the season with the team's third best PER.
Detroit Pistons: Grant Hill
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Grant Hill was named the co-Rookie of the Year in 1995, as he tied Dallas Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd in the voting.
Hill continued to build on his successful college career at Duke during his rookie season with the Detroit Pistons, as he averaged 19.9 points, 5 assists and 4.6 rebounds.
During his rookie season, Hill was by far the best player on the Pistons, as he finished the season with a team-high PER of 19.
Hill's strong performance was not enough to save the Pistons from embarrassment, as they finished the season 28-54.
Golden State Warriors: Wilt Chamberlain
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Wilt Chamberlain is best known for scoring 100 points as a member of the Philadelphia Warriors. While the Warriors franchise has moved a couple times, Chamberlain's heroic achievement will never be wiped from the record books.
Chamberlain will be remembered for more than just that, as he was one of the most dominant players in NBA history.
During his rookie season, Chamberlain averaged 37.6 points and 27 rebounds while shooting 46.1 percent from the field. That type of domination is no longer possible in the NBA due to various rule changes, but it is beyond remarkable that Chamberlain was able to put up such gaudy numbers.
Houston Rockets: Elvin Hayes
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During his first season with the San Diego Rockets, Elvin Hayes averaged 28.4 points and 17.1 rebounds per game.
Hayes led the league in scoring as a rookie, which is a feat that has not been matched by any rookie since.
Hayes was named the Rookie of the Year in 1969, as he was one of the best players in the entire league.
The Rockets moved to Houston in 1971, although Hayes only played there for one season before changing venues.
Indiana Pacers: Chuck Person
Chuck Person had one of the best careers in Indiana Pacers history, as he got off to a quick start after being drafted in 1986.
In his first season with the Pacers, Person averaged 18.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists while shooting 46.8 percent from the field.
Person was awarded with the 1987 Rookie of the Year Award, which turned out to be the most prestigious award that the competitive Person was able to win.
The Auburn alumni played more minutes than any other Pacer during his rookie season, which shows just how much his team depended on him from the onset of his career.
Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin
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Blake Griffin is the youngest player on this list, as he was a rookie during the 2010-11 season.
In his first season with the Los Angeles Clippers, Griffin averaged a career-high 22.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists as the rest of the league had no answer for his freakish athleticism.
The basketball world will be closely watching the relationship between Griffin and the Clippers, as there would be a fair amount of suitors if the young power forward hit the open market.
Griffin was also one of the main reasons that Chris Paul agreed to get traded to the Clippers, as the talented point guard clearly believes in Griffin's talent.
Los Angeles Lakers: Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor is second from the right.
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The Los Angeles Lakers have had some of the best players in league history on their roster, but they never employed a better rookie than Elgin Baylor.
During his rookie season in 1958-59, Baylor averaged 24.9 points and 15 rebounds per contest. Baylor was by far the best player on the Lakers during his first season, as he posted a PER of 23.6.
Baylor was one of the most well-rounded big men in league history, as he was adept at rebounding, scoring and passing.
Memphis Grizzlies: Pau Gasol
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The Atlanta Hawks drafted Pau Gasol with the first pick of the 2001 draft but traded his rights to the Memphis Grizzlies. Gasol quickly rewarded the Grizzlies for that action, as he won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2002.
During his first season, Gasol averaged 17.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 blocks as his game easily translated in the NBA.
From the start, Gasol was one of the league's most versatile big men, as he was comfortable in the post and at the elbow.
Gasol has been the definition of consistency throughout his career, so he should be expected to get through his current rough patch with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade
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Out of that group, Wade is the only player that owns multiple championship rings.
During his rookie season, Wade averaged 16.2 points, 4 rebounds and 4.5 assists, as he finished behind James and Anthony in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Wade is the only member of the top-five picks from 2003 that is still on the team that drafted him, which is why the Heat were the ultimate winners on draft night nine years ago.
Milwaukee Bucks: Lew Alcindor
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Prior to getting his name changed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was known as Lew Alcindor.
In his first season with the Milwaukee Bucks, Alcindor averaged 28.8 points and 14.5 rebounds per game as he was a dominant presence in the post.
Alcinder was the Bucks premier player from the onset, as he posted a team-high PER of 22.5 and led them to the second best record in the Eastern Division.
Alcinder's presence changed the matchups that his teammates saw, as his dominance made it easier for those on his team.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Christian Laettner
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Christian Laettner had a dominant collegiate career at Duke but did not have the athleticism to dominance in the NBA.
Laettner was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the third pick in the 1992 draft and it appeared as if he would live up to the hype after his rookie season.
In his first year, Laettner averaged what would be a career-high 18.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
The Wolves were one of the few teams that have never had a player win the Rookie of the Year Award, which makes Laettner the clear choice.
New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul
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Chris Paul was a franchise changing player from the moment that he stepped on the court for the New Orleans Hornets during the 2005-06 season.
Paul has always been a fantastic leader, superb ball handler and good shooter, which has made him the league's best point guard.
During his rookie season, Paul averaged 16.1 points, 7.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds as he led the team with a PER of 22.1. That performance earned him the Rookie of the Year Award in 2006, and he has not looked back since.
New York Knicks: Willis Reed
Willis Reed on the left.
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The New York Knicks drafted Willis Reed with the eight pick in the 1964 draft, and an argument could be made that he is the most talented player that the organization has ever drafted.
Reed was known for being physical on both ends of the court, as his 6'9" frame made him extremely versatile.
In his first season with the team, Reed was crowned as Rookie of the Year after averaging 19.5 points and 14.7 rebounds per game.
Reed was named an All-Star as a rookie, which was the first of his seven appearances in the game.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant
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The Seattle Supersonics were fortunate that the Portland Trail Blazers selected Greg Oden with the first pick of the 2007 draft, as it allowed the Sonics to draft Texas product Kevin Durant.
Durant was named the 2007-08 Rookie of the Year, as he averaged 20.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists on a bad Sonics team.
After his rookie season, the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and were renamed the Thunder.
Since then, Durant has led the Thunder to the NBA's mountain top.
Orlando Magic: Shaquille O'Neal
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Shaquille O'Neal averaged 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks as a rookie for the Orlando Magic.
O'Neal's success was reminiscent of the performances of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Shaq put the Magic on the map, as his dominant game took the league by storm.
Shaq was voted into the All-Star Game and was also named Rookie of the Year for the 1992-93 season.
The Magic were not the main beneficiaries of Shaq's historic career, as he won three titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with their Southeast division rival Miami Heat.
Philadelphia 76ers: Allen Iverson
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Allen Iverson was extremely productive as a rookie, as he averaged 23.5 points, 7.5 assists and 2.1 steals as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1996-97 season.
While Iverson is remembered for his "practice" rant, it would not have been as memorable had he not dominated in his rookie season to build to his legend.
Iverson was crowned the Rookie of the Year in 1997, as his playmaking ability was absolutely electrifying.
Phoenix Suns: Walter Davis
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Walter Davis averaged a career-high 24.2 points as a rookie for the Phoenix Suns during the 1977-78 season.
The Suns nabbed Davis with the fifth pick of the 1977 draft and he played for the franchise for 11 years.
Davis was rewarded for his strong rookie season when he was named the Rookie of the Year and to the All-NBA Second team.
Davis was the perfect complement to Paul Westphal from day one, as the duo both post PER's of over 20 in their first season together.
Portland Trail Blazers: Brandon Roy
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Brandon Roy has been in the news recently as his comeback has been stalled by his bum knees.
Roy was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 2006 draft and he got off to a quick start.
During his rookie campaign, Roy averaged 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4 assists and was awarded by being named the Rookie of the Year.
Sacramento Kings: Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson on the left.
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Oscar Robertson almost averaged a triple-double for the Cincinnati Royals during his rookie campaign in 1960-61.
As a rookie, Robertson averaged 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists as he completed one of the most productive season's in league history.
Robertson was named to the All-Star Game and was named the MVP of it after scoring 23 points, dishing out 14 assists and hauling in nine rebounds.
To cap off Robertson's exceptional rookie year, he was named the 1961 Rookie of the Year.
San Antonio Spurs: David Robinson
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David Robinson averaged 24.3 points, 12 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game as a rookie for the San Antonio Spurs during the 1989-90 season.
Robinson had to serve in the Navy for two years prior to making his NBA debut, but the Spurs patiently waited after drafting him in 1987.
In his first season in San Antonio, Robinson posted a PER of 26.3 which was among the top-five in the league.
Basketball-Reference.com has Robinson ranked fourth in their All-Time Rankings, as he had an effective and successful career.
Toronto Raptors: Damon Stoudamire
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The Toronto Raptors played their first NBA game in 1995 and Damon Stoudamire has their most prolific rookie thus far.
While the Raptors have had a short history, Stoudamire has been their most explosive player outside of Vince Carter.
Stoudamire averaged 19 points, 9.3 assists and 4 rebounds per game and was crowned the 1996 Rookie of the Year.
Utah Jazz: Darrell Griffith
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The Utah Jazz drafted Darrell Griffith during a tumultuous time in their history, and he delivered by winning the 1980-81 Rookie of the Year Award.
Griffith averaged 20.6 points as a rookie while shooting an effective 46.4 percent from the field.
While Griffith did finish with a below league-average PER during his rookie season !14.8), that could be attributed to the Jazz finishing with a putrid record of 28-54.
Griffith went on to have a successful 10-year career with the Jazz, as he handed the baton off to Karl Malone and John Stockton when he retired in 1991.
Washington Wizards: Wes Unseld
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Wes Unseld averaged 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds per game as a rookie as a member of the Baltimore Bullets.
At just 6'7", Unseld surprised many with his strong performance on the glass, which is a sentiment that continued throughout the rest of his career.
While Unseld was great as a rookie, he never blossomed into a franchise changing player as evidenced by his career PER of 16.
The Bullets moved many times over the course of their history and are now known as the Washington Wizards, but Unseld is sitll the most productive rookie that the franchise has ever had.