The Draft Lottery has been in place since 1985, and while it's been an interesting way to prevent the teams with the league's worst records from being guaranteed the top overall pick, the reality is that there have been only a small handful of players who were projected to one day be in the Hall of Fame from essentially the very start.
The draft is nothing more than a crapshoot for most teams in most seasons, and a lot of luck is involved in determining which franchises succeed the most. Draymond Green was a second-round pick in 2012, and he's become the defensive linchpin for a team that's on the verge of winning its second title in three seasons. Isaiah Thomas just finished a season in which he was the best player on a Celtics team that went to the Eastern Conference finals, and that finished the regular season as the top seed in the East. He was the final pick in 2011 -- 60th overall.
This year's draft is just two weeks away, so we're taking a look at the 10 best draft classes since the lottery system was put into place. We considered star power, overall depth of talent and longevity in the league when putting together these rankings.
Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce were selected with the ninth and 10th picks in 1998, which probably left the Clippers, Grizzlies and Nuggets (who spent the top three picks on Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby and Raef LaFrentz. respectively) feeling all kinds of buyer's remorse.
Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter went fourth and fifth, and the rest of the class included guys like Rashard Lewis, Ricky Davis, Al Harrington and Nazr Mohammed who all had careers lasting more than 10 seasons each.
There was decent talent to be had in this one through the middle of the first round. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins went first and fifth overall, respectively, and Derrick Favors, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward and Paul George were top-10 selections. Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley went 18th and 19th, and things thinned out pretty quickly from a talent perspective after that for the remainder of this year's picks.
Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love were top-five picks in 2008, while legitimate NBA talents like Danilo Gallinari, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Brook Lopez, George Hill and Serge Ibaka were all first-round selections.
DeAndre Jordan and Goran Dragic were both taken in the second round.
USA TODAY SportsMike DiNovo
There were four All-Stars available in the first nine picks, with Blake Griffin, James Harden, Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan all coming off the board during that span. There were also some pretty good role players available a little further down in Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, Patrick Beverley and Danny Green.
Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Christian Laettner were the top three picks in this one, and Robert Horry (who was a part of seven championship teams) went 11th overall. Latrell Sprewell was a late first-round selection, too, and there were a bunch of veteran role-players (like P.J. Brown, Sean Rooks, Doug Christie, Jon Barry, Clarence Weatherspoon and Anthony Peeler) who all had careers lasting more than 10 NBA seasons.
Patrick Ewing went first overall to the Knicks in the first year of the Draft Lottery, which remains one of the NBA's biggest conspiracy theories to this day. But even after Ewing had been selected, there were other Hall of Famers still on the board. Karl Malone went 13th overall, and Chris Mullin was still there at No. 7.
In addition to those all-timers, Detlef Schrempf, Charles Oakley, Joe Dumars, A.C. Green, Terry Porter, Manute Bol and Spud Webb rounded out one of the deeper draft classes.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNoren Trotman
Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson went first and 11th overall, respectively, and Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson was also a top-four pick. Kawhi Leonard went 15th, Jimmy Butler went 30th, and Isaiah Thomas somehow lasted all the way to No. 60 -- the final pick in this year's draft.
David Robinson went first overall, but '87 had some exceptional talent even beyond The Admiral. Scottie Pippen, Reggie Miller, Horace Grant, Mark Jackson, Kenny Smith, Kevin Johnson and Reggie Lewis were all first-round selections.
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LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony went first and third overall, respectively, with Darko Milicic being infamously selected by the Pistons in the No. 2 spot. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade rounded out the top five, and David West, Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins and Leandro Barbosa were all first-round selections who have enjoyed lengthy and productive careers.
Zaza Pachulia, James Jones and Kyle Korver -- three guys you might recognize from their current appearances in the NBA Finals -- all went in the second round.
This one was absolutely loaded. Allen Iverson went first overall, and Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash went 13th and 15th, respectively. Ray Allen, Jermaine O'Neal, Antoine Walker, Marcus Camby, Peja Stojakovic, Stephon Marbury and Derek Fisher were all first-round selections, and this draft class featured 10 All-Stars overall.