Lofty expectations from ownership make the NBA Draft a high-stakes affair for general managers and coaches. The perceived wrong move can doom the job of the guy who makes the final decision.
What can teams rightly expect to get with the top pick in the NBA Draft? What about the rest of the top 10?
To come up with an expectation for each pick, we developed a profile for each pick in the top 10 using average win shares per season and career games played. Looking at all players drafted from the NBA-ABA merger in 1976 to 2010, we identified a player who best matches that statistical profile.
Profiles were built using Basketball-Reference’s win shares, which measure a player’s contributions to a team in the wins his performance is expected to add. Average wins per season, listed with each pick below, are defined as the average win shares a player produced in each season he played in the NBA.
No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers – 5.6 wins per season, 745 games
James Worthy was a steady scorer in the NBA, as he averaged between 17.7 and 22.0 points per game in all 12 of his NBA seasons. He put up 14.8 career win shares in the playoffs.
Best-case scenario: LeBron James (CLE), 15.3 wins/season
Worst-case scenario: Michael Olowokandi (LAC), 0.2 wins/season
No. 2 Milwaukee Bucks – 3.8 wins per season, 696 games
Steve Francis averaged 19.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game over the first six years of his career. He ranks 55th all-time with 6.0 assists per game in his career.
Best-case scenario: Kevin Durant (SEA), 12.7 wins/season
Worst-case scenario: Darko Milicic (DET), 0.6 wins/season
No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers – 4.5 wins per season, 692 games
Before his career ended at the age of 31,Shareef Abdur-Rahim averaged 34.8 minutes per game, which is in the top 100 all-time.
Best-case scenario: Michael Jordan (CHI), 14.3 wins/season
Worst-case scenario: Adam Morrison (CHA), -0.2 wins/season
No. 4 Orlando Magic – 3.8 wins per season, 695 games
Comparable players: Donyell Marshall (3.9 wins/season), Byron Scott (5.0 wins/season)
In his best seasons, between 1998 and 2004, Donyell Marshall averaged 14.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He also reached a career-high 5.5 defensive win shares in 2003-04.
Best-case scenario: Chris Paul (NOH), 12.8 wins/season
Worst-case scenario: Marcus Fizer (CHI), 0.2 wins/season
No. 5 Utah Jazz – 4.1 wins per season, 728 games
Comparable players: Devin Harris (4.2 wins/season), Juwan Howard (4.0 wins/season)
Juwan Howard ranks 33rd all-time with 1,208 career games played. He is in the top 100 all-time in field goals, rebounds, and points.
Best-case scenario: Kevin Garnett (MIN), 12.6 wins/season
Worst-case scenario: Nikoloz Tskitishvili (DEN), -0.1 wins/season
No. 6 Boston Celtics – 2.3 wins per season, 535 games
Comparable players: Trent Tucker (2.3 wins/season), Martell Webster (2.7 wins/season)
Trent Tucker made a living as a bench player for most of his career, averaging 14.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per 36 minutes. He ranks 20th all-time with a 9.1 percent career turnover percentage.
Best-case scenario: Larry Bird (BOS), 9.7 wins/season
Worst-case scenario: Jonny Flynn (MIN), -0.2 wins/season
No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers – 2.9 wins per season, 640 games
Eric Gordon has averaged 17.5 points per game in his career, including two seasons of 20 or more. Gordon made the All-NBA rookie team in 2008-09.
Best-case scenario: Stephen Curry (GSW), 7.6 wins/season
Worst-case scenario: Quintin Dailey (CHI), 0.8 wins/season
No. 8 Sacramento Kings - 2.7 wins per season, 610 games
Comparable players: Chris Wilcox (2.2 wins/season), Brandan Wright (2.4 wins/season)
Although Chris Wilcox had an 11.9 usage percentage with the Celtics in the 2012-13 season, he was extremely efficient in the half-court on offense, averaging 1.17 points per such play, which led all players with at least 100 plays.
Best-case scenario: Robert Parish (BOS), 9.8 wins/season
Worst-case scenario: Lancaster Gordon (LAC), -0.2 wins/season
No. 9 Charlotte Hornets - 3.4 wins per season, 650 Games
Gordon Hayward has averaged 15.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game over the last two years. Last year, Hayward finished in the top 10 in the league with 36.4 minutes played per game.
Best-case scenario: Dirk Nowitzki (DAL), 12.3 wins/season
Worst-case scenario: Patrick O’Bryant (GSW), 0.1 wins/season
No. 10 Philadelphia 76ers – 2.8 wins per season, 574 games
Hawes finished tenth in the NBA by shooting 41.6 percent from behind the 3-point line last season. Hawes is averaging 14.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per 36 minutes in his career.
Best-case scenario: Paul Pierce (BOS), 9.6 wins/season
Worst-case scenario: Roy Hamilton (DET), 0.0 wins/season