Ranking every first overall pick in NBA history

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 18: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Miami Heat on November 18, 2018 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 18: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Miami Heat on November 18, 2018 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
12 of 42
Next

33. 1995: Derrick Coleman,  New Jersey Nets

Another good player that fans forget about due to the hands of time. Well, that and spending your best years playing for the New Jersey Nets.

The franchise took Coleman first overall in 1990 and he produced for them almost instantly, averaging 18.4 points and 10.3 boards in his rookie season. His strongest run came in his final three seasons with the franchise, where if scored 20.5 points and grabbed 11.1 rebounds a night, earning one All-Star nod and leading the Nets to the playoffs in two of those three years.

32. 1981: Mark Aguirre, Dallas Mavericks

Armed with a smooth post game, Mark Aguirre seemed like the right choice when the Dallas Mavericks picked him first overall in 1981, one spot ahead of Isaiah Thomas. To some extent, the team did — Aguirre was a scoring machine for the Mavs in his eight seasons there, averaging no less than 18.7 points while he was there.

However, his ability to put the ball through the net didn’t improve the Mavs’ win totals much. Even in the 1980s, players that offered little else outside of scoring struggled to uplift their moribund teams unless they were truly transcendent. As good as Aguirre was, he wasn’t that good.

Consequently, Dallas traded him to the Detroit Pistons midway through the 1988-89 season. He would take on a lesser role with the team to show he was capable of blending into a winning culture. It ultimately paid off, as he helped the team win the NBA title in 1989 and 1990.

31. 1983: Ralph Sampson, Houston Rockets

Sampson was the first of back-to-back number one overall picks the Rockets received in 1983 and 1984. After a stellar career at the University of Virginia, Sampson looked like he would transition well to the pro game, especially with Hakeem Olajuwon as a tag team partner. He made the All-Star team in each of his first four seasons, averaging  19.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks during that stretch.

Unfortunately, Samson couldn’t stay healthy. He played in 79 or more games only three times in his career and after 1988, he never averaged more than 6.4 points in a season. Sampson would eventually get inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, but that was largely because of his brilliant career at Virginia, not because of his time in the NBA.