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) /
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17. 1970: Bob Lanier, Detroit Pistons

If you asked fans who they thought the greatest player in Detroit Pistons history was, many of them would probably answer Isaiah Thomas or Bill Laimbeer. It’s understandable,  as Thomas and Laimbeer were tremendous players in the 1980s and led the “Bad Boy” Pistons to consecutive NBA titles in 1989 and 1990.

Older fans, however, would probably tell you that the real answer to that question is Bob Lanier. When you look at his numbers, making a case for Lanier isn’t a Herculean task; in 10 seasons with the Pistons, Lanier averaged 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds with seven All-Star appearances, a 22.8 PER and .178 win shares per 48 minutes.

While Lanier was far from the most athletic player and wasn’t as lanky as the other bigs in the NBA at that time, Lanier kept pace with the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Dave Cowens and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with his toughness, tenacity and smooth post game.

However, his hard-nosed style came with a price. In 14 seasons, Lanier underwent seven knee surgeries — not including the operation he endured before his rookie season — which resulted in him playing in at least 70 games only seven times in his career.

Detroit would trade Lanier to the Milwaukee Bucks during the 1979-80 season, where he spent the remainder of his career. He made one more All-Star team with the Bucks in 1982, but he was far from the player he was in his prime.