The history of top 5 picks in the NBA Draft: Legends, All-Stars, and busts

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NBA Draft

MIAMI, FL – MARCH 16: (L) Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat, (C) Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat and (R) LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat look on during a game against the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Arena on March 16, 2014 in Miami, Florida, The history of top 5 picks in the NBA Draft: Legends, All-Stars, and busts. 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. (Photo by Christopher Trotman/Getty Images)

Every year, fans get excited about what they can expect when drafting at the top of the NBA draft. Adding the next great young talent is the quickest way for fanbases to tell themselves that they have the golden ticket to future continued postseason success.

Whenever a player is not immediately playing at the highest levels, some of the more impatient fans will immediately jump to buzz words like “bust” or “overrated”. The reality of the situation is that everyone develops at a different pace, but it goes even beyond that.

Fanatic expectations often get in the way of reality. What has been the historical output of the top-five picks in the NBA Draft, so fans can expect accordingly?

Sometimes a top-five pick does not necessarily result in All-Star status or better. To prove this, we are going to look back at four decades of top five picks to see what reasonable expectations fan bases should have.

For this exercise, we will go back to the first NBA draft following the NBA-ABA merger – 1976. Each section will cover 10 drafts, with the last 18 or so drafts including present-day players.

For the sake of the people still playing, the statistical output was cut as of December 28, 2021. The player’s career averages will be taken by decade, showing what a top-five pick would net you from decade to decade.

While this will not account for some of the best players of the last near half-century (the likes of Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki were drafted outside of the top five), there has been plenty to like (reasonably) about drafting high.

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