There have been Hall-of-Famers and busts, All-Stars and also-rans.
Since the NBA instituted its draft lottery system in 1985, 321 players have been selected. But which lottery class was the strongest in league history?
For every Patrick Ewing and David Robinson, there's Kwame Brown and Pervis Ellison.
Some lottery classes had several All-Stars, such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade in 2003, while some have lacked star power. The 1986 lottery included just one future All-Star -- No. 1 pick Brad Daugherty. And while some groups piled up the championship rings, others fell short. The 1992 lottery players combined for 10 titles while the 1985 class won zero titles in 99 total seasons of basketball.
Newsday.com looked at each draft to determine which group of lottery picks was the strongest in the last 27 years. The following information was taken into account when formulating the rankings, listed in order of importance:
1. Hall of Famers
3. All-NBA First Teamers
4. Career points
5. All-Defense First Teamers
6. All-NBA Second and Third Teamers
7. All-Star appearances
8. Years in the league
9. Championships as an impact player
10t. Career rebounds
10t. Career assists
12. All-Defense Second and Third Teamers
While earlier lottery classes could be ranked definitively based on these categories, the newer draft crops incorporated projections. Thus, expect these rankings to fluctuate yearly based on differences in player progression, player movement, injury, and the general development of the game.
The rankings (year, top three impact players)
1. 1987 (David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Johnson)
2. 2003 (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade)
3. 1996 (Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant)
4. 2008 (Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love)
5. 1985 (Patrick Ewing, Xavier McDaniel, Chris Mullin)
6. 1997 (Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, Tracy McGrady)
7. 1998 (Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce)
8. 1992 (Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Robert Horry)
9. 2005 (Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum)
10. 1994 (Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill)
11. 1995 (Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett)
12. 2009 (Blake Griffin, James Harden, Ricky Rubio)
13. 2010 (John Wall, Evan Turner, DeMarcus Cousins)
14. 1990 (Derrick Coleman, Gary Payton, Kendall Gill)
15. 2007 (Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Al Horford)
16. 2004 (Dwight Howard, Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala)
17. 2011 (Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Klay Thompson)
18. 1999 (Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Shawn Marion)
19. 1993 (Chris Webber, Shawn Bradley, Anfernee Hardaway)
20. 1991 (Larry Johnson, Kenny Anderson, Dikembe Mutombo)
21. 2001 (Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol)
22. 1988 (Danny Manning, Rik Smits, Mitch Richmond)
23. 2002 (Yao Ming, Jay Williams, Amar'e Stoudemire)
24. 2006 (Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy)
25. 1989 (Pervis Ellison, Danny Ferry, Glen Rice)
26. 2000 (Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift, Darius Miles)
27. 1986 (Brad Daugherty, Len Bias, Chris Washburn)
Following the summary of each time period are the rankings for the lottery classes of that decade, including each class' score as a percentage of the 1987 class.
Surprised the seven-player 1987 lottery beat out the 2003 super-draft? Well, that lottery produced a pair of Hall of Famers in David Robinson and Scottie Pippen, three All-Stars (Robinson, Pippen and Kevin Johnson), and 10 total championships (two by Robinson, six by Pippen and two by Kenny Smith). That sort of production from just seven players was enough to hold off 2003 and 1996.
Conversely, the year prior wound up ranking as the worst lottery in history. The low ranking was partly due to the death of Len Bias; Bias was taken second overall by the Boston Celtics, but died two days later of cardiac arrest brought on by a cocaine overdose. Picks three through seven didn't produce any Hall of Famers, All-Star appearances, championships or All-NBA teams, though. Plus, the seven players taken in the '86 lottery averaged just six years in the league.
The inaugural 1985 lottery was carried by Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin, two Hall of Famers who combined to make 16 All-Star appearances and 11 total All-NBA selections. Both 1988 (Danny Manning) and 1989 (Pervis Ellison) were weighed down by busts at No. 1.
Late 1980s draft rankings, with each year's score as a percentage of the 1987 class, category the class scored highest in, and category the class scored lowest in.
1. 1987 (100.00)
2. 1985 (53.42)
3. 1988 (12.05)
4. 1989 (9.03)
5. 1986 (8.40)
Shaquille O'Neal's 15 All-Star Game appearances, four rings, eight All-NBA First Team selections and pending enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame (eligible to be inducted in 2017) led the 1992 class to the No. 8 spot on the list. Alonzo Mourning (seven All-Star games) and Robert Horry (seven titles, six as a rotation player) also boosted its credentials.
The 1994 and 1995 drafts, the two oldest lotteries featuring active players, were neck-and-neck for the 10th and 11th spots in the list, respectively. Jason Kidd and Grant Hill's combined 17 All-Star appearances led '94, while likely Hall-of-Famer Kevin Garnett was the breakout star from '95.
The 1990, 1991 and 1993 drafts all wound up with more busts than stars. Gary Payton ('90), Dikembe Mutombo ('91) and Chris Webber ('93) all starred, but they were overshadowed by those who didn't, such as Derrick Coleman ('90), Mark Macon ('91) and Shawn Bradley ('93).
1. 1992 (28.65)
2. 1994 (19.53)
3. 1995 (19.48)
4. 1990 (17.72)
5. 1993 (12.55)
6. 1991 (12.49)
The three-year run from 1996-98 provided arguably the best string of draft lotteries in league history. Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce, all likely Hall of Famers, all went in the lottery over those three years.
The 1996 lottery was neck-and-neck with 1987 and 2003 for the best of all-time -- the three classes were head-and-shoulders above the rest, with the percentage of Hall of Famers in the 1987 class proving to be the biggest difference. Iverson, Allen and Bryant each made at least 10 All-Star teams, and combined for more than 20 appearances on All-NBA teams. Stephon Marbury and Antoine Walker, both All-Stars, were also taken fifth and seventh, respectively.
Both 1997 and 1998 were carried by three players apiece: Duncan, Chauncey Billups and Tracy McGrady in '97, and Carter, Nowitzki and Pierce in '98. Each draft included a couple of busts (Keith Van Horn and Antonio Daniels in '97, and Michael Olowokandi and Raef LaFrentz in '98) which weighed the rankings down.
1. 1996 (79.36)
2. 1997 (30.46)
3. 1998 (29.19)
4. 1999 (15.63)
The early part of the decade included more disappointing than impressive lotteries.
In 2000, the first three picks were Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift and Darius Miles. It didn't get much better after that, either, with Martin the only pick to make even one All-Star team. Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol and Joe Johnson all came out of the 2001 lottery . . . but so did Kwame Brown, Eddie Griffin and Kedrick Brown. And in 2002, Jay Williams, Nikoloz Tskitishvili and DaJuan Wagner, three players already out of the league after just nine combined seasons, were taken second, fifth and sixth.
Dwight Howard was the No. 1 overall pick in 2004, and the likely Hall of Famer will save this lottery from being one of the worst in history. Beyond Howard, you have Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng, a pair of solid players, and then a lot of disappointments, including Shaun Livingston, Josh Childress and Rafael Araujo.
The 2005 lottery could wind up having three Hall of Famers -- Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Andrew Bynum. However, that year's top two picks, Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams, have yet to live up to their hype, both without an All-Star appearance.
Of course, in 2003, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade helped to make up one of the great lottery classes of all-time. Beyond those four, though, there is a major drop off. Darko Milicic, the No. 2 pick in the draft, will go down as one of the biggest busts in history. Plus, four players taken in that lottery -- T.J. Ford, Mike Sweetney, Jarvis Hayes and Marcus Banks -- are out of the league (Ford the last to play, retiring in the middle of the 2011-12 season).
1. 2003 (88.97)
2. 2005 (23.59)
3. 2004 (17.22)
4. 2001 (12.17)
5. 2002 (10.51)
6. 2000 (8.44)
The last six drafts, from 2006-11, are all tough to handicap this early. The 2008 lottery, which has produced breakout stars Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, and impact players Eric Gordon, Danilo Gallinari and Brook Lopez could wind up being one of the best in history.
Of the 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 drafts, 2009 should be the best thanks to Blake Griffin, James Harden and Ricky Rubio. Likely none of the four drafts will be much higher than the middle of the pack, though. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe are all solid players out of the 2010 lottery, but it's tough to project if any of them will be Hall of Famers. The 2007 draft is hurt by draft busts Greg Oden (No. 1 overall) and Yi Jianlian (sixth), though Kevin Durant (second) will go down as one of the greats. And while Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving projects to have a terrific career, the 2011 draft has a lot of question marks because of the unpredictability of international players -- four went in the first seven picks.
Finally, you have the 2006 lottery, which will wind up being one of the worst of all-time. LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay could each wind up scoring 20,000 career points; however, Brandon Roy's career getting cut short by injury hurts the depth of the class. No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani hasn't become Dirk Nowitzki 2.0, and Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas and Shelden Williams, picks three through six, have all struggled.
1. 2008 (55.53)
2. 2009 (19.20)
3. 2010 (18.73)
4. 2007 (17.55)
5. 2011 (16.97)
6. 2006 (9.26)
The NBA draft is as unpredictable event as there is in sports, and 2012 figures to be no different. Will Anthony Davis' claim to fame be his terrorizing post defense, or will he just be remembered as "the dude with the unibrow"? Can Bradley Beal continue the recent trend of star guards taken in the lottery? And could late-lottery hopeful Moe Harkless do the improbable and be the next Kobe Bryant (taken 13th in 1996)?
It'll be a decade or two before we know the answers. Because if the NBA draft was an exact science, Kevin Durant and the Portland Trail Blazers may be preparing the 2012 NBA Finals.