Wednesday, November 14

Making a Fresh Start

I started thinking about the effect this 0-8 start would have on Kevin Durant. It can’t be easy starting your professional career with 8 losses, can it? Is he moping around his apartment, calling his friends back in Austin, watching NBA highlights to see what the other first-rounders are doing this year? Maybe watching old videos on YouTube of when he was on the winning team?

It all got me to thinking, though, how have the other top picks in the NBA draft fared in their first ten games? (And, yes, I am aware that Greg Oden was the top pick, but since he’s not playing, I consider Durant the top overall pick for this year). Since those folks were probably on lousy teams, hence the high draft choice, did they struggle as badly as Durant's Sonics? Well, here’s the list, from 1980 to the present.

First 10 games of top overall picks in the NBA draft:

2006: Andrea Bargnani, 2-8
2005: Andrew Bogut, 6-4
2004: Dwight Howard, 6-4
2003: LeBron James, 3-7
2002: Yao Ming, 6-4
2001: Kwame Brown, 2-8
2000: Kenyon Martin, 6-4
1999: Elton Brand, 1-9 (started year 0-5)
1998: Michael Olowokandi, 0-10 (started year 0-17!)
1997: Tim Duncan, 7-3
1996: Allen Iverson, 4-6
1995: Joe Smith, 3-7
1994: Glenn Robinson, 5-5
1993: Chris Webber, 4-6
1992: Shaquille O’Neal, 7-3
1991: Larry Johnson, 2-8
1990: Derrick Coleman, 2-8
1989: Pervis Ellison, 3-7
1988: Danny Manning, 4-6
1987: Armon Gilliam, 4-6
1986: Brad Daugherty, 3-7
1985: Patrick Ewing, 2-8
1984: Hakeem Olajuwon, 8-2
1983: Ralph Sampson, 3-7
1982: James Worthy, 7-3
1981: Mark Aguirre, 1-9
1980: Joe Barry Carroll, 6-4

The breakdown is as follows:
8 wins: 1 (Olajuwon)
7 wins: 3 (O’Neal, Duncan)
6 wins: 5
5 wins: 1
4 wins: 4
3 wins: 5
2 wins: 5
1 win: 2
0 wins: 1

Sadly, the one “no win” contender is also the biggest bust of the past two decades, Olowokandi. However, Elton Brand has fared just fine, thank you, despite the 1-9 start to his career, and Mark Aguirre was no bust, either. Of note, the three best finishes belonged to the three best players (Hakeem, Shaq, and Duncan). Unless, of course, you consider Joe Barry Carroll the best, in which case you must be a former Golden State Warriors executive, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Does it mean anything? Probably not, but just thought I’d throw it out there.


Anonymous said...

Awesome list - thanks for compiling. Interesting that of the top 4 number one rookie starts, three had pretty unique circumstances:

Worthy's Lakers were a defending NBA champion who got the #1 pick from the Cavs (for Don Ford)

Duncan's Spurs got only 6 games from David Robinson the previous year.

Olajuwon's Rockets were fresh off the rookie seasons of Sampson & McCray.

The Magic were pretty bad, pre-Shaq, and of the four, only O'Neal was clearly the best player on his team (and even so, not by much - Scott Skiles had a pretty remarkable season during Shaq's rookie campaign).

mcwalter44 said...


Great list... one problem though.... our boy Durant wasn't the number 1 overall pick in the draft, yet your list is based solely off of #1 overall picks. Ya some 45 year old guys with a bum knee was taken by the Trail Blazers (3-4).

Can you please redo this list on basketball-reference or how ever you did it and do it by #2 overall picks?

Anonymous said...

McW, I'm shocked ... you didn't read the disclaimer at the top of the article. Indulge me and take a look and you'll see why I included Durant (and also omitted David Robinson; hence the Armon Gilliam reference).

mcwalter44 said...


You're right I read through the disclaimer. But still, you're list is all #1 picks, plus SA tanked both seasons to get Duncan and Robinson, hence they had better teams. Same going for Houston with Sampson and Olajwon. Where as the Sonics and Trail Blazer weren't not tanking (like Boston and Memphis) rather they just sucked.