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NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Careers of active No. 1 overall picks of the NBA Draft

The weekly NBA Power Rankings are back, but with a twist! Each week we'll take a different approach to sorting through the best of the best.

Last week, it was the most clutch players in the NBA. This week, we're taking a look at the best careers of former No. 1 overall picks.


There are currently 13 active No. 1 overall picks.

All have made a name for themselves in some way, shape or form, while a couple have already etched out historically great careers.

In ranking these 13 players by their career success so far, it certainly favours the more experienced players. But without further ado, take a look at where the former No. 1 overall picks landed!

13. Zion Williamson

Draft class: 2019

Drafted by: New Orleans Pelicans

Career accolades: None

This is a bit unfair to the 19-year-old rookie who has only played 19 games in his NBA career.

A knee injury kept Williamson sidelined for the first 44 games of the season and this hiatus has put a pause on the back-end of his rookie year. Even though he's only played a handful of games, he's still made plenty of noise.

Averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game shooting 58.9% from the field, Zion has proved that playing against grown men won't stop him from bullying anyone in his way to get to the rim.

He became the first teenager in NBA history to score 20-plus points in 10-straight games and has already provided a number of jaw-dropping highlights in a small sample size. He's likely on his way to an All-Rookie First Team nod and has lived up to the immeasurable hype thus far.

12. Markelle Fultz

Draft class: 2017

Drafted by: Philadelphia 76ers

Career accolades: None

Fultz hadn't done much in his first two seasons due to various injuries and other obstacles, but a trade to the Orlando Magic has helped his career in a big way.

He's vastly improved his game, earning the starting point guard spot for the Magic, a team destined to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Averaging 12.1 points and 5.2 assists per game, Fultz has flashed the playmaking ability and quick athleticism going to the rim that had NBA scouts excited about the prospect coming out of Washington.

His potential may have shined the brightest in recording his first career triple-double against the first-place Los Angeles Lakers, going for 21 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and a couple of clutch buckets in crunch time to seal the win for Orlando.

Fultz's confidence and demeanour have completely changed, illuminating the future for the 21-year-old.

11. Deandre Ayton

Draft class: 2018

Drafted by: Phoenix Suns

Career accolades: All-Rookie First Team

Following a promising rookie campaign, Ayton showcased just how high his ceiling could be.

After averaging a double-double as a rookie, the 21-year-old centre was flirting with averaging a 20-point double-double in his second year in the league. Although his 2019-20 season has been somewhat of a rollercoaster between a 25-game suspension and injuries, posting 19.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game shooting 54.8% from the field should have Suns fans excited.

He's shown some improvement on the defensive end, he's become a better passer out of the post and his scoring and rebounding remain the two most attractive features of the big man's game.

Even though Ayton has been solid from what we've seen so far, he still has more to prove before he can surpass any of the names ahead of him on this list.

10. Andrew Wiggins

Draft class: 2014

Drafted by: Cleveland Cavaliers

Career accolades: Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie First Team

Wiggins was good enough to earn Rookie of the Year in 2014 by averaging almost 17 points per game, but the argument would be that he hasn't improved much since that first season.

We were starting to see a different version of Wiggins this season, scoring more efficiently, getting to the free throw line and improving as a passer, but the Timberwolves still traded him at the deadline.

In five and a half seasons with Minnesota, Wiggins climbed a couple of the franchise's all-time leaderboards. He left as the all-time leader in 3-pointers made while finishing second in scoring behind future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. He also ranked fifth in games played, third in minutes played, fourth in made free throws and fifth in steals.

Starting a new chapter with the Golden State Warriors, it will be interesting to see how Wiggins develops as a player and teammate. He's only made the playoffs once in his six seasons in the NBA, so playing in a winning culture should only help that aspect of his career.

9. Karl-Anthony Towns

Draft class: 2015

Drafted by: Minnesota Timberwolves

Career accolades: 2x All-Star, 1x All-NBA, Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie First Team

Towns has been nothing short of spectacular in his first five seasons in the NBA, even if winning hasn't come along with it.

The 24-year-old centre is a one-of-a-kind talent on the offensive end, as evidenced by his averaging over 22.7 points per game while shooting 53.4% from the field and just under 40% from beyond the arc for his career. He averaged over 20 points and 12 rebounds per game three seasons in a row prior to his 2019-20 campaign, which has been riddled by injuries.

When Towns has been on the floor this season, he's been as good as ever, averaging a career-high 26.5 points and 4.4 assists to go with 10.8 rebounds per game, but he's only appeared in 35 of the Timberwolves' 64 contests.

Without their star player healthy, Minnesota is set to miss the playoffs again, which has been the biggest knock on the young career of Towns.

His talent is there, it's just time to see his team's success follow his individual success.

8. Ben Simmons

Draft class: 2016

Drafted by: Philadelphia 76ers

Career accolades: 2x All-Star, Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie First Team

Had this current season already concluded, Simmons' "career accolades" section would surely look a bit more complete than it does at the moment.

Simmons is enjoying one of the best seasons of his young career, averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 assists, 7.8 rebounds and a league-best 2.1 steals per game. He's making a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year as well as a spot on one of the three All-NBA teams and is a likely selection for a spot on one of the two All-Defensive teams to boost his resume.

Prior to a back injury and the league's hiatus, Simmons was playing some of the best basketball we've seen from him, recording back-to-back triple-doubles in a pair of wins for the 76ers. His team success slides him up ahead of Towns, as the Aussie guard has yet to miss the playoffs in his career.

Simmons is still aiming for his first Conference Finals and NBA Finals appearance, but the individual success appears to be coming to fruition. The best is yet to come for the 23-year-old.

7. John Wall

Draft class: 2010

Drafted by: Washington Wizards

Career accolades: 5x All-Star, 1x All-NBA, 1x All-Defensive Team, All-Rookie First Team

It's been a while since we've seen Wall on the court, but don't forget how good he was prior to his Achilles injury.

The five-time All-Star is one of the best dual threats in the NBA when it comes to scoring and playmaking. He's averaged 19.0 points per game over nine seasons and his 9.2 assists per game average for his career ranks him second-best among all active players, only trailing Chris Paul.

Wall brought the Wizards to the playoffs four times in his career and he's knocked down some clutch shots in the postseason, too. He's one of six players to earn a supermax contract since they were introduced to the NBA in 2017, although how he responds from his Achilles injury should impact the lens from which Wall is viewed.

6. Derrick Rose

Draft class: 2008

Drafted by: Chicago Bulls

Career accolades: 1x MVP, 3x All-Star, 1x All-NBA , Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie First Team

Rose is one of two players on this list to win an MVP, which made him incredibly hard to place correctly.

While his 2010-11 campaign where he averaged 25.0 points and 7.7 assists per game as a 22-year-old could match up with any individual season by any player on this list, we have to consider the full body of work.

Injuries placed a ceiling on Rose's NBA career, but he's still made the absolute most out of the hand he has been dealt. After several knee procedures forced the high-flying, super explosive guard to adapt his game, Rose has continued to find a way to score the rock.

He averaged 18.0 points per game last season with the Timberwolves, shooting a career-high 37.0% from 3-point land. This season with the Detroit Pistons, Rose is again averaging 18 points per game and has made a strong case for Sixth Man of the Year.

He's still searching for his first NBA Finals appearance, but you can't knock what Rose has achieved given the circumstances.

5. Kyrie Irving

Draft class: 2011

Drafted by: Cleveland Cavaliers

Career accolades: 1x NBA Champion, 6x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie First Team

Irving is one of two players on this list to win an NBA title, which automatically justifies his spot in the top-five. When you add to it that he hit arguably the biggest shot in the history of basketball, you can make the case that he should be even higher on this list.

Irving has been a top guard in the league since he entered the NBA in 2011. He's one of the best bucket getters and tough shot makers, his craft at finishing around the rim is unmatched and his handle could rival any player the NBA has ever seen.

His career has taken an interesting pivot over the past two seasons, but Irving should soon be competing for an NBA title again next year when the Brooklyn Nets return he and Kevin Durant to full strength.

4. Blake Griffin

Draft class: 2009

Drafted by: LA Clippers

Career accolades: 6x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie First Team

Through a decade of his NBA career, Griffin has certainly lived up to the hype of a No. 1 pick.

He's one of two rookies in the past 20 years to make the All-Star team in their first season. He also earned a spot on one of the All-NBA teams four times in the first five seasons of his career. Griffin has averaged a strong 21.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game over 10 years in the league and just last season, we began to see the 31-year-old adapt his game a bit.

The former Slam Dunk Contest champion fine-tuned his game in 2018-19, averaging 24.5 points per game shooting 36.2% from beyond the arc - both of which are career-highs. Playing through a knee injury last postseason cut things short on seeing another year of the new-and-improved Griffin, as the Pistons' forward required knee surgery after just playing in just 18 games of the 2019-20 season.

Regardless of how the former No. 1 pick returns next year, there's no denying how great Griffin's career has been.

3. Anthony Davis

Draft class: 2012

Drafted by: New Orleans Hornets

Career accolades: 7x All-Star, 3x All-NBA, 3x All-Defensive Team, 3x Block Champ, All-Rookie First Team

Davis has only been to the playoffs twice in his career and has only made it out of the first round once and he still ranks third on this list. That might spark an argument, but his individual success has been so eye-opening that you can put his team's success aside for the moment.

Averaging 24.0 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals for his career, The Brow is truly a jack-of-all-trades. He's among the most versatile defenders in the NBA who can also handle the ball, score and shoot with the touch of a guard despite being nearly 7-feet tall.

As a member of the Lakers, Davis is amidst one of the best seasons of his career even if his numbers aren't as gaudy as they were in New Orleans. He was well on his way to a spot on an All-NBA and All-Defensive Team, while making a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year. This hiatus has also put what will probably be the best postseason run of his career on pause.

His resume is already decorated enough even without any of those feats officially listed, and at 27 years old, we're just entering Davis' prime. That's a scary thought.

2. Dwight Howard

Draft class: 2004

Drafted by: Orlando Magic

Career accolades: 8x All-Star, 3x Defensive Player of the Year, 8x All-NBA, 5x All-Defensive Team, 5x Rebounding Champ, 2x Block Champ, All-Rookie First Team

Among all active players, Howard ranks No. 1 in total rebounds, No. 1 in blocks and just outside the top-10 in points. He was once one of the league's most dominant players, averaging 19.5 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game from 2006 to 2014 - what could be considered as Howard's prime.

Within that eight-year span, Howard led the NBA in rebounds per game five times, blocks twice and became the only player in NBA history to earn Defensive Player of the Year in three consecutive seasons.

The freakishly athletic centre was a force in the paint, carrying the Magic as far as the NBA Finals back in 2009.

To lengthen his career, we've seen Howard's resurgence this season with the Lakers, playing a vital role as a rebounder and rim protector off the bench averaging 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

Howard is already a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and we may still see him add a championship to his resume, too.

1. LeBron James

Draft class: 2003

Drafted by: Cleveland Cavaliers

Career accolades: 3x NBA Champion, 4x MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 16x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 6x All-Defensive Team, 1x Scoring Champ, Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie First Team

This was as easy of a decision as they come.

James isn't just the best active No. 1 overall pick - he's the best No. 1 overall pick in league history.

With all the pressure in the world entering the NBA, LeBron has done nothing but continuously live up to the highest expectations any prospect has ever seen. His trophy case is as filled as the best to ever play the sport, and he's continuing to make history every time he takes the court.

LeBron ranks third all-time in points and he still has a chance to catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as he's 4,300 points shy. He's eighth all-time in assists and should easily find his way into the top-five of all-time, especially if he keeps passing the ball at the rate he has this season with a league-leading 10.3 assists per game.

When you combine his regular season and playoff minutes, you'll have a record that will never be touched.

He's one of - if not the - greatest player of all-time, and his legacy is still growing every day.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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