Sixty names will be called out at the NBA draft on June 22 at the Barclays Center in New York, and shortly thereafter basketball writers from all corners will begin churning out analysis. (Actually, the analysis will start earlier, because Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski will have tweeted all 60 picks within 20 minutes of the draft's start.)
But a true evaluation of the talent pool will take years to compile. One way to evaluate classes is with our NBA Draft Data Tool.
(For an explanation of the methodology and what win shares, expected win shares, and percentage of expected win shares are — and why we're only studying the first 54 picks — read the first entry in this series.)
With the caveat that there are many players still active in the most recent groups, here are the last 40 NBA draft classes, ranked by total win shares compiled by the first 54 picks.
It isn't surprising that a draft class including Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton is the best ever. The '85 class, with Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone, is second. The '96 draft, topped by Allen Iverson, is third all-time. (We'll have more on what that meant for Iverson's career in a later installment in this series.)
Those three classes are set in stone. In fourth place, however, is the still-very-active class of 2003. The '03 group includes four likely Hall of Famers: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. And considering James looks like he has 15 to 20 years of peak-level play ahead of him*, the 2003 class could still climb higher up the list. They accomplished this despite the notable handicap of Darko Milicic and his paltry 7.1 win shares at No. 2.
(* — This is a joke … possibly.)
The worst class ever, from years in which most of the players have already retired, is 2000. Though a few players from that draft are still active, it's unlikely it will pass the next-lowest class, 1980. Hedo Turkoglo compiled the most win shares from 2000.