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NBA Draft: 30 greatest draft picks in league history

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The NBA Draft is the best path to finding a franchise cornerstone. Who are the all-time best NBA Draft picks in league history?

The NBA Draft is a system unique among American career fields, where the best and brightest are divided among the available employers to try to spread the talent around. What the players on this list illustrate is that sometimes that talent is too good, and that is how stars — and champions — are born.

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Teams win titles via a variety of paths, signing players as free agents or trading for them. Both of these paths have led to titles in the recent-and-distant past. Yet teams still mine the NBA Draft for talent, recognizing that is the best place to find a title-driving star.

Over the years the NBA Draft has become an event in and of itself, driving media content and analysts and plenty of fan interest. The draft provides hope to franchises not in contention, while fans of great teams can still analyze how to find the perfect role player for their franchise.

The draft has been a part of the NBA since its beginnings, and every player comes into the league directly or indirectly through it. Which teams have made the best picks over the years? Not looking at value (where the pick was located), but simply return on investment: which teams took a player in the draft and got the most value out of that selection?

Note that for these purposes players taken in the ABA are not being considered, and neither are players traded on draft day (apologies to fans of Bill Russell, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki). Only a player’s contributions to the team that drafted them are considered, but if they leave via trade the package in return is weighed in.

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Without further ado, who are the top-30 NBA Draft picks of all-time?

Honorable Mentions: Kevin Durant, Isiah Thomas, Willis Reed, Allen Iverson, Rick Barry, Yao Ming

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