The First Overall Pick: With Success Comes Cautionary Tales

Many draft dreams are going to come true for teams and players alike at Barclays Center later this month at the 2015 NBA Draft. For others, they will attempt to trade for those dreams. As for the Knicks and Team President Phil Jackson (and also James Dolan), they will play with what has been dealt to them with the fourth (and NOT the first) overall selection.

The Knicks will attempt to right their ship with their selections, and many rumors have been linking them with Trey Lyles, the Kentucky freshman forward. Many, if not all, fans were disgusted that the Knicks received as low a pick as the fourth overall selection, but sometimes the pressure of having the number one pick can be a two-edged sword because you’re the first to pick from a vast, highly-talented crowd and you can only choose one, so it’s on you to make the right choice.

It’s hard to imagine that former number-one pick Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers just completed his fifth season. Griffin and the Clippers finished this year just one win shy of the Western Conference Finals. Do you remember the Clippers before Griffin came to town? Likely not, right? That’s okay because you weren’t missing much. The Clippers finished the 2008-09 season 19-63 under head coach Mike Dunleavy. Around that same time the following season, Griffin’s rookie campaign, the Clippers improved by ten games and Dunleavy was out. From that time on, the Clippers began an astronomical rise and have become the class of the competitive Western Conference.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Griffin’s story as the number-one pick has rejuvenated interest in the first overall selection, reminding teams that it still is possible for those picks to pan out. But that was five drafts ago. Who since then has done it like Griffin? There’s been the Washington Wizards’ John Wall, the 2010 number-one selection. The last two seasons they finished second in the Southeast division and made it as far as the Eastern Semifinals each year. As long as the Wizards continue to be on the rise, their selection of Wall will be considered the catalyst of their reversal of fortune.

Minus 2012, the Cleveland Cavaliers have held the number-one selection since then. So let’s take a look. 2011 was Kyrie Irving, 2013 was Anthony Bennett and 2014 was Andrew Wiggins. Considering Irving is still on the Cavs roster, he appears to be the one that worked, and his All Star and All-NBA status has convinced people of that. But the latter two will be looked at as the ones who indirectly helped the Cavs on the road they are on now. Bennett and Wiggins were traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves last summer in exchange for the Cavaliers acquiring Kevin Love, who LeBron James considered a main piece for Cleveland to be competitive.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 26:  Anthony Bennett #24 and Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves pose for portraits on August 26, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – AUGUST 26: Anthony Bennett #24 and Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves pose for portraits on August 26, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Bennett, who played in 52 games for Cleveland his rookie year and started none of them, has been considered one of the worst first selections in recent memory. Wiggins, on the other hand, was selected and sent out by the Cavaliers almost immediately, and despite going to a team as paltry as Minnesota was this year (16-66), he was named this season’s NBA Rookie of the Year.

In 2012, the New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans) selected Anthony Davis with the first pick, and after this season’s eighth-seeded playoff berth and Davis recording 24.4 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game, it looks like Davis has made himself invaluable to the team from the Bayou.

As fate would have it, the Timberwolves possess the number-one selection heading into June 25. With players like Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Garnett already in place, Minnesota will certainly feel the pressure of making the right choice, as it could be the final piece to their puzzle.

From the Knicks’ perspective, they are simply looking for someone with talent. If Lyles is there, it could mean a steady presence for the Knicks down low, with Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani and Cole Aldrich (if they do decide to re-sign him) already in place there. A lot of talk is thrown around about the importance of the number one pick. While it is true, we urge you to not lose your top just because the Knicks are three picks removed from it. As history and cautionary tales will tell us, sometimes the value of having the number one selection far outweighs the actual selection.

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