Greatest NBA Draft ever; 1984 > 1996 > 2003 (and the stats to prove it)

By tamir1515
May. 04, 2016

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

I heard the debate several times in recent weeks; Which is the best draft of all time? 1984 or 1996 (sometimes 2003 is thrown in the mix).  It reminds me of the Dream Team (92) vs Redeem Team (08).  It's not really a debate.  Its like the Jordan vs Kobe debate.  Calling it a debate is unjust.  

Lets look at the accomplishments (84 and 96 are already completed in their careers, while 04 can still accumulate awards)

MVP's.  The single most important comparative.  How many "best of the best" has the draft produced?  1984 had 3 players accumulate 7 MVPs.  1996 had 3 players accumulate 4 MVPs.  2003 has 1 player (and counting) accumulate 4 MVP's.  Obviously 1984 wins this one thanks to Jordan's 5 MVPs, but between 1996 and 2003, though they have the same MVP totals, I would put 1996 ahead of 2003 because of the number of different MVPs.

Finals MVP's. How much ultimate winning did the draft class produce.  I am listing out Finals MVP rather than Championships, because I do not want to inflate the draft class value with Malik Rose or Derek Fisher winning a championship as a role player.  1984 had 2 players accumulate 8 Finals MVPs (and completely dominated the 90's).  2003 had 2 players accumulate 3 Finals MVPs (and counting), and 1996 rounds out the 3 groups with 1 player accumulate 2 Finals MVP's. Obviously 1984 wins this one too, thanks to Jordan's 6 Finals MVPs, but 2003 edges out 1996 in this category.

All NBA 1st, 2nd, and 3rd teams.  This one ends the debate.  1984 dominates both in 1st team selections (23) and total selections (47).  Though 1996 comes in 2nd in this criteria, 2003 still has several players in their prime or early decline that can still accumulate more ALL NBA selections.  But at this point in time 1996 has the edge.  The 1984 draft produced 4 players with 10+ All NBA selections (Olajuwon, Jordan, Barkley, and Stockton).  1996 and 2003 only have 1 player each with 10+ All NBA selections.  1996 has the most players with All NBA selections (7) which is the only argument that can be made; DEPTH.  But "Greatness"?; not even close.  

Defensive POY and All DEF 1st & 2nd Teams.  1984 once again dominates.  4 Defensive Player of the Year awards (from 3 different Players) and 24 All Defensive Team selections.  1996 follows.  2003 lags (but has some more time to produce some more)

What about all time rankings?  I know this one is subjective, but still needs to be addressed.  Olajuwon is at worst top 10 Center of all Time (I have him at 7).  Jordan is at worst the best Shooting Guard of all time (I have him at 1 overall).  Barkley is at worst a top 10 Power Forward of all time (I have him at 6th).  And Stockton is at worst a top 10 Point Guard of all time (I have him at 9th).  That is 4 players that are top 10 at their respective positions.  What about 1996. Kobe is at worst the 2nd best Shooting Guard of all time.  Then they have 3 other sure fire HOF'ers, but Allen Iverson (I have as 3rd best SG all time), Ray Allen (is outside my top 15), and Nash is likely top 5-10 PG of all time (I have him at 5th).  Not bad, but not 1984.   2003 will have the best Small Forward of all time, top 5 Shooting Guard of all time, and 2 perennial All Stars.

I do not like to use All-Stars to measure greatness, but in this case it makes 1996's argument.  1996 produced 10 players with at least 1 All Star appearance.  1984 produced 7 players with 53 All Star appearances.  And 2003 produced 9 players with 52 All Star appearances.  This shows that 1996 and 2003 are deeper drafts, but 1984 is still the "greatest" by almost any individual measure of greatness.  

Sure one player can inflate an entire draft.  Jordan, Kobe, and Lebron, but lets take those outliers out.  You have Olajuwon, Barkley, and Stockton, vs Iverson, Ray Allen, and Steve Nash, vs Wade, Carmelo, and Bosh.  Still looking like 1984.  And lets not forget that Carl Lewis (One of the greatest Olympic athletes of all time was drafted in the 1984 NBA draft...and the NFL draft for that matter).

Sports has lots of debates.  This is not one of them.  If you want to compare and argue 1996 vs 2003 when its all said and done, that would be a debate.  1984 is not in the conversation.  1984 Best ever!!!

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