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Best NBA Draft Pick By Eastern Conference Teams Since 2000

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum are two of the best draft picks over the past 20 years.

About two weeks ago, the Atlanta Hawks won the draft lottery earning the first pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. It was a surprising outcome as they only had a 3% chance of doing so. With the draft about a month away, let’s take a look at each team’s best pick in the NBA Draft since 2000.

The best draft pick doesn’t necessarily mean the best player selected, but where they got drafted also was taken into consideration. Only time with the team that selected them is considered. For example, Luka Doncic was technically drafted by the Hawks but never played for them. Let’s start with the Eastern Conference teams before looking at the Western Conference tomorrow.

Best NBA Draft Pick By Eastern Conference Teams Since 2000

Atlanta Hawks – Josh Smith (17th overall, 2004)

Josh Smith was often scrutinized in his Hawks tenure, but very few players shared his versatility. He was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year in 2009-10. In nine seasons with Atlanta, Smith posted averages of 15.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.1 blocks.

Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum (3rd overall, 2017)

Still just 26 years old, Jayson Tatum currently has his Celtics two wins away from the NBA Finals. He has finished top-six in MVP voting and has been named to the All-NBA First Team each of the last three seasons.

Brooklyn Nets – Brook Lopez (10th overall, 2008)

Take a look at the Nets’ all-time scoring list, and Brook Lopez sits atop with 10,444 points. He averaged 18.6 points in nine seasons with the Nets and was named an All-Star in 2012-13.

Charlotte Hornets – Kemba Walker (9th overall, 2011)

Spending his first eight seasons with Charlotte after being selected ninth in the 2011 NBA Draft, Kemba Walker was named an All-Star each of his last three seasons with them. He is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 12,009 points.

Chicago Bulls – Jimmy Butler (30th overall, 2011)

The last pick of the first round in 2011, Jimmy Butler was named the Most Improved Player in 2014-15.  A three-time All-Star in his six seasons with Chicago, Butler didn’t just turn into a reliable scorer but also made four All-Defensive Teams while with the Bulls.

Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James (1st overall, 2003)

LeBron James helped bring the city of Cleveland a championship in 2016, a city that had experienced so many heartbreaks throughout the years in sports. He won two MVPs while with the Cavaliers and averaged 27.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 7.3 assists in 11 seasons with the team.

Detroit Pistons – Tayshaun Prince (23rd overall, 2002)

Tayshaun Prince was a longtime starting small forward for Detroit during his 12 years with the team including on the 2004 championship team. He made four straight All-Defensive Second Teams from 2004-05 until 2007-08.

Indiana Pacers – Paul George (10th overall, 2010)

A four-time All-Star in his seven seasons with Indiana, Paul George averaged over 20 points per contest three times. He was named Most Improved Player in 2012-13 and made three All-NBA Third Teams.

Miami Heat – Dwyane Wade (5th overall, 2003)

Dwyane Wade won three championships with Miami and won Finals MVP in the first of those (2006). A first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2023, Wade made 13 All-Stars and eight All-NBA teams in his lengthy Heat tenure.

Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th overall, 2013)

Since being drafted in 2013, there has been a case for Giannis Antetokounmpo being the best player over that time. He won back-to-back MVPs in 2018-19 and 2019-20, Defensive Player of the Year in 2019-20, and Finals MVP in 2021.

New York Knicks – David Lee (30th overall, 2005)

David Lee may not have been a member of a good Knicks team, but he always gave full effort. Playing five seasons for New York, Lee averaged double-figure rebounding totals three times and averaged 20.2 points as an All-Star in 2009-10.

Orlando Magic – Dwight Howard (1st overall, 2004)

Playing eight seasons with Orlando, Dwight Howard led the league in rebounds four times, blocks twice, and field goal percentage once. He won three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2008-09 to 2010-11.

Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid (3rd overall, 2014)

Joel Embiid has proven to be worth the wait after he missed the first two seasons after being drafted with a foot injury. He won MVP in 2022-23 and was a back-to-back scoring champion in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

Toronto Raptors – Pascal Siakam (27th overall, 2016)

The 2018-19 Most Improved Player, Pascal Siakam was the second-leading scorer for Toronto that postseason as they won their first championship. He made two All-NBA teams with the Raptors and averaged more than 20 points every season from 2019-20 on. He was traded to the Pacers in January.

Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal (3rd overall, 2012)

Bradley Beal is one of the best scorers in franchise history. He averaged over 30 points in 2019-20 and 2020-21. He was named to three All-Star teams and averaged 22.1 points in 11 seasons with Washington.


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