Comparing The 1984, 1996 and 2003 NBA drafts

April 18, 2021 0 By jasonbaud

​Comparing the 1984, 1996 and 2003 drafts.
As most draft analysis junkies will attest these three drafts are the cause of much debate. We intend to take the reader on a journey into the world of NBA draft potential and finally answers some questions that have haunted untold millions.

These are the three NBA draft’s that most NBA draft junkies can’t help but debate so we will compare them using analytics and player impact to determine once and for all which NBA draft was the greatest. On top of that we will look at the impact of a sample size of top contributors from each draft. Then we will look at the prestige factor and how it provides a global impact to each draft. Let’s begin our journey as Bone Thugs said meet me at the Crossroads as we discover the greatest NBA draft once and for all. Allen Iverson said 1996 is the best but will the numbers support him? Let’s find out.

The draft heard round the world.
With four clear superstars the rest of this draft was really jut a bonus. One superstar is about average for a draft, two is pretty good but four is insanely rare.
7 all-stars total.
Michael Jordan:
 He is easily top three all time, Jordan has a career VORP of 116 and an estimated 214 wins added over 15 seasons with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. Six MVP’s, Six rings, a DPOY award and more accolades can reasonably be listed. Jordan was the most dominant player we have seen the mid 1980’s his reign continued until the early 2000’s

John Stockton: Arguably one of the best defensive PG’s of all time, Stockton was also an elite playmaker and part of the great Utah Jazz teams of the 1990’s His VORP of 106  is 2nd in this draft he is also 2nd in Win shares at 207.

Charles Barkley:
Barkley was the engine of multiple great Suns teams a superstar through his prime he finished with a VORP of 80 and a WS of 177.

Hakeem Olajuwon:
Hakeem helped the Rocket win two championships and was a clear superstar in his prime. He finished his career with a VORP of 74 and a WS of 162.

Otis Thorpe, Alvin Robertson, Kevin Willis
These three all had all-star appearances and were stars in their prime.


The prodigal son returns.
Kobe Bryant lived ate and slept the game of basketball, The only player arguably more obsessed was Allen Iverson so it is fitting they were essentially 1 and 1a as impact players from this draft.
Kobe Bryant
While 1984 arguably had a heavier top you could argue that the 1996 and 2003 draft’s had more depth.
This draft had 10 players make at least one all-star game.

Kobe Bryant-
Kobe grew up idolizing Michael Jordan so it is only right he ended up growing into a diet version of his hero. A clear superstar and 5 time MVP and  five time champion Bryant was the leader of an excellent group of Lakers teams in the 2000’s Anyone that watched Kobe play before his tragic death could see his passion for the game and hunger to win at all costs.

Ray Allen –
Allen helped make the Bucks relevant as a superstar in his prime. He later was a role player on two championship Miami Heat teams.

Allen Iverson-
Iverson loved basketball so much you probably couldn’t stop him from playing with a gun pointed at him. His team would have to hide his jersey to protect him from himself when he was injured. The greatest scoring PG of all time in my opinion at least. Iverson carried the 76ers to an NBA finals appearance with multiple heroic performances.

Steve Nash, Marcus Camby, Stephon Marbury, Peja Stojakavic, Antonie Walker, Kerry Kittles were all stars in their prime.
Jermaine O-Neal had several all-star appearances.

The Unicorn.
Lebron James can’t be human. People that 6’8” and 250 pounds shouldn’t have his blend of speed and agility. A basketball player was never meant to be built like a linebacker. Whatever alien race he may come from Earth is grateful he came here regardless.

9 total All Stars

Lebron James
Arguably the greatest player of all time, 4 time NBA champion, 4 time MVP and built like a Mack truck. Lebron James is easily the best player from this draft class.  His VORP of 137 and WS of 242 dwarf’s his draft class.

Dwyane Wade
 3 time NBA champion 3 time MVP, superstar in his prime, Wade carried Miami to a championship in 2006. He is 2nd in this draft class with a VORP of 63 and a WS of 121.

Carmelo Anthony
A superstar in his prime, and one of the best scorers of all time Melo carried a mediocre Nuggets team to a conference finals appearance. He then spent most of his career carrying a mediocre group of Knicks teams. He was an MVP finalist and finished 3rd in that vote.

Chris Bosh, David West were stars, West saw his prime shortened by multiple injuries.
Josh Howard, Kyle Korver, Mo Williams and Chris Kaman all had all-star appearances as well.

Now that we have compared the draft classes let’s dive deeper. In this next part we will look at the average positive output of each draft class top 8 contributors and compare them to each other.

The top 8 contributors have an average VORP of 59. The average win shares is 141. The average NBA career of this group was 17 years.

The top 8 contributors had an average VORP of 43. An average win shares of 106 and they played for an average of 15 years.

The top 8 contributors had an average win shares of 104. We already mentioned the highlights but there were other solid contributors like long time role players such as Kirk Hinrich and Zaza Pachulia. The average VORP of this group is 42. This group played for an average of 15 years.

The prestige factor:
It’s hard to argue against the global brand appeal and impact of Lebron James and Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant holds his own but the other two are clearly in a class of their own. Even then Kobe is the most searched of the three with over a million monthly searches to this day still. Lebron might actually be the third most popular on this list as Jordan is still immensely popular in Asia and in China is almost viewed as a religious entity.

The Takeaway:
While all three draft’s have compelling top end talent. The winner is clear. 1984 has greater depth and a larger impact than the other draft classes could dream of. It’s hard to even get through the mid lottery without finding a star at the minimum. 1996 doesn’t have the top end talent of the other two classes. I love Iverson and feel he’s underrated but the draft class other than him and Bryant seriously lacks depth.  2003 has Lebron and a very strong top 5. Darko Milicic had the raw talent but it never translated to on court success.

Our choice is the 1984 NBA draft as the greatest draft of all time. What is your pick? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.