Let me ask you a question. What’s the best NBA draft class of all time?
It’s a sports query that will likely trigger spirited debate. Perhaps you’d opt for the 2003 NBA Draft, which featured future “Big Three” LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as well as Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Korver and the legend known as Matt Bonner.
Or maybe you’re fond of 1990s nostalgia and would choose the fabled 1996 draft class, which included future MVPs Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Allen Iverson.
Either of those classes are fine choices for the distinction of best in history, but other members of the NBA community might remind you about the class featuring one Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Surely the draft class that brought “His Airness” to the fray — along with three other Hall of Famers — trumps the rest, right?
Well, PointAfter rehashed MJ’s 1984 class and re-picked the proceedings. There’s an immense amount of talent up top, but those who label this the best class ever may not remember its alarming lack of depth.
Note: The 1984 NBA Draft only featured 24 first-round spots.
#1. Michael Jordan
Team: Houston Rockets
Original Slot for Jordan: No. 3
Original No. 1 Pick: Hakeem Olajuwon
Career Win Shares: 214.0
Almost universally regarded as the best basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan won Rookie of the Year in 1985 after being selected No. 3 overall by the Chicago Bulls.
From there, Air Jordan would garner five MVP awards, six championship rings and six Finals MVPs. He also won Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, amassed a whopping 10 scoring titles, was named an All-Star 14 times (winning three All-Star Game MVPs) and even threw in two Slam Dunk titles to the ledger.
He’s the Bulls’ all-time leading scorer and the all-time leading scorer for the NBA playoffs. It would have seemed ludicrous at the time for Houston to pass on Hakeem Olajuwon in favor of Jordan, but it’s an obvious call in hindsight.
#2. Hakeem Olajuwon
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Original Slot for Olajuwon: No. 1
Original No. 2 Pick: Sam Bowie
Career Win Shares: 162.8
“Hakeem the Dream” actually finished his career with the fewest win shares among 1984’s four Hall of Famers, but we simply couldn’t drop Olajuwon out of the top two picks.
Instead of selecting notorious bust Sam Bowie in this spot, Portland lands an infinitely superior center with Jordan off the board.
The Nigerian-born big man won back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995 as a member of the Houston Rockets (also taking home Finals MVP each time). He was named league MVP in 1994, won two consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards (1993, 1994) and revolutionized the center position.
His patented “Dream Shake” post moves proved that bigs didn’t have to be bruisers completely devoid of finesse.
#3. Charles Barkley
Team: Chicago Bulls
Original Slot for Barkley: No. 5
Original No. 3 Pick: Michael Jordan
Career Win Shares: 177.2
Rounding out the three players from the class who won an MVP award is Charles Barkley. The jovial “Round Mound of Rebound” spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers before being traded to the Phoenix Suns — with whom he won MVP honors in 1993.
“Sir Charles” made All-NBA First Team and Second Team five times each, adding one All-NBA Third Team nod as well. An 11-time All-Star, Barkley won All-Star Game MVP in 1991 for scoring 17 points and hauling in a game-high 22 rebounds.
#4. John Stockton
Team: Dallas Mavericks
Original Slot for Stockton: No. 16
Original No. 4 Pick: Sam Perkins
Career Win Shares: 207.7
Back in 1984, the Dallas Mavericks had two opportunities to draft John Stockton (No. 4 overall and No. 15 overall). They passed on the hard-nosed point guard from Gonzaga both times, coming away with lesser talents.
But if the Mavs had selected Stockton No. 4 overall, as they do here in the re-draft, would he have been as successful?
Stockton was an elite talent, to be sure, but he carved his NBA niche with the Utah Jazz by forming a positively lethal pick-and-roll combination with power forward Karl Malone. Without “The Mailman” in Dallas, there’s a chance the NBA’s all-time assists and steals leader would have experienced a very different career arc.
#5. Alvin Robertson
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Original Slot for Robertson: No. 7
Original No. 5 Pick: Charles Barkley
Career Win Shares: 52.1
A four-time All-Star, Alvin Robertson earned most of his keep on the defensive end of the court. Though he did average 17 points per game or more in four of his 10 seasons, he was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1986, made the All-Defensive First Team twice and the All-Defensive Second Team four times.
In 1985-86, Robertson’s season was loaded with accolades. He made his first All-Star team, only All-NBA Team (Second Team), won Most Improved Player, led the league in steals, was named to the All-Defensive Second Team and took home Defensive Player of the Year. Now that’s one heck of a season.
#6. Otis Thorpe
Team: Washington Bullets (Washington Wizards)
Original Slot for Thorpe: No. 9
Original No. 6 Pick: Melvin Turpin
Career Win Shares: 106.4
Over the course of a 17-year NBA career, Otis Thorpe averaged 14 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists all while shooting 54.6 percent from the field. He made his first and only All-Star team in 1992 as a member of the Houston Rockets by averaging 17.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest.
Two seasons later, Thorpe was part of the Rockets team along with Hakeem Olajuwon that won the NBA championship.
#7. Sam Perkins
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Original Slot for Perkins: No. 4
Original No. 7 Pick: Alvin Robertson
Career Win Shares: 105.4
Sam Perkins slips slightly in the re-draft from No. 4 overall to No. 7, but that’s certainly not a knock on “Big Smooth” provided the level of talent that leapfrogs him.
Perkins never made an All-Star team in his career, but he was named to the All-Rookie First Team following his first go-round with Dallas. He played 1,286 career regular season games, averaging 11.9 points and six rebounds.
#8. Kevin Willis
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
Original Slot for Willis: No. 11
Original No. 8 Pick: Lancaster Gordon
Career Win Shares: 81.8
The younger contingent of NBA fans will likely remember Kevin Willis as the old-timer with bulky knee pads still managing to contribute past age 40 to the San Antonio Spurs. But the fact of the matter is Willis was a stud in his younger years as a member of the Atlanta Hawks.
The 7-footer averaged a double-double in five of his first 10 seasons. He peaked at age 29 when he made his only All-Star team for the Hawks by averaging 18.3 points, 15.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists over the course of 81 games (80 starts).
#9. Jerome Kersey
Team: Kansas City Kings (Sacramento Kings)
Original Slot for Kersey: No. 46
Original No. 9 Pick: Otis Thorpe
Career Win Shares: 69.5
Though Jerome Kersey didn’t make the All-Star team during his NBA career, he was still PointAfter’s choice as the Portland Trail Blazers’ best small forward of all time.
Kersey earned that distinction with staying power. He played 11 seasons in Portland, none better than his 1987-88 campaign. That year, Kersey averaged 19.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals.
#10. Michael Cage
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Original Slot for Cage: No. 14
Original No. 10 Pick: Leon Wood
Career Win Shares: 74.4
Michael Cage’s shining moment in the NBA occurred in the final game of the 1987-88 season. According to NBA.com, Cage needed to haul in a whopping 28 rebounds to overtake Charles Oakley for the league’s rebounding title. He grabbed 30.
“I showed up for the last game of the year and there was a sign in my locker that read: ’28 rebounds and you are the rebounding champion. You can do it Cage,'” Cage said. “I still don’t know who wrote it, but it inspired me.”
He was nicknamed “The Windexman” for his glass-cleaning prowess and lasted 15 seasons in the pros.
#11. Vern Fleming
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Original Slot for Fleming: No. 18
Original No. 11 Pick: Kevin Willis
Career Win Shares: 52.0
As a 6-foot-5 point guard, Vern Fleming boasted above-average size for his position. That size served him well, as Fleming averaged four or more rebounds per game in his first five pro seasons.
Fleming spent nearly his entire career with the Indiana Pacers before rounding out his NBA tenure with a 77-game stint with the New Jersey Nets in 1995-96. In 12 seasons, Fleming averaged 14.7 points, 6.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds per 36 minutes.
#12. Jay Humphries
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Original Slot for Humphries: No. 13
Original No. 12 Pick: Tim McCormick
Career Win Shares: 45.0
Originally drafted No. 13 overall by the Phoenix Suns, Humphries moves up one spot here. He played 244 of a possible 246 regular season games throughout his first three seasons in the pros, averaging 10.8 points, 6.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds in a Suns jersey.
He was traded from Phoenix to Milwaukee in 1988 for Craig Hodges and a 1988 second-round pick. He played arguably his best basketball for the Bucks, but he never garnered any individual accolades. He was traded to the Utah Jazz in 1992, then to the Boston Celtics — where he finished his career — in 1995.
Truthfully, he’s the last player from this draft class who moved the needle significantly during his NBA tenure.
Buckle up for a wave of mediocrity … but it’s worth sticking around for a fun MJ tale.
#13. Sam Bowie
Team: Phoenix Suns
Original Slot for Bowie: No. 2
Original No. 13 Pick: Jay Humphries
Career Win Shares: 26.9
Notorious bust Sam Bowie is best remembered in NBA circles for being the player selected directly in front of Michael Jordan. The Portland Trail Blazers continue to be chided decades later for selecting the 7-foot-1 center over MJ. It remains one of the NBA’s biggest what-ifs to this day, but Portland at least had valid excuses not to take Jordan.
Bowie was a heavily recruited force of nature while in high school and ultimately chose to play his college ball at the University of Kentucky. His numbers in college were solid, and because the Trail Blazers had drafted shooting guard Clyde Drexler just one year prior, they had little reason to double up on ball-dominant guards.
The big man did show promise as a rookie, but a rash of injuries to his legs and feet derailed his NBA career. He still managed to play 10 seasons despite missing the entire 1987-88 campaign to injury, but he certainly didn’t live up to the billing of being a No. 2 overall pick.
#14. Tony Campbell
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
Original Slot for Campbell: No. 20
Original No. 14 Pick: Michael Cage
Career Win Shares: 20.7
After being drafted No. 20 overall in 1984, Tony Campbell spent his first five NBA seasons as a seldom-used role player. He won a championship in 1988 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, but he played only 6.3 minutes per game for them in the playoffs.
It wasn’t until Campbell signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves as an unrestricted free agent in 1989 that his career shifted. He averaged more than 21 points in consecutive seasons as Minny’s starting shooting guard (maxing out at 23.2 points per game in 1990). He wasn’t particularly efficient as a scorer, but he did have a solid three-year peak with the T-Wolves.
#15. Ron Anderson
Team: Dallas Mavericks
Original Slot for Anderson: No. 27
Original No. 15 Pick: Terence Stansbury
Career Win Shares: 24.2
Terence Stansbury, whom the Mavericks used their No. 15 overall pick in 1984 to get, wound up playing just three seasons in the pros. Ron Anderson, who was selected in the second round (No. 27 overall), played 10 seasons.
To be sure, Anderson wasn’t exactly a stud, but he did average 16.2 points, five rebounds and 1.7 assists in 82 games as Philadelphia’s sixth man during the 1988-89 season. Not too shabby for a guy primarily coming off the bench.
#16. Tim McCormick
Team: Utah Jazz
Original Slot for McCormick: No. 12
Original No. 16 Pick: John Stockton
Career Win Shares: 21.5
The Utah Jazz unquestionably suffer the largest decline in talent in this re-draft. Instead of Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton falling all the way to the Beehive State’s professional team, Utah is forced to nab center Tim McCormick.
A 6-foot-11 big man out of University of Michigan, McCormick peaked by averaging 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds during his third season in the pros as part of the 76ers’ starting five. It was all downhill from there, and McCormick retired before his age-30 season.
#17. Danny Young
Team: New Jersey Nets (Brooklyn Nets)
Original Slot for Young: No. 39
Original No. 17 Pick: Jeff Turner
Career Win Shares: 20.2
Throughout an NBA career that stretched 10 seasons, Danny Young was waived five separate times.
If nothing else, that shows off Young’s resilience, but his stats consistently remained mediocre at best.
#18. Steve Colter
Team: Indiana Pacers
Original Slot for Colter: No. 33
Original No. 18 Pick: Vern Fleming
Career Win Shares: 17.3
Steve Colter was drafted in the second round of the 1984 NBA Draft. In his NBA career, he played for the Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Bullets, Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers — with a three-year stint spent in the Continental Basketball Association, Philippines and Croatia sandwiched before his final NBA season.
A 6-foot-3 point guard, Colter peaked in his “sophomore” season by averaging 8.7 points and 3.2 assists for Portland.
#19. Jim Petersen
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Original Slot for Petersen: No. 51
Original No. 19 Pick: Bernard Thompson
Career Win Shares: 13.8
Jim Petersen, a gangly 6-foot-10 center out of University of Minnesota, was drafted in the third round back in 1984. The NBA draft only features two rounds today, but it actually featured 10 rounds in 1984. Only five players drafted in 1984 from Round 5 onward played a single minute in the NBA, so it certainly wasn’t necessary to have so many rounds.
It’s rather impressive that Petersen was able to vault up from Round 3 into Round 1 here, unless you compare him to the peers.
#20. Melvin Turpin
Team: Detroit Pistons
Original Slot for Turpin: No. 6
Original No. 20 Pick: Tony Campbell
Career Win Shares: 13.7
Melvin Turpin, who went on to play just five seasons in the pros, was drafted No. 6 overall by the Washington Bullets ahead of Alvin Robertson, Otis Thorpe, Kevin Willis and John Stockton.
A hulking, 6-foot-11 center who struggled with his weight throughout his brief career, Turpin was nicknamed “Dinner Bell Mel” and “The Mealman.”
Turpin played a role in one of the NBA’s most interesting Michael Jordan stories. During a game in 1987, Jordan’s Bulls faced off against Turpin and the Jazz. On one possession, MJ posted up point guard John Stockton, then zipped past him for an easy dunk. A fan yelled something to the effect of “pick on someone your own size!” On the very next possession, Jordan skied over Turpin for a savage dunk and barked back at the fan, “Was he big enough?”
You can see the alleged exchange in the embedded video.
#21. Jeff Turner
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Original Slot for Turner: No. 17
Original No. 21 Pick: Kenny Fields
Career Win Shares: 8.9
After averaging approximately five points and three rebounds throughout his first three NBA seasons with the New Jersey Nets, Turner played overseas in Italy for two seasons.
He returned to the NBA thereafter and played seven additional seasons for the Orlando Magic. He averaged 6.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in a Magic jersey.
#22. Leon Wood
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Original Slot for Wood: No. 10
Original No. 22 Pick: Tom Sewell
Career Win Shares: 6.7
Leon Wood played for six NBA teams in six seasons. Add a season-long stint overseas in Spain, and you have the definition of a true basketball journeyman.
Wood retired as a 39.2 percent shooter from the field and 32.6 percent shooter from beyond the arc. For the layperson, those are not good figures.
#23. Charles Jones
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Original Slot for Jones: No. 36
Original No. 23 Pick: Earl Jones
Career Win Shares: 4.5
In 78 games (14 starts) played for the Phoenix Suns as a rookie, Charles Jones averaged 8.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and shot 52 percent from the field. Truthfully, those are solid numbers for a backup big man, but he wasn’t able to build on that promise.
Jones averaged 4.7 points and 4.5 rebounds the following year and was released by Phoenix. He played just two seasons after the fact.
#24. Ben Coleman
Team: Boston Celtics
Original Slot for Coleman: No. 37
Original No. 24 Pick: Michael Young
Career Win Shares: 5.0
At 6-foot-9, 235 pounds, Ben Coleman earned the nickname “Big Ben” long before four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace made his mark on the NBA. Coleman, however, was not nearly as talented.
The former Maryland Terrapin played four uninspiring seasons in the NBA before playing overseas in Spain for three seasons. He returned for the 1993-94 season with the Detroit Pistons, but only played nine games.
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