Each year brings new surprises in the world of basketball and 2023 is no exception. The current NBA season is nearing its climax and following the culmination of the playoffs in June, we will be finding out who will be drafted first in this year's annual NBA draft. Over the last few years, a number of the sport's biggest stars have been drafted first overall, and it's an honor that can never be taken away from each lucky player, whether they go on to live up to that billing or not.
Whether their choice at number one was expected or whether it shook things up, each player selected first overall represents something special; they are part of an exclusive club that very few athletes make it into. Since the dawn of the 2010s, the likes of Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis, have been selected first overall. Both of those stars have gone on to pick up champions rings, with the former going all the way in 2016, and the latter picking up his maiden title in 2020.
As we mentioned, however, the current season has not yet been completed. Online bookmakers such as Bovada, which provides NBA lines and futures, currently make the Milwaukee Bucks the favorites for the title. Giannis Antetokounmpo has just led Team Giannis to victory in the NBA All-Star game, and he will be hoping to lead the title contending Bucks to a second crown in two years this summer.
But with the 2023 NBA Draft not too far away, we decided it would be the perfect time to take a look back at the last five number-one draft picks. Without further ado, here they are.
At just 19 years old, a phenomenal talent by the name of Deandre Ayton was selected as the highly coveted number one overall pick, heading straight to the Phoenix Suns. The buzz around this 7-foot-1 center was entirely justified. The Bahamas-born star is an absolute force on the court, dominating both offensively and defensively with his strength, agility, and finesse.
His selection at number one and subsequent success with the Suns wasn't too surprising given his outstanding performance at the University of Arizona, where he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year. There was no doubt that Ayton etched his name in the history books and earned a well-deserved spot among the elite NBA players - and he is still at the very beginning of an exciting and promising career.
Back in 2019, everyone knew that Zion Williamson was an absolute unit on the court, and his future in the NBA was sure to be nothing short of dazzling. People were buzzing, eager to see what this young phenom had in store for the world of basketball. Even before he stepped foot on the court as a pro, Zion was already a sensation at Duke University, and then, in one swoop, the New Orleans Pelicans nabbed him to start his NBA career.
Despite being just 22 years of age, Williamson is already one of the NBA's biggest stars. He is already a two-time NBA All-Star after being named to the 2021 and 2023 All-Star teams and was a starter for Team LeBron's Western Conference All-Stars. And if that wasn't enough, he was featured as the cover star of NBA 2K21, despite being barely two years into his fledgling career.
The spectacular honor of being drafted first overall in 2020 was given to Anthony Edwards, a shining star from the University of Georgia. His exceptional talent was on full display throughout his college basketball career, leading to him being named a McDonald's All-American in his maiden season playing college ball.
Towering at 6'5" with an incredible wingspan and explosive athleticism, Edwards captured the hearts and eyes of sports enthusiasts everywhere. On the day of the draft, anticipation built to a fever pitch as fans eagerly awaited the announcement of the top pick. When his name was finally called, a wave of excitement and pride reverberated across households and sports bars nationwide.
That optimism wasn't misplaced either. Edwards was named an NBA All-Star for the first time this year, and although he was a reserve for Team LeBron, there is no doubt that future successes are bound to follow. Fans of the Timberwolves will be hoping that those successes are team-based rather than personal however, as the Minnesota outfit has reached the playoffs just twice since losing the Western Conference finals to the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2004.
While the other three players on this list have gone on to stake their claim as some of the best players in the NBA today, it's still early days for the 2021 & 2022 number-one picks. Cade Cunningham was drafted first overall by the Detroit Pistons and successfully made it into the All-Rookie first team. It is still to be seen whether Paolo Banchero - drafted first overall by the Orlando Magic last year - will receive the same distinction.