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Reviewing the Last 5 No. 1 Drafted NBA Players

Below is a review of the last five number one drafted NBA players.

Zion Williamson 2019-2020

Reviewing the Last Five Number one Drafted NBA Players

Picture of Zion Williamson dunking a basketball.
Photo courtesy of

Due to injury, Williamson only played in 24 games during the 2019-2020 NBA season. However, when he was on the floor he made a big impact.

Williamson averaged 22.5 points per game throughout the season and finished second in rookie of the year voting to Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant.

Arguably, Williamson’s stat line during the season was more impressive than Morant’s. However, Morant won the Rookie of the Year award. This was in large part due to him playing 43 more games than that of which Williamson participated in.

The only knock on Williamson coming out of Duke was that his body may be prone to injury. This is in large part why Williamson was on a minute restriction, coming off of a gruesome knee injury.

The potential Hall of Fame-caliber talent Williamson holds is obvious. However, whether or not the pick was worth it for New Orleans, will come down to whether or not Williamson can stay on the court for the long run.

When reviewing the last five number one drafted NBA players, Williamson is the most promising of all when healthy.

DeAndre Ayton 2018-2019

Looking back on things, drafting DeAndre Ayton was the correct move for the Phoenix Suns.

During the 2019-20 NBA season, Ayton hauled in 11.5 rebounds per game. He also managed to hold an insane shooting clip of 75.3 percent.

There are only two players from said class, who have had arguably better careers to date. Both of those players were point guards (Luka Doncic and Trae Young).

Given that the Suns already had a rising star in guard Devin Booker at the time, drafting a big man to pair with him made sense.

However, it is fun to marvel at the thought of Booker playing guard, with Doncic alongside him.

Markelle Fultz 2017-2018

Last Five Number one Drafted NBA Players
Markelle Fultz dribbles the ball for the Orlando Magic.
Photo courtesy of

Markelle Fultz is simply someone who has not been able to replicate his collegiate game at the professional level. While in the NBA, Fultz has not been able to gain consistency with his jump shot. Ironically his collegiate shooting is what lead to him getting drafted number 1.

While in college, Fultz shot 41.3 percent from the three-point line. At the NBA level, this has translated to a 26.7 percent shooting clip. Given that Fultz shot only 64.9 percent at the free-throw line in college, people should not be surprised that this number dipped drastically.

One player the 76ers could have drafted instead is small forward Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics. Role player Robert Covington was the team starting small forward at the time. Tatum’s length and offensive prowess would have given the team a third option (behind Simmons and Joel Embiid).

This would have possibly been enough to currently have the 76ers in NBA Finals contention.

For this reason, when reviewing the last five number one drafted NBA players, the drafting of Markelle Fultz can be seen as the worst pick.

Ben Simmons 2016-2017

Last five number one drafted players
Ben Simmons dribbles a basketball. Photo courtesy of Yong Kim

Ben Simmons has proved to be the player we all thought he was. Simmons has unnaturally good handles for someone of his size. Simmons also holds the ability to finish over just about anyone at the rim as a result of this.

The area of Simmons’s game where he must improve is that of three-point shooting. For Simmons NBA career, he has only shot 8.3 percent from the three-point line. Last year, that number did improve (28.6 percent three-point shooting), however, this number must continue to rise if Simmons wants to continue to climb the ladder of the NBA’s elite point guards.

Despite this, in hindsight, the 76ers should view Ben Simmons as one of the best of the last five number one drafted NBA players.

Karl Anthony Towns 2015-2016

Entering the draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves had a slew of positions in need of much assistance. However, their most pressing concern was the position of center. Their starting center (Nikola Pekovic) was headed towards retirement.

Their depth chart at the position was lead by an elderly NBA legend named Kevin Garnett. But at that moment, in Garnett’s final year he would serve as more of a mentor.

The Timberwolves had chosen to draft center Karl Anthony Towns (from the University of Kentucky) with the number one pick. To date, Towns has had an exceptional career. What makes his career even more exceptional is the lack of talent he has had surrounding him during his success in the NBA. For this reason, the Minnesota Timberwolves should view this pick as the most successful thing they have managed to have done in the last 20 years.


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