Since the inception of the NBA, the draft has been seen as a way for teams to immediately improve upon their rosters from one year to the next.
With the draft lottery in place, the more a team loses, the higher their odds of earning a high draft pick the following summer, which they can then use to acquire who they hope will be their next franchise cornerstone. Of course, it’s not just the high draft picks that pan out. Sometimes, players taken late on draft night end up having careers that exceed those of their counterparts selected far earlier.
Nevertheless, as you’re about to see, it’s usually the higher draft picks who end up putting up the monster numbers, even if there are a few late first-rounders and second-rounders with eye-popping totals in their own right.
Below, we break down the top scorers ever by draft position.
(Editor’s note: The point totals used in this article include both regular season and playoff scoring.)
No. 1 pick: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Not just the leading scorer for No. 1 overall picks but the leading scorer in league history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar averaged at least 30 points nightly four times in his career, and at least 20 points nightly a shocking 17 times throughout his time in the NBA. Thanks to his longevity and feathery sky-hook shot, Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest point-producer the Association has ever seen.
No. 2 pick: Jerry West
He made 14 All-Star teams in his career, won one championship and led the league in scoring in 1969-70. Jerry West ranks second all-time in scoring for the Los Angeles Lakers. His 27 points per game for his career is the sixth-highest scoring average in NBA history. West’s pull-up jumper is widely considered one of the most aesthetically pleasing shots ever.
No. 3 pick: Michael Jordan
Only Wilt Chamberlain can match Michael Jordan’s career scoring average of 30.1 points per contest. Jordan, arguably the greatest player ever and the league’s most brutally effective perimeter scorer of all time, won an NBA-record 10 scoring titles during his playing days. Again, only Chamberlain, who won seven scoring titles of his own, can come close to matching that total.
No. 4 pick: Antawn Jamison
Antawn Jamison’s blend of awkward flip shots inside and spot-up three-point touch outside helped him forge a career as an underrated bucket-getter. The North Carolina product averaged at least 18 points nightly in 11 of his 17 seasons in the Association.
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