Length Of Stay For Each Post-Merger No. 1 Pick

Kevin Love is the headliner in the trade agreement that will send him to the Cavs, but there will be at least two other historically significant players in the transaction once it becomes official. Andrew Wiggins will become just the third No. 1 overall pick to be traded before playing a regular season game for the team that selected him. Chris Webber and David Thompson are the others, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com pointed out today via Twitter. The inclusion of Anthony Bennett, last year’s No. 1 overall pick, is fairly noteworthy, too. He’ll pair with Pervis Ellison as the only top picks since the NBA-ABA merger to have been traded after only one season with the team that drafted them.

In many ways, Wiggins and Webber stand alone. Thompson signed with the Nuggets, then an ABA team, rather than the Hawks after Atlanta made him the NBA’s No. 1 pick in 1975. Thompson’s rookie season was the last of the ABA before the merger. The Rockets, who had the first overall pick in 1976, parted ways with draftee John Lucas two years later because the rules at that time held that teams had to give up players as compensation when they signed another club’s free agent. So, that’s why this look at the length of time each No. 1 overall pick has spent with his team starts with Kent Benson, the top pick in 1977. Player movement rules have evolved gradually since then, but the first draft after the first post-merger season seems an appropriate place to begin.

Since that time, top picks have spent an average of six and a half seasons with their teams. That takes into account active players who still remain with the clubs that drafted them and assumes Bennett and Wiggins will indeed spend just one and zero seasons, respectively, as Cavs. This post counts years in which a draftee didn’t play for his team due to injury, but not seasons during which a player was retired. In cases where teams traded their top picks midseason, it goes down as a half-season for the purposes of this post.

Here’s the complete list, since 1977, with the number of seasons the top pick played for his team in parentheses.

  • 2014: Andrew Wiggins, Cavaliers (0) — Trade agreement in place to send Wiggins to the Timberwolves once he becomes eligible to be traded on August 23rd.
  • 2013: Anthony Bennett, Cavaliers (1) — Trade agreement in place to sent Bennett to the Sixers once Wiggins becomes eligible to be traded on August 23rd.
  • 2012: Anthony Davis, Pelicans (2) — Still with team
  • 2011: Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers (3) — Still with team
  • 2010: John Wall, Wizards (4) — Still with team
  • 2009: Blake Griffin, Clippers (5) — Still with team
  • 2008: Derrick Rose, Bulls (6) — Still with team
  • 2007: Greg Oden, Trail Blazers (4.5) — Waived March 15th, 2012.
  • 2006: Andrea Bargnani, Raptors (7) — Traded to Knicks on July 10th, 2013.
  • 2005: Andrew Bogut, Bucks (6.5) — Traded to Warriors on March 13th, 2012.
  • 2004: Dwight Howard, Magic (8) — Traded to Lakers on August 10th, 2012.
  • 2003: LeBron James, Cavaliers (7) — Signed-and-traded to Heat on July 10, 2010.
  • 2002: Yao Ming, Rockets (9) — Played entire career for Rockets.
  • 2001: Kwame Brown, Wizards (4) — Traded to Lakers on August 2nd, 2005.
  • 2000: Kenyon Martin, Nets (4) — Traded to Nuggets on July 15th, 2004.
  • 1999: Elton Brand, Bulls (2) — Traded to Clippers on June 27th, 2001.
  • 1998: Michael Olowokandi, Clippers (5) — Signed with Timberwolves on July 16th, 2003.
  • 1997: Tim Duncan, Spurs (17) — Still with team.
  • 1996: Allen Iverson, Sixers (9.5) — Traded to Nuggets on December 19th, 2006.
  • 1995: Joe Smith, Warriors (2.5) — Traded to Sixers on February 17th, 1998.
  • 1994: Glenn Robinson, Bucks (8) — Traded to Hawks on August 2nd, 2002.
  • 1993: Chris Webber, Magic (0) — Traded to Warriors on June 30th, 1993 (draft night).
  • 1992: Shaquille O’Neal, Magic (4) — Signed with Lakers on July 18th, 1996.
  • 1991: Larry Johnson, Hornets (now Pelicans) (5) — Traded to Knicks on July 14th, 1996.
  • 1990: Derrick Coleman, Nets (5.5) — Traded to Sixers on November 30th, 1995.
  • 1989: Pervis Ellison, Kings (1) — Traded to Bullets (now Wizards) on June 25th, 1990.
  • 1988: Danny Manning, Clippers (5.5) — Traded to Hawks on February 24th, 1994.
  • 1987: David Robinson, Spurs (14) — Played entire career for Spurs.
  • 1986: Brad Daugherty, Cavaliers (8) — Played entire career for Cavaliers.
  • 1985: Patrick Ewing, Knicks (15) — Traded to SuperSonics (now Thunder) on September 20th, 2000.
  • 1984: Hakeem Olajuwon, Rockets (17) — Traded to Raptors on August 2nd, 2001.
  • 1983: Ralph Sampson, Rockets (4.5) — Traded to Warriors on December 12th, 1987.
  • 1982: James Worthy, Lakers (12) — Played entire career for Lakers.
  • 1981: Mark Aguirre, Mavericks (7.5) — Traded to Pistons on February 15, 1989.
  • 1980: Joe Barry Carroll, Warriors (7.5) — Traded to Rockets on December 12th, 1987.
  • 1979: Magic Johnson, Lakers (13) — Played entire career for Lakers. Was retired from 1991/92 season through 1994/95 season, but returned during 1995/96.
  • 1978: Mychal Thompson, Trail Blazers (8) — Traded to Spurs on June 19th, 1986.
  • 1977: Kent Benson, Bucks (2.5) — Traded to Pistons on February 4th, 1980.

Basketball-Reference was used in the creation of this post.

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2 thoughts on “Length Of Stay For Each Post-Merger No. 1 Pick

  1. Double_Up

    Interesting. Was Aguirre the only star to get traded and then win a championship? Lebron wasn’t really a trade.


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