NBA MVP winners by draft position: 38 top-three picks took home award

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The point is, the higher the draft selection, the more likely you are to add a superstar. Does that still mean that a Top 3 draft pick will guarantee you a Hall of Fame? No, but that said if you look at the story it definitely helps. Over time, 18 players selected in the first three caps won the MVP title, while another 10 players were selected in the top 15.

Being considered a lottery pick has shown that there is a greater chance of being ranked as the best in the league, but there are also few outliers. Two players were chosen between No.15-30, while two other players were chosen in the second round. It used to be that third-round picks were one thing, along with territorial picks, which led to three more MVPs.

When your team is rebuilding itself, getting closer to the top of the selection board is a must in some cases. When it comes to the MVP, this is your best chance to have one on your team. Here are the MVPs broken down by draft selection.


Top 3 Pick – 38 MVP Awards

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6), Bill Russell (5), Michael Jordan (5), LeBron James (4), Magic Johnson (3), Bob Pettit (2), Tim Duncan (2), Bob Cousy, Wes Unseld ( 1), Bob McAdoo (1), Bill Walton (1), Hakeem Olajuwon (1), David Robinson (1), Shaquille O’Neal (1), Allen Iverson (1), Derrick Rose (1), Kevin Durant ( 1), James Harden (1)

The first to do so was Bob Pettit, the former St. Louis Hawks superstar who led the franchise to its last NBA Championship. Pettit was one of 11 players to win an MVP after being selected with the No. 1 pick overall. Others include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, LeBron James and Derrick Rose.

When you rate the plethora of talents that make up this list, you can break it down into categories. For starters, the top scorers are Kareem, Russell, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, Allen Iverson and James Harden. These players were an instant attack, while some did a little more work on the offensive glass. The debate between Jordan, Iverson and Durant is difficult enough, so talking about the six is ​​even more difficult.

The great men who made this list were special. This included Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. The combination of Robinson and Duncan is almost unfair to some teams as the two were criminal partners when the San Antonio Spurs won two championships in five years. Olajuwon is the top contender for the best two-way player in the league, while Shaq is by far the most qualified offensive player on this list. The best overall defensive player on this list could be Wes Unseld, who could try to be the best overall rebounder.


Pick # 4-14 – 14 MVP Awards

Larry Bird (3), Karl Malone (2), Steph Curry (2), Dave Cowens (1), Julius Erving (1), Charles Barkley (1), Kevin Garnett (1), Dirk Nowitzki (1), Kobe Bryant (1), Russell Westbrook (1)

The list goes down when you get to the next 10 picks, but make no mistake, there are some special players here as well. Let’s start with the obvious modern players of Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry. For starters, Bryant was one of the top 5 players in this league for a decade and a half. Keep in mind that Bryant was a No. 13 overall pick who was traded from the Hornets to the Lakers. Without Bryant, the Lakers may not have trebled from 2000 to 2002.

As for Curry, he knows all about being overlooked. Curry was neglected in college, which led him to join Davidson. In the draft, Curry dipped to No.7 despite leading Davidson to the Elite 8. He is now the greatest shooter of all time and the only unanimous MVP in league history. Larry Bird rounds out the custody roster but holds the most distinct honor of being the only player in league history to win the award three years in a row.

Among the great men who fill this list, Karl Malone is the top overall goalscorer. After all, he ranks # 2 in all-time points. Julius Erving should be up to the task, given he was three times the ABA’s top scorer before the merger. Charles Barkley was an underrated goalscorer in the league, averaging 28.3 points per game.

Kevin Garnett and Dave Cowens were both more than scorers. Both were All-NBA and All-Defensive caliber players. Garnett gets the general green light as he was a nine-time All-Defensive First Team member and former Defensive Player of the Year.

Russell Westbrook is one of the most explosive athletes. He became the first MVP since Oscar Robertson in 1961 at triple-double middleweight, and has accomplished this feat four times in his career. In today’s NBA, Westbrook remains the most explosive player in the league.


Pick # 15-30 – 4 MVP Awards

Steve Nash (2), Giannis Antetkounmpo (2)

This is where the choices start to branch out a bit. What’s interesting is that the two players who were chosen between the middle and the end of the first round are both players who have won the MVP twice in their careers. The two have also won the award in consecutive seasons. Steve Nash, twice with the Phoenix Suns, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, both with the Milwaukee Bucks, are multiple MVP winners.

Starting with Nash, the Suns point guard led the league’s best offense in his prime. That included leading the league in assists. His second MVP, he was a 50-40-90 club member. Nash barely makes this group, having been a former No. 15 overall pick.

Want another moment of déjà vu? Not only have Nash and Giannis won the award twice, two years in a row, but Giannis is also a No.15 overall pick? While Giannis is a whole different player, you have to love the weird coincidence. Giannis’ best performance came in 2020 when he won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. While his accolades are impressive, he’ll be the first to tell you that he was happier with his Finals MVP last season, something Nash was never close to achieving.


Second round – 2 MVP Awards

Willis Reed (1), Nikola Jokic (1)

In 1970, Reed was able to live the dream. He was named MVP, All-Star Game MVP and Finals MVP after helping the New York Knicks win a championship. It’s been over 50 years since that time, but Reed remains one of the most polarizing figures in Knicks history. Reed was also an All-Defensive selection that year.

As for Jokic, he is establishing himself as the greatest center to have ever played. Jokic has yet to lead the Denver Nuggets to the NBA Finals, but he’s a triple-double who walks seven feet tall. Jokic became the second second-round pick in league history to win the MVP title last season. Let it sit for a moment. It took 51 years for a second-round pick to win the MVP title.

Jokic is no ordinary second-round pick. He averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists last season. He’s the best passing big man we’ve ever seen. Jokic is only 26, so he has plenty of time to add to his MVP collection. The question is: how much more?


Other – 8 MVP Awards

Wilt Chamberlain (4), Moses Malone (3), Oscar Robertson (1)

Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson were both seen as territorial choices. A territorial pick was a type of special draft pick used in the Basketball Association of America in 1949, and then continued in 1950 when the league changed its name to the National Basketball Association. During the draft, NBA teams took turns selecting college basketball players. At the time, the league was trying to gain popularity, which helped teams select popular players in their region and add them to their squad.

At the time, the Warriors were still based in Philadelphia but were able to select Chamberlain at the University of Kansas. Chamberlain is the greatest rebounder of all time and has several NBA records in this department, which will likely never be broken. Chamberlain once averaged 27.2 rebounds per game to go with 38.4 points. He was on another level at the time.

As mentioned earlier about land picks, Robertson was another territorial draft selection when the Kings were officially known as the Cincinnati Royals. Robertson attended the University of Cincinnati, which made him an ideal choice. In 1961, Robertson averaged a regular-season triple-double for the Royals. He remained the only player to accomplish this feat until Russell Westbrook in 2017.

As for Moses Malone, the ABA draft featured a third round, which Malone won by the Utah Stars. Eventually, Malone blossomed in the face of the league when the ABA and NBA merged. In 1983, Malone won both MVP and Finals MVP with the 76ers. Like Chamberlain, Malone was one of the best rebounders of his generation, leading the league up to six times in his career.

Credit for an idea: NBA / Instagram discovered



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