Contrary to popular belief along Lake Erie, having the fifth pick is not a death sentence. In fact, when we look at the last 40 years worth of fifth overall picks, you could say the Cavs are potentially in prime position to grab their franchise player they so desperately need, just as many teams before have in the same position. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the top ten best fifth-overall picks of the last 40 years, and see if that changes your mind.
10. Mitch Richmond – 1988 (Golden State Warriors)
The first player on this list is former Sacramento Kings great, Mitch Richmond. The NBA Hall of Fame inductee has six all-star selections and an NBA championship in the twilight of his career with the Lakers to add to his resume. Richmond was an impressive volume scorer who shot the ball at an impressive rate. Over his 14 year career, he averaged 21 points per game on 45% FG and dished out just under 4 assists per game. In 1996-97 he averaged over 25ppg while shooting 42% behind the three-point line on 6 attempts per game. Richmond flies under the radar when people talk about the greatest players of the 1990s, but he at least makes this list as one of the best pure scorers of his time.
9. Trae Young – 2018 (Dallas Mavericks to Atlanta Hawks)
It may not be fair to put a guy who just finished up his rookie season on this list, especially above a proven player like Richmond, but his numbers this past year were nothing to scoff at. The sharpshooter from Oklahoma put up 19.8 points per game and 8.1 assists, including eight 30 point games in his inaugural season. To put things into perspective on how much of a gifted scorer this kid is, Trae had just two more games (10) where he scored less than ten points than he did games where he scored more than 30 (8). For a first-year player, that’s something special. If Young can improve his shooting percentages, we could be watching the development of one of the most lethal offensive players the league has ever seen.
8. Kevin Love – 2008 (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Hopefully, by having Kevin Love this low on the list, it gives you a little bit of hope going forward. When the Timberwolves drafted the big man out of UCLA, he became their number one option pretty quickly, averaging 26+ points per game twice in his time in Minnesota. Since being traded to Cleveland, his points per game did go down, along with his weight, but he was an integral part of the Cavs 2016 championship run and is now the last remaining piece from the original big 3 in Cleveland. His injuries in the previous few seasons have stunted his “star status,” but everyone knows what KLove is capable of, and he looks to be part of the next Cleveland rebuild after signing a 5 year $113 million contract last summer.
7. Demarcus Cousins – 2010 (Sacramento Kings)
When Boogie is healthy and on the court, it is obvious that he runs the show. His combination of inside and outside scoring and his passing ability is perfectly within the mold of the modern big man. Over the last eight seasons, he’s averaged over 21 points per game and pulled down 10 rebounds per game. However, his injuries have prevented him from completing a full season in the NBA since he was drafted which will definitely damage his legacy, regardless of any titles he might win. In his last half-season as a member of the Sacramento Kings and as a new member of the New Orleans Pelicans, Cousins played in 72 games, his most of his career, and averaged 27 points per game to go along with 11 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Boogie’s talent is undeniable, but he leaves a lot to be desired when he sits out roughly half his career.
6. Ray Allen – 1996 (Minnesota Timberwolves to Milwaukee Bucks)
The ten-time all-star Ray Allen finds himself sixth on this list. He’s that guy you always want on your team (just ask LeBron). The sharpshooting guard out of UConn averaged 18.4 points per game over his hall of fame career including a 40% clip from three. Allen was an important piece to the Boston Celtics reign of dominance and when he made his way to the Miami Heat, it was no different. He played a significant role in every city he went to during his tenure in the NBA, and any franchise would consider themselves lucky to have a player even close to Allen’s stature and ability.
5. Vince Carter – 1998 (Golden State Warriors to Toronto Raptors)
It really is a shame that kids growing up today don’t know the Vince Carter I knew when I first fell in love with basketball. His production has dropped off exponentially since entering his third decade in the NBA, but this dude was for real. Not only was he one of, if not the most explosive offensive players I’ve ever seen, but he was also a genuine hooper. He averaged more than 20 points per game in 10 of his 20 NBA seasons to go along with eight all-star nods and 2 all-NBA selections. He might not be as decorated as some of the other players on this list, but his production in Toronto and in New Jersey (Brooklyn) are proof enough that he deserves a spot in the top half of this list.
4. Kevin Garnett – 1995 (Minnesota Timberwolves)
The third Timberwolf on this list is the great Kevin Garnett. This man might be the most underrated superstar in NBA history. His trophy cabinet includes *inhale* 15 all-star selections, 9 all-NBA selections, 12 all-defensive team selections, 4 rebounding titles, a defensive POTY, one all-star game MVP, one league MVP and of course, the “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLEEEEE” NBA championship in 2008 with the Boston Celtics. He was a mean, trash-talking son of a gun during his years in the NBA, but he was indispensable for the Wolves and Celtics during the 2000s.
3. Scottie Pippen – 1987 (Seattle SuperSonics to Chicago Bulls)
The Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman. Pippen was an essential piece to the Chicago Bulls’ tear through the NBA during the 1990s. The seven-time all-star also added eight all-defensive first-team selections to his resume before going away from the Windy City in 1998. He could really do it all. He was a masterful passer, rebounder and defender to accompany Jordan’s scoring ability. Statistically, Pippen averaged 16 points per game through his career and capped it off with a hall of fame induction in 2010 to go along with his 6 rings.
2. Charles Barkley – 1984 (Philadelphia 76ers)
Before Chuck’s days as an analyst, you might be shocked to remember that he actually played basketball and was pretty darn good at it. He’s got 11 all-NBA selections and an equal amount of all-star selections to go along with his 1992-93 NBA MVP award. His fourth year with the Sixers was arguably his most impressive statistically. He averaged 28.3 points per game and came away with 12 rebounds per game. Chuck’s physicality countered his lack of size in his position and made him one of the most physically imposing players in NBA history. Unfortunately for him, he hit his prime just as Jordan was winning titles for fun, but he will always be remembered as one of the greats, even as a fifth overall pick.
1. Dwyane Wade – 2003 (Miami Heat)
Coming out of a draft class that was largely overshadowed by one Mr. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade’s career speaks for itself. The 6-4 guard out of Marquette makes the top spot on this list based on the idea that he is a real “franchise player”; a guy you’d build your entire franchise around. He’s spent all but a year-and-half of his career in Miami. He’s got 13 all-star selections and a scoring title to go along with a 2006 NBA championship on his resume. Throughout his years, he has been asked to take on multiple roles. He was a dynamic scorer, a facilitator, and more recently, a veteran presence for the team that took him fifth overall 16 years ago. Now that Wade has hung up his sneaks for good, we can start anticipating a Hall of Fame induction any time soon.
See, Cleveland? The fifth pick isn’t all too bad after all, and as you can see, there’s still the chance to land “the guy” in that spot. Looking at this draft class, the top three are all but set in stone. But after that, guys like Cam Reddish, DeAndre Hunter, Jarrett Culver, and Darius Garland all seem interchangeable between 4 and 7, depending on team need. All of these guys have star potential, so take a breath, and enjoy the ride. It’s a long way back to the top.