No. 5: Kyrie Irving, No. 1 pick in 2011 Draft
Kyrie Irving was the consensus top pick for the 2011 NBA Draft, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t concerns about a team taking him first overall. He had missed more than half of the season for the Duke Blue Devils, and players like Derrick Williams and Enes Kanter (now Enes Freedom) had size and production on their sides.
Irving proved the Cavaliers right as soon as his feet hit the court, and he was the obvious Rookie of the Year winner. He put on such a display in the 2011 Rising Stars Game that he was the talk of All-Star Weekend despite not playing in the big game. By his second season he was an All-Star, and in 12 seasons he has been an All-Star eight times.
Irving has one of the best handles in the game, dribbling with that ball-on-a-rope style that leaps off the screen, and he is likely the best guard finisher. His touch around the rim is elite and he can finish in traffic and from all angles. When you add in that he is a 39.1 percent 3-point shooter and a mid-range maestro, it’s not an exaggeration to label him as one of the best shot-makers of the last decade.
There are serious questions about his priorities and wisdom, but those mostly cropped up since he left the Cavaliers. While in Cleveland he hit the greatest shot in NBA history, the go-ahead 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Of players drafted first overall since LeBron James (19 drafts) Irving ranks fourth in win shares (he’ll pass Blake Griffin for third this season), third in VORP and third in points per game. He was an excellent selection with the first pick.