The Best #3 Picks In NBA History


The lottery has been drawn, and the picks are set. The Portland Trail Blazers will pick third in the upcoming NBA Draft in June. While many may be punching air right now because the Blazers missed out on the first overall pick, which would have secured them Victor Wembanyama, who many are calling the greatest basketball prospect ever, they will still have plenty of fantastic options.

Over the years, teams picking third overall have actually enjoyed better success than the first two teams in the draft, and Portland fans should still be excited about the prospects of who they can choose. To get Blazer fans pumped up, let’s revisit some of the great players drafted third overall in their respective drafts.

Michael Jordan – 1984 – Chicago Bulls

You may have heard of this guy before. If not, he is (in my opinion) the greatest basketball player of all time. It’s crazy to think now that there were two players selected ahead of Michael Jordan, but there were, and I’d say it worked out pretty well for Chicago, who has six championships to show for it, and the legendary #23 in the rafters. Jordan is easily the greatest third-overall pick in NBA history, and while you can’t just expect to draft the next Michael Jordan in every draft, it goes to show that there are still legendary players available after the first two.

Bob Cousy – 1950 – Boston Celtics

Cousy is an all-time great Celtic, and they were lucky to get him at number three back in the old days of the NBA. He ended up being a 13-time All-Star and averaged 18 points a game over his fantastic career. Cousy ended up with six NBA Finals championships and was a key piece for many of those incredible Celtics squads.

Kevin McHale – 1980 – Boston Celtics

There are a couple of great Celtics on this list, and we certainly can’t overlook Kevin McHale, who was a two-time Sixth Man of the Year award winner. From a bench player to one of the most productive players in the entire league, McHale won three NBA Finals with the Celtics. Anytime you can draft a guy who plays 13 years for your squad, racks up awards, and wins a couple of titles, job well done in the draft.

Pau Gasol – 2001 – Memphis Grizzlies

When the Memphis Grizzlies drafted Pau Gasol, they were immediately rewarded as he won Rookie of the Year in 2002. He was an all-time great Grizzlies player from his time with the team from 01-07. However, his true potential was reached when he went to Los Angeles to play with Kobe Bryant as the two won a pair of championships, and he became one of Bryant’s greatest teammates. When it was all said and done, Gasol was a six-time All-Star and made four All-NBA teams.

Carmelo Anthony – 2003 – Denver Nuggets

The 2003 Draft was STACKED with talent, with Lebron James going at one, Chris Bosh at four, and Dwayne Wade at five. The third overall pick that year was none other than Carmelo Anthony, who was a top-three player in the league for many years and one of the most dynamic shooters during his time with the Nuggets and Knicks. Anthony never claimed an NBA championship, but he was a 10-time All-Star and named to an All-NBA team in six different years.

James Harden – 2009 – Oklahoma City Thunder

Remember when the OKC Thunder had Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant and still never won an NBA championship? It still doesn’t make sense to me. If there is one thing you can say about that era of Thunder basketball, it’s that they drafted better than any other organization could. Harden was an instrumental role player coming off the bench in those Oklahoma days, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award. Once he was traded to Houston, it all turned. He was the league’s MVP and has played in ten All-Star games.

Joel Embiid – 2014 – Philadelphia 76ers

Trust the Process. It didn’t work out for Philly, and almost every single player involved in that era has busted out of Philly or the league in general. Still, Joel Embiid has stayed the course and been incredibly successful, winning the league’s MVP award this year. He has become the staple and the glue in Philly, and while it took a while with injuries at the beginning of his career, the Sixers displaying their patience with Embiid has all paid off in the end.

Jayson Tatum – 2017 – Boston Celtics

A third Celtic on the list. While there are certainly some other great names like Pete Maravich and Dominique Wilkins, it’s important to show just how great some of the recent drafts have been and how there is so much value in that third-overall pick. Tatum has become the face of the Boston Celtics, leading them to numerous Eastern Conference Finals and an NBA Finals last season. Tatum has a chance to become the next great Celtic and lead the next era of the franchise as he looks to bring a banner back to Bean Town.