Metrics 101: Best and Worst Trades of No.
1 Pick in NBA History Trading the No.1 pick in the NBA draft is never an easy decision, yet that’s exactly what the Boston Celtics have officially elected to do. Shipping off the selection that will likely be used on Markelle Fultz to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No.3 pick and a future first-rounder with a unique set of protections, the C’s are continuing to load up on assets.
It’s a move you don’t see every year, but it isn’t entirely without precedent.
Dating back to the 1950s, the No.
1 pick has changed hands after the draft order was set six different times—most recently when the Cleveland Cavaliers sent a package centered around Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timber wolves for Kevin Love.
How frequently have those decisions worked out? To answer that question, we’re diving deep into the results of each swap.
Win shares will be used for players from the distant past, while NBA Math’s total points added (TPA) metric takes over for any deals after 1973, when the stat can first be calculated.
In either situation, only the numbers recorded for the team on the receiving end matter. Context is also important.
Stats alone can’t tell the full stories here, even if they help paint an initial picture. “We need a big man. Little men are a dime a dozen. I’m supposed to win, not go after local yokels,” legendary Boston Celtics head coach Red Auerbach said about drafting Chuck Share over Bob Cousy in 1950, per Joe Belock of the New York Daily News.
Fortunately for the C’s, the ridiculousness of that move still managed to work out.
Cousy refused to report to the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, was traded to the Chicago Stags and wound up in Boston after the Stags folded and he was the third pick (drawn from a hat) in the subsequent dispersal draft.
From there, he’d become one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, leading the Celtics to six titles and eventually watching as his jersey was hung from the rafters of the Boston Garden.
Meanwhile, the Fort Wayne Pistons had a disgruntled player of their own.
Bill Sharman had joined the squad after the Washington Capitols folded midway through the 1950-51 campaign, but he chose to play baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers until the Pistons sent him to a new franchise.
Exchanging the two seemed like the perfect swap, especially since Share hadn’t yet played an NBA game and was still brimming over with potential.
But the deal wasn’t exactly even.
Share played slightly more than two seasons in Fort Wayne and averaged just 4.
2 points before he was dealt to the Milwaukee Hawks for a 28-year-old Max Zaslofsky.
It was only there that he’d experience a mini-breakout into a double- double threat, eventually earning captaincy on the title-winning ’58 squad after the franchise moved to St.