NBA All-Stars and their Draft Classes (updated)

This years NBA draft was supposedly one of the weakest drafts in recent history.  After thinking about this for a while, I came to the following questions:


  1. Do some draft classes produce substainally more All-Stars (and All-Star selections) than others?
  2. Is there a pattern to the number of All-Stars in draft classes?

With the help of Wikipedia and, I put together a list all of the All-Stars that were drafted starting with the 1976 draft. Before, I get to the findings, a couple of notes:

  • I started with the 1976 draft because I felt that looking at only the post-merger NBA would provide for more consistent data than mixing pre and post-merger data. I also felt that looking at 30+ draft classes would be more than enough to find any patterns that may exist
  • The data that I complied can be found here.
  • If an undrafted player became an All-Star (Brad Miller, Ben Wallace), I used the draft that they were eligible for as their draft class.
  • Obviously the data becomes skewed as we approach the more recent draft classes, pleasTe keep this in mind.
  • I wasn't statistically rigourous with my analysis (i.e. I didn't test for normality, etc.). If you wish to do this, please post the results in the comments

The first chart I looked at was the number of different players in the draft class to be selected to an All-Star game. This measure seems to be the most common for ranking draft classes.

Most years produce between 5 and 8 All-Stars. This was a tighter range than I expected. Thus to be a truely "bad" draft class 3 or fewer All-Stars will have to be drafted. An interesting point is that the only instances with fewer than 4 All-Stars in a draft class occured after the round of expansion that added the Raptors and the Grizziles. Will this mean that expansion will cause a recalibration of how many times a player needs to be an All-Star to be considered "great"? 


Next the chart of the total # of All-Star selections for each draft class.

Here the 1984, 1985 and 1996 drafts stand head an shoulders above the rest in this measurement. Granted there still is plently of time for the post-2000 classes to rack up All-Star selections, but there does seem to be a define gap between draft classes that rack up large amounts of All-Star selections. Part of this effect is that a only a limited number of spots on the All-Star team are truely up for grabs (barring injury there is no chance that Kobe, LeBron, Wade, CP3, and a couple others aren't going to be All-Stars next season). Once you reach the hollowed ground of being an All-Star lock (often known as being an All-Star starter), then you generally keep that spot for the rest of your career. Meaning that there is one fewer spot for other players from later draft classes, unless you hit that sweet spot of opportunity when there are few spots locked in (as the 1996 and 2003 draft classes appear to have done).

Also the 2000 draft looks really bad in this measurement.


And the final chart, the average # of All-Star appearances by draft class (essentially the values of chart 2 divided by the values of chart 1). Were there a lot of 1 time All-Stars in a class? Was there a great player in a draft? This chart shows that.

The 4 highest peaks on this chart are 1976 (Alex English, Robert Parish, Adrian Dantley, Dennis Johnson), the 1984 draft (MJ, Hakeem, Barkley, Stockton), 1992 (Shaq, Mourning) and 1997 (Duncan, T-Mac). It seems that a high value  in this chart corresponds very well with having one or more of the greatest players of their generation in that draft.

As a side note, of the 183 different who have been drafted since 1976 and named to an All-Star game, 62 of them (33.9%) were named to only 1 game, 69 players (37.7%) were named to 2-4 All-Star games, 36 (19.7%) were named to 5-9 All-Star games. Only 16 players have been named to 10+ All-Star games (although there are a couple of active player who seem to be good bets to reach that milestone)

There are a couple of questions that remain unanswered:

  • Did the NBA's expansion in the 1990s impact this data? If so, how?
  • How large of an impact does being named an All-Star starter have on your likely hood to be named to multiple All-Star teams? 
Update After reading some comments, I found a database of NBA player minute data. I then looked at the minutes played by the first 15 selections in over the same period. I chose the first 15 to keep a consistent sized sample for each draft class as due to expansion there are more 1st round picks now than there were in the 1980s. Then I added the number of All-Star selections and made this scatter chart

The 3 dots in the upper right corner represent the 1984, 1985, and 1996 drafts. All told, there seems to be a clear trend that the more minutes that the first 15 picks of a draft play, the more All-Star selections that it produces.

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