Every NBA team’s greatest draft pick of all time

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As the 2017 NBA Draft nears, let’s look back at your favorite team’s most revered selection. Find out the best all-time draft pick for every franchise.

This year’s edition of the NBA Draft is believed to be the deepest in recent memory. Team executives are salivating for the hearty helping of top-level prospects. Additionally, this class is littered with players expected to be solid contributors at the next level.

But maybe you don’t care about any of that. Your favorite team may not be in position to land a high-profile prospect. Instead, you’re searching for comfort as your team could select an oft-injured player who averaged four points and four rebounds during his brief collegiate career. Whether that describes you or not, take a few minutes to indulge in some blissful (or painful) nostalgia for the great draft picks of yesteryear.

Here is every NBA team’s greatest draft pick of all time.

Bill Russell is perhaps the greatest winner in all of sports history and he leads off our list. The 11-time NBA champion is revered by the majority of basketball historians for his illustrious career. Though Russell spent each of his 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, he was drafted second overall by the St. Louis Hawks in 1956. Thus, the greatest dynasty in the history of professional hoops began with a draft-night trade.

Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach orchestrated the swap with the Hawks, as he coveted Russell’s defensive and rebounding abilities. The Hawks agreed to trade Russell to the Celtics for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan in return. Once the Celtics procured their missing element, they promptly won their first NBA title in 1956-57 in Russell’s rookie year. Boston defeated the very St. Louis Hawks who traded Russell to them. Russell averaged 14.7 points and 19.6 rebounds per game to anchor Boston’s lineup.

But the enormity of Bill Russell’s stature far exceeded his talents and physical gifts. Because Russell’s rise occurred amid segregation and fierce racial tension in the United States, controversy constantly swirled around him. And he never shied away from standing up against racial prejudice. Prior to the 1961-62 season, Russell and each of his African-American teammates boycotted an exhibition game in Lexington, Kentucky after they were denied service at a Kentucky hotel coffee shop.

Despite Russell’s hugely successful career in Boston, he had a contentious relationship with the local media and fanbase. Still, Russell’s impact on the Celtics franchise remains unquestioned. He won five MVP awards and posted career averages of 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds. The Celtics’ glory began with Bill Russell, but he’s probably not the favorite son.

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