How likely is it that the New Orleans Pelicans draft a top-100 player?

Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Every NBA team hopes that the player their team selects in the draft will end up being a really impactful contributor, but what are the chances of that happening?

To begin to answer this question, we must define what we mean by an “impactful contributor.” For the sake of simplicity, we’ll say that an “impactful contributor” is a top-100 player in the NBA.

Being a top-100 player doesn’t guarantee that someone is an All-NBA or even All-Star level performer, but it does indicate that they are capable of starting on pretty much any NBA team.

And given the level of variability that can take place with a science that is as inexact as draft projections, drafting a solid starter, regardless of where you pick in the draft, should be viewed as a pretty nice outcome.

With this criteria established, we decided to use The Ringer’s current top-100 player list as the document of reference for our exercise. The list isn’t perfect, but it serves as one of the best barometers on the market, as it is determined and updated by multiple analysts (which decreases the likelihood of individual bias influencing rankings).

From there, we tracked which draft class each player on the list was part of to get a sense of how many top-100 players come from each draft class. Here is what the breakdown was:

Ringer Top-100 Players Draft Class Split

2003: 1
2005: 1
2007: 3
2008: 2
2009: 4
2010: 1
2011: 7
2012: 5
2013: 4
2014: 11
2015: 6
2016: 11
2017: 10
2018: 12
2019: 8
2020: 7
2021: 6
2022: 1

Now that we have that information handy, let’s focus in on the years 2011 to 2020 (so players in their third through 12th season in the league). We pick those years specifically because it filters out for young players still ascending into their primes and older guys aging out of theirs.

In the Ringer’s current top-100 player list, there are 81 players belonging to the draft classes between 2011 and 2020. By that math, that would mean that each draft contains roughly eight top-100 players in it. That means, if we don’t account for undrafted players, 13.3% of the 60 players selected in the draft develop into top-100 players.

But the thing is that undrafted players do develop into top-100 players (see: Alex Caruso), so that means that the percentage is even less.

Tying this back to our New Orleans Pelicans, the team already touts three players in the top 100 in Brandon Ingram (2016), CJ McCollum (2013), and Zion Williamson (2018).

But they also have a lot of young talent with relatively unknown ceilings in players like Trey Murphy III (2021), Jose Alvarado (2021), Herbert Jones (2021), and Dyson Daniels (2022). Plus, they have a 2023 First Round Draft Pick that fans are already fantasizing over.

For those youngsters, if they are going to end up developing into high-end starters, it looks like they need to become one of the eight or so best players from their respective draft classes.

Next. Who is the Pelicans' best three-point shooter?. dark