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1988 NBA Draft Class: 9 Great Players and A Bust

The 1988 NBA Draft class included some great players like Hersey Hawkins, Dan Majerle, Anthony Mason, Rod Strickland and Mitch Richmond. Richmond was the only Hall of Famer and the best player in the class. Danny Manning and Rik Smits, the 1st and 2nd overall picks, had decent but slightly disappointing NBA careers. 

Who Were Best Players from the 1988 NBA Draft Class?

The nine best players from the 1998 NBA Draft class are ranked below. The rankings are based on career achievements and advanced career statistics. 

  1. Mitch Richmond
  2. Rod Strickland
  3. Hersey Hawkins
  4. Anthony Mason
  5. Dan Majerle
  6. Rik Smits
  7. Steve Kerr
  8. Danny Manning
  9. Grant Long

Mitch Richmond

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Mitch Richmond was the Rookie of the Year, a 6 time All Star, made 5 All NBA teams and averaged nearly 21 points per game in his career. He was the leading career scorer on a per game basis in the 1988 NBA Draft class by 50%!

Mitchmond spent his first three seasons as part of Golden State’s Run TMC where he scored more than 20 points per game. He was then traded to Sacramento where he continued to have great years  and averaged 20+ points for seven more seasons. The man could fill it up! 

Richmond finished his career with 3 unmemorable seasons for the Washington Wizards before he won a title as a spare part with the 2002 Lakers in his final year. Richmond was chosen for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014 – the only Hall of Famer from the 1988 NBA Draft class.

While career advanced stats favor Rod Strickland as the best player in this class, Richmond was easily its most decorated player. I rank Richmond higher because of his huge edge in awards including the Hall of Fame. 

Rod Strickland

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Rod Strickland had a unique career where he played for 10 different NBA teams. Strickland was a pass-first point guard who made 2nd Team All NBA while leading the league in assists in ‘97-’98. He averaged 7.3 assists for his career. 

Strickland seems to have worn out his welcome after a few seasons in each stop. The advanced statistics love him, though. He led the 1988 NBA Draft class in career Player Efficiency Rating and Value Over Replacement Player and was fourth in career Win Shares. 

Hersey Hawkins

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Hersey Hawkins is an advanced metrics darling as well: he led the 1988 NBA Draft class in career Win Shares, was 2nd in Value Over Replacement Player, and fifth in career PER. He was A 6’3” shooting guard who made the 1991 NBA All Star team. 

Hawkins was a scorer and a shooter who averaged more than 20 points twice in his early seasons with the 76ers. He went on to play with 4 teams in his 12 NBA seasons. I’d rank Hawkins and Strickland very closely. 

Anthony Mason

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Anthony Mason is one of the most unique players in the 1988 NBA Draft class and one of its best players as well. Mason was a 3rd round pick at 53rd overall by the Portland Trailblazers. 

After being cut by the Blazers, Mason kicked around foreign leagues, the CBA, the USBL and a couple NBA teams before finding a home with the Knicks in the Patrick Ewing era. Mason went on to win the 6th Man of the Year in 1995, make 2nd Team All NBA Defense & 3rd Team All NBA in 1997 and the All Star game  2001. 

He played for 4 teams after the Knicks and averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds per game. He was second in career Win Shares in the 1988 NBA Draft class and ranks just below the top 3 guards for me. 

Dan Majerle

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“Thunder” Dan Majerle was booed by Phoenix Suns fans on draft night in 1988. They came to regret the boos, as Majerle had a good NBA career as a strong defender who could shoot and throw it down.

Majerle averaged as high as 17 ppg for the Suns including in 1993 when the team made the NBA Finals. He also made 2nd Team All NBA Defense in 1991 and the All Star game in 1992. 

Majerle played for two other NBA teams in his career. He finished 5th in Career Win Shares and third in Value Over Replacement Player among players in the 1988 NBA Draft Class. 

Rik Smits

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The Dunking Dutchman Rik Smits had a consistent career for the Pacers after being the 2nd overall pick in the draft. He averaged over 10 points per game every year in his 12 NBA seasons. He was the second leading scorer in the class on a per game basis. 

The 7’4” inch center finished with a career average of 15 points and 6 rebounds per game. He was highly ranked in PER for the class at 17.9 right below Rod Strickland while being ranked 7th for the 1988 NBA Draft class in career Win Shares. 

Steve Kerr

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Steve Kerr had a 15 year career but did not put up amazing numbers in the NBA at 6 points and 2 assists per game. But he played a key role on winning teams getting 5 rings with the Bulls and the Spurs.

Kerr was a deadeye shooter leading the NBA in the 3 point percentage twice and finishing with a 45% career 3 point shooting percentage.

It is not just the winning that gets Kerr included on this list. In addition to the 5 titles, he finished 9th in career Win Shares and 8th in Value Over Replacement Player among players in the 1988 NBA Draft Class.

Danny Manning

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After a storybook college career at Kansas, Danny Manning was the #1 overall pick in the 1988 NBA draft. Manning went on to average 14 points and 5 rebounds in a solid career that was fairly disappointing for a #1 overall choice. 

Manning played for seven teams, but mostly with the Clippers and the Suns. He peaked for the Clippers in 1992 -1993 when he averaged more than 20 points per game and made the All Star Game (which he also did the following year). 

Manning won the 6th Man of the Year in 1998. He finished 8th in career Win Shares for the 1988 NBA Draft Class but did have the fourth highest PER. You could certainly argue he was better than Kerr and it is a very close call in comparison to Rik Smits, but I’ll slot him 8th

Grant Long

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Grant Long reminds me of Anthony Mason in that they were both later picks who put up solid NBA careers as defenders. After being the 33rd overall pick, Long averaged 10 points and 6 boards in a 15 year NBA career. 

Long played for a bunch of teams after his initial 6+ year run with the Heat. He was a battler who could defend and ended up 6th in career Win Shares in the 1988 NBA Draft Class. 

Who else from the 1988 NBA Draft Class had a good career?

If I picked a 10th player, it would have been Rony Seikaly. He was the 4th leading scorer per game in the class. But his advanced stats were all very close to 2 other players: Chris Morris and Charles Smith. I could not pick between them, so I went with a top nine. 

As a Massachusetts homer, I wanted to take Massachusetts native Vinny Del Negro, but his stats don’t justify it. He was similar to Steve Kerr in that he seemed to carve out a long NBA career without amazing stats. But Kerr had both the 5 titles and the advanced stats in his favor. Del Negro would have made a top 15 list. 

I also hoped to take Celtics draft pick Brian Shaw. He won 3 titles with the Lakers but was not even close to the top ten statistically. 

Rex Chapman is both fun on twitter and was the 5th highest per game scorer from the class. But the advanced stats do not like him.

Will Perdue won 4 NBA titles but his career stats are not even close to the top ten. Vernon Maxwell won 2 rings with the Rockets, but, again, his career totals did make him a threat for the list. 

You can see the career Player Efficiency Ratings and Win Shares for the 1st round picks, and selected later picks, of the 1988 NBA Draft Class below. 

19Rod Strickland1885.8
2Rik Smits17.956.6
5Mitch Richmond17.679.3
1Danny Manning16.955.1
6Hersey Hawkins16.390.6
9Rony Seikaly15.737.3
4Chirs Morris15.137.4
3Charles Smith15..740.9
53Anthony Mason14.688.3
8Rex Chapman13.924.7
10Wilie Anderson13.827.9
14Dan Majerle13.878.5
11Will Perdue13.626.6
29Vinny Del Negro13.530.6
15Gary Grant13.412
33Grant Long13.360.1
18Ricky Berry13.12.4
50Steve Kerr13.147.2
12Harvey Grant12.736.4
20Kevin Edwards12.712.5
47Vernon Maxwell12.727.4
23Jerome Lane12.62.3
7Tim Perry12.414.6
13Jeff Grayer129
16Derrick Chievous11.82.7
24Brian Shaw11.723.8
28Andrew Lang11.728.6
21Mark Bryant10.926.1
22Randolph Keys10.32.3
17Eric Leckner09.86.2
25David Rivers09.7-0.3

Who were the best picks in the 1988 NBA Draft Class? 

I think Mitch Richmond was probably the best pick. Anytime you can get a Hall of Famer with the 5th pick in the draft, you did okay. I ranked him the best player in this class. 

Anthony Mason outperformed his draft status the most. I ranked him 4th in the class but he was the 53rd selection. Alas, the Portland Trailblazers who took him cut him before he ever played a game for them. Great scouting but not-so-good coaching in this case. 

Rod Strickland was another great pick. I ranked him as having the 2nd best career of the class but he lasted all the way to the 19th pick. 

The Miami Heat also made a great pick by choosing my 9th best player Grant Long with the 33rd pick. 

Who Were the Biggest Busts in the 1988 NBA Draft Class? 

I am taking 7th overall pick Tim Perry as the biggest bust of the 1988 NBA Draft class. Perry did play 8 years in the league and averaged 7 points and 4 rebounds per game. 

But those stats are a bit inflated by his one good year: 1991-1992 where he averaged 12 points. He only had 3 seasons where he averaged more than 4 points per game. 

The reason I am picking Perry as the biggest bust over some close contenders is because he was picked so high. The Suns chose him 7th. They could have had: Rex Chapman (8th), Rony Seikaly (9th), Dan Majerle (14th) or Rod Strickland (19th). Okay, they did have Majerle. But they could have had him sooner. 

There are some other players who were pretty big busts as well in the 1988 NBA Draft class including:

  • Derrick Chievous the 16th pick by Houston. He only played 3 years in the league.
  • Eric Leckner chosen 17th by Utah. He averaged 4 points over 8 seasons and put up horrendous advanced stats.
  • David Rivers the 25th pick by the Lakers. He barely played in the league and was the only player in the class to somehow put up negative career win shares.

Summary: 1988 NBA Draft Class

The 1988 NBA Draft class was short on high-end NBA talent. Mitch Richmond was the best player in the class and the only Hall of Famer. Danny Manning and Rik Smits were picked first and second in the draft and had good, but underwhelming NBA careers. The biggest bust in the draft was Tim Perry who was chosen before greats like Rod Strickland and Dan Majerle.

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