The 1983 NBA Draft Review: The Ugly Truth About This Class

The 1983 NBA Draft Review: The Ugly Truth About This Class (feature image)

The 1983 NBA draft was the 37th in league history since its beginning during the 1946-1947 season. The Houston Rockets were awarded the #1 overall pick after compiling a league-worst 14-68 record, the lowest winning percentage in franchise history.

Although there were 23 teams in the NBA at the time, an extra 24th pick was added to the first round and given to the Cleveland Cavaliers as a favor. The Cavaliers had become infamous for irresponsibly trading first-round draft picks and desperately needed another first-round selection.

The 1983 NBA Draft class is considered one of the most disappointing in league history by some pundits

The 83 NBA draft was one of the most disappointing drafts in league history, exacerbated by how historically great the 1984 draft would be the following season. Only 5 players from the 83 NBA draft would make at least 1 all-star team, equaling the disappointing 1980 and 1986 NBA draft classes.

3 players from the 1983 draft class would make at least 1 All-NBA Team and 2 would be named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. However, #1 pick Ralph Sampson, one of the players named to an All-NBA Team and the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, never lived up to the expectations placed on him by most analysts as the next great NBA center.

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Who was the 1st Pick in the 83 NBA Draft?

Ralph Sampson, the 1984 NBA Draft 1st pick shooting a free throw.

Ralph Sampson was chosen by the Houston rockets as the 1983 NBA Draft 1st pick. After his dominating collegiate career, Sampson was expected to become the next great center in the NBA. The Houston Rockets selected Sampson, viewing him as a replacement for future hall of fame center Moses Malone, who had left the team as a free agent after the 1981-1982 season.

Sampson won the rookie of the year award after posting a very good individual season, averaging 21 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.4 BPG, and shooting 52.3% from the field, helping the Rockets to a modest 15-win improvement over the previous season.

Who was in the NBA Draft 1983 Class?


  1. Ralph Sampson (Houston Rockets)
  2. Steve Stipanovich (Indiana Pacers)
  3. Rodney McCray (Houston Rockets)
  4. San Diego Clippers (Byron Scott)
  5. Sidney Green (Chicago Bulls)
  6. Russell Cross (Golden State Warriors)
  7. Thurl Bailey (Utah Jazz)
  8. Antoine Carr (Detroit Pistons)
  9. Dale Ellis (Dallas Mavericks)
  10. Jeff Malone (Washington Bullets)
  11. Derek Harper (Dallas Mavericks)
  12. Darrell Walker (New York Knicks)
  13. Ennis Whatley (Kansas City Kings)
  14. Clyde Drexler (Portland Trail Blazers)
  15. Howard Carter (Denver Nuggets)
  16. Jon Sundvold (Seattle SuperSonics)
  17. Leo Rautins (Philadelphia 76ers)
  18. Randy Breuer (Milwaukee Bucks)
  19. John Paxson (San Antonio Spurs)
  20. Roy Hinson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  21. Greg Kite (Boston Celtics)
  22. Randy Wittman (Washington Bullets)
  23. Mitchell Wiggins (Indiana Pacers)
  24. Stewart Granger (Cleveland Cavaliers)


  1. Sidney Lowe (Chicago Bulls)
  2. Leroy Combs (Indiana Pacers)
  3. John Garris (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  4. Rod Foster (Phoenix Suns)
  5. Larry Micheaux (Chicago Bulls)
  6. Mark West (Dallas Mavericks)
  7. Doc Rivers (Atlanta Hawks)
  8. Michael Britt (Washington Bullets)
  9. Dirk Minniefield (Dallas Mavericks)
  10. Guy Williams (Washington Bullets)
  11. Darrell Lockhart (San Antonio Spurs)
  12. Scooter McCray (Seattle SuperSonics)
  13. David Russell (Denver Nuggets)
  14. Chris McNealy (Kansas City Kings)
  15. Granville Waiters (Portland Trail Blazers)
  16. Jim Thomas (Indiana Pacers)
  17. Ted Kitchel (Milwaukee Bucks)
  18. Mike Davis (Milwaukee Bucks)
  19. Pace Mannion (Golden State Warriors)
  20. Horace Owens (New Jersey Nets)
  21. Paul Williams (Phoenix Suns)
  22. Kevin Williams (San Antonio Spurs)
  23. Ken Lyons (Philadelphia 76ers)

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  1. Craig Ehlo (Houston Rockets)
  2. Greg Jones (Indiana Pacers)
  3. Paul Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  4. Dereck Whittenburg (Phoenix Suns)
  5. Winfred King (Boston Celtics)
  6. Michael Holton (Golden State Warriors)
  7. Bob Hansen (Utah Jazz)
  8. Erich Santifer (Detroit Pistons)
  9. Larry Anderson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  10. Darren Daye (Washington Bullets)
  11. John Pinone (Atlanta Hawks)
  12. Bruce Kuczenski (New Jersey Nets)
  13. Steve Harriel (Kansas City Kings)
  14. David Little (Denver Nuggets)
  15. Tom Piotrowski (Portland Trail Blazers)
  16. Frank Burnell (Seattle SuperSonics)
  17. Claude Riley (Philadelphia 76ers)
  18. Billy Goodwin (Milwaukee Bucks)
  19. Les Craft (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  20. Derrick Hord (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  21. Craig Robinson (Boston Celtics)
  22. Orlando Phillips (Los Angeles Lakers)
  23. Dan Ruland (Philadelphia 76ers)


  1. Darrell Browder (Houston Rockets)
  2. Terry Fair (Indiana Pacers)
  3. Dwight Jones (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  4. Kalpatrick Wells (Philadelphia 76ers)
  5. Ron Crevier (Chicago Bulls)
  6. Doug Arnold (Utah Jazz)
  7. Peter Thibeaux (Golden State Warriors)
  8. Steve Bouchie (Detroit Pistons)
  9. Johnny Martin (Dallas Mavericks)
  10. Dan Gay (Washington Bullets)
  11. Harry Kelly (Atlanta Hawks)
  12. Mark Jones (New York Knicks)
  13. York Gross (Denver Nuggets)
  14. Mike Jackson (Kansas City Kings)
  15. Tim Dunham (Portland Trail Blazers)
  16. Pete DeBisschop (Seattle SuperSonics)
  17. Barney Mines (New Jersey Nets)
  18. Mark Nickens (Milwaukee Bucks)
  19. Sam Mosley (Phoenix Suns)
  20. Brant Weidner (San Antonio Spurs)
  21. Carlos Clark (Boston Celtics)
  22. Terry Lewis (Los Angeles Lakers)
  23. Craig Robinson (Philadelphia 76ers)


  1. Chuck Barnett (Houston Rockets)
  2. Roger Stieg (Indiana Pacers)
  3. Chris Logan (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  4. Manute Bol (San Diego Clippers)
  5. Tim Andree (Chicago Bulls)
  6. Greg Hines (Golden State Warriors)
  7. Matt Clark (Utah Jazz)
  8. Ken Austin (Detroit Pistons)
  9. Jim Lampley (Dallas Mavericks)
  10. Robin Dixon (Washington Bullets)
  11. Charles Jones (Atlanta Hawks)
  12. Troy Lee Mikell (New York Knicks)
  13. Lorenza Andrews (Kansas City Kings)
  14. James Braddock (Denver Nuggets)
  15. Gary Monroe (Portland Trail Blazers)
  16. Brad Watson (Seattle SuperSonics)
  17. Tyren Naulls (New Jersey Nets)
  18. Mark Petteway (Milwaukee Bucks)
  19. Jeff Pehl (San Antonio Spurs)
  20. Rick Lamb (Phoenix Suns)
  21. Bob Reitz (Boston Celtics)
  22. Danny Dixon (Los Angeles Lakers)
  23. Mike Milligan (Philadelphia 76ers)


  1. Jim Stack (Houston Rockets)
  2. Cliff Pruitt (Indiana Pacers)
  3. Mel McLaughlin (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  4. Russell Todd (Milwaukee Bucks)
  5. Ernest Patterson (Chicago Bulls)
  6. Fred Gilliam (Utah Jazz)
  7. Tom Heywood (Golden State Warriors)
  8. Derek Perry (Detroit Pistons)
  9. Billy Allen (Dallas Mavericks)
  10. Donald Carroll (Washington Bullets)
  11. Tom Bethea (Atlanta Hawks)
  12. Tony Simms (New York Knicks)
  13. Glenn Green (Denver Nuggets)
  14. Alvis Rogers (Kansas City Kings)
  15. Derrick Pope (Portland Trail Blazers)
  16. Tony Wilson (Seattle SuperSonics)
  17. Oscar Taylor (New Jersey Nets)
  18. Charles Hurt (Milwaukee Bucks)
  19. Edward Bona (Phoenix Suns)
  20. Ricky Hooker (San Antonio Spurs)
  21. Paul Atkins (Boston Celtics)
  22. Mark Steele (Los Angeles Lakers)
  23. Sedale Threatt (Philadelphia 76ers)

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  1. Brian Kellerman (Houston Rockets)
  2. Tony Brown (Indiana Pacers)
  3. John Colombo (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  4. Dan Evans (San Diego Clippers)
  5. Jacque Hill (Chicago Bulls)
  6. Peter Williams (Golden State Warriors)
  7. Gerald Kazanowski (Utah Jazz)
  8. Rob Gonzalez (Detroit Pistons)
  9. Terrell Schlundt (Dallas Mavericks)
  10. Danny Womack (Washington Bullets)
  11. Lex Drum (Atlanta Hawks)
  12. Desi Barmore (New York Knicks)
  13. Dane Suttle (Kansas City Kings)
  14. Maurice McDaniel (Denver Nuggets)
  15. Paul Little (Portland Trail Blazers)
  16. Tony Gattis (Seattle SuperSonics)
  17. Keith Bennet (New Jersey Nets)
  18. Anthony Hicks (Milwaukee Bucks)
  19. Keith Williams (San Antonio Spurs)
  20. Fred Brown (Phoenix Suns)
  21. Ron Jackson (Boston Celtics)
  22. Ricky Mixon (Los Angeles Lakers)
  23. Tony Bruin (Philadelphia 76ers)


  1. Jeff Bolding (Houston Rockets)
  2. Ray McCallum (Indiana Pacers)
  3. Larry Tucker (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  4. Mark Gannon (San Diego Clippers)
  5. Terry Bradley (Chicago Bulls)
  6. Michael McCombs (Utah Jazz)
  7. Doug Harris (Golden State Warriors)
  8. George Wenzel (Detroit Pistons)
  9. Bill Sadler (Dallas Mavericks)
  10. Bernard Perry (Washington Bullets)
  11. George Thomas (Atlanta Hawks)
  12. Mike Lang (New York Knicks)
  13. Cliff Tribus (Denver Nuggets)
  14. Preston Neumayr (Kansas City Kings)
  15. Frank Smith (Portland Trail Blazers)
  16. Ray Smith (Seattle SuperSonics)
  17. Joey Myers (New Jersey Nets)
  18. Brett Burkholder (Milwaukee Bucks)
  19. Mike Mulquin (Phoenix Suns)
  20. Norvell Brown (San Antonio Spurs)
  21. Trent Johnson (Boston Celtics)
  22. Gordon Austin (Philadelphia 76ers)


  1. James Campbell (Houston Rockets)
  2. Lynn Mitchem (Indiana Pacers)
  3. Joe Brown (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  4. David Maxwell (San Diego Clippers)
  5. Kenneth Orange (Chicago Bulls)
  6. Greg Goorjian (Golden State Warriors)
  7. Ron Webb (Utah Jazz)
  8. Marlow McLain (Detroit Pistons)
  9. Sherrod Arnold (Dallas Mavericks)
  10. Ricky Moreland (Washington Bullets)
  11. Will Cotchery (Atlanta Hawks)
  12. Charles Jones (New York Knicks)
  13. Bernard Hill (Kansas City Kings)
  14. Bobby Van Noy (Denver Nuggets)
  15. Phil Hopson (Portland Trail Blazers)
  16. Tony Washington (Seattle SuperSonics)
  17. Kevin Black (New Jersey Nets)
  18. Bill Varner (Milwaukee Bucks)
  19. Gary Gaspard (San Antonio Spurs)
  20. Joe Dykstra (Phoenix Suns)
  21. John Rice (Boston Celtics)
  22. Charles Fisher (Philadelphia 76ers)


  1. Mark Smed (Indiana Pacers)
  2. Jon Hanely (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  3. Keith Smith (San Diego Clippers)
  4. Tom Emma (Chicago Bulls)
  5. Odell Mosteller (Utah Jazz)
  6. Michael Zeno (Golden State Warriors)
  7. Ike Person (Detroit Pistons)
  8. Clyde Corley (Dallas Mavericks)
  9. Isaiah Singletary (Washington Bullets)
  10. Ronnie Carr (Atlanta Hawks)
  11. Bernard Randolph (New York Knicks)
  12. Cleveland McCrae (Denver Nuggets)
  13. Aaron Haskins (Kansas City Kings)
  14. Russ Christianson (Portland Trail Blazers)
  15. David Binion (Seattle SuperSonics)
  16. Rich Simkus (New Jersey Nets)
  17. Bob Kelly (Milwaukee Bucks)
  18. Bo Overton (Phoenix Suns)
  19. Lamar Heard (San Antonio Spurs)
  20. Andy Kupec (Boston Celtics)

Who were the best players from the 83 NBA Draft?

Three of the best players of the 1983 NBA Draft, Clyde Drexler, Ralph Sampson and Dale Ellis.

Clyde Drexler

Clyde Drexler was drafted with the 14th pick of the draft by the Portland Trail Blazers and spent most of his rookie season coming off the bench. However, Drexler rapidly improved and developed into the 2nd best shooting guard in the NBA behind Michael Jordan for most of his career.

Drexler was by far the best player of the NBA 1983 draft and averaged 20.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, and 2 SPG over a 16-year career. He helped lead the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1990 and 1992 NBA finals and was a major contributor to the 1995 Houston Rockets championship team.

“Clyde the glide” was a 10-time all-star, was named to the All-NBA 1st Team once, was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team twice, and was named to the All-NBA 3rd Team twice. He was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.

Ralph Sampson

Ralph Sampson was the #1 pick of the draft by the Houston Rockets and was expected to become the next great center in the NBA. Although Sampson didn’t dominate to the extent of other great NBA centers that he was often compared to, he still averaged an impressive 20.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2 BPG, and 1 SPG over his first 3 seasons.

Sampson, along with fellow big man Hakeem Olajuwon, would lead the Rockets to the 1986 NBA finals, just 4 years after the Rockets had compiled the worst record in the NBA. However, after missing just 3 games during his first 3 seasons, injuries would plague Sampson for the rest of his career, preventing him from ever reaching the heights of his first 3 years in the NBA.

Sampson was the 1983-1984 Rookie of the Year, was named to 4 all-star teams, and was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team once. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

Dale Ellis

After being drafted 9th overall by the Dallas Mavericks, Dale Ellis developed into a very good offensive player, playing both the shooting guard and small forward positions. Ellis shot 40.3% from 3-point range and averaged 15.7 PPG and 3.5 RPG for his career. He was named to 1 all-star team, the All-NBA 3rd team once, and was the 1986-1987 NBA Most Improved Player.

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers was the 31st overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks and established himself as a good point guard for the first half of his career, before becoming more of a role player and backup for the 2nd half of his career. Rivers averaged 10.9 PPG and 5.7 APG for his career and was named to 1 all-star game. He is more famous for becoming a very successful head coach, winning a title with the Celtics during the 2007-2008 NBA season.

Jeff Malone

After being selected with the 10th pick of the draft by the Washington Bullets, Jeff Malone established himself as a very good offensive shooting guard becoming one of the best 1983 NBA Draft best players. He averaged 19 PPG for his career and shot 48.4% from the field and an impressive 87.1% from the free-throw line. Malone was also named to 2 all-star games in his career during the 1985-1986 and 1986-1987 NBA seasons.

The Ugly Truth About The Clyde Drexler draft Class/Ralph Sampson Draft Class

The NBA 1983 draft results ended up being very disappointing as only 5 players would end up making at least 1 all-star game and the #1 overall pick Ralph Sampson never lived up to pre-draft expectations. In retrospect, the 1983 NBA draft order confounded many analysts, as most of the successful players from the NBA 83 draft class ended up being drafted after the early lottery picks. Clyde Drexler was the biggest bright spot of the draft, developing into one of the best shooting guards in NBA history.