Last night, the NBA watched the number 1 pick from the 2011 NBA draft, Kyrie Irving, face off against the 60th pick from the same year, Isaiah Thomas. Despite being from either end of the draft board, both players have developed into NBA superstars.
The second round of the NBA draft is often considered a weak position to be in for young prospects entering the league. They will each be judged by the number they were chosen, until they prove that they are worthy of competing with the high school phenoms, top 10 picks, and the array of first rounders in the league. Many second round picks fizzle out of the league after a few seasons. Others never even play a competitive NBA game! There are of course many second round picks who have made good careers for themselves, and spend 10-15 years playing as a member of various second unit. However, there is often one or two players each year, who rise up from the second round, and become NBA stars! More often than not, it takes a few years for these players to develop and become household names, but when they do…GM’s will be kicking themselves having overlooked them a few years before.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane, and reminisce about the draft classes of the past, beginning back in 2007.
The first pick in the 2007 NBA draft was in the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, who selected Greg Oden from Ohio State University. He was followed by Texas freshman Kevin Durant, who was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics. It won’t take long to work out who had the better career of the two top picks. Other headlining players of the draft were Al Horford, Mike Conley and Joakim Noah.
The second round sensation of the 2007 draft class was none other than Mike Conley’s current running mate with the Grizzlies, Marc Gasol. Selected with the 48th pick by the Los Angeles Lakers, Gasol has developed into one of the leagues most complete Centers. On February 1st 2008, Gasol’s draft rights were traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, with his older brother Pau Gasol going the other way! It is the only trade in NBA history where brothers have been traded. Marc has been with Memphis ever since, and is a 2x All-Star (2012,2015), Defensive Player of the year (2013), and an All-NBA first team selection in 2015. Aged 31, Gasol continues to put up impressive numbers for the Grizzlies, and is currently having a terrific season, averaging 20 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.5 blocks per game.
Moving on to the 2008 NBA draft, which was headlined by Derrick Rose being drafted as the Number one pick to the Chicago Bulls. Two NBA stars of today’s game slipped into the second round back then, the first being Deandre Jordan. The Texas A&M big man was drafted with the 35th pick to the LA Clippers, and has been there ever since. He is now a part of the big three in LA, along with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Last season, Jordan’s presence as an elite defender was noticed by GM’s across the league, as they voted him to the All-NBA first team. He has also been the NBA rebounding leader twice (2014, 2015) , and All-Defensive first team for the past two seasons.
The other star from the second round in 2008 came from a very different background. After playing professionally in Slovenia for a year, Goran Dragic was selected with the 45th pick by the San Antonio Spurs, where his draft rights were traded to the Phoenix Suns. Dragic spent 8 years with the Suns, with a six month stint in Houston during the 2011-2012 season. He became a free agent at the end of that season and re-signed with the Suns to replace Steve Nash. Dragic was voted to the All-NBA third team in 2014, having averaged 20 points and 6 assists. He was also voted the most improved player in the same season. In 2015, Dragic was traded to the Miami Heat where he remains today. He is still considered a top tier NBA point guard, having worked his way up from the bottom in Phoenix.
The 2009 NBA draft was the year that Blake Griffin, James Harden and Steph Curry entering the league. Two second round picks from 2009 ended up winning championships on the same team, and therefore have more rings than Griffin, Harden and Curry combined! Danny Green was selected with the 46th pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. After one season in Ohio, Green was waived, but was later picked up by the San Antonio Spurs. Despite stints in the D-League, and even a spell in Slovenia early in his time with San Antonio, Green worked his way into the San Antonio rotation, and is highly regarded by his teammates. He won an NBA title in 2014, playing in all 23 playoff games, averaging 9 points off 23 minutes per outing. In 2015, Green was rewarded with a 4-year, $45 million deal with the Spurs, proving that anything is possible if you work hard for it.
Patty Mills was drafted the same season, taken by the Blazers with the 55th pick. He didn’t play much whilst in Portland, and when the NBA lockout came around in 2011, Mills headed back to Australia to suit up for Melbourne. After short spells in Australia and also in China, he was signed for the San Antonio Spurs, where he has been ever since. He won an NBA title in 2014 alongside Danny Green, contributing as the back-up point guard off the bench, supporting Tony Parker. He is regarded around the league as a reliable point guard, and has made a good career for himself in San Antonio.
Now onto the 2010 draft, where the shot blocking sensation Hassan Whiteside was discovered and drafted with the 33rd pick by the Sacramento Kings. Unfortunately for Whiteside, he was drafted to the Kings at the same time as Demarcus Cousins, who was taken with the 5th pick. Hassan featured in just 19 games across his two seasons with the Kings, spending the majority of his time in the D-League. After being waived in 2012, he headed overseas and played for seven different teams before being signed by the Miami Heat in November 2014. He began showing signs of his potential, and had a huge breakout season in 2015-2016, averaging 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks per game! He of course led the league in blocks, and his brilliant season with the Heat was rewarded with a 4-year, $98 million dollar contract in free agency. He finally has some stability in his career, and his story was showcased on social media over the summer, having jumped from earning $980,000 last season, to $98 milion over the next four!
As we head on to the 2011 draft, two more players rose up from the second round slumps, and have developed into stars in the NBA. Three superstars drafted in the first round were of course Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Kahwi Leonard. All three are NBA champions. Jimmy Butler slipped to 30th in the draft, just about holding a place in the first round. He could easily have made this list if he was drafted one pick later.
The players in conversation however are Chandler Parsons, and Isaiah Thomas. Parsons was drafted with the 38th pick by the Houston Rockets. He played for three seasons in Houston, and finished his third season with career highs in points, assists, rebounds and steals. He headed into free agency in 2014 with credibility and strong numbers, and was rewarded with a three-year, $46 million deal with Dallas. He played 2 seasons with the Mavericks as a key player, but turned down his final year on his contract to sign a multi-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. He has become a highly regarded starter in the NBA.
With the 60th pick in the same draft, the Sacramento Kings drafted Point guard Isaiah Thomas, who stood at 5 feet and 9 inches tall. He played for three seasons in Sacramento, averaging 20 points per game by his third season. He was then sent to Phoenix in a sign-and-trade deal in 2014. After just half a season, Thomas was traded to Boston for Marcus Thornton and a first round pick. It wasn’t until the 2015-2016 season when Thomas achieved superstar status. Last season, Thomas was an All-Star for the first time, averaging 22 points and 6 assists. He is the centerpiece of an upcoming Celtics team, and is currently averaging a massive 27 points and 6 assists this season! He may well find himself in his second All-Star game very soon!
As we now reach the 2012 draft, it is good to keep in mind that these players are considerably younger than the ones I mentioned towards the beginning of the article. Beyond 2012 it becomes increasingly difficult to determine second round ‘stars’ as they are continuing to try and prove themselves even to this day. It is not an overnight process, as they did not necessarily stand out in the College game or playing overseas, or they may just be late developers. Either way, at some point in the future we will all look back at former second round picks who turned into stars, it happens every season.
2012 was a very strong draft year, being led by Anthony Davis with the first pick. Three stars of today’s NBA slipped into the second round, and one has already written his name in NBA history, and that is Draymond Green. Green was drafted to the Golden State Warriors with the 35th pick, and became a core player in the Warriors team. He became an NBA champion in 2015, and was voted to the All-Star game in 2016, as well as the All-NBA second team in the same season. This so happened to be the year that the Warriors won 73 games in the regular season, an NBA record. Draymond is valued as one of the best two-way Power Forwards in the NBA, and is known as an elite defender. Green has always played with a chip on his shoulder, and that could not have been more evident last season, when he was able to name every single player who was drafted before him back in 2012, and in which order they were drafted. He knows which players were regarded better than him that year, and has proved that he was wrongly overlooked by GM’s.
Jae Crowder was also drafted in the second round, but by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 34th pick, and was traded on the same night to the Dallas Mavericks. After an impressive summer league display, he was regarded as ‘the steal of the draft’. He was a bench player for the Mavericks for three seasons, and in December 2014 was part of the trade that sent Rajon Rondo to Dallas from Boston. Crowder had a breakout season last year, averaging 14 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists as a starter for the Celtics. He is growing in to the star he was once deemed as back in the 2012 Summer League.
The final second round success of 2012 was Khris Middleton, selected by the Detroit Pistons with the 39th pick. After a season with Detroit, Middleton was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks along with Brandon Knight for Brandon Jennings. Middleton played all 82 games in the 2013-2014 season, starting 64 games, and averaged 12 points per for the Bucks. Last season, Middleton averaged 18 points and 4 assists for Milwaukee, and is part of the upcoming Bucks team which also features Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Although he will miss much of this season with a left hamstring injury, he most certainly has a bright future ahead with Jason Kidd‘s Bucks team.
The players I have written about have all proved themselves as steals of the NBA drafts of the past. As previously mentioned, it is difficult to determine which second round picks of the past three or four seasons will develop into stars. Nikola Jokic certainly looks well on his way to becoming a star for the Nuggets, after being drafted in the second round by them in 2014. Other than Jokic, it is difficult to know who will become stars, only time will tell.
If I had to predict one player from the 2016 draft who will become a ‘second round success’, I would go for Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks. He was selected with 36th pick of this seasons draft, and is currently averaging 8 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds off 22 minutes of action. He will no doubt be a good backup shooting guard for Khris Middleton when he returns from injury. Yet another young Bucks prospect. They have big things ahead.
So there you have it, some of the top second round players from the past ten years. These players defied the odds by becoming stars of their draft class, despite being overlooked when first entering the league. Never judge a player by where they were drafted, just look at Andrea Bargnani and Anthony Bennett. A draft number doesn’t mean anything in the NBA anymore.