Being a second-round pick in the NBA comes with no cheering, not much love, and no glory. Most times when someone is drafted in the second round, it’s the first time the NBA world is hearing their names. The majority of players on NBA rosters were drafted in the first round. Of course there are sprinkles of second rounders and un-signed players, but it is truly impressive to be drafted outside of the first round, and still find a place on an NBA roster.
Being a second-round pick is not a death sentence, however, because for every no. 1 overall pick spent on a Kwame Brown, there is a second-round pick spent on a Manu Ginobili. We all remember Isaiah Thomas was the final selection in the 2011 draft. Sometimes being drafted in the second round can be a blessing in disguise though, as it can inspire and motivate a player to out perform what he may been if drafted earlier. Here we have 15 players who turned their second round draft status into a career to be remembered. This should inspire incoming players to the NBA that their draft position has no bearing on how their career will ultimately turn out. In the end, they decide what their career will be.
15 Rashard Lewis
While Rashard Lewis ended his career riding the coattails of LeBron James, winning NBA championships along the way, there was a time where he was a major contributor on an NBA Finals Orlando Magic squad.
Lewis spent more than 15 seasons in the NBA, definitely exceeding the life expectancy of a 32nd pick in the draft. He is a career 39% shooter from three-point land, and finished his career averaging 15.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. During his prime years, Lewis singed a max deal for six-year, and $118 million, not bad for a second round pick. Earning a max deal is a thought that most second-round picks can’t even formulate, but Lewis made it a reality. The 32nd pick in the 1998 NBA Draft had quite the career for himself, earning him a spot on this list.
14 Michael Redd
Michael Redd… this man could light up a scoreboard as fast as Michael Phelps swims 100 meters. While injuries severely derailed and shortened his career, Redd still left a mark on the NBA as the 43rd pick in the 2000 NBA Draft.
From 2003-2009, Redd was a scoring machine for the Bucks, with six straight years of 21-plus per game. He was a three-time gold medalist with Team USA's 'Dream Team'. Redd was the cornerstone of the Bucks franchise for the majority of the 2000's decade, and led them to three playoff runs. Despite not having tremendous team success during his career, Redd will forever be remembered as a guy who could fill it up with the best of em when he was feeling it.
13 Toni Kukoc
Kukoc was one of the most accomplished European players ever when he finally came over to the NBA in 1993. The Bulls originally drafted him in 1990 early in the second round, but Kukoc opted to say home and play another two season before coming to the NBA.
With the Bulls, he was a key member of three championship squads, sacrificing individual numbers to become a utility player who could provide scoring off the bench or a matchup nightmare as a starter. He won the Sixth Man of the Year in 1996, and then had his best individual season in 1998-99, averaging 18.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Of course, that season saw the Bulls fall apart without Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and Jackson but it still counts for something.
12 Isaiah Thomas
At only 5'9" Isaiah Thomas is doing things this season that no player his height has ever done. He will be the first player of such diminutive height to average over 28 points per game for an entire season.
Thomas was the final pick in the 2011 NBA draft, and coming out of Washington, not many believed he would amount to much in the league. Isaiah took that lack of confidence and turned it into his own fountain of motivation. Since joining the Celtics, he has carved his name into one of the most hollowed history books in sports, the Boston Celtics history book that is. For the majority of the season he was in the thick of the MVP debate, and with Boston in prime position to add talent this offseason, look for Thomas to become a main stay in the MVP debates.
11 Gus Williams
"The Wizard of the hardwood", Gus Williams is an often forgotten about great player. He shouldn't be though. He was the leading scorer for the 1979 NBA champion Seattle SuperSonics. During that NBA Finals series, the 6'2" guard averaged a ridiculously overlooked 28.6 points per game.
In Seattle, Williams made two All-Star Games and was selected to the All-NBA First Team in 1982, and the Second Team two years prior. When it was all said and done this second rounder managed to average over seventeen points per game, but perhaps even more impressive was his career average of 2.2 steals per game. A player who did it on both ends of the court is always a pleasant surprise coming out of the second round.
10 World B. Free
One of the most athletic players to ever play the game, World B. Free is much more than just a cool name. Free received his nickname because of his incredible 44-inch vertical and never before seen 360-degree dunks.
Free’s best season came in 1979-80 when he averaged 30.2 PPG on 47% shooting. Being able to average 30 points a game for a season and shoot over 45 percent is efficiency at its finest. Many general managers believe a second rounder who can average ten points per game is a steal, World averaged 30! He was also not just a flash in the pan, World averaged 20.3 points per game during his 15-year NBA career. It's safe to say nobody saw that coming when Free went in the second round.
9 Gilbert Arenas
Agent Zero might have lost all of his magic, but there was a time where he was one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA. Anytime a second-round pick turns into a franchise cornerstone, it’s worth the pick and that is exactly what happened with Arenas.
The gun incident in Washington, and even before that, the injuries are primarily what was the beginning of the end for Gilber. Arenas contributed plenty of solid years to the NBA however. He really peaked during a three year span from 2004-2007, averaging 27.8 points per game during those three years. With career averages of 20.7 points, 5.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game, Arenas went from an afterthought as a second-round pick to one of the most exciting players of the mid-2000s.
8 Marc Gasol
Marc Gasol has crushed all expectations that he were given as the 48th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Gasol was the 2012-13 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. There are only two other players drafted outside of the first round to have won the award. Gasol has also been named to three All-Star Games and two All-NBA Teams.
He is often praised for his defending and passing ability as a big man, but Gasol has career averaged nearly 15 points and eight rebounds for his career. Marc has gone from the little brother of Pau Gasol to one of the best centers in the league. He will likely never surpass Pau in terms of career accomplishments, but to be in the discussion is a feat in itself, especially for a second round pick.
7 Calvin Murphy
Standing at 5-9, aside from Allen Iverson, Calvin Murphy may be the best little man to ever play the game. Murphy is the shortest player to ever be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, earning the distinction by racking up nearly 18,000 points in his 13-year NBA career.
Murphy was undersized, but like many undersized players, he played much bigger than he actually was. Murphy averaged a shade under eighteen points per game in his career, and retired with top ten all time free throw shooting percentage (89%). His draft status might have been affected by his height, but his play on the court sure proved different. Being a Hall of Famer as a second-round pick is something to be extremely proud of.
6 Hal Greer
During an interview after his career was over, Greer said that he didn’t even think he had a chance to make it to the NBA. Greer said, “In fact, when I first got there, I didn’t even unpack my bag.” Well, Greer did a lot more than just make it to the NBA.
Greer's career lasted over 15 years. Hal is most remembered as a major contributor to the Philadelphia 76ers teams in the 1960s. Greer averaged 19.2 points per game during his career and once appeared in 10 straight All-Star Games. Greer was an NBA champion with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1967 and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. If you aren’t aware of who Hal Greer is, he’s the player that turned his second-round pick status into one of the best careers of all time, you should check him out.
5 Willis Reed
I would imagine many fans of the New York Knicks wish they still had Willis Reed in uniform today. Reed was the heart and soul of the Knicks championship teams of 1970 and 1973, winning Finals MVP both of those years.
Willis only spent 10 years in the league, all of which were spent in the Big Apple. When it was all said and done he averaged 18.7 points per game and 12.9 rebounds. Looking at Reed’s accolades makes it clear why he’s one of the biggest steals to ever be selected in the second round. He was voted as one of the 50 greatest players in the NBA (1996), won an NBA MVP (1970) and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. Willis Reed was a dominating force during his time in the NBA, earning him a high spot on this list and making Knicks fans everywhere wish they still had him.
4 Nate "Tiny" Archibald
Nate “Tiny” Archibald stood at a listed height of 6-1 and 150 pounds, hence the nickname "Tiny". However, Nate's play on the court could could categorized as anything but tiny.
Archibald is the only player to ever lead the NBA in scoring and assists in a single season. He accomplished this feat during the 1972-73 season when he averaged 34.0 points per game and 11.4 assists. The things Tiny was doing in his career were, until this season, only matched by the likes of Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain. We now of course must include James Harden and Russell Westbrook in the discussion too. Tiny was a six-time All-Star, NBA champion in 1981, and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991. Quite the resume for a “tiny” guard that wasn’t even a first-round pick in 1970.
3 Alex English
Alex English might be the best player to ever wear a Denver Nuggets uniform. To this day, English is still the Nuggets all-time leading scorer. Coming from a second-round pick, that speaks volumes.
English averaged over 26 points per game during his decade plus with the Nuggets. Over that eleven year span, English averaged less than 21 points per game once, and that was his final season with Denver in 1989-90. That season he "only" averaged 17.9 points. In his prime, 1983, English actually led the entire NBA in scoring with 28.4 points per. With all of his accomplishments, English has more than established himself as an all time great, as proven by his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Not bad for a second rounder.
2 Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman definitely took advantage of his second-round selection in 1986. Rodman only scored 7.3 points per game over his 14 year career, but he affected the game in many other ways. Averaging 13.1 rebounds per game for his career, Rodman might be the best rebounding forward to ever play the game.
A five-time NBA champion, Rodman also won the Defensive Player of the Year award twice, in 1990, and 91. When he wasn't winning DPOY he was still elite, being named to seven NBA All-Defensive First Teams. A rebounding machine, Rodman had seven straight years (1991-98) where he averaged over 15 rebounds a game. Rodman has always been a different player on and off the court, and that holds true today. But this former second-round selection will be remembered as a major piece to both the “Bad Boy" Pistons, of the late ’80s, and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, during their second three-peat in the mid-1990s.
1 Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili is a one-of-a-kind player in the NBA. The best part about him might be when he nails a huge shot and you can hear Charles Barkley yelling, “GINOBILI!” as the ball falls through the net... no it actually is probably his acrobatic style of play and ability come up biggest when the lights are brightest.
Another life long San Antonio Spur, Ginobili has done it all as the 57th pick in the 1999 Draft. Ginobili is one of the biggest steals in draft history, as he was a cornerstone for the past one and a half decades of Spurs' success. Being the spark plug for Spurs dynasty is nothing short of hall worthy. His accolades are too many to mention, including his international stage resume Ginobili is a lock for first ballot Hall of Fame induction once he finally does decided to call it a career.
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