Every year, there are college stars who play absolute out-of-their minds basketball and people are quick to assume they are the next big thing. We already see that this year with Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. In years past, we have seen guys like Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving all come up from the college ranks and make their mark on the NBA. Teams are always on the lookout for that young talent to build around or to add to what they already have. Unfortunately, all college players can’t dunk like Blake Griffin, put the ball in the hoop like Kevin Durant, and set up teammates like Chris Paul. Some guys just can’t make that step to the NBA and translate their game. As a matter of fact, there are teams who have been able to find talent in the second round that’s even better than the talent the team selected in the first round.
Yes, there is a fair share of second-round picks who don’t make it to the NBA. They get stuck in the G-League and for the overseas guys, some of them get locked up in their contracts overseas or just don’t want to come over and play period. Below are some of the biggest flops in recent history as well as a few guys made an impact on the hardwood, whether it was through scoring, playing defense or just providing the “it” factor that their teams needed.
20 Flopped: Anthony Bennett
Anthony Bennett was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013, hoping he would be the boost they needed to get over the loss of LeBron James. He was supposed to be the star along with Kyrie Irving to lead the Cavs out of mediocrity. Quite a few people were surprised (Bill Simmons, LOL) when the Cavs drafted him, believing that he was not the best pick available, and he proved the doubters right. Chosen ahead of players like Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, he wouldn’t be able to tie these guys’ sneakers. In 151 career games, he averaged 4.4 points on 39% shooting and is currently out of the NBA.
19 Surprise Star: Isaiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas was the last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. Players selected before him include Jon Leuer, Jimmer Fredette, and Nolan Smith. He could make a case in the redraft that he could be a top 10 player in this class. Standing at a skyscraping 5’9”, Isaiah Thomas has made quite the impact since he entered the league. He’s a two-time All-Star and was considered as a top candidate for MVP in 2017, and we all remember the game he played after his sister passed away in a tragic car accident. He’s been battling injuries his last few years, but he is already better than 95% of the 2011 draft class.
18 Flopped: Greg Oden
What happened to Greg Oden has to be one of basketball's biggest tragedies when it comes to the “what if?” story. In high school, he was a man among boys. In college, he played the majority of his freshman season with an injured hand was still able to average 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. He was expected to be a game changer at the next level, but injuries derailed him as well as that chance for the Blazers to potentially run the Western Conference. To make matters worse, he was picked ahead on Kevin Durant when he was chosen No. 1 in the 2007 NBA Draft.
17 Surprise Star: Draymond Green
Draymond Green doesn’t have the most impressive scoring stats, but he is the glue guy behind the machine and the bulldog for the Golden State Warriors. Draymond Green was selected with the 35th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He is revered for his ability to guard all five positions on the floor and is also a former Defensive Player of the Year. He’s a three-time All-Star and a three-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors. Draymond played a vital role in the Warriors breaking the all-time win mark in a season with 73. He won’t shoot like Klay Thompson or Steph Curry nor will be put the ball in the hoop like KD, but Draymond was definitely a steal for the Warriors.
16 Flopped: Jahlil Okafor
In the 2015 draft, there was some debate regarding who would be the best center out of this draft, Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor. For the majority of the season, the scout had pegged Okafor as the best talent and it seemed that during his first season in the league when he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds a game. Injuries happened and between the 2017-18 and this season as well, he only appeared in 35 games. While Towns took off, Okafor had some people thinking he would never touch an NBA basketball court ever again. He’s still young and has time to become a great NBA player, but those days are winding down.
15 Surprise Star: Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman was one of the best rebounders in NBA history….at 6’7”. He was drafted by the Pistons in 1986 with the 27th pick in the second round. He was a two-time All-Star and led the league in rebounding seven times, second all-time to only Wilt Chamberlain. He went through a phase in his career where he was a troublemaker on and off the court, but that did not affect his game on the court. Between 1991 and 1998, Rodman averaged 16.7 rebounds a game, one of the best stretches for rebounding in NBA history and by far the best in the modern era. He once averaged 18.7 REBOUNDS A GAME!!!!
14 Flop: Hasheem Thabeet
Outside of Victor Claver (who’s that?), Hasheem Thabeet is the worst first-round draft pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Playing at UConn, he was thought to be a post-defending monster due to his height (7’3"), his incredible wingspan (7’6") and his ability to alter shots in his direction. In his senior year, he blocked 4.2 shots a game, but a matchup with Big East foe DeJuan Blair and Pittsburgh potentially showed a weakness.
When he was drafted, he was unable to keep up with the speed of the game and was eventually out of the league by the time he was 26. Picked before the likes of James Harden, Steph Curry, and DeMar DeRozan, this has to be one of the biggest draft mistakes in the past 15 years.
13 Surprise Star: Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap was one of the reasons why the Utah Jazz were able to let Carlos Boozer go to the Bulls in 2010. The 6’8” power forward was the driving force behind the best season in the history of the Atlanta Hawks. The four-time All-Star was drafted with the 47th pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, behind the likes of other power forwards like Andrea Bargnani, Tyrus Thomas, and Shawne Williams. Not only is he a solid contributor on offense but over the course of his career, he has become one of the best on-ball post defenders in the league.
12 Flopped: Adam Morrison
Adam Morrison was a human microwave during his third and final year at Gonzaga. He averaged 28.1 points a game and was Co-Player of the Year with Duke's J.J. Redick. He played the game with passion and many fans remember him for his emotional breakdown in the NCAA tournament when they lost to UCLA in the Sweet 16. He was an incredible shot maker (49% shooting from the field, 42% from three) and that got him drafted by the Bobcats No. 3 overall in 2006. He had a solid start to his career making the All-Rookie Second team, but he missed his sophomore season due to a knee injury and it all went downhill from there. He was last seen in the NBA in 2010.
11 Surprise Star: DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre Jordan has been able to establish himself as one of the best rim protectors and best rim runners in the league, but he wasn’t looked at like this when he was drafted. As the 35th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, players like J.J. Hickson, Joe Alexander and Jason Thompson were drafted ahead of him, but none of those guys had the impact Jordan had. In the 2014 season, he was only the fifth player in NBA history to average at least 10 points, 15 rebounds, one steal and two blocks per game, last accomplished by Moses Malone during his MVP season in 1983.
10 Flopped: Jimmer Fredette
Jimmer Fredette was one of the most prolific scorers in recent history when it comes to college basketball. His senior year was one for the ages. He was dropping shot after shot and setting the college world on fire. There were even comparisons to Steph Curry due to his scoring ability and his out-of-the-gym range. He was drafted in 2011 by the Bucks and was traded to the Kings on draft night. His shooting somewhat translated to the NBA game but he couldn’t create shots for others and he couldn’t defend one position on the basketball court. He was last seen tearing it up in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association).
9 Surprise Star: Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer is regarded as one of the best players ever to suit up at Duke. Drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft, he went to have a successful career. He didn’t enter his prime until he started his tenure with the Utah Jazz. He had his best season in 2007 when he averaged 20.9 points and 11.7 rebounds for a Jazz team that looked like real contenders in the Western Conference. He went on to the Chicago Bulls where he continued to put up solid numbers. Side Note: He was one of the few guys from Duke that was able to translate and becomes a successful NBA player.
8 Flopped: Shelden Williams
Along with J.J. Redick, Shelden Williams was putting in work with the Duke Blue Devils in 2005. While J.J. was scorching the nets from distance, “The Landlord” was holding down the paint, averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds and almost 4 blocks a game. Usually, post players can make the easy transition to the NBA but Williams struggled from the get-go. Not only did his scoring not translate to the NBA game, but the No. 5 pick in the 2006 Draft also couldn’t defend the paint as he did in college. He was picked ahead of his teammate Redick, who has been quite the player in the NBA, and All-Stars Paul Millsap and Rudy Gay.
7 Surprise Star: Michael Redd
Michael Redd was one of the best scorers in the NBA during the 2000s. He was a deadly shooter that would heat you up if you left him open. He was drafted with the 43rd overall pick by the Bucks. He didn’t receive much playing time due to being behind Ray Allen on the depth chart. Once Ray left for the Sonics and Redd received more playing time, the floodgates opened. He averaged a career-high 26.7 points in 2007 and owns the single-game scoring record for the team with 57 points. This second-round pick will go down as one of the greatest Bucks of all-time.
6 Flopped: Michael Beasley
Michael Beasley is one of the more successful guys on this list. As a matter of fact, he is by far the best natural player on this list, but he could have accomplished so much more with the talent he was blessed with. He averaged a career-high 19.2 points a game in 2011 but began dropping off not long after. Based on his college career, much more was expected of Beasley. I witnessed this firsthand when he dropped 26 and 13 on my Alma Mater, Savannah State…in one half. His behavior off the court played a big part in his career trajectory as well.
5 Surprise Star: Mark Price
So here comes a throwback for all the young NBA fan - former Cavs point guard Mark Price. He was drafted with the 25th pick in 1986 by the Mavericks, but he made his career in Cleveland. One of the bigger underdogs in NBA history, critics said he was too slow and too small to play in the NBA and well, he made those guys eat their words. That splitting of the pick and roll that almost all point guards do…you can thank Mark Price for that. He was also one of, if not the best shooters during his generation, becoming the second player to post the famous 50/40/90 club along with Larry Bird. That's elite company for an elite underdog.
4 Flopped: Jay Williams
Jason Williams (later Jay, to distinguish himself from the identically named veteran NBA point guard at the time) joins the long list of Duke players that underachieved during their NBA career, but it wasn't entirely his fault. He was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2002, hoping that he could usher in a new era after Michael Jordan retired. After winning Player of the Year his junior year in college, he didn’t make the jump like a lot of people thought he would. Averaging 9 points and 5 assists a game in his rookie season, people were eager to see how his second year would go, but unfortunately, no one got the chance to find out. He was involved in a motorcycle accident, which ended his career as Chicago had to continue its search for a post-Jordan savior.
3 Surprise Star: Gilbert Arenas
Gilbert Arenas, aka Agent Zero, Hibachi, Gil Zero, etc., was a walking bucket. He dropped to the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft when the Warriors selected him with the 31st overall pick (first pick in the second round). He actually wore number “0” because that’s the number of minutes critics said he would play. He won the Most Improved Player award in his second year but he really didn’t take off until his fourth year in the NBA and second with the Wizards. He scored a franchise-record 60 points in 2006 against the Lakers. Aside from his issues off the court, which assisted in the decline of his career, Gilbert Arenas was one of the best point guards in his era.
2 Flopped: Tyler Hansbrough
UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough was a phenom as soon as he stepped on the hardwood for the team. You probably would not be able to find a player who works as hard and plays with as much passion as Hansbrough. He was an All-American all four of his years in college and will go down as one of the best college basketball players of all-time. If effort and passion were used to judge the talent of a player, Hansbrough would be in the league and would be one of the best. That’s not the case, however. Those 20.2 points and 8.6 rebounds a game he averaged in his college career turned into 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds. As of right now, he is out of the NBA and playing in China.
1 Surprise Star: Maurice Cheeks
In this history lesson, I bring to you one of the best defensive point guards to play during his era, Maurice “Mo” Cheeks. He was drafted in the second round of the 1978 NBA Draft out of tiny West Texas A&M. He still ranks fifth in NBA history in steals and was a leader of the Sixers team with stars Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Andrew Toney, and later on, Charles Barkley. During his career, he made four NBA All-Star teams as well as four NBA All-Defensive First Teams. If you’re looking for a baller and a great team leader, look no further than Mo Cheeks.