There was always that moment on the blacktop, when one of the two team general managers, snagged a player by surprise with the first or second pick. Normally, it occurred pick two, because there was a clear-cut best player. But after the big dog had been selected, the differentiation slimmed and the second best was not so stand-alone.
When assessing these picks the team GM had more than simply best talent to consider. He or she had to consider team needs, what they envisioned for style of play, who might guard the opposing team’s best player. They also had the chance at taking a risk. Maybe the “second” best player had been slumping, therefore his or her stock plummeting, allowing them to maximize their picks by taking say, the “third” best player second.
Things on the black top mirror much of what goes on in the pros. All the above measurements the same measurements used, when selecting a player in the NBA Draft. There are, of course, some things to include in that list: immaterial projections like upside, compensation demands in the future, past or projected injuries, character and team “chemistry.”
Each-and-every-year, fans and pundits alike, garner who goes first or second. We do this with the above tools and try our best to get into the minds of league owners and upper management. We all guess wrong, or if guessed right, get it wrong. You’ll see this by the atrocious nature of recent second overall picks.
Hindsight is always 20/20. So here are the second overall picks ranked from 2000 to 2016.
17 Darko Milicic, 2003
Though we all love to laugh and hate on Darko, he wasn’t really the worst second selection on paper. But he gets the nod because of how potently great the rest of his draft class ended up being.
When Darko’s name was called, GM Joe Dumars and the title contending Pistons envisioned a do-it-all big, who’d give them the inside/outside threat they lacked on the offensive end.
What ensued, as we all know, wasn’t as planned.
Darko struggled to crack the Pistons tight rotation. His score-first Euro style of play, wasn’t adequate for a Pistons team that prided themselves on shut down defense. Milicic lasted three years in Detroit, but did play ten years as a pro. He turned into a solid middle bench guy with an ability to block shots.
Drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade is what curses the Serbian big man. Darko retired in 2013, and has simplified his life as a farmer.
16 Hasheem Thabeet, 2009
The 7’3” Hasheem Thabeet made pro scouts salivate. His outrageously long wingspan, height, knack for rebounding, three years’ college seasoning and ability to block shots, had GMs imagining the second coming of Dikembe Mutombo.
Unfortunately, Thabeet’s lack of mobility and below average speed, affected his ability to do all the things he’d done so well in college. He spent five long years, languishing in mediocrity. It doesn’t help that he was drafted ahead of James Harden (3), Stephen Curry (7) and DeMar DeRozan (9).
Though an utter and complete bust, Thabeet is adored in Tanzania and seen as a cultural savior. He’s using that stardom to do much needed charity work.
15 Stromile Swift, 2000
To be fair, Stromile was bar none the best talent with the highest upside of any player in the weak 2000 NBA Draft Class. He was coming off a stellar college career with LSU and boded – alongside Kenyon Martin – the most NBA ready body, at 6’10” and a chiseled 220-pounds.
When drafted to the then Vancouver Grizzlies, a team in the cellar of the NBA, Swift had a real chance at becoming the big fish in a small pond. So why didn’t Stromile breakout as a legitimate star? Pau Gasol.
Gasol was drafted in 2001, the year after Stromile. An ankle injury slowing Stromile’s development, allowed Gasol to take over as the team’s franchise player and focal point.
From that point forward, Stromile’s career trajectory changed. He was seen less as a blossoming big man, and more as a solid back up and role player. He spent nine years in the pros with career averages of 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds.
Stromile attributes his ankle injury in 2002 as THE reason his career never took off. He is retired now and owns a trucking company.
14 Jay Williams, 2002
Like 2000, 2002 was another forgettable draft class. There’s Yao Ming, Amar'e Stoudemire, Caron Butler, Carlos Boozer and…that’s about it. But there is one player who leaves fans of the college game, haunted. And that player is Jay Williams.
Anyone who pays the slightest attention to college hoops, remembers Jay Williams as the dangerously gifted Duke guard, able to aptly hit clutch threes from anywhere on the floor. He headlined some of the most potent Duke teams ever, winning the 2002 Naismith Award and leaving multiple memories for fans to admire (or hate if you’re a North Carolina fan).
Pro comparisons were drawn to Isiah Thomas. And it's those comparisons and abilities that hurt most.
Williams only played one year with the Bulls because of a motorcycling accident. The accident nearly killed him, and boded too much for him to recover from. He never got another chance to play as a pro.
Williams is now a motivational writer. He’s published two books about overcoming depression and anxiety, and works as a College Basketball analyst with ESPN.
13 Derrick Williams, 2011
Williams has yet to find his place in the league, which is surprising. After all, this is the guy who dominated his two years at Arizona, leading the team to the National Championship game in 2011.
My suspicion is it’s where he was drafted. The Timberwolves had the likes of Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Kevin Love, Martell Webster and Anthony Randolph at the forward positions. Because of this, Williams struggled finding time among the fray.
He’s shown flashes, averaging 12 points and 5.4 rebounds his second season off the bench. But has quickly become an NBA journeyman, playing for five teams in seven years.
He currently plays in Cleveland.
12 Michael Beasley, 2008
Michael Beasley has plenty of time to better his ranking on this list. In fact, he’s resurrecting his career with the Milwaukee Bucks this season, carving out a niche and helping fans and organizations forget his miseries.
But it’s hard, real hard. Because this is the Kansas State star who won Big 12 Player of the Year in 2008, while averaging 26-points per game, only to throw it all away with careless stupidities.
Remember this photo of him flaunting a new back tattoo – drug paraphernalia on the table?
That sort of thing has been the M.O. on Beasley. Great talent, ample balance and ability to finish with contact, efficient midrange game, but lacking mental fortitude.
Beasley has had his moments, though. After helping resurrect a dead-beat Miami Heat organization, the slashing swing put up near All Star numbers in 2010-2011, posting 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds, with Minnesota.
Again, if the character’s corrected, there’s still time for Beasley
11 Marvin Williams, 2005
Marvin Williams was that great example of an adequate pick because of talent and upside, but in hindsight totally wrong. It isn’t that Williams has had a bad career. He’s started most his career and when not starting, been a potent scorer off the bench. But that wasn’t what the Atlanta Hawks had in mind, when they took Williams over future stars Deron Williams and Chris Paul.
Again, in hindsight, Williams was a no-go at this pick. He was coming off one year with North Carolina, where he played a limited role. Built with tremendous athleticism and long arms, Williams lacked strength around the rim and was a below average rebounder. He also lacked the killer instinct needed to be the go-to scorer the Hawks had in mind.
Over twelve years, Williams has averaged 10.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. He currently plays with Charlotte.
10 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 2012
MKG developed his nickname at Kentucky, where the lockdown defender was known as a do-it-all game changer and led the Wildcats to their eighth national title.
MKG is one of those tweeners. I can’t quite figure him out. One thing he has yet to do, is develop a consistent jump shot, which limits him tremendously on the offensive end. He’s still raw, after five years. It makes some question his work ethic and his drive. But he hasn’t been bad by any means. Just not good, either. He’s sort of…just there. MKG has also had his fair number of injuries.
His bright season came in 2015, with averages of 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. We’ll see if he can develop into a more consistent scorer.
9 Evan Turner, 2010
The 2010 draft has turned into a solid group with the four stars being DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, John Wall and Hassan Whiteside. But beneath them is a growing group of semi-star talents, led by names like Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Eric Bledsoe, Avery Bradley and Lance Stephenson. Currently, I think Turner represents a small group beneath those semi-stars, joining names like Derrick Favors and Jordan Crawford. It really isn’t a negative on Turner, considering how deep his draft class has become.
But does that make him second pick worthy? The obvious answer…no.
There has always been doubts. Though I liked Turner and his stoic sense of leadership on Thad Matta’s Buckeye teams – his playmaking ability and unselfish play – I doubted he had the explosion speed-wise, dribbling ability and jumper to create his own shot in the pros. Without his jump shot, I knew he’d struggle getting to the rim against quicker, stronger more agile defenders.
He’ll never be the star most of us wished he would become. But he will sustain a long career as a point-forward type, getting his teammates involved.
8 Emeka Okafor, 2004
After leading the University of Connecticut to its second title in 2004, Emeka Okafor found himself the second pick in the draft. And by all measures his career was worthy of that selection. Okafor spent nine serviceable seasons with three different teams. The irony, his best years came early on.
His rookie year, Okafor dropped 15.1 points, 10.9 rebound and 1.7 blocks. The next two years he’d put up numbers close to those.
Okafor became more of a defensive presence the remainder of his career. He retired in 2013 with career numbers of 12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
7 Brandon Ingram, 2016
It is too early to truly determine where he ranks on the list. I was positive the Sixers should take the lengthy forward/guard out of Duke, over Ben Simmons. I’m beginning to doubt my belief.
So far, I’ve been unimpressed. I thought Ingram would be quick enough and tall enough – ala Kevin Durant – to make up for his lack of strength. But that doesn’t seem to be true. He gets pushed around, resulting in off balance and low percentage shots. And as result, has slipped a bit in the Lakers rotation.
Obviously, we're not putting the final stamp on the kid. He’s only nineteen years old and has time to put weight on. His depth, shot- wise, is like Durant’s – which you can’t teach – and he has that star IT factor, able to hit the tough shots falling away. But it’s going to take some serious work and an attitude that begins to demand the ball.
We’ll see. And if he can put it all together, he’s easily top 3 on this list.
6 D'Angelo Russell, 2015
I and just about everyone else, was about ready to write Russell off as a bust. His rookie year was filled with controversy and in all honesty, ho hum. But Russell’s resurrected himself a TON this year with the Lakers, taking on a leadership role and solidifying his premier place in the offense.
This year has been impressive. 14.2 points per game and nearly 5 assists. I’m most impressed by the increased assists. Last year, many doubted whether he had the makeup to find others, the way a point guard should. It is also too early to rank him as well, but it seems like the Lakers have a great pick on their hands.
5 Jabari Parker, 2014
I’ve always had a bit of a man-crush on Parker. I liked him from day one at Duke. His smile. His demeanour. His aggressive unrelenting drives to the hoop. His coming up big in big moments. He took on heaps of praise his one year at Duke and did it with utter poise and grace.
I personally think Parker could rank higher on this list. Two things are currently holding him back: chronic injury issues and Jason Kidd’s often odd and unexplainable rotation in Milwaukee. It’s also fair to point out the log jam at the position, with solid names like Michael Beasley, Greg Monroe, John Henson and Kris Middleton.
But I truly believe Parker, when healthy, is the better of all those names. That he, alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Henson, completes one of the most dynamic young trios in hoops.
Jabari also does tons of good when not on the court. Most recently speaking out against racism by sharing his personal experiences.
I know, I know. I’m gushing now.
4 Victor Oladipo, 2013
Oladipo is earning his stripes this year. He excelled as a second-rate scorer (15.7 points per game) during his three seasons in Orlando. But those three seasons were wasted years, as Orlando were nowhere near competitive, and the field wide open for Oladipo to fail in-order-to-succeed. Yet, it’s that very thing that’s allowing him to thrive this season for the Thunder. Without a chance to find his footing in the league, all this might be too much for him.
I mean think about it. He’s essentially been called upon to be the newest running mate for Russel Westbrook. He’s meant to replace KEVIN DURANT. Most players would fall apart.
No, I don’t mean the Thunder think Oladipo is a Durant. He isn’t that good, not even close. But he is a growing scorer and can do so in bunches. He’s a great defender, has a knack for finding the loose ball, an above average rebounder for a guard, and a surprisingly good passer.
I’m not sure he’s the answer for the Thunder. I think they need more. But imagine where they’d be without him–certainly not as good as their 32-25 record.
3 Tyson Chandler, 2001
Chandler isn’t going to wow you. But even without the wow factor, he’s had one hell of a career. Most notably, the length of his career.
Now in his 16th season, the thirty-four- year old veteran is still competing and playing at an extremely high level for the Phoenix Suns.
Considered one of the game’s elite defenders, Chandler has career averages of 9.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. It doesn’t sound outstanding, but Chandler is known for doing the small things that win teams games. Those “small” things are what earned him a Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2012.
Chandler has been cited as a key member of the 2011 champion Mavericks. In fact, Chandler believes, had the Mavericks kept him, they would’ve won back-to-back titles.
We’ll never know.
2 LaMarcus Aldridge, 2006
The name for Aldridge should be Mr. Consistency. He shoots an extremely high percentage; rebounds and scores at a clip that contributes at an All-Star level.
In his eleven seasons, he’s gone to five All-Star games and been named to four All-NBA teams. He and Kawhi Leanord have led the Spurs to another quietly stellar season. They currently have a record of 43-13, the second-best record in the league. None of that possible, without Aldridge’s double/double presence. In fact, Kawhi Leonard can’t believe Aldridge was snubbed as an All Star this year.
Aldridge was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers, where he spent 9 years until he signed with the San Antonio Spurs in 2015.
1 Kevin Durant, 2007
Like him or not, KD is an all-time great. When it’s all said and done, he will very likely be considered a top fifteen player of all time. His pick after an infamous bust, Greg Oden, will historically go down as a major league altering moments, ala Jordan drafted behind Sam Bowie.
The one thing lacking is the ring. Besides that, Durant has it all: an MVP, numerous All- Star appearances, four-scoring titles and deep runs in the postseason.
When the then Seattle Supersonics, now Thunder, took the lanky dynamo out of Texas, nobody knew he’d be legendary. I remember watching him and seeing a future Tracy McGrady, not a Larry Bird or Dr. J.
But isn’t that the beauty of sports?