For NBA players, being a second round pick is hard. Many feel like they should have been chosen earlier. As a result, it is easy to notice that many second round selections play with a chip on their shoulder. They feel they were disrespected, and they will always remember where they were taken in the draft. That is what makes professional athletes special: they are able to take perceived slights and use those to fuel themselves.
In this year’s NBA playoffs, there are a number of second round picks making a big impact, such as Draymond Green, Paul Millsap, Norman Powell, and Malcolm Brogdon. This got me thinking that you can never dismiss a draft pick as being worthless, especially if a team has good scouting. Imagine if the Golden State Warriors did not have Draymond Green? He is the vocal leader of their team and one of their best defensive players at the same time.
As you can see, the NBA has produced some great second rounders. This article will choose the best players chosen in the second round from each draft going back to 2001. These players will then be ranked from worst to best.
16. Norman Powell – Milwaukee Bucks, 2015, 46th Overall
Norman Powell was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks but was traded to the Toronto Raptors right away. The exchange favoured the Raptors heavily as they sent Greivis Vásquez for the shooting guard from UCLA and a first round pick. It is funny to look back at this trade because Powell was a pain in Milwaukee’s side in their playoff series.
I think the reason Powell dropped to the second round is that he is undersized at his position. However, many scouts failed to look deeper and see the heart that he has. Powell is also athletic and can play great defense. He has worked hard on his offensive game and become a reliable three-point shooter as well. Overall, Powell is still young and I could see him becoming a quality starter on a good team.
15. Allen Crabbe – Cleveland Cavaliers, 2013, 31st overall
Of all the drafts mentioned in this article, 2013 was probably the weakest in terms of steals from the second round. Allen Crabbe was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers but was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers on draft night. While I think Portland regrets matching the four-year $75 million contract for Crabbe, he has shown glimpses of being a good sixth man. Getting a good sixth man in the second round is a successful draft pick.
The main thing for Crabbe now is to be consistent. He has shown games where he can knock down a ton of threes, and there are also times where he was silent. The Blazers are going to expect more from Crabbe to be able to take a step up in the playoffs.
14. Malcolm Brogdon – Milwaukee Bucks, 2016, 36th Overall
Malcolm Brogdon is a special player. Most people have him pegged as the 2016-17 rookie of the year. When you watch him play, you would never guess that he is a rookie. Brogdon plays with so much poise and calmness that you would think he is a ten-year veteran. Perhaps this is because he decided to stay in college for all four years rather than jumping straight to the NBA.
Brogdon has the ability to shoot the three-ball, drive to the basket, and can bother other guards on the defensive end with his length. He has also allowed the “Greek Freak” to go back to small forward. In time, I anticipate that the Virginia alum will be much higher on this list. For now, he stays at the bottom because he is only a rookie.
13. Trevor Ariza – New York Knicks, 2004, 43rd overall
Trevor Ariza was selected by the New York Knicks and lasted there for two seasons. He then went on to play in Orlando as a role player before getting recognition in Los Angeles. He served as a key member in the Lakers’ 2009 championship run, improving his game dramatically, averaging double digit points and shooting nearly 50 percent from the three-point line in the postseason.
Today, Ariza is still an effective player and fits the “three and D” prototype of today’s NBA perfectly. He is an important piece to the Houston Rockets and they need him if they want to compete for a title. They certainly look like they’re capable of staying in contention. You cannot ask more from a second round pick.
12. Lou Williams – Philadelphia 76ers, 2005, 45th overall
Even though Louis “Lou” Williams was highly touted out of high school, I understand why teams did not want to use a first round draft pick on him. He is undersized at just over six feet. Remember, this is considered short for a point guard, and Williams typically plays shooting guard, so it is an even bigger deal.
However for the most part, Williams has proven people like me wrong. He is a great sixth man, even winning the Sixth Man of the Year while with the Toronto Raptors. He is a great fit on the Houston Rockets and has come off the bench and provided an offensive spark on many different occasions. Overall, Williams was part of a pretty good second round class that include Monta Ellis, Amir Johnson, and Marcin Gortat.
11. Danny Green – Cleveland Cavaliers, 2009, 46th overall
I will always have a ton of respect for Danny Green. He is the perfect example of an athlete fighting through adversity to make it big. Green was drafted by Cleveland, but only played one season for the team before being waived. San Antonio claimed the 6’6″ swingman only to waive him shortly after. He then spent time at the D-League before San Antonio signed him again.
Green then had his breakout season. He became the best three-point shooter for the Spurs and he served as their defensive anchor in the perimeter. Green has also been fantastic in the playoffs for SAS, including setting three-point shooting records against the Cavs at the 2013 NBA Finals. Today, he still starts for a very good Spurs team. It is hard to root against this guy.
10. Nikola Jokić – Denver Nuggets, 2014, 41st overall
With time, expect Nikola Jokić to climb up this list. He was an absolute steal for the Nuggets and a major reason why Denver had a considerable improvement in the 2016-17 season. Even though they did not make the playoffs, players like Jokić make the future look bright in Colorado. If they are able to acquire some more pieces, this can be a scary team.
Jokić took a major step forward in 2016-17, increasing his point and rebound production to 17 and ten, respectively. Remember, he is only 22 years old and he will be just on his third season at the NBA. We have already seen his ability to be a double-double machine, shoot from the outside, contest shots at the rim, and be an overall force. With time, he will become dominant.
9. Goran Dragić – San Antonio Spurs, 2008, 45th overall
Goran Dragić was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, but his rights were immediately traded to the Phoenix Suns. It took a while for him to find his way at the NBA, but that is because he was playing behind Steve Nash at the start of his career. When Dragić did get his opportunity, he ran with it. Clearly, learning from Nash helped Goran improve his game and become a starting point guard in the league.
Overall, Dragić is a solid point guard. He can shoot well enough to keep defenses honest. He is also adept at getting to the rim and finishing. He is good enough to be a starting point guard for a playoff team, even though I do not think I would give him a max deal like Miami did. Nonetheless, a solid career for “The Dragon”.
8. Hassan Whiteside – Sacramento Kings, 2010, 33rd overall
Hassan Whiteside is another player hard to root against because of what he had to go through to get to the NBA on a permanent basis. Remember, he was released by the Sacramento Kings, played for two different D-League teams and saw action overseas before finally being able to call Miami his home.
Overall, Whiteside is one of the best big men in the game and he is just entering the prime of his career. He can post up, shoot free throw line jumpers, rebound the ball very effectively, and block a ton of shots. If Whiteside learns to shoot from a little bit farther outside, he would be unstoppable. Good for “Count Blockula” on earning a max contract after years of toiling. He deserves it.
7. Kyle Korver – New Jersey Nets, 2003, 51st overall
The New Jersey Nets drafted Kyle Korver, but shipped him to Philadelphia on draft night for cash. What a steal he was for the 76ers, and not to mention to every team he has played for. For a second round pick, Korver is having a great NBA career. He has been one of the best three-point shooters in the league, thriving in today’s environment. Korver has been a part of many winning teams and has a good chance at winning a championship this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Overall, some people seem to ignore the fact that Korver even made the All-Star Game once in his career. For someone that is not super athletic and cannot drive the ball like some other players, this is a terrific accomplishment.
6. Carlos Boozer – Cleveland Cavaliers, 2002, 35th overall
Is it just me, or does Cleveland have a lot of players on this list? Guess the Cavs have a really good scouting department to get players like Carlos Boozer on the second round. I guess teams were hesitant to draft him higher because his 6’9″ body is usually considered undersized for a power forward.
Nonetheless, Boozer had a productive 13 years in the league, even though a lot of people would mostly remember him as a player that did not live up to expectations after signing for a max contract in Chicago. Remember, he was one of the best players on a competitive Utah Jazz team for a number of years. Boozer was even putting up 20 and 10 seasons in his prime. For a second round pick, that is highly impressive.
5. Paul Millsap – Utah Jazz, 2006, 47th overall
Similar to Carlos Boozer, it is not hard to see why Paul Millsap was chosen on the second round. Millsap is an undersized power forward at 6″8, but lucky for him his style of play is perfect for today’s NBA. He can step outside to shoot the jumper and can score in a variety of ways. He is also a reliable rebounder for his size.
Today, Millsap is the face of the Atlanta Hawks, especially with Al Horford now gone. This year, he averaged a career high 18 points per game (perfect time to do it too, as it is his contract year). Millsap has also been an All-Star for four straight seasons. Overall, he has had a great career, and it is hard to hate on an undersized second round pick that defied the odds like he did.
4. Gilbert Arenas – Golden State Warriors, 2001, 31st overall
Most people will remember Gilbert Arenas for all his off-the-court antics, and rightfully so. But if you look deeper, you will see that he was a tremendous basketball player. If not for his silly decisions and chronic knee injuries, Arenas could have had a much longer and more productive career.
At one point in his career, “Agent Zero” was the talk of the league. He was so good that he was hitting game-winning buzzer-beaters and walking away while the ball was still in the air, similar to what we see Stephen Curry do today. Arenas had three straight seasons in his career where he averaged over 25 points per game, including 29 points per game one year in 2005-06. A great second round pick that unfortunately had off-court issues.
3. Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors, 2012, 35th overall
Draymond Green is an undersized power forward, so it is understandable that he dropped to the second round. However, he has made everyone forget that he is short with his great play. Although his antics on the court make it hard to cheer for him sometimes, there is no denying he is having a great run so far.
Green is the type of player that you love to have on your team, but hate to play against. There is so much he can do on the basketball court. Green can score, shoot the three, rebound, be a playmaker, guard all positions, block shots, collect steals, and just be an emotional spark plug for his team. Even though he gets the least attention of all the superstars on Golden State, they would be nowhere near as good without him.
2. Isaiah Thomas – Sacramento Kings 2011, 60th overall
Not bad for the last pick in the 2011 draft, huh? Too bad the Sacramento Kings let Isaiah Thomas leave town by trading him away. Since then, he has become one of the best scorers in the game and it is remarkable how he is doing it. He is smaller than the other players, but he finds ways to put the ball in the bucket. It is easy to respect Thomas and fathom the odds he has overcome to get to this point. It is also important to mention that he has also carried the Celtics to a number one seed this season. Overall, if Isaiah keeps up this play next year, it is going to be hard to keep him at number two on this list.
1. Marc Gasol – Los Angeles Lakers, 2007, 48th overall
Marc Gasol was drafted by the Lakers, but his real impact began when he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. He was an easy choice for me at number one, although he may not hold the spot for long with Green and Thomas breathing down his neck.
Nonetheless, Gasol is one of the most underrated players in the game. He has formed a solid twin tower combination with Zach Randolph the last few years. He is a stud on the defensive end, which can exemplified by his Defensive Player of the Year award. Gasol has also improved his offensive game over the years, adding a reliable three-point shot this season. He also averaged a career high in points this year with 19.5 per game. Continue to expect Gasol to be great for the new few seasons.
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