Ranking the Top 10 Second-Round Picks of the Last Decade

When Adam Silver appears on the stage, NBA fans tuning in to watch the Draft usually see that as a cue to change the station. Sadly, the second round of the NBA Draft is commonly viewed by the average NBA fan as a waste of time.

The success rate of a second-round pick becoming a solid fixture in the rotation of any NBA team is low. Should you look through the list of players selected in any given draft, you would most likely not be able to recognize 2 out of 3 players’ names taken after the 31st pick. To find a talent in the second round is like finding a needle in the haystack. While that needle is indeed difficult to find, there has been occasions when scouts survey the prospect pool and find the right guy for the job in the second round.

The second round is where scouts make their money by finding great acquisitions which their teams do not have to trade anything for. Every fan recognizes the big names in the first round, but how many of them pay attention to the players in the second round? Sadly, not many. Looking back, it makes me wonder how some of today’s established NBA talents fell so far back into the second round of their respective Drafts.

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Top 10

These players, even though not seen as Lebron-esque or the stars of their franchises, are now valuable players and cornerstones for their teams.

10. Danny Green – San Antonio Spurs – 2012/13 season stats : 10.5 pts, 3.1 reb, 1.8 ast, 42.9 3P%

photo credit: Basketball Schedule via photopin cc

photo credit: Basketball Schedule via photopin cc

Selected by Cleveland with the 46th pick in the 2009 Draft, Green never got an opportunity with the Cavs, only playing 20 games with the team. Green would then spend time in the D-League playing for the Reno Bighorns where he attracted the attention of San Antonio coach, Gregg Popovich. The Spurs has never been a stranger to finding relatively unknown players, developing them and maximizing their ability.

Danny has recently made a name for himself in the NBA for his 3-point shooting.  In the most recent NBA Finals’ series between San Antonio and Miami, Green broke the record for the most 3’s scored in a Finals’ series right in front of Ray Allen who was the previous record-holder. The Spurs sharpshooter made 27 3’s in the series between the Spurs and the Heat, nailing 25 of them in the first 5  games, only scoring 2 in the following two games. This feat easily surpassed Ray’s record of 22 in any Finals’ series where Danny shot at a staggering 55.1% from downtown – numbers that are unreal for any established shooter.

The former University of North Carolina player isn’t only a talented shooter, but he’s a great defender as well. Tall and lanky, Green works tirelessly on the defensive end of the floor, stopping the stars of opposing teams on a regular basis with his intense transition defense and all-around defensive abilities.


9. Ersan Illyasova – Milwaukee Bucks – 2012/13 season stats: 13.2 pts, 7.1 reb, 1.6 ast,  46.2 FG%

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

After being selected 36th in the 2005 Draft, Illyasova’s first season in the NBA was spent playing in the D-League for the Tulsa 66ers. In his second season, Ersan finally saw some game time, averaging 14.7 minutes a game, playing in 66 games of the season. Illyasova then took a break from the NBA for two years by joining FC Barcelona in the Euroleague to gain more experience.

Illyasova’s breakout season was in the 2011/12 season, averaging 13 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, showing the untapped potential within him. This led to the Bucks rewarding him with a 5-year, $40 million contract.

Illyasova is a stretch 4, with a terrific knack for picking up boards on the offensive end of the floor. He shoots high percentages from the field and can even push outside to the 3-point line where he shot 44.4% last season, making him a difficult player to guard due to his ability to score from anywhere. However, one facet of his game is still lacking. At times, his defense is shaky but at the age of 26, the Turkish player still has time to improve his defense to the standards required in the NBA. One thing’s for sure, with the enormous upside to his game, Ersan isn’t moving back to Spain to play any time soon.


8. Goran Dragic – Phoenix Suns – 2012/13 season stats: 14.7 pts, 3.1 reb, 7.4 ast, 44.3 FG%

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Goran Dragic was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 45th pick in the 2008 Draft. Dragic was traded to Phoenix on draft night in exchange for cash, a second round pick in 2009 and the 48th pick of the draft Malik Hairston. Phoenix. Dragic showed a glimpse of what was to come, in game 3 of the 2009/10 Western Conference Semi-Finals against San Antonio, scoring 23 points, all in the last quarter. Shooting 10/13 from the field and 5/5 from downtown, Goran had an impressive playoff start to his career.

I think it’s safe to say that may have been the best fourth-quarter performance I have ever seen in a playoff game” – Grant Hill on Goran Dragic’s 4th quarter performance against San Antonio in the Game 3 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals, Goran Dragic – Bio

However, Goran was shipped to Houston for Aaron Brooks – another rising point guard who was also named Most Improved Player that season. Dragic backed-up Kyle Lowry in Houston, until injury allowed Dragic to make a name for himself as the Houston starting point guard in the latter part of the 2011/12 campaign. With a strong latter half to the season, Dragic had a number of teams calling for his services but in turn decided to return to Phoenix, the team which initially traded him to Houston.

Dragic is a talented scorer who has the potential to put up insane numbers on any given night. However, Goran is also an underrated defender who pushes himself endlessly on defense, never letting his opponent loose or giving them space.  Goran’s impeccable defense can be attributed to his extreme athleticism. With such athleticism, Dragic can keep up with even the quickest opposing point guards while maintaining intense pressure, making it a struggle to get by him. In addition to his defensive prowess, he is faultless in his passing and would have had higher assist numbers if only his teammates were able to convert. With this range of abilities, the talented Slovenian national allows the Suns to be in capable hands of yet another talented point guard while going  into the post-Steve Nash era.

Dragic looks ready for his biggest season yet in Phoenix.


7. Anderson Varejao  Cleveland Cavaliers – 2012/13 season stats: 14.1 pts, 14.4 reb, 3.4 ast, 47.8 FG%

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photo credit: bridgetds via photopin cc

The talented Brazilian big man was selected with the 30th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft (only 29 teams then, Charlotte Bobcats came into existence season after the 2004 season) by the Orlando Magic but traded to Cleveland on draft night where he has spent the entirety of his career at.

Anderson’s production has increased season by season. With every new season, Varejao has seen increments in minutes on the court, in turn leading to increased scoring, assist and rebound rates. However, in his last three seasons, he’s only played a total of 81 out of 240 possible games played. The Brazilian big man has suffered three different injuries to keep him out of the latter part of the season; these include a torn tendon in his right ankle, a broken right wrist, and a blood clot in his lung.

With the aforementioned list of injuries, it is no doubt that Varejao’s stock has plummeted. However, the injuries should not affect his value as a talented and stand-out NBA player. Varejao’s efforts on the offensive and defensive glass are second-to-none where he hustles for position regardless of what stage the game is at. Furthermore, his ability to score the ball is unrivalled. Using his big 7-foot frame to pull down offensive boards and in turn score a basket at the rim, the Brazilian national is an effective scoring option. Even during the Lebron era, Varejao was an undervalued member of the Cav’s team.

If he manages to keep his body intact, Varejao will easily move up the ranks on this list.


6. Marcin Gortat – Phoenix Suns – 2012/13 season stats: 11.1 pts, 8.5 reb, 1.2 ast, 52.1 FG%

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

The Polish Hammer, otherwise known as Marcin Gortat was selected with the 57th pick in the 2005 Draft by his current team, the Phoenix Suns. However, Gortat was traded on draft night to the Orlando Magic to be a serviceable back-up for the Magic behind Dwight Howard. Due to the outstanding performances by D12,  Gortat struggled to find playing time behind the elite big man. Despite what little playing time he had, whenever Howard was out due to injury or suspension, the Polish big man put up numbers close to the double-double mark consistently.

Of the many teams around the league interested by his performances at Orlando, Dallas offered Gortat a 5-year, $34 million deal at the beginning of his free agency in 2009 which Orlando matched.  Unhappy at the prospect of having to play behind Dwight and not starting like he would in Dallas, Gortat’s wish to become a starting NBA center was finally fulfilled one year later where he was traded to Phoenix – the team that drafted him.

As soon as Gortat became a member of the Suns, as expected, Gortat’s stats soared due to increased playing time. NBA fans and pundits alike were able to finally see the untapped potential of the 4th last pick of the 2005 Draft.

Gortat is a solid defender and true center. He protects the rim well and is a looming interior presence ready to swat away opposing shots. The Polish Hammer is also a very efficient shooting of the basketball. His 54.7% career field goal percentage is indicative of how efficient a shooter he really is.

If Gortat can keep up this level of play till the end of his career, he’ll go down as one of the most valuable second-round picks of all time.


5. Chandler Parsons – Houston Rockets – 2012/13 season stats: 15.5 pts, 5.3 reb, 3.5 ast, 48.6 FG%

 

photo credit: thepanamerican via photopin cc

photo credit: thepanamerican via photopin cc

Chandler Parsons was taken 38th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. If that Draft was re-done today, there is no question that with the current level of play by Parsons exhibits, he would fall within the lottery section of the first round. This pick has proven to be a stroke of genius from Houston GM Daryl Morey as Parsons looks to be an essential and dynamic piece in the Rockets current line-up.

Parsons does just about everything on the court to a high standard. The small forward out of Florida drained a solid 48.6% of his field goal attempts and nailed 38.5% of his attempts from downtown. These percentages show how reliable Parsons is on offense and how valuabe a weapon for success he’ll be under the new-look Houston Rockets team.

Chandler Bang, as he likes to be called, has also proven to be a very effective passer and rebounder. His ability pass the basketball efficiently and timely allows a talented Houston offense to attack in a myriad of ways. On the other hand, his defense is has been noticed to be lacklustre at times. Should Chandler improve defensively, he’ll be the perfect NBA player.

Parsons is an unpredictable player who has the ability to light up on any given night against any opponent.


4. Monta Ellis – Dallas Mavericks – 2012/13 season stats: 19.2 pts, 3.9 reb, 6.0 ast, 41.6 FG%

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Monta was selected with the 40th pick by Golden State in the 2005 Draft. At the earlier stages of Ellis’s career, there was a point where experts and pundits likened Monta to a young Allen Iverson. Unfortunately for him, the reported likeness in game play between A.I. and Monta was never seen in the NBA. Due to a drop in play, Ellis never did perform to the level that Iverson did but is still an immensely talented shooting guard and one of the best in the NBA.

Ellis’s first season in the NBA saw little playing time compared to what he is receiving now; however, he hasn’t averaged under 34 minutes per game since his rookie season. Being insanely athletic, Ellis slashes to the rim with ease and also capable in finding space for open shots. Albeit undersized, his scoring abilities are second-to-none, a true scorer. Finishing the ball at the rim comes naturally to Ellis who has averaged over 19 points every season (bar his Rookie and Sophomore years).

Ellis would easily be ranked higher if it weren’t for the flaws in his defense. Often considered a major liability on defense, The Mississippi Missile frequently gets caught ball watching, losing his defensive assignment and moves too slowly to cover his opponents.

Regardless of his lacklustre defense, Ellis still presents himself as a valuable player on offense equipped with a unique skill-set which makes him tough to guard and play against. If he somehow is able to improve defensively, the sky is the limit.


3. Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks – 2012/13 season stats: 14.6 pts, 7.1 reb, 2.6 ast, 49.0 FG%

photo credit: bridgetds via photopin cc

photo credit: bridgetds via photopin cc

Even though Paul Millsap led NCAA Division One rebounding three years straight and was seen as a terrific first-round talent, teams passed on him due to his small stature as a power forward (6’7). Teams thought that he’d be to small to play the bruising power forward position in the NBA. However, Utah gave Millsap a chance with the 47th pick in the 2006 Draft and didn’t look back since his 2008/09 breakout season. Paul has proven all his doubters wrong with his strong play at the starting power forward position during his time with the Utah Jazz. During the recent off-season, Millsap’s rise to prominence has seen him move to Atlanta after being rewarded with a 2-year, $18 million contract with the Hawks.

Since Carlos Boozer signed with Chicago, Millsap has held on to Utah’s starting power forward spot. Partnering Al Jefferson, the combination was a fearsome 4-5 pairing that proved to be a great hurdle for opposing teams. Interestingly, Paul doesn’t have a noticeable flaw in his skill-set and is very much an all-rounded individual. Millsap is a reliable option on offense with a 51.6% shooting average throughout his career. Likewise, the former Louisiana Tech University player is solid on defense where his defensive play is generally faultless.

Millsap made himself the most underrated free agent of the recent off-season by signing a 2-year, $18 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks lost their All-Star power forward Josh Smith, but quickly replaced him with Paul Millsap whom I believe to be a better player. The former Jazz player can once again partner another talented big man to form a scary 4-5 duo similar to the one he was part of with Al Jefferson in Utah, except this time it is with two-time All-Star, Al Horford.

To sum it up, Millsap has proved to all his doubters that he belongs in the NBA. He’ll soon show that he is worth more than the $9 million per season he is receiving in Atlanta and will most certainly make other teams regret not going after him.


2. Nikola Pekovic – Minnesota Timberwolves – 2012/13 season stats: 16.3 pts, 8.8 reb, 0.9 ast, 52.0 FG%

photo credit: Joe Bielawa via photopin cc

photo credit: Joe Bielawa via photopin cc

Nikola Pekovic is immensely talented. Every NBA team knew this, but they also knew that Pek wouldn’t be joining the NBA for another two seasons due to an unfortunate buyout situation with his club in Greece, Panathinaikos. Pekovic was seen as a top-10 talent by many, but due to the rookie wage scale not being in effect for second-rounders, it made the Minnesota Timberwolves the lucky team to add Pekovic two years later for a contract determined by them. Taken 31st in the 2008 Draft by the Timberwolves, Pek has proven to be worth the 2-year wait for Minnesota, making the starting the center spot his own. Last season, averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, Pekovic was recognized as one of the rising big men in the game. As such, the Timberwolves reward Pekovic with a 5-year, $60 million deal during the off-season.

Pekovic is a monster on offense. Using his big 211cm, 132kg body to bully defenders on the block, scoring buckets with a variety of old school post-moves. The Montenegrin national has shot at an impressive 53.3% from the field over the course of his career, scoring easy points by out-muscling opponents down low in the post. Not only does he have the strength to plough through opponents, the soft touch of Pekovic on offense contributes to his efficient scoring in the post. Furthermore, he has the ability to stick to the beautiful passes that Ricky Rubio presents him with.

According to Wolves assistant Bill Bayno, the area which Pekovic has improved the most since coming into the NBA is his defense. He noted that Pek is the team’s best defender on the pick & roll and is constantly improving  on recognizing when he should commit to guarding his defender or crashing the boards.  Pekovic has been said to be easily coachable, by his coaches in Minnesota, most notably by Bill Bayno, which has aided his course to be one of the NBA’s premier big men.

Pek was rewarded with a 5-year, $60 million deal this off-season by Minnesota, locking him as their starting center for the long run. If Minnesota want to make the playoffs, they have to commit to the ongoing development of Pek as centers with Pekovic’s potential rarely come by.


1. Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizillies 2012/13 season stats:  14.1 pts, 7.8 reb, 4.0 ast, 49 FG%

photo credit: MattBritt00 via photopin cc

photo credit: MattBritt00 via photopin cc

Marc Gasol was taken by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 48th pick of the 2007 NBA Draft. Marc was never able to grasp the opportunity to play with the storied franchise, as he was traded in 2008 in a deal which saw his brother, Pau, head to the Lakers. The Memphis team was heavily scrutinized upon the completion of this trade as they had just given up an All-Star player for 3 guys that would sit on the bench, a second round player and two late-firsts (Donte Green and Greivis Vazquez). Experts and pundits alike thought that Memphis could have received more by trading with other teams. Unknowingly to them, the younger Gasol brother was about to let the world of NBA know that he is amongst the elite.

During the 2007/08 season (when his draft rights were traded), Marc played for Akasvayu Girona in Spain averaging 16.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Memphis saw Gasol as a promising young talent and would sign him to a roster spot and Marc has been the starting center for the Grizzlies ever since his arrival in Memphis. Averaging 13.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks ever since entering the NBA, Gasol has been a consistent performer on both ends of the court. The 2012/13 season marked Gasol’s best season, where he was named Defensive Player of the Year and made it into the Defensive and All-NBA Second Team.

Marc’s biggest strength is the work he performs on defense. Undeniably the anchor behind the Grizzlies strong defensive unit, with Gasol on the floor, opponents found it harder to score to the extent where opposing teams scored 6.8 points less. Gasol’s strong defense can be attributed to his timing and intelligence. While he isn’t the most athletic player on the court, he easily makes up for it with his ability to predict movement patterns of opposing players. Terrific on help defense, the Big Burrito easily recognizes when a teammate is beat and goes up to support while tracking his man in pick & roll situations.

Just look at this video to see how good Marc really is.

Gasol, amongst his many accolades, is one of the best big men passers in the league. With his exceptional abilities in passing, defending, and attacking the rim, the Spaniard will easily go down as one of the greatest second-round picks of all-time. In my opinion, he’s currently the best center in the NBA and if he continues to keep on performing at this level, he’ll remain on the throne until the end of his career.

What do you think of the players on this list? Anyone else that should have been mentioned? Let me know down below.

Michael Tozer

Written by

Biggest Trail Blazer fan and best Burger Flipper in the nation.

7 Responses

  1. Good read, although I feel Chandler Parsons is ranked pretty high. A few others of note come to mind. Trevor Ariza in 2004, Brandon Bass and Amir Johnson in 2005, Carl Landry and Glenn “Big Baby” Davis in 2007, DeAndre Jordan and Omer Asik in 2008, Lance Stephenson in 2010.

    • Michael Tozer Michael Tozer says:

      Cheers Derrel!

      Where do you think Chandler should be rated?
      Omer Asik and Carl Landry for me were the next two on the list. Cut it close between them and the players at 9 and 10.

  2. Sam H says:

    Interesting but there were a few minor errors regarding players’ previous opportunities. Hope this is fixed up.

  3. Vicki says:

    What about Manu Gilobili he was a steal at 58. Not that spurs had any clue what they were really getting the best gamble the spurs ever took. He better than some of the players that made your list.

    • Michael Tozer Michael Tozer says:

      He would definitely be on this list, if it weren’t for decade in the title. Manu is a super player though, nothing but admiration for him.

  4. I personally wouldn’t have Chandler on. He’s only 2 seasons in and last season’s numbers are merely a by-product of team’s style of play. Bass is the guy I’d have on here from the exclusions.

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