The NBA’s 30 Best Second-Round Draft Picks Ever

By: 10.14.13  •  2 Comments
Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas

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. There’s a much higher percentage to become a player that records DNPs on a nightly basis than someone who becomes a role player, solid contributor, or even a star in the second round.

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. Here we have 30 players who turned their second round draft status into a career to be remembered.

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30. PAUL MILLSAP, 47th pick in 2006
At 6-8 and 245 pounds, Millsap has the unique ability to be able to play both the SF and PF positions at the NBA level. Over his seven-year career so far, Millsap has averaged 12.4 PPG and 7.0 RPG while shooting 52 percent in only 27.4 MPG. Millsap has always been a consistent and hardworking player that’s clearly reflected in his solid numbers in limited minutes. He has developed a knack for being able to be good at multiple things on the court, which the Atlanta Hawks recognized and awarded the free agent with a two-year, $19 million contract this offseason. Since being the 47th pick in 2006, Millsap has established an impressive career so far that will continue this year in Atlanta.

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29. ANDERSON VAREJAO, 30th pick in 2004
Anderson Varejao will be entering his 10th year in the league when the 2013 NBA season tips off. For a second-round pick, Varejao deserves credit for lasting in the league for this long. The more surprising factor is that Varejao is coming into his prime this late into his career. Varejao had his season cut short last season by injury, only playing 25 games, but was averaging 14.1 PPG and 14.4 RPG before his season-ending injury. In the past two seasons, Varejao has averaged a combined 12.5 PPG and 13.0 RPG. Amazing numbers, especially in the rebound category, for a player drafted in the second round. Varejao used to be known as a sidekick to LeBron James, but now the former second-round pick is making his own name in Cleveland.

28. TONI KUKOC, 29th pick in 1990
Kukoc was one of the most accomplished European players ever when he finally came over to the NBA in 1993. 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 by averaging a solid 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. Kukoc could hoop. Think of a perimeter version of Pau Gasol.

27. RASHARD LEWIS, 32nd pick in 1998
While Rashard Lewis is now riding the coattails of LeBron James to win NBA championships, there was a time where he was a major component on an NBA Finals Orlando Magic squad. Lewis has spent 15 seasons in the NBA, definitely exceeding the life expectancy of a 32nd pick in the draft. Lewis is a career 39 percent shooter from three-point land and has career averages of 15.5 PPG and 5.4 RPG. Plus, how many second-round picks can say they have inked six-year, $118 million contracts in their career? 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 has had quite the career for himself, earning him a spot on this list.

26. STEPHEN JACKSON, 43rd pick in 1997
Stephen Jackson always seemed be in the news for something that his team wouldn’t enjoy, rather than the opposite… like when he recently choked Steve Francis at a nightclub when the two had a disagreement. However, anytime a second-round selection can last 13 seasons in the NBA and average 15.3 PPG, it was great value for the pick. Even if Jackson was a headache, he was worth the numbers he was putting up, which explains why he lasted so long in the NBA. Going from a second-round pick to making over $68 million in his career, Jackson proved himself as a capable NBA player. Jackson even captured an elusive NBA championship with the Spurs in 2003. Teams knew exactly what they would get with Jackson, but they always took the risk, which makes him a steal as a second-round selection.

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25. DANNY AINGE, 31st pick in 1981
Ainge made only one All-Star team and finished with pretty weak career averages of 11.5 points and 4.0 assists per game. But he also sacrificed much of his prime in Boston where he was just a role player on some star-studded Celtics teams. Ainge played an important part on two NBA championship teams and finished his career with over 1,000 made three-pointers. Later as an executive, he was the mastermind behind Boston’s title transformation in 2008.

24. MONTA ELLIS, 40th pick in 2005
For the 40th pick in the second round, Monta Ellis has made quite the career for himself. If you ask any average person, I bet they’ll assume Ellis was a first-round selection. Ellis has averaged 20-plus points in a season four times in his career, and two other times he averaged 19-plus. Besides his rookie season, Ellis has never averaged under 16 points in a season and for his career, he has averages of 19.4 PPG, 4.7 APG and 3.7 RPG. Most first-round picks can’t even produce those numbers over a career. Monta Ellis is one of the most lethal scorers in the NBA. When his career is over, he’ll be remembered as a prolific scorer and not just another second-round pick.

23. MICHAEL REDD, 43rd pick in 2000
Michael Redd… this man could light up a scoreboard as fast as Usain Bolt runs 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 stud with six straight years of 21-plus per game. It appears that Redd’s 12-year NBA career might be over, but 19.0 PPG over his 12 years proved that Redd was one of the best during his tenure in the NBA.

22. MARC GASOL, 48th pick in 2007
Marc Gasol has crushed any expectations that he was given as the 48th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. I mean… Gasol was the 2012-2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. How many second-round picks have that hardware in their trophy case? Besides being one of the best defensive players in the league, Gasol has career averages of 13.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 1.6 BPG. Marc Gasol went from the little brother of Pau Gasol to being one of the best centers in the league. He might even be better than Pau Gasol right now, which speaks volumes for a player that was the 48th pick in the draft.

21. GUS WILLIAMS, 20th pick in 1975
The Wizard of the hardwood, Williams was a high-scoring member of the 1979 champion Sonics. During that NBA Finals series, this 6-2 guard averaged a ridiculously overlooked 28.6 points per game. In Seattle, Williams made two All-Star Games and was voted onto the All-NBA First Team in 1982 and the Second Team two years prior. Yes, he averaged over 17 points per game for his career, but by far his most impressive statistic was averaging 2-plus steals a game for seven straight seasons.

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20. JEFF HORNACEK, 46th pick in 1986
For a player who was taken late in the second round in 1986, Hornacek carved out quite the career for himself. Over a 14-year NBA career, Hornacek shot 40 percent from three-point range, nearly 50 percent from the field and almost 88 percent from the free throw line. A player that can produce those numbers that was found late in the second round is definitely a steal. I’m sure every team Hornacek played for was overly satisfied with his production. Hornacek was a consistent and smooth shooter over his career. He knew his role and executed it highly every night.

19. K.C. JONES, second-round pick in 1956
An eight-time champion in just nine seasons in the NBA, Jones was a fabulous defensive stopper with the Celtics of the late ’50s and early-to-mid ’60s. At 6-1, he finished with modest career per-game averages of 7.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists. But somehow, somewhat, he was just always involved in winning. Even in college, he won two NCAA championships at San Francisco. Yes, he had the added benefit of playing with some guy named Bill Russell, but Jones played a big enough part on his own in the NBA that he was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1989.

18. CARLOS BOOZER, 35th pick in 2002
Carlos Boozer and the amnesty clause has been tossed around way too much recently, but there’s a reason he was signed to a five-year, $80 million contract back in 2010. The 35th pick in the 2002 Draft has averaged 17.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG over his 11-year career so far, while shooting 53 percent from the field. People forget that Boozer was a second-round pick that had no expectations. When you look at his numbers, Boozer has made an amazing career for himself. His offensive game is top notch for his position. Boozer has solidified himself as a player who can produce a double-double on a nightly basis, making the former second-round pick a necessity on this list.

17. GUS JOHNSON, 10th pick in 1963
Johnson succumbed to injuries during his prime, which was a shame because before those problems started to take their toll, the 6-6 undersized center threw up eight straight seasons where he averaged at least 16.5 points and 11.6 rebounds in every year. While Johnson played during the NBA’s adolescent years, he was one of the league’s original showman, playing above the rim so often that he earned the nickname “Honeycomb” in college and went on to break three backboards. (He also had a gold star drilled into his teeth. The man was definitely ahead of his time.)

16. GEORGE McGINNIS, 22nd pick in 1973
George McGinnis split playing time between the NBA and ABA and dominated both leagues. Across both leagues, McGinnis averaged 20.2 PPG and 11.0 RPG over his 11-year career. McGinnis is one of four players to have their jersey retired by the Indiana Pacers, an honor not many second-round picks have on their resume. Racking up over 17,000 points, 9,000 rebounds and 3,000 assists in his career, McGinnis produced more than his second-round selection would have assumed.

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15. WORLD B. FREE, 23rd pick in 1975
World B. Free was a lot more than just a catchy name. World received his nickname because of his 44-inch vertical and insane 360-degree dunks. Free’s best season came in 1979-1980 where he averaged an amazing 30.2 PPG on 47 percent shooting from the field. Being able to average 30 points a game for a season and shoot over 45 percent is efficiency at it’s finest. Anytime a second-round pick can score more than 10 PPG it’s worth the pick, but 30 PPG? World B. Free averaged 20.3 PPG during his 15-year NBA career.

14. SPENCER HAYWOOD, 30th pick in 1971
The end of Haywood’s career was marred by a cocaine addiction, but before that, the 6-8 forward was a beast. As a young player, Haywood was a stud who put up absurd numbers (30 points and 19.5 rebounds per game) with Denver of the ABA before coming to the NBA with the Supersonics in 1970. Once there, he made two All-NBA First Teams and just as many All-NBA Second Teams, and his combined ABA/NBA career numbers read like something out of Tim Duncan‘s playbook (20.3 points, 10.3 rebounds per game).

13. JACK TWYMAN, eighth pick in 1955
Jack Twyman may be a name most people aren’t too familiar with, but along with Wilt Chamberlain, Twyman was the first NBA player to average more than 30 PPG in a single season. He averaged 31.2 PPG during the 1959-1960 season. Any second-round pick that can have their name mentioned in the same sentence as Wilt Chamberlain had quite the career. Twyman was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983. Twyman was a throwback, but a second-round pick that once averaged 31.2 PPG in a season deserves their recognition on this list.

12. CALVIN MURPHY, 18th pick in 1970
Standing at 5-9, Calvin Murphy may be the best little man to ever play the game (sorry Allen Iverson!). I mean… he is the shortest player to ever be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Murphy amassed 17,949 points in his 13-year NBA career, averaging 17.9 PPG and 4.4 APG. Murphy is also one of the best free throw shooters to ever play, shooting 89 percent from the line for his career. 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. Calvin Murphy proved all his doubters wrong.

11. GILBERT ARENAS, 30th pick in 2001
Agent Zero might have lost all of his magic, but there was a time where he was one of the prolific scorers in the NBA. Anytime a second-round pick turns into a franchise cornerstone, it’s worth the pick. The gun incident in Washington, and even before that with the injuries, started the beginning of the end, but Arenas contributed plenty of solid years to the NBA. Arenas really peaked during a span from ’04-07, averaging 27.8 PPG during those three years. With career stats of 20.7 PPG, 5.3 APG and 3.9 RPG, Agent Zero went from an afterthought as a second-round pick to becoming one of the most rememberable players of the mid-2000s.

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10. MARK PRICE, 25th pick in 1986
Mark Price had a 12-year NBA career with averages of 15.2 PPG and 6.7 APG on 47 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from deep. Plus, Mark Price is one of the rare members of the 50/40/90 club that only has six (including him). He’s on this list with players like Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Kevin Durant, Reggie Miller and Dirk Nowitzki. Most players will never become a part of this exclusive brotherhood, and Mark Price is the only second-round pick to join. Mark Price left a mark on the NBA, and his Cleveland Cavalier jersey is still being worn in Cleveland. He has done things that most NBA players will never do in a career, which is why he finds his name on this list.

9. MAURICE CHEEKS, 36th pick in 1978
Most of you might know Mo Cheeks as the current coach of the Detroit Pistons, but before starting his coaching career, Cheeks was a decorated NBA player. Cheeks was the point guard of the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers team that won the NBA Championship with guys like Moses Malone and Julius Erving. He averaged 11.1 PPG and 6.7 APG for his career, but Cheeks’ effect on the game went way beyond points and assists. Cheeks was named to four-straight First-Team NBA All-Defensive squads from 1982-1986. Always known as a pesky defender, Cheeks amassed 2,310 steals over his 15 year NBA career. Cheeks may now be coaching the likes of Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Greg Monroe, but this second-round pick once had a NBA championship caliber career.

8. BILL SHARMAN, 17th pick in 1950
A Hall of Famer as both a player and a coach, Sharman was a 6-1, four-time champ with the Celtics who made eight All-Star Games (even winning the MVP there in 1955) and four All-NBA First Teams. In fact, his name is littered across the NBA record books. During a time when NO ONE could shoot, Sharman was one of the first guards to post shooting percentages above 40 percent from the field. He still holds the record for consecutive free throws in the playoffs (56) and led the league in freebie shooting seven times. As a coach, he led the Lakers to a league record 33 straight wins in 1971-72 and won both the title and the NBA Coach of the Year that season.

7. DENNIS JOHNSON, 29th pick in 1976
Johnson was recently inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. Anytime a player can turn their second-round selection into a HOF career, it’s a major accomplishment. Considered by many to be one of the most underrated players in NBA history, Johnson’s accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed by all. The Boston Celtics, who Johnson won two NBA championships with, retired his No. 3 jersey. A three-time NBA champion, five-time NBA All-Star, six-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member and NBA Finals MVP of 1979, Dennis Johnson might be one of the greatest second-round steals in NBA history.

6. MANU GINOBILI, 57th pick in 1999
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. A mainstay with the San Antonio Spurs for the past 11 years, Ginobili has done it all as the 57th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. Ginobili is considered one of the biggest steals in draft history, which I have to agree with. He has always been the spark plug on a Spurs dynasty that has been considered old and boring at times. He’s always that crazy guy cutting through the lane or stepping back and shooting his infamous left-handed jumper. A three-time NBA champion, Ginobli is still going strong to this day. Once a crazy-haired overseas project, Manu went from the 57th pick in the draft to an immovable piece in a dynasty.

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