When it comes down to analyzing past NBA Drafts, it’s easy to look back in hindsight and say who should have been picked earlier. The draft is pretty much a crapshoot and you never know what you’re getting until they’re in that uniform and actually out on the court getting burn. The list of second round players who GMs dropped the ball with is endless: Manu Ginobili, Monta Ellis, Carlos Boozer, Michael Redd, Rashard Lewis and Gilbert Arenas.
It’s only been 40 games this season, but you already have the feeling that a lot of teams are regretting passing up some of the rookies from the second round. Here is my list of the top 5 second round steals.
1. DeJuan Blair (Spurs): I don’t care who you are, but if you can get 28 points and 21 rebounds in an NBA game, you can play. Coming out of Pitt, a lot of teams were aware Blair had talent (he was the co-Big East Player of the Year) but past knee problems and concerns about his weight probably scared off a few teams and was drafted 37th overall by the Spurs. Now he’s looking like he could be the Spurs’ big man of the future and has averaged 7.1 ppg and 5.8 rpg. Even though he had that 28 and 21 game against OKC on Wednesday, he still has ways to go. The game before that against the Lakers he just logged in 7 minutes and scored 2 points. But being able to learn under Tim Duncan and coach Popovich, it’s just a matter of time before he becomes a consistent force in the league.
2. Jonas Jerebko (Pistons): International players come in the league with a little bit of a disadvantage. Even with the extensive scouting, because they come from overseas, not many people are fully aware of what they’re capable of. Although he doesn’t get the press that Tyreke Evans or Brandon Jennings gets, the 39th pick is slowly getting some respect around the league. He is eighth among rookies in scoring (8.5 ppg) and has scored in double figures in 14 games this season. Jerebko has also shot the ball with a high percentage (47.2 percent) and has impressed his coaches with his hard work and effort.
3. Chase Budinger (Rockets): Once regarded as a lottery pick, somehow Chase’s stock tanked around draft time and he ended up being picked 44th overall by the Rockets. His season has been a little inconsistent, but that’s expected of a rookie – especially a second rounder. But coach Rick Adelman likes him and Budinger’s proved he can produce when given minutes. He had that huge 17 point game against Utah at the start of the season and had a 16 point, 12 rebound performance against Detroit last month. Budinger has cooled off as of late, but with his athleticism and shooting ability, you can bet he’ll be someone you’ll be seeing lots of in this next decade.
4. Sam Young (Grizzlies): It’s crazy to think that this rookie out of Pitt is as old as some 6-year NBA veterans. Even though he’s 24 years old, there’s still a lot of potential left in Young. The 36th pick of the draft is extremely athletic and has the ability to have big offensive nights. He’s already topped the 20-point plateau three times this season and is averaging 7.9 points and 2.4 boards per game. He desperately needs to develop his outside shot, but the Grizzlies still love what they see out of him. He is part of a young nucleus that has a chance to make the playoffs.
5. Marcus Thornton (Hornets): With a guard heavy draft, the former LSU Tiger kind of got lost in the shuffle. Picked 43rd overall, Thornton has been a pleasant surprise for the Hornets. In November, he scored over double figures in six straight contests – including a 24 point outing versus the Heat. He’s a little streaky and takes some bad shots, but you have to like his aggressiveness out there. With New Orleans turning it around as of late, Thornton has a real chance to build on his solid start (8.8 ppg in just 17.6 mpg )in the second half of the season.
Who is the biggest steal of the second round?