Decade Debate: 10 Best Second Round NBA Picks

Teams expect to find someone who can contribute in the first round of the NBA Draft, but once the second round arrives, general managers have to dig through the leftovers, hoping to find a diamond in the rough. And seemingly every year, a second round pick emerges as a quality starter. Sometimes he even develops into a star. As part of our Decade Debate series, here is a list of the NBA’s top 10 second round picks of the last ten years.

10. Chris Douglas-Roberts (2008, pick #40)

Not only was CDR (the player, not the recordable compact disc) one of the most efficient scorers in the nation during his junior year at Memphis, he was also a consensus first team All-America selection and the C-USA Male Athlete of the Year. He hit 54% from the field and 41% from long range. Yet this wasn’t enough to convince an NBA team to pick him in the first round. The biggest knock on him was his lack of strength, but he has gained 10 lbs since college and after a quiet rookie campaign, he’s averaging 17-5-2 and has started 15 of 17 games for the Nets. Yes, the Nets suck, but still. At the very least it looks like he’s capable of being a sixth man for a contender, and that’s a great find in the second round.

9. Marc Gasol (2007, #48)

Marc was the “bag of peanuts” in the now infamous trade that sent his brother from Memphis to the Lakers for Javaris Crittenton, Kwame Brown’s expiring contract, and a bag of peanuts. (This trade eventually led to Kobe’s first title without Shaq, so he no longer has to tell Shaq how his a** tastes.) In his second season for the Grizzlies, Gasol is averaging 15-10, 61% shooting and 1.6 blocks per game. When he was drafted, scouts complained about his lack of athleticism and the fact that he was a little overweight. No one is going to confuse him with his brother, but Marc is a good player in his own right.

8. Trevor Ariza (2004, #44)

Say what you will about Isiah Thomas the GM, but he did have an eye for talent in the draft. Ariza turned pro after a single so-so season at UCLA (12-7-2); the biggest knock was his sketchy jumper. In the middle of his second season with the Knicks, Thomas traded him to Orlando (along with Penny Hardaway) for a washed up Steve Francis. Ariza showed some promise with the Magic, but was shipped to the Lakers for Maurice Evans and Brian Cook. There, he blossomed into a strong defender and solid spot up shooter, posting 11-4-2 and hitting 48% of his three-point attempts during the Lakers’ 23-game playoff run this past spring. Oddly enough, when he hit free agency this summer, his agent overplayed his hand and the Lakers elected to sign Ron Artest instead of re-signing Ariza. Now with the Rockets, Ariza is averaging 18-5-4 but is shooting just 38% from the field.

7. Paul Millsap (2006, #47)

Is the 24 year-old Millsap destined to be a star? Given the fat contract they signed him to this summer, the Utah Jazz sure think so. And considering his stats as a starter last season (16-10-2 and 54% from the field in 38 games), he looks every bit the part. At Louisiana Tech, he became the only player in history to lead the NCAA in rebounding for three straight seasons (12.8 rpg), and since rebounding is one stat that translates really well to the NBA, why would he last until the second round? Well, scouts were down on his size (6’7″ – 6’8″) and didn’t think he’d be able to score inside on bigger players. Needless to say, they were wrong. Millsap is bound for a breakout season once Carlos Boozer signs elsewhere next summer.

6. Monta Ellis (2005, #40)

If not for the boneheaded moped accident that ate up most of his 2008-09 season, Ellis might be higher on this list. He won the Most Improved Player in his second season and is currently averaging 25-5-4 on 46% shooting plus 2.4 steals per game. He entered the draft straight out of high school, and although scouts said he was a very gifted offensive player, they thought he was a shooting guard in a point guard’s body and there were those that wondered about his basketball IQ. In fact, DraftExpress compared him to Dajuan Wagner. Well, as it turns out, Ellis is a shooting guard in a point guard’s body, and he’s a lot better than Dajuan Wagner. At just 24, he has a great chance to move up this list, assuming he stays off the mopeds, that is.

5. Mo Williams (2003, #47)

The Jazz drafted Williams and subsequently traded him to the Bucks. At Alabama, he was a shoot-first point guard who couldn’t shoot all that well (41% FG, 32% 3PT), but during his time with the Bucks, he developed into one of the best scoring guards in the league. In the 2006-07 season, he averaged 17-4-6 and shot 48% from the field and 39% from long range. The Bucks traded him to Cleveland (for Luke Ridnour, of all people) in a salary dump. There, he posted an 18-4-4 season and made the All-Star Game as an alternate. Now he’s the perfect sidekick for LeBron — he’s a great long-range shooter (43%+ 3PT since joining the Cavs) and he can carry the offense when LeBron needs a break.

4. Mehmet Okur (2001, #38)

Scouts wondered if Okur could defend in the post and were worried about his lack of athleticism. When he started getting big minutes as part of Detroit’s talented front line from 2002 to 2004, he proved he could hang. Okur’s best statistical season came in his second season after signing with Utah, when he averaged 18-9-2. But he was actually named to the All-Star Game in the following season (’07). He’s a seven-footer with legit 3PT range; over the past year and a quarter, he has nailed better than 44% of his three-point attempts. This accuracy means that he’s able to draw opposing centers away from the basket, which opens things up for Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. Sure, he looks like one of your old college buddies who never went to class and ate too many Twinkies, but the guy can ball.

3. Michael Redd (2000, #43)

Redd was a productive scorer at Ohio State, but he has never been a great athlete, and he didn’t develop his dead-eye jumper until joining the Bucks. He had a nice three-year run from 2003 to 2006 where he averaged 23-4-3 and only missed nine games. The key is that last stat: nine missed games. Because over the next three seasons, he missed 88 games, and he has been sidelined much of this season. He was an All-Star and All-NBA 3rd Team in the same season (2004). Needless to say, with all the injuries, his stock has taken quite the hit, and he has now turned into one of those overpaid, underperforming franchise players who can’t carry their franchise. But in his heyday, he could score. In 2006, I saw him drop 45 points on Kobe to help the Bucks upset the Lakers in L.A. He averaged 30.4 points that month, which also included a 57-point game against Utah. Redd’s release is about as quick as they come.

2. Carlos Boozer (2002, #35)

Of the ten players on this list, the Jazz drafted two and signed two as free agents. Boozer falls into the latter category. How did a future two-time All-Star and All-NBA 3rd Team player slip into the second round? Scouts were down on his size, athleticism and lack of a jumper while at Duke. But as the league continued to get smaller in the mid-’00s, Boozer was right at home at power forward. It didn’t hurt that he developed a killer 15-footer or that his release was high enough that he could get it off over bigger defenders. He peaked in 2007-08 with a 21-10-3 season that gave him his second All-Star nod and his only All-NBA (3rd Team) honors. Cleveland fans remember Boozer as the one who got away. It’s rumored that the Cavs made an (illegal) under-the-table verbal agreement with Boozer’s camp that would release him from the final year of his rookie contract so they could sign him to a longer deal. After becoming an unrestricted free agent, the Jazz essentially doubled the Cavs’ (alleged) offer and Boozer took it. To this day, Boozer denies that there was an (illegal) deal in place. It’s a shame, because a LeBron-Boozer combo might have already brought a championship to the city of Cleveland.

1. Gilbert Arenas (2001, #31)

Simply stated, Arenas is one of the best offensive combo guards to ever play the game. But it was that “combo” status that drove him out of the first round. Scouts didn’t think he was big enough to be a shooting guard and lacked the playmaking skills to be a true point guard. In a sense, they were right. But Arenas is so good that his talent trumps his lack of a true position. He handles the ball for the Wizards and turns it over a lot, but he also scores a ton. His best year was in 2005-06, when he averaged 29-4-6 and shot 45% from the field and 37% from 3PT. He has received All-Star and All-NBA honors three times each, and before a knee injury derailed his career in 2007, he was one of the most electrifying (and quirky) players in the league. After missing almost two full seasons rehabbing that knee, he’s back with the Wizards averaging 20-4-7 but shooting under 40%. Hopefully, we’ll be soon able to see the Gilbert of old once again.


Photos from fOTOGLIF

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