The best 2nd round draft picks in NBA history

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June 30th, 2020

If it’s true that winning a championship is the hardest thing in the NBA, then finding a quality player in the second round of the draft is surely the next hardest challenge.

For every diamond in the rough like Dennis Rodman or Alex English, there are dozens of "can’t-miss" college stars who never log a minute of court time. Only 67% of second round draft picks ever play in the league, and the vast majority of them are out of the NBA after just three seasons.

Finding a great talent in the second round takes scouting, savvy, and more than a little luck, but it is possible. These five players are proof that you can find a franchise player deep in the NBA draft.

5. Paul Millsap (47th pick in 2006)

It’s stunning to think just how many scouts were wrong about Paul Millsap. The Louisiana Tech product nearly went undrafted in 2006 after being roundly derided for his lack of passing ability and poor foot speed by many so-called talent evaluators.

Fortunately the Utah Jazz spotted something that most scouts could not. They nabbed the Monroe native with the 47th pick in the draft, and helped Millsap develop into one of the league’s most versatile forwards. "The Anchorman" averaged 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.1 steals during his seven years in Salt Lake City, and later blossomed into a four-time All-Star with the Atlanta Hawks.

The 34-year-old Millsap is currently an integral member of the Nuggets, and is one of the big reasons why Denver is expected to make a deep playoff run in 2020.

4. Nikola Jokic (41st pick in 2014)

Denver’s draft miscues have been well-documented, but the Nuggets unearthed a gem in 2014 when they selected Nikola Jokic with the 41st pick in the draft. The Serbian big man had a breakthrough season in 2018-19 when he averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game and became the all-time leader in triple-doubles among European players.

Jokic recently tested positive for the coronavirus, but assuming he recovers quickly, he should continue to put up big numbers this summer in Orlando.

3. Draymond Green (35th pick in 2012)

Scouts were not particularly kind to Draymond Green back in 2012. Many felt the 6-foot-6 forward was a classic tweener who lacked the athleticism to play small forward and the size to play power forward. They labeled Green a fringe player, and their assessments largely proved to be true during his first two seasons in the league, as he averaged just 4.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

The former Big Ten Player of the Year had one foot out the door when Steve Kerr arrived in Golden State in 2014 and resurrected his career. Kerr recast Green as a small ball center in his fast and furious attack and made the most of his previously overlooked skills. He tapped into Green’s exceptional court vision on offense, and let him run amok on defense, much to the protestations of opposing bigs around the league.

The result has been five NBA All-Defensive Team selections, three All-Star appearances, three titles, and a Defensive Player of the Year Award. Not bad for a guy one scout labeled a "low risk, low reward pick."

2. Marc Gasol (48th pick in 2007)

With all due respect to Nikola Jokic, few players have undergone a bigger physical transformation than Marc Gasol. The 6-foot-11 Spaniard weighed well over 300 pounds in 2007 when he was selected by the Lakers, and looked far more like the before picture in a Weight Watchers ad than a bona fide NBA prospect.

Gasol’s sheer girth scared away many teams, but not the Grizzlies. Memphis boldly landed "Big Burrito" in 2008 by sending his brother, Pau Gasol, to L.A. At the time, it was considered one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history (both literally and figuratively), but Memphis had the last laugh after Marc shed his baby fat and matured into a three-time All-Star and the 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Gasol was traded to the Raptors on Feb. 7, 2019 and added "NBA Champion" to his resume that June when he led Toronto to a resounding series win over Golden State in the NBA Finals.

1. Manu Ginobili (57th pick in 1999)

The best things in life are worth waiting for. That was certainly the case with Manu Ginobili, who was drafted by the Spurs in 1999, but didn’t join the team until the 2002-03 season. The Argentinian swingman led San Antonio to an NBA Championship that year, and combined forces with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan to capture three more titles and 575 total wins.

Ginobili never averaged more than 20 points per game and seldom logged more than 30 minutes, but he didn’t have to. He transformed games - and series - in short bursts with his exceptional energy and creativity. Few players were less predictable with the ball in their hands, and Gibobili’s unorthodox approach was the perfect compliment to Duncan’s robotic post moves.

Honorable mentions: Rashard Lewis (1998), Michael Redd (2000), DeAndre Jordan (2008)

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