Veteran shooting guard Manu Ginobili will return to San Antonio for his 14th NBA season in 2015–16 as the Spurs prepare to chase yet another title. The 38-year-old lefty, who was drafted way back in 1999, is one of the best second-round picks in NBA history. But as his skills diminish and his career winds down to a close, other former second-rounders are set to carry the torch.
Finding All-Star caliber players in the second round of the draft is rare. In fact, historically, teams are far more likely to choose guys between picks 31–60 who don’t play a single minute in the NBA. Nevertheless, there have been more than a few success stories since the turn of the century.
Luis Scola, Matt Barnes, Carlos Boozer and Mo Williams were all taken in the second round of the draft in the early 2000s. They’ve had varying levels of professional success—some to an All-Star degree. And while they’re still competing at the highest level (though Boozer remains on the lookout for a new gig), they’re far from the best former second-round picks in the league today.
With the help of visualizations from PointAfter, we’ll break down the best second-round picks in the NBA right now.
Super Sixth Men
Much like Ginobili, who has done the vast majority of his damage off the bench (winning Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2008), two guys selected outside the first round are making huge impacts off the sidelines.
Reigning SMOY winner Lou Williams and former “Mr. Irrelevant” Isaiah Thomas have given second-rounders a good name in recent years as score-first, spark-plug guards off the bench for their respective teams.
Thomas's numbers were better almost across the board last season compared to Williams, but the former Raptor earned the Sixth Man of the Year nod (presumably because Toronto sported a much better record). If Thomas chooses to embrace the sixth man role in Boston moving forward, the diminutive guard will be among the SMOY favorites for years to come.
A Wave of Solid Starters
It’s truly remarkable how much talent teams have been able to unearth in the second round of the draft in recent years. Perhaps more extraordinary, however, is how many times teams whiffed on drafting these studs with earlier selections.
As a matter of fact, 302 players in total were selected ahead of the seven guys above—an average of 43 selections before they came off the board in Round 2. Clearly, entering the league with a chip on their shoulders has helped them carve a niche at the next level.
Draymond Green, for instance, upped his production in a big way last season. His ability to defend multiple positions proved invaluable for the league’s top defensive team, and Golden State went on to win its first championship in 40 years thanks to his two-way play.
Khris Middleton of the Bucks continued to establish himself as one of the best three-and-D wing players in the league. He netted a five-year, $70 million deal to remain in Milwaukee during the off-season as a result.
The veteran out of Creighton flirted with the first ever 50-50-90 season and earned the first All-Star nod of his career as a late injury replacement. An argument could certainly be made that he was Atlanta’s most valuable player last season.
There’s undoubtedly an impressive collection of former second-round selections making a difference as key pieces in their respective starting lineups. The best guys, however, are accomplishing even more on a league-wide scale.
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The Slovenian southpaw blossomed under head coach Jeff Hornacek by averaging a career-high 20.3 points to go along with 5.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds. He was the only player in the league that season to shoot at least 50% from the field and 40% from three-point range while pouring in a minimum of 20 points per game. Not even guys like Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry were that efficient.
Dragic wasn’t able to replicate those numbers with a diminished role in Phoenix. Now that he knows his standing in Miami, he could rebound into an All-Star-caliber talent once again.
The other borderline star—if he isn’t considered one already—is DeAndre Jordan. The hyper-athletic center, who nearly signed with Dallas in free agency, is still eyeing his first All-Star berth, but he has other accomplishments to his name.
In addition to leading the pro circuit in rebounding over the past two seasons, Jordan was named to the All-Defensive First Team and All-NBA Third Team a season ago. He also finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting behind Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green.
His offensive repertoire is very much a work in progress—and perhaps something that will never extend beyond highlight dunks. Nevertheless, D.J. is arguably the best two-way player in the game at the rim.
The final tier of the best second-round picks in the NBA today includes two guys who have already frequented the All-Star Game.
Versatile big men Marc Gasol and Paul Millsap each have as many All-Star appearances (two) as Ginobili. There’s reason to believe each guy will surpass the Spurs legend in the near future, as both Millsap and Gasol are each just 30 years old.
While Pau Gasol did win two titles with the Lakers, his younger brother certainly has the more impressive individual résumé, having made the All-Defensive First and Second Team as well as the All-NBA First and Second team over the past three seasons. Lest we forget, he also took home Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
It appears Gasol is the cut and dry favorite as the best second-rounder in the game right now, but Millsap has made the All-Star team in back-to-back years while using his stretch-4 capabilities to vault Atlanta into contention out East.
Jordan and Dragic are knocking on the door as recent All-Star snubs, but Millsap and Gasol are leading the charge for those who were overlooked on draft day.
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