Ranking the NBA's Best Former 2nd-Round Picks This Season
Could a team made up solely of second-round picks hypothetically win a championship this season?
Your initial answer might be no because Kevin Durant or LeBron James aren't on that team, but we've seen multiple second-round picks this season perform at an incredibly high level. Maybe more than ever before, the league is flooded with productive players who flew under the radar on draft day.
While some of these second-round choices have been doing it for years, others have had breakout seasons and functioned as the top star of their respective teams. While there are plenty of players worth mentioning that were taken in the second round, we've narrowed this list down to the 15 best.
Remember, this isn't a ranking of a player's career, but instead, a ranking of how these players have performed this season. Here are the 15 best 2013-14 regular-season campaigns from former second-round draft picks.
15. Kyle Korver
Pick: 51st overall, 2003 draft
2013-14 Stats: 12.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 67 TS%, 14.3 PER
Atlanta Hawks forward Kyle Korver has had the best season of his career, and his NBA-record streak of three-pointers only added more significance to it.
Korver hit a three in a record 127 straight games, and he currently leads the league in three-point percentage and tops all guards and wings in true shooting percentage.
There's more to Korver than just his shooting, however. With Al Horford out for the year, Korver has taken on more of a playmaking responsibility offensively while also providing some pretty underrated defense on the wing.
Korver is on the first year of a four-year deal worth $24 million, and he's outperformed that and his original second-round draft choice by a pretty substantial margin. There's virtually no team in the league that wouldn't want Korver on its roster.
14. Anderson Varejao
Pick: 30th overall, 2004 draft
2013-14 Stats: 8.5 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.4 APG, 52.5 TS%, 17.3 PER
Anderson Varejao's 2013-14 campaign has been a bit of a mixed bag. While it's a good sign that he's been able to stay reasonably healthy for the first time in a long time, Varejao's overall numbers are down a bit to go along with his minutes.
With that being said, Varejao is still one of the most energetic and active big men in the league. He's still rebounding at a very high rate, and his defense has been pretty good as well.
Varejao is more limited than he previously was due to all of the injuries, but he's played in more games this year than in the past two seasons combined, which is a great sign for Cleveland going forward.
Varejao has long been one of the more productive second-round picks in the NBA, and he still warrants a spot on the list even as the depth of the field grows.
13. Carlos Boozer
Pick: 34th overall, 2002 draft
2013-14 Stats: 13.8 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 48.2 TS%, 13.9 PER
Even though this is Carlos Boozer's worst campaign he's put forth since he entered the league in 2002, he's still a pretty productive player.
Boozer's overall minutes are down, and his fourth-quarter minutes have disappeared almost entirely, but he's been a steadying force offensively for the Bulls in the first three quarters of games. Boozer's ability to face up and score out of post situations is a luxury in a league that doesn't have very many of those players.
Of course, Boozer's perceived value is often attached to his contract, so he's not regarded very highly around the league at this current juncture.
We'll see if the Bulls use the amnesty provision on him this offseason, but it would be a bit of a surprise if he fell off completely. He's a skilled player, and he deserves credit as well for Chicago being able to hang in there this season.
12. Manu Ginobili
Pick: 57th overall, 1999 draft
2013-14 Stats: 12.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, 59.4 TS%, 20.5 PER
After last year's performance in the NBA Finals, many were quick to write off Ginobili as being unable to play at a high level anymore. Some were even saying he's finished.
Ginobili has quieted all of that talk with a great 2013-14 season. Once again, Ginobili's PER is back above 20, and his shooting percentages have skyrocketed back up to the elite levels he enjoyed earlier in his career.
Ginobili looks to be in better shape this year, and his ability to stay healthy has paid big dividends.
You probably won't hear Ginobili's name come up in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation this season, but he's plenty deserving. Ginobili has been so great for so long, in fact, that it's not unreasonable to say he's the best second-round pick in league history.
11. Nikola Pekovic
Pick: 31st overall, 2008 draft
2013-14 Stats: 17.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 57.6 TS%, 20.7 PER
It's a shame that Nikola Pekovic has suffered through injuries this season, because if not, he was on his way to cementing himself as one of the very best offensive centers in the game.
Pekovic is one of the few players in the league to approach a 20-10 points and rebound average this year, and he's been a force on the low block for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Although it took him a while to come over after being selected in the second round of the 2008 draft, Pekovic has been well worth the wait.
He'd be much higher on this list if he had played in more than 51 games this season, but regardless, Pekovic has proven to be one of the best second-round choices in the league.
There were concerns of how well he'd mesh with Kevin Love and if he could live up to his new five-year contract worth $60 million, but Pekovic looks like he has a very promising future.
10. Trevor Ariza
Pick: 43rd overall, 2004 draft
2013-14 Stats: 14.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, 60.1 TS%, 16.5 PER
Trevor Ariza has elevated his game quite a bit over the last few seasons, and this year is his best yet. Ariza has become a deadly three-point shooter, particularly from the corners, and his ability to play passing lanes and use his length on that end has provided Washington with a big boost.
Whenever we do any drills, I know, when I go against him in practice, it's like throwing to Richard Sherman's side—I don't go that way. We try to bait guys to throw skip passes, especially when he's on the weak side. He's a long, athletic guy, and he reads it very well, and if he misses it, he knows how to recover. It's something he's good at. He's great defensively. But he'll also knock down corner threes and does a lot of things for our team, and he's probably the catalyst for our defense being as good as it is.
So long as he's in a complementary role, Ariza can be a huge asset for any team. He's still prone to taking a few bad shots and risks, but Ariza has grown into a solid player on both ends.
9. Chandler Parsons
Pick: 38th overall, 2011 draft.
2013-14 Stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.0 APG, 56.5 TS%, 15.7 PER.
Chandler Parsons is undoubtedly one of the best second-round picks from recent years, and because he makes less than a million dollars a year, he also doubles as one of the league's most underpaid players.
Both of those things make him a huge asset to the Houston Rockets, as he's a perfect wing player who can do a little bit of everything on the floor.
Can he be Houston's third star, though? That's up for debate, but Rockets GM Daryl Morey recently told Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated that he believes he can be:
He's definitely got the ability to be the third-best player on a championship team. He's played like that many times. The tough transition is whether you bring that level every night.
Parsons is a classic example of a guy who was overlooked because he was a four-year player in college. He still has plenty of potential to grow and become even more consistent. One thing Parsons has already done, however, is outplay his original draft position by a large margin.
8. Marcin Gortat
Pick: 57th overall, 2005 draft
2013-14 Stats: 12.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 56.2 TS%, 17 PER
Like a few other players scattered across the Eastern Conference, Washington Wizards big man Marcin Gortat has done a fine job of keeping the ship afloat even after a big piece was lost.
Gortat's ability to man the glass and control opposing centers has been a huge boost in Nene's absence, and his play on the other end has helped John Wall and Bradley Beal out tremendously as well. The Wizards gave up a first-round draft pick (top-12 protected) to acquire Gortat, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but he's been everything advertised.
Gortat is just another example of a solid but not spectacular big man who will enjoy a long career in the NBA after being selected in the second round. The myth that the only centers worth drafting are top picks should be just about dead by now
We'll see if Gortat stays in Washington, but either way, he'll be a valuable piece no matter where he ends up next year.
7. Lance Stephenson
Pick: 40th overall, 2010 draft
2013-14 Stats: 14.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 56.8 TS%, 15.3 PER
Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson may not be the front-runner for the Most Improved Player award, but he's certainly right there in the mix.
Although he and the Pacers have both cooled off as of late, Stephenson has proven to be a very capable offensive player who can score, distribute and really cause all sorts of problems in transition and on the offensive glass.
The timing on Stephenson's breakout season is pretty good as well, as he'll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. There were character concerns with Stephenson that initially scared teams off in the draft, but he'll be a hot commodity after proving to be a great competitor and a good teammate in Indiana.
Stephenson has proven to be well worth the risk of a second-round draft pick, and it doesn't seem like it will be very long before we start mentioning him among the very best players to be passed up in the first round of a draft.
6. Marc Gasol
Pick: 48th overall, 2007 draft
2013-14 Stats: 13.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.7 APG, 52.4 TS%, 17.7 PER
If Memphis Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol hadn't lost so many games to a knee injury earlier in the season, he'd be higher on this list.
Gasol has never been a player properly represented by statistics, as his help defense, positioning, spacing and smart decision-making are often tough to quantify.
That being said, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year has still had some pretty impressive stats, especially given his injury. The Grizzlies have been a dangerous squad with him back in the lineup, and no higher seed is looking forward to the prospect of playing a team anchored by a complete player like Gasol.
Gasol is unquestionably one of the best all-around players in the league, and he's certainly one of the best active second-rounders. If he were healthy this full season, there's a good chance he'd occupy the top spot of this list.
5. DeAndre Jordan
Pick: 35th overall, 2008 draft
2013-14 Stats: 10.2 PPG, 13.7 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 63.0 TS%, 18 PER
A lot of people fairly wondered if DeAndre Jordan would ever live up to his immense potential, but with his performance this year, those questions are subsiding quickly.
Under the guidance of Doc Rivers, Jordan has turned into the league's best rebounder, and perhaps the league's best finisher around the rim. Jordan is flawed, of course, but now more than ever he's cast his attention to the defensive side of the ball, where he has the ability to dominate.
Here's Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated summing up Jordan's improvements:
But then something crazy happened. Jordan became good. Like, really good. At week's end he was leading the NBA in rebounds (13.9 per game) and field goal shooting (66.3%), and was fourth in blocks (2.4), while playing 35.7 minutes. He is a candidate for the Most Improved Player award and the All-Defensive Team, and may well be the key to L.A.'s postseason hopes.
The development of centers often takes some time, and Jordan has proven to be no different. In his sixth season, he's beginning to become really effective, just like Tyson Chandler did before him.
Jordan has been the victim of receiving too much hype and too many accolades prematurely in the past, but now, he's performing well enough to deserve them. The Clippers were wise to gamble on his potential.
4. Isaiah Thomas
Pick: 60th overall, 2011 draft
2013-14 Stats: 20.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 6.4 APG, 57.6 TS%, 20.7 PER
It's not often you see "Mr. Irrelevant" turn into something great, but that's what has happened with Isaiah Thomas.
Despite being selected with the last pick of the draft, mainly because of his small stature, Thomas has quickly asserted himself as one of the league's best scorers from the point guard position and a game competitor all the way around.
Although some may view him as more of a sixth man, any way you slice it, Thomas is a very productive player. He should get a big paycheck because he's headed to restricted free agency, where more than a few teams should probably try to lock up his services.
If Thomas keeps improving at the rate he is now, it won't be long before he vaults himself into the league's elite point guard crowd. He may get written off a lot because of his size and lack of pedigree, but he's an excellent player.
3. Monta Ellis
Pick: 40th overall, 2005 draft
2013-14 Stats: 19.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.7 APG, 53.9 TS%, 17.1 PER
To say that the career of Monta Ellis has been a wild ride would be a severe understatement. Ellis had to battle hard to find his spot in the league as a second-round draft pick straight out of high school, and since then, his perceived value around the league has jumped all over the map.
This offseason, teams were probably as low on Ellis as they had been since draft day, but he's rewarded the Dallas Mavericks for taking a chance on him with a substantial deal.
Although his shot selection can still sometimes be a bit shaky, Ellis has proven to be a potent pick-and-roll partner with Dirk Nowitzki and a better playmaker than he's often made out to be.
Ellis may finally be approaching the point where he's properly appreciated and valued. Even if he's not, there's one thing almost everyone can agree on: He was a steal as a second-round pick. Athletes of his caliber are almost always worth a shot.
2. Paul Millsap
Pick: 47th overall, 2006 draft
2013-14 Stats: 17.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, 54.6 TS%, 19.9 PER
The emergence of Paul Millsap as one of the game's very best forwards has taught general managers around the NBA a pretty valuable lesson. More than just about everything else, rebounding translates to the next level.
Millsap was the nation's best rebounder in college, and that ability helped warrant him minutes until the rest of his game developed as a pro. In Atlanta, we've seen the full culmination of all of his skills and abilities, as Millsap can operate from either post, step out behind the three-point line and bring great energy to both ends.
It's a shame we didn't get to see much of Millsap next to Al Horford this year, but he's picked up the slack offensively and has put together the best season of his career.
Millsap was the steal of this past offseason, and if he keeps this up, he'll go down in history as one of the best draft-day steals we've ever seen.
1. Goran Dragic
Pick: 45th overall, 2008 draft
2013-14 Stats: 20.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 6.0 APG, 61.1 TS%, 22 PER
While there are many great players on this list, no one has enjoyed a better 2013-14 season than Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic.
In terms of surpassing expectations, Dragic definitely deserves this spot. The Phoenix Suns were expected to be one of the league's very worst teams, and largely because of Dragic's play on both ends, they're instead a pesky playoff contender that could sneak into the No. 8 seed.
Perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised by Dragic's individual improvements, however, as this year he's been given the keys to an offense with capable shooters around him for the first time. Dragic has always had the skill, but it's being channeled in a great way now, as the driving lanes are open and the Suns are playing fast.
With that in mind, Dragic should probably be this year's Most Improved Player. But if he doesn't win that, at least he'll be able to claim he had the best 2013-14 season out of any second-round draft pick.
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