Florida Basketball: Ranking the Gators' All-Time Best NBA Players

Ari Kramer@Ari_KramerSenior Analyst IIJanuary 23, 2013

Florida Basketball: Ranking the Gators' All-Time Best NBA Players

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    Because of Florida's recent success—two national championships and two additional Elite Eights since 2006—the typical basketball fan probably assumes the Gators have produced multitudes of NBA players.

    That's not the case, though. According to Wikipedia, just 16 former Gators have played professionally in the NBA.

    This is a list ranking the top 10 of those players.

    Bradley Beal remains on the periphery, as this list inherently values experience, hence "All-Time." Just because Beal has had a solid first half to his rookie season, including him over players with more time in the NBA would not be fair.

    Even so, Chandler Parsons, who himself has played just one-and-a-half years in the league, appears on the list. Everyone else, though, has played at least six seasons.

    In certain situations, a player has the potential to improve his ranking as his career progresses. Al Horford, for example, is clearly a better player than Mike Miller, but Miller has been around for twice as long as Horford and consequentially ranks higher.

10. Chandler Parsons

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    Years in NBA: 2011-present

    Career averages: 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals

    Though he hasn't even played two full NBA seasons, Chandler Parsons has emerged as a budding star for the Houston Rockets. 

    He earned All-Rookie 2nd Team honors last year, and in an expanded role, he's currently averaging 14.4 points, six rebounds and 3.5 assists in 36 minutes per game.

    Including Parsons and leaving Bradley Beal on the periphery wasn't easy, as Beal also has "budding star" status. But Florida has produced several accomplished NBA players, and there was only room for one young gun on the list of all-time best players.

    Perhaps Beal will eventually rank near the top of this list, but Parsons' extra year of experience makes the difference at this juncture.

9. Matt Bonner

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    Years in NBA: 2004-present

    Career averages: 6.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 41.8 percent three-point shooting

    Matt Bonner has never been a star, but he has been yet another steady presence on a veteran-heavy San Antonio Spurs club, helping the organization to the 2007 NBA championship.

    Gregg Popovich has assigned Bonner to a very specific role: come off the bench and bury threes.

    And Bonner has executed to the tune of a 41.8 percent career three-point percentage. His 48.4 percent clip from deep currently ranks No. 1 in the NBA, but this wouldn't be the first time the former Gator led the league—he converted 45.7 percent of his long range shots in 2010-11.

8. Vernon Maxwell

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    Years in NBA: 1988-2001

    Career averages: 12.8 points, 3.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 1.5 threes

    Vernon Maxwell loved to shoot the basketball, and he led the NBA in three-point makes in 1990-91 and 1991-92. However, the Gainesville native was not the most accurate shooter, converting just 32 percent of his career three-point attempts.

    Nonetheless, Maxwell spent 13 seasons in America's professional ranks, and in the six year span from 1991-1997, he won two championships and averaged 15 points and four assists per game.

    According to this article, Maxwell could have been better. His off-the-court life was far from exemplary, with lowlights of incarceration for failure to pay child support and being sued for allegedly knowingly exposing a woman to herpes.

7. Neal Walk

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    Years in NBA: 1969-1977

    Career averages: 12.6 points, 7.7 rebounds

    In 1969, Milwaukee and Phoenix flipped a coin for the first pick in the NBA draft. The Bucks won and selected Kareem Abdul-Jabbar while the Suns took Neil Walk, the Florida Gator.

    Walk earned six fewer MVPs than Jabbar—Jabbar won six—but he had a solid eight-year career, highlighted by a four-stretch from 1970-1974 in which he averaged 16.4 points and 9.8 rebounds. Though he averaged 20.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per game in 1972-73, Walk never made an All-Star team.

    Walk, an old-school center at a time when the position was evolving, had stellar per 36 numbers for his career. He just couldn't stay on the floor for more than 25 minutes per game, with the exception of three seasons.

6. Udonis Haslem

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    Years in NBA: 2003-present

    Career averages: 9.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 49.3 percent field-goal shooting

    Udonis Haslem has never been a star. He's never even been one of the NBA's best power forwards.

    But he has consistently played within his role for the Miami Heat—he looks to score when appropriate, and he always bangs for boards.

    As an undrafted player out of Florida, Haslem also has one of the league's better, yet underrated, success stories.

    NBA teams passed on him in the 2002 Draft, fearing his weight. But Haslem shed 70 pounds off his 300-pound frame while playing overseas, and the Heat signed him the following season.

    He earned All-Rookie Second Team honors, and now has two NBA championships on his resume as well.

5. Jason Williams

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    Years in NBA: 1998-2011

    Career averages: 10.5 points, 5.9 assists

    Because of plays like this, Jason Williams earned the nickname "White Chocolate."

    Williams, one of the more exciting point guards during his time in the NBA, made the All-Rookie First Team and was one of the league's better floor generals early in his career.

    As a member of the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies, Williams averaged 11.7 points and 6.8 assists during his first seven seasons.

    He averaged 7.7 assists per game during his first three seasons with the Grizzlies.

    After Memphis sent him to Miami as part of a five-team deal, Williams had two more productive years left in the tank, helping the Heat to a championship in his first year with the club. He averaged 12.3 points and 4.9 dimes that season.

4. Joakim Noah

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    Years in NBA: 2007-present

    Career averages: 9.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 50.5 percent field-goal shooting

    Initially a spot-starter, Joakim Noah has cemented himself as a key player for the Chicago Bulls, and his play this year has helped the Bulls exceed expectations without Derrick Rose.

    Noah and Udonis Haslem have very similar career averages. But while Haslem has played longer and won two championships, Noah seems to be more of a critical player for his team, not only with his play but also his leadership and emotion. 

    Noah's defense also separates him from Haslem. The Bull, who has earned the reputation of a tenacious defender, was named to the All-Defensive Second Team in 2010-11.

3. Al Horford

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    Years in NBA: 2007-present

    Career averages: 13.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 53.6 percent field-goal shooting

    Excluding last year when a shoulder injury ended his season after 11 games, Al Horford has been one of the more durable centers since entering the NBA.

    He rarely misses a game, and when he plays, he's on the floor for 34 minutes—that's a career average.

    Horford has played on two all-star teams and has been a cog in Atlanta's lineup and return to relevancy. In 2010-11, he made the All-NBA Third Team.

2. Mike Miller

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    Years in NBA: 2000-present

    Career averages: 12.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 40.5 percent three-point percentage

    Mike Miller has had a very specific role since joining the Miami Heat in 2010: come off the bench and hit threes.

    But earlier in his career, Miller had a more prominent role, winning Rookie of the Year in 2000-01 and Sixth Man of the Year in 2005-06. He averaged 13.4 points per game through his first seven years before erupting for 17.4 points, six rebounds and 3.8 assists in his last two campaigns with Memphis.

    Miller was never an All-Star, but he has had a long, productive career. Though Miami could have won the championship with a similar player, Miller was there for the ride and scored 23 points in the series clincher.

    He ranks No. 23 in all-time career three-point percentage.

1. David Lee

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    Years in NBA: 2005-present

    Career averages: 14.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 53.7 percent field-goal shooting

    Early in his career, David Lee looked to score in appropriate scenarios but was primarily a rebounder for the New York Knicks. But his fourth year in the league coincided with Mike D'Antoni's arrival in New York, and under the new coaching regime Lee blossomed into a star.

    A 2010 All-Star, Lee has averaged 18.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists  over the last five years. That's partially the product of playing under D'Antoni and in Golden State, but Lee is nonetheless a star.

    He currently ranks No. 25 in all-time career field-goal percentage.