NBA Draft: 50 Greatest Second-Round Picks of All Time

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2011

NBA Draft: 50 Greatest Second-Round Picks of All Time

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    More than most other sports, the draft in the NBA can be a fickle thing.  

    You can study everything about a player from their college or oversea experience and think you have them pinned down, and then when they get to the NBA you can be completely wrong about them.

    That's why, when you see a team get a good player in the second round, it's so rare.

    Teams can take a chance on a guy from Europe or make a stretch on a college player who may not have been great but has the tools to turn into a good player and not worry too much, because the second round of the NBA Draft has historically been a crapshoot.

    There are cases of teams doing everything right, picking a player and having him just not work out, and there are teams that gambled and hit home runs.

    But which home run went on to be the best?  Which second-round draft pick ended up having the best career?  Well, I have the top 50 for you right here.

50. Manute Bol

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    He was never a real threat on the offensive end because of his lack of finesse and refinement, but his height made it possible for him to be a good defender.

    Manute Bol led the league in blocks in 1986 and 1989 and ended up averaging 3.3 blocks per game for his career.

49. Caldwell Jones

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    A big, tough guy who was better in the ABA than the NBA, Caldwell Jones led the league in blocks his first season in the ABA with the San Diego Conquistadors.

    When he made the move to the NBA, he was not nearly as effective, but he was still a big, mean dude who could throw his body around and get what he wanted on defense.

48. Bimbo Coles

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    He may have had one of the worst nicknames in NBA history, but he stuck around long enough to be one of the most reliable point guards that the Miami Heat ever had.

    Bimbo Coles never really had a standout season, but he consistently ran the point for the Heat and could knock down a three from time to time.

47. Mehmet Okur

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    He was originally thought to be just a big Turkish body that the Jazz could throw in every once in a while to take up space and foul some guys, but Mehmet Okur turned into quite a good player.

    A good scorer and a decent rebounder, Okur has spent the better part of his nine-year career as a starter for the Jazz.

46. Steve Kerr

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    Sure, he was just a white guy who could shoot some threes, but he was the white guy who could shoot some threes for a while.

    One of the most important players off the bench for the Chicago Bulls' second run of championships (and in a slightly lesser role for the Spurs from 1999 to 2003), Kerr twice led the league in three-point percentage, and he hit a game-winning shot in the 1997 Finals.

45. Rick Mahorn

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    A big, doughy body doesn't usually do well on the basketball court, but Rick Mahorn played the way a doughy guy should be playing.

    He was mean, he could box out any other player in the league to get a rebound away from them and he was a big part of both championship-winning Pistons teams in the 1980s.

44. Truck Robinson

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    Averaging nearly a double-double over the course of his career, Truck Robinson played how you would imagine a guy named "Truck" would play.

    He used his body to get position and just ran people over to get a rebound or get in a spot where he could get the ball and easily put it in.

43. Jerome Kersey

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    Jerome Kersey played the first third of his career as a very effective starting forward for the Portland Trail Blazers. Then, when he was starting to become ineffective, he was picked up by the San Antonio Spurs and turned into a very good role player.

    Kersey was a volume shooter, so he wasn't extremely efficient on the offensive end, but he was a very good rebounder for a small forward.

42. Dick Snyder

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    A standout for the Seattle SuperSonics and Cavaliers in his native Cleveland, Dick Snyder became a very effective player after a few years in the league learning the NBA game.

    He was your average guard for the time period, able to grab some rebounds, dish a few assists and be used as a second resort to shoot the ball if one of the big men couldn't get the job done.

41. Marc Gasol

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    He is just coming on in the NBA with his recent playoff run, but Marc Gasol could rocket up this list pretty quickly.

    The Grizzlies were once thought to have given Pau Gasol away in a trade for the Lakers, but now that it has yielded Marc Gasol for them, it may not have been as bad a trade as we once thought.

40. P.J Brown

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    He stuck around the league for ages able to do two things, and it worked for him.

    P.J Brown could rebound and play physical defense, and you know what, there's always a team out there looking for a guy who can do just that.

39. Tom Van Arsdale

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    Unfortunately for him, Tom Van Arsdale was always compared to his brother, who just so happened to go one pick before him in the 1965 draft (more on him later), but he was still a good player in his own right.

    He had a peak of six years where he scored at least 15 points a game and rebounded a decent amount for a guy standing 6'5".

38. Hot Rod Williams

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    Despite looking like a slightly unkempt Steve Harvey, Hot Rod Williams had a long career in the NBA during which he was able to make an impact.

    As a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers for nine years, he was mostly a sixth man, but he was a great sixth man, scoring in double figures for all nine of those years.

37. Nate McMillan

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    Nate McMillan was never going to score a lot of points for his team, but he could play amazing defense and pass the ball quite effectively.

    He led the league in steals in 1994 and was able to run the two-guard spot either as a backup or a starter for the Seattle SuperSonics for 12 years.

36. Antonio Davis

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    Your typical late 1990s' power forward, Antonio Davis was an unassuming player who went into a game, did his job and went home.

    Davis averaged a double-double just once in his career (2001), but he was able to play defense well the entire time and give his team a chance to win the game.

35. Stephen Jackson

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    Stephen Jackson may have been a bit of a head case of the course of his NBA career, but as a second-round pick who became the No. 1 or No. 2 option on quite a few teams, he was a bargain.

    Jackson has been a great scorer and a decent shooter in his time in the league, leading to his career average of 16.3 points per game.

34. Rashard Lewis

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    At this point in his career, Rashard Lewis is less than worthless.  He is eating up salary cap space and not contributing anything positive to the Washington Wizards, but there was a time (like a little over a year ago) when he was very effective.

    Lewis was the ultimate wingman for the Orlando Magic for about three years, where he could drag his man out of the paint and drain threes over him all day.

33. Monta Ellis

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    Monta Ellis gets a bad rap for being the leader of a team that plays no defense, and in part he should, but he should also get some credit where credit is due.

    There aren't many players in the NBA, let alone people in the world, who can walk into an NBA game and consistently score 23 to 25 points while playing upwards of 40 minutes a night every game.

32. Doc Rivers

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    We think of him mostly as the animated, sometimes hot-headed coach of the Boston Celtics these days, but Doc Rivers was once a very good bargain of a basketball player.

    A pesky defender and a decent scorer, Doc RIvers had a run with the Atlanta Hawks in the late 1980s where he was one of the most important players on a perennial contender.

31. Clifford Robinson

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    Clifford Robinson is mostly forgotten because his best years came on the pre-Jail Blazer Portland teams that were good, but never great, and were overshadowed in that region of the country by the Seattle SuperSonics and Utah Jazz.

    Still, Robinson was a great scorer and even had a revival once he left the Blazers and played for the Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns.

30. Nick Van Exel

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    Nick Van Exel was never a great player in the NBA, but he was always around, and he always seemed to be on good teams.

    For the first half of his career, he was an effective starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets. Later on he became a good role player for the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs.

29. Michael Redd

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    It's a shame that Michael Redd had to have such an injury-plagued past three years, otherwise he could have been a top-10 second-round pick.

    Redd was a borderline superstar at his peak for the Milwaukee Bucks, but it didn't last long as his body couldn't hold up. Now he'll have to settle for being a three-point specialist for whatever team ends up signing him when the season starts.

28. Gus Williams

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    Gus Williams was an excellent scorer in his time with the Seattle SuperSonics and the few other teams that he played for.

    For seven straight years, Williams scored at least 18 points a game, and at his peak he grabbed eight or nine boards a game, all while standing 6'2".

27. Paul Silas

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    Another guy who we mostly know as a head coach these days, Paul Silas was an effective player back in the 1960s and 1970s.

    He could rebound just as well as any big man (maybe better when you consider that he was consistently grabbing double-digit boards while standing at just 6'7") and scored in double figures on a pretty consistent basis.

26. Eddie Johnson

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    Eddie Johnson was once mistaken for another Eddie Johnson who played in the NBA, got addicted to cocaine and was once thought to have committed some of the crimes that the other Eddie Johnson ended up committing. But on the court, there was no mistaking the two.

    Eddie Johnson made a name for himself on the Phoenix Suns, where he was a great scorer, decent three-point shooter and just a smart overall basketball player.

25. Harry Gallatin

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    Harry Gallatin, despite having a name that sounds like a delicious jiggly dessert, was a double-double machine in his days with the New York Knicks.

    In his ten seasons in the NBA, all with New York, Gallatin averaged 13 points and 12 rebounds a game, leading the league in rebounds in 1954 with over 15 per game. 

24. Richie Guerin

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    The little man counterpoint to Harry Gallatin in the late 1950s for the New York Knicks, Richie Guerin made quite a name for himself in a New York uniform.

    Guerin averaged 17 points a game over the course of his career, including a season in 1962 in which he averaged 29 points a game, an unusually high number for a guard in those days.

23. Dick Van Arsdale

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    The golden-haired Dick Van Arsdale was picked a spot ahead of his brother Tom, but he had a much longer and more fulfilling career.

    As a part of New York and Phoenix teams over the course of his career, he average 16 points, four rebounds and three assists per game.

22. Toni Kukoc

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    Toni Kukoc came into the league with the influx of Eastern Europeans in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a year after Vlade Divac came into the league.

    Kukoc made it to the NBA in 1993 (three years after being drafted) and almost immediately became an important part of the Chicago Bulls, first off the bench and then as a starter.

    As a sharpshooter, a good rebounder and a pretty good defender, Kukoc was a great help to the three championship Bulls teams that he was on.

21. Carlos Boozer

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    Carlos Boozer has taken a lot of heat for his disappearance in this year's playoffs, and his reputation has taken a hit as he has been injured quite a bit over the past few years, but there's a reason he's been such a sought-after commodity in the NBA over the past half decade.

    He may not play much defense, but he has a well-polished offensive game and can still rebound as well as any power forward in the league.

20. K.C. Jones

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    There aren't many players out there who have won a championship, and even fewer have won multiple rings, but name me another guy who has eight rings in nine years in the league.  That's efficiency right there.

    K.C. Jones was never a great scorer. He was a decent passer for the time period, but where he really shined was on defense, where he was one of the best defensive point guards in the league.

19. Jeff Hornacek

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    Always remembered as the third most important player on the Utah Jazz or simply, "that other white guy," Jeff Hornacek made quite a career for himself.

    He was an efficient scorer, a great free-throw shooter and a good rebounder, and when he went to the Jazz he became a great sidekick for John Stockton in the backcourt.

18. Gus Johnson

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    Gus Johnson had an injury-plagued career in which he played fewer than 50 games in 1966, 1969 and 1972. Each season was smack dab in the middle of his prime or at the tail end of it, and yet he was able to be remembered as a good player anyway.

    If he hadn't gotten hurt, he could have been a great player, but he had to settle for very good with an average of 16 points and 12 rebounds over the course of his career.

17. George McGinnis

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    George McGinnis was remembered mostly as a scorer in his time in the NBA, but what a scorer he was.

    He did end up averaging just under 12 rebounds a game, but that was overshadowed by his nearly 22 points a game spread across the NBA and the ABA.

16. Calvin Murphy

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    A Hall of Famer and one of the best (if not the best) little men to ever play the game, Calvin Murphy was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

    Standing just 5'6", Murphy averaged 18 points a game over the course of his career, mostly with the Houston Rockets, and had five seasons in which he averaged 20 points or more.

15. World B. Free

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    His name made him sound a bit gimmicky, but World B. Free was a strong and shifty little basketball player in his prime and a great role player near the end of his career.

    He peaked in 1980, averaging 30 points a game for the Los Angeles Clippers, and ended up scoring at a high rate all the way up until the time he retired in 1988.

14. Danny Ainge

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    Remembered as one of the "other guys" on the 1980s Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge was selected with the 31st pick in 1981 by the Celtics.

    Ainge played alongside Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish but was almost equally important to the Celtics and their championship runs in the 1980s.

13. Gilbert Arenas

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    Sure, he has completely fallen off a cliff ever since his injuries and the gun incident in Washington a few years back, but when you draft a guy in the second round and he ends up becoming a franchise player, you have to be happy.

    As the leader of the mid-2000s Wizards teams who were always good, but never really great, Arenas had a three-year peak where he averaged 25, 29 and 28 points per game.

12. Mark Price

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    A staple of the Cleveland Cavaliers (you'll still see his jersey around that town), Mark Price was an amazing shooter and a pretty good passer in the time he spent in the NBA.

    With an amazing season in 1989, Price is one of the few players in NBA history to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three-point line and 90 percent from the free-throw line.

11. Maurice Cheeks

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    It seems to be a trend that good coaches these days were second-round picks back in the day, who had to work their way into the starting lineup. Mo Cheeks is no different.

    He had your average NBA career, where his output offensively pretty much follows a bell curve with improvement up until 1986 and 1987, when he averaged 15 points a game, followed by gradual decline.  He was, however, always a pesky defender.

10. Spencer Haywood

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    Spencer Haywood was a big, intimidating guy, but he seemed like a legitimately nice fellow.

    He dominated the ABA in the one season that he was in the league, leading in scoring and rebounding, leading to him winning an MVP Award, but his transition to the NBA was rocky like most players.

    Haywood did transition well, but he was never as dominant as he was in the ABA, averaging 19 points and 9 rebounds in his time in the NBA.

9. Jack Twyman

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    Jack Twyman was your average big man in the NBA in the 1960s when he played for the Cincinnati Royals.

    He was the main option on offense, peaking at 31 points per game in 1960 and finishing his career with a 19 point per game average, although he was a lackluster rebounder compared to the rest of the bigs in the league.

8. Manu Ginobili

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    Manu Ginobili is the most unique player I've ever seen in my days as a fan of the NBA.

    The way he slips through the lane, despite not being a small, shifty player, combined with the way he athletically controls his body, despite the fact that he looks like there aren't but two athletic bones in his body, has always intrigued me.

7. Dennis Johnson

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    A Hall of Fame inductee last year, Dennis Johnson was a missing piece for the Boston Celtics who really put the team together and got them clicking on all cylinders.

    He was a do-it-all guard who was capable of scoring, shooting, passing, defending and rebounding.

6. Bill Sharman

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    A staple of the 1950s' Boston Celtics, Bill Sharman was the epitome of an early point guard in the NBA.

    He could score, but he wasn't the first option. He could pass, but he didn't rack up huge numbers of assists because of the rules of the day. He was a very good defender.

    Sharman ended up winning four titles with the Celtics once Bill Russell arrived, and he led the league in free-throw percentage in 7 of his 11 years in the league.

5. Tiny Archibald

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    Simply known as "Tiny" throughout his career, Nate Archibald was one of the best guards of the 1970s and became a great player for the early 1980s Boston Celtics, netting him a ring in 1981.

    Tiny was a six-time All-Star and led the league in points and assists in 1973.

4. Dennis Rodman

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    It may seem a bit crazy to put Dennis Rodman above Tiny Archibald in any list, but that's just the spirit of Dennis Rodman channeling through my veins.

    Rodman was without a doubt the best rebounder of the 1990s, and it can be argued that he is one of the best of all time.  Certainly he is in the lead for best rebounding non-center.

    He won five rings (two with Detroit, three with Chicago) and two Defensive Player of the Year awards.

3. Hal Greer

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    Hal Greer was a great guard through the 1960s and early 1970s, and was a part of one of the greatest teams in the history of the game with the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers.

    Greer was a good scorer, putting up nearly 20 points a game over the course of his career and never really going too far above or below that mark in any one season.  Plus, he was a good rebounder for a guy standing 6'2".

2. Alex English

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    Alex English is perhaps the greatest player in Denver Nuggets history, and he came at an incredible bargain.

    He led the league in scoring in both 1983 and 1986 and finished his career averaging just over 21 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists a game.

    He was an eight-time All-Star and two-time member of the All-NBA Second Team, but he never could capture that elusive title.

1. Willis Reed

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    Willis Reed is most known for his dramatic entrance and subsequent four points in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals for the New York Knicks, but he was so much more than that.

    Reed averaged nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds a game over the course of his career and was consistently one of the best defensive players in the league.

    His career derailed a bit due to injury, but the time that he was in the league he was so good that it's impossible to overlook it all.

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