As I type this, literally, the Philadelphia 76ers are on the clock with the 32nd pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Whoops, there goes the ticker. They’ve just selected 6’6” SF K.J. McDaniels out of Clemson.
Big whoop. It’s the second round.
That’s right. I can go ahead and get rocking on this year’s draft wrap-up because all the fireworks have already been let off.
Nothing personal against Mr. McDaniels, he could totally wind up being an important role player in the 76ers return to respectability, but a superstar? No chance.
Unlike the NFL draft where first round picks are routinely out of the league in three years’ time and Hall-of-Fame QBs are found in the sixth round, a basketball prospect’s future success in the NBA is far easier to predict.
That’s not to say that it’s easy, or that there are never any big time busts. Greg Oden and Adam Morrison certainly come to mind.
But it is certainly easier to gauge a player’s potential impact due to the individual nature of the game. Face it, that’s why one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of Nike’s came right out of high school.
And that’s what makes the NBA Draft so damn exciting to watch. No matter who your favorite team picks, you’ll know for sure that the dude’s a baller. At least until the start of the second round.
Before we get started on the good stuff, how about a little research?
So, this idea has got me thinking. How much of a non-factor is the second round?
Which players would make up the all-time second round starting five? Well, I’ve got the list right here.
But before I give you my line-up, bear in mind that I’ve done a little fiddling with the data.
Players selected in the second round long before the league expanded to 30 teams are exempt. For example, Alex English, the greatest player to ever wear a Nuggets jersey and still Denver’s #1 all-time scorer. He was taken with the 23rd pick in 1976.
Officially this was in the second round at the time, but for our purposes here I’m only looking for players taken 31st or higher. So yeah, Dennis Rodman, drafted in the second round at 27th in 1986. He doesn’t qualify either.
So here they are – the greatest NBA players ever selected after the first 30 players were already off the board:
Manu Ginobili – 57th pick in 1999. Manu is arguably the biggest draft steal of all time. He’s a big reason why Tim Duncan’s trophy case is starting to overflow.
Maurice Cheeks – 36th pick in 1978. Cheeks led a decorated career and won a title with the 76ers as a teammate of Moses Malone and Dr. J. Cheeks was less successful recently as he lasted less than a season as the coach of the Detroit Pistons.
Carlos Boozer – 35th pick in 2002. In 2010 Boozer signed a five-year, $80 million contract. He’s averaged 17.0 points and 10.0 rebounds over the course of his long career.
Jeff Hornacek – 46th pick in 1986. Hornacek shot 40 per cent from beyond the arc for 14 seasons. He also nailed over half of his shots from the field and was 88 per cent accurate from the free throw line.
Marc Gasol – 48th pick in 2007. Gasol was the 2012-13 defensive player of the year. Pau’s little brother has also averaged 13.3 points and 8.0 boards over his career.
So I guess that I’ve proven myself wrong and right at the same time. There are diamonds in the rough to be found in the latter part of the NBA draft, but all-time greats? Your best bet is to find them in the top ten.
Exactly what we anticipated.
Whatever I said earlier in the week about the top three picks still holds true.
There were no surprises here. The only potential bombshell at the top end of the draft would have been for Cleveland or Milwaukee to overlook Embiid’s foot troubles and roll the dice on the seven-foot big man. But no, he went third to Philly as expected.
The Cavs selected SF Andrew Wiggins out of Kansas and will now cross their fingers that this time around they made the right choice by taking yet another Canadian with the top overall pick.
But Wiggins should be court-ready. He broke a Kansas freshman-scoring record by averaging 17.1 points per game.
And who knows, perhaps with a fellow Canuck on the team and a full healthy off-season to prepare, Anthony Bennett just might break out in his second year.
At number two the Bucks got their guy in Jabari Parker. The all-American freshman for the Duke Blue Devils is probably the most NBA ready prospect in this draft. He’ll make an immediate impact and he actually seems to be happy to be heading to Milwaukee as he’ll be playing near to his family in Chicago.
The Sixers must now wait and see. Did they score the steal of the draft with Joel Embiid at #3? Or will the red flags flying over his injury concerns come back to bite them?
Jumping up the draft board.
I had Orlando going international and taking Australian guard Dante Exum, but instead they snagged defensive specialist PF Aaron Gordon out of Arizona. Gordon was slated for a later selection but he’s still widely seen as a top ten talent.
While Gordon may not put up huge offensive numbers right off the bat, he’s a safe pick because of his work ethic and athleticism. I was a little surprised to see the Magic go in this direction, but it’s not a reach at all talent wise.
With Orlando passing on Exum, he went next at #5 to Utah. The Jazz also scored a potential steal with the 23rd pick when they selected Rodney Hood from Duke. Hood was the Blue Devils’ team captain and averaged 16.1 points per night last season. By picking up two players who had been expected to go higher in the draft, Utah should be poised to make strides in the upcoming NBA campaign.
Big picks after disappointing seasons.
Generally the Celtics and Lakers add top-shelf talent to their teams via free agency, but after missing out on the playoffs in 2014, both clubs enjoyed something they aren’t generally used to: a lottery pick.
Boston added PG Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State and Los Angeles went with PF Julius Randle out of Kentucky. I seriously doubt that we’ll see either of these teams selecting this early come draft time next year.
Rounding out the top ten.
Sacramento surprised some by taking Nik Stauskas out of Michigan with the eighth pick. There’s always a risk when taking a shooter because NBA game speeds can disrupt a shooter’s timing, but in a game that’s being played further and further away from the basket, it never hurts to have more players capable of draining jumpers from deep.
Noah Vonleh should be a good fit with Charlotte at nine. He’s got length for defense and he crashes the boards.
Philadelphia surprised Orlando by taking PG Elfrid Payton at #10. Payton must have been the Magic’s guy as they went on to trade the #12 pick, Croat Dario Saric, along with future first and second round picks to pry Payton away from the 76ers. It seems like a lot to give up to essentially move up three slots.
The Chicago Bulls need scoring.
The Bulls nearly made waves in the playoffs this season based purely on tough defense. In 2014-15 they’d like to put a few more points on the board.
Chicago gave up both the 16th and 19th pick to slide up to #11 for college player of the year Doug McDermott out of Creighton.
The trade makes sense as the Bulls are “closer” to being where they need to be than the Nuggets. Denver added a big man from Bosnia in Jusuf Nurkic and a shooter in Gary Harris out of Michigan State. It’s a great two-for-one deal for a team that’s rebuilding.
Other notable picks and trades.
Charlotte and Miami swapped picks in a deal that sent Shabazz Napier to the Heat and P.J. Hairston to the Hornets.
Hairston is a shooter that matches the Hornets’ system. It’s rumoured that Napier was selected to appease LeBron James and encourage him to stick with the Heat.
Earlier this week both King James and Carmelo Anthony opted out of their contracts and into free agency. Should the two decide to shack up somewhere together, they’ll definitely send a ripple through the league dynamic.
The Suns took Bogdan Bogdanovich from Serbia at #27. What a cool name. But all jokes aside, he’s got quite a bit of upside as a 6’6” sharp-shooting guard.
And finally, let’s look at what the champs did.
With the final pick in the first round the San Antonio Spurs took PF Kyle Anderson out of UCLA.
What exactly do the Spurs plan on doing with yet another guy who can pass and shoot?
Hmm – defend their title, perhaps?
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