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Top Second-Round Picks in NBA History

Marc Gasol is one of the best second-round picks ever, but there have been others that were even more impressive.

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When it comes to the NBA Draft, second-round value is really hard to find. While it’s true that there have been some stars who have come out of the second round, it’s much more common that these players don’t even make the opening-day rosters for the teams that select them.

Knowing all that, let’s have a look at the most successful second-round picks of the modern era, and by “modern era” we’re talking about the last 30 years. Die-hard draft fans will notice the absence of players like Willis Reed and Hal Greer, but while these guys were technically second-rounders, they were drafted at a time when there were a lot fewer picks in the draft itself. Reed and Greer were the 10th and 13th picks off the board their respective years, which is the equivalent of being a lottery pick by today’s standards.

We’re going to look at this list more as players who were severely underestimated and taken much later than entirely too many other guys who turned out to be nowhere near as good as them. All that said, here are the top second-round draft picks of the last three decades:

#5: Manu Ginobili (57th pick, 1999) – Ginobili has had an amazing career in San Antonio, winning four rings spread out over 12 NBA seasons. He has also been named Sixth Man of the Year (2008) and appeared on a couple of All-Star teams (2008 and 2011). His career 14.7 PPG doesn’t leap off the page, but he’s always been more about the big minutes than the long-haul of a full 82-game season. Ginobili has had an outstanding career in San Antonio after slipping all the way to No. 57 on draft night.

#4: Marc Gasol (48th pick, 2007) – While still rather young, Gasol already looks like one of the bigger steals on this list. In just six seasons in the NBA, Gasol has never failed to average fewer than 11 points or seven rebounds in a season. Not to mention, in 2012-13 he was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year because of his ability to anchor one of the league’s best defensive teams that year. He was an All-Star in 2012 and a member of the All-NBA Second Team in 2013, but at age 29, with his skill set, there will be plenty more opportunities for him to add to that already-impressive resume.

#3: Mark Price (25th pick, 1986) – Price was a four-time All-Star who could shoot the lights out when things were going well for him, which is a big reason why he was able to win two three-point competitions in his heyday. Of course, that’s not what made him a great NBA player; in eight of his first nine seasons, he scored at least 15.8 PPG and ultimately averaged 15.2 PPG over the course of his 12-year career. In 1989, he joined the 50/40/90 club, and he was named to the All-NBA First Team in 1993. He was definitely a steal at 25th overall, which in 1986 was the first pick of the second round.

#2: Gilbert Arenas (30th pick, 2001) – It’s sad that we remember Arenas for his questionable personal decisions and bloated final contract, because in his prime he was a prolific scorer and certainly one of the best entertainers of his era. While he averaged over 20 PPG for his career, his peak hit from 2004-2007, where he averaged 25.5, 29.3 and 28.4 PPG in consecutive seasons. Predictably, those were the three years he was voted to the All-Star team and All-NBA Teams (two Third-Teams and a Second-Team). The Wizards built their team around this guy in the mid-aughts, having paid good money to pry the former second-round pick away from the Golden State Warriors, who were savvy enough to draft him at the top of the second round.

#1: Dennis Rodman (27th pick, 1986) – While Rodman only averaged double-digit points once in his career, he did average 13.1 RPG over the course of his career, which included two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, seven All-Defensive First Team nominations (and one Second-Team nod), seven rebounding titles, two All-Star appearances and five championship rings. He was one of the most dominant rebounders and defenders of all-time, yet he wasn’t worth a first-round pick. Offense isn’t everything, as Rodman proved throughout his career.

Honorable Mention:

Jeff Hornacek (46th pick, 1986) – Taken two picks from the back-end of the 1986 draft, Hornacek ended up having himself quite a playing career in Philadelphia, Phoenix and Utah. For his career, he shot an amazingly efficient 49.6% from the field, 40.3% from deep and 87.7% from the free-throw line, giving him more than enough opportunities to contribute on some really good teams. He was even named to the All-Star team in 1992 and won a couple of three-point shoot-outs.

Carlos Boozer (35th pick, 2002) – Right now it seems like all Bulls fans want is to see Boozer amnestied, but he’s been a remarkably consistent player over the course of a long and fruitful career, all of which is pretty incredible considering he was a second-round pick. Coming out of Duke, Boozer was a known commodity, but he was “too short” to play power forward in the NBA and slipped. To prove his doubters wrong, Boozer has averaged 16.6 PPG and 9.8 RPG for his career, averaging double-doubles in five different seasons. He made two All-Star teams as a member of the Utah Jazz and was named to the All-NBA Third Team in 2008.

Monta Ellis (40th pick, 2005) – After his first two seasons in the league, Ellis has always averaged over 19 PPG, proving his status as one of the league’s most consistently potent scorers.

Michael Redd (43rd pick, 2000) – Really the only star Milwaukee has enjoyed since Ray Allen left town eons ago, Redd had a string of six straight seasons in which he averaged at least 21 PPG. During that time he made an All-Star team and an All-NBA Third Team (both in 2004).

Paul Millsap (47th pick, 2006) – Perennially underrated, Millsap has averaged 13.1 PPG and 7.2 RPG for his career. He’s only 6’8, which makes those numbers even more impressive. He made his first All-Star team in 2014, rewarding a very late pick who has done very good things nearly every year he’s been in the league.

Toni Kukoc (29th pick, 1990) – A key cog to Chicago’s second trio of championships in the ‘90s, Kukoc had a strong resume before making the jump to the NBA. His best season came the year after Michael Jordan retired and Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson moved on, but he was always good for 12-16 PPG during the championship years and was a consummate team player on a roster with two first-ballot Hall-of-Famers.

Rashard Lewis (32nd pick, 1998) – It’s hardly fair to call Lewis a steal since he was invited to the green room back in 1998, but despite his historic tumble he still managed to have a really good career, culminating in a couple of Finals appearances and a massive $118 contract, one of the 10 largest deals in league history.

Teams will scour to find the next big second-round bargain in this year’s draft, but outside of 1986 it’s hard to find more than one of those every few years. This list shows the best of those late picks and proves just how hard it is to find a diamond that late in the draft.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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