Willis Reed was drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft. So were Alex English and Dennis Johnson. Ditto Bill Sharman and Tiny Archibald. Each of the aforementioned players is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Heck, Sharman got in twice – first as a player and then as a coach.
So, while they all technically lasted until the second round of their respective NBA Drafts, they really weren’t second round-type talents. But don’t blame the scouts; they weren’t at fault. Rather, these legends played during the NBA’s pre-expansion era. Reed was selected with the 10th pick (in today’s NBA’s, a Lottery selection) in 1964; English went 23rd and Johnson 29th in 1976; Sharman went 17th in 1950; and Archibald went 17th in 1970.
Today, the NBA is a league of 30 teams split into six divisions. The NBA Draft has been cut to two rounds, and in drafts in which all 30 teams have retained a first-round pick, a player doesn’t get the second-round label – and far less guaranteed money than his first-round brethren – until pick 31. So, when a future Hall of Famer like Manu Ginobili has to hear 56 names called before his … yeah, you can blame 29 team scouting departments for that slight. Other times, however, a player’s true potential remains hidden until he reaches the NBA.
With the global basketball talent pool expanding seemingly exponentially, the NBA is increasingly seeing players that lasted until the second round developing into bona-fide stars. Following are the NBA’s ten best second-round players in order of their 2013-14 salaries.
10. Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings, 2013-14 Salary: $884,293
Thomas was this close to beginning his professional basketball career overseas or in the NBA D-League. Then the Kings saved him from obscurity with the 60th and final pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. Who’s kidding who, the final selection of the NBA Draft defines obscurity. Unless, that is, you are Isaiah Thomas. Then, apparently, you are destined to start in the NBA. This season, the player who literally was picked last, is averaging 20.5 points, 6.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.37 steals and 34.8 minutes. Thomas has scored in double figures in 63 games, recorded 20 or more points in 41, and tallied at least 30 points in four. He has dished out 10 or more assists in six games. Standing only 5-9, Thomas has paced team in scoring in 16 games, and in assists in 52 games.