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Ranking the 5 Best Second-Round Picks in NBA Draft History

| October 29, 2021 7:32 am PDT

Because the NBA is such a star-driven league, all eyes are on the first round of the NBA Draft every year. Once the second round rolls around, fans seem to lose interest.

While most superstars do get picked in the first round, plenty of stars have come from the second round. These guys exceeded their expectations in ways no one thought they would.

On top of that, these second-round picks offered elite value to the team that drafted them. Who’s included in the best second-round NBA Draft picks of all time? Check out my top-5 rankings to find out.

5. Paul Millsap

Paul Millsap had a very successful college career at Louisiana Tech. In three seasons, he averaged 18.6 points and 12.7 rebounds.

The Utah Jazz selected Millsap with the 47th pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. The 6’7” power forward spent the first seven years of his career with the Jazz.

He took on a bench role during his first four seasons but became the full-time starter from 2010 until 2013. In those three seasons, he averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Following the 2013 season, Millsap signed with the Atlanta Hawks. The move turned out to be the best of his career. He made the All-Star game in all four of his seasons with the team.

He played an integral role in the Hawks’ 60-22 record in the 2014-2015 season.

Millsap’s Cumulative Stats During His Four Seasons in Atlanta
  • 17.5 points
  • 8.3 rebounds
  • 3.3 assists
  • 1.7 steals
  • 46.2 field goal percentage
  • 33.6 three-point percentage

After four seasons in Atlanta, Millsap signed with the Denver Nuggets and has spent the last four seasons with the team. While he’s not the same player he was in his prime, Millsap still managed to put up solid numbers on a consistent playoff team.

Millsap shot over 45 percent in all four seasons with the Nuggets. He also shot a career-high 43.5 percent from the three-point range in the 2019-2020 season.

He has made the playoffs in 12 of his 15 seasons, and his outside shooting and inside presence made him a top power forward at his peak.

It’s safe to say that Millsap has already exceeded expectations and will go down as one of the best NBA Draft second-round picks ever.

4. Draymond Green

Draymond Green’s value is hard to determine when you look at his stat sheet. He has never scored more than 15 points a game in a season in his career and never shot above 50 percent.

However, Green was a key member of the Golden State Warriors dynasty in the 2010s.

The Warriors drafted Green 35th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. During his rookie season, he didn’t get much playing time and barely played over 20 minutes in his second season. However, Golden State upped its usage in the 2014-2015 season.

He played 31 minutes per game, averaging 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds. The Warriors won their first championship that season, with Green averaging a double-double in 21 playoff games.

In 2015-2016, Green had the best season of his career. He made his first of three consecutive All-Star appearances and made the All-NBA Second Team.

Check out Green’s numbers with his career highs in bold
  • 14.0 points
  • 9.5 rebounds
  • 7.4 assists
  • 1.5 steals
  • 1.4 blocks
  • 49.0 field goal percentage
  • 38.8 three-point percentage

Most of Green’s numbers dipped over the next two seasons, though he still made the All-Star team and won the NBA Finals. Green did win Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 thanks to a league-leading 2.0 steals per game and 1.4 blocks per game.

His career numbers probably don’t look great, but he is one of the top defenders year in and year out. It’s impressive to see a 6’6” power forward cover any position on the court.

There’s no doubt he played a big hand in the Warriors’ three championships in four seasons. In fact, he had a hand in one of the best NBA Finals series we’ve ever seen.

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3. Marc Gasol

I’m sure many people don’t remember, but there was a time when Marc Gasol was one of the top centers in the NBA. Gasol initially played in Spain before joining the NBA.

The Los Angeles Lakers originally drafted Gasol with the 48th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. The Memphis Grizzlies acquired his draft rights for a package that included his brother, Pau.

Gasol was a threat in the NBA from the start. He started 75 games his rookie season, averaging 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. In the following season, he set career highs in rebounds per game (9.3) and field goal percentage (58.1).

He had his first of three All-Star game appearances in 2012. His big impact that season was on the defensive end, as he averaged a career-best 1.9 blocks per game. In 2013, he won Defensive Player of the Year with 1.0 steals per game and 1.7 blocks per game.

After averaging 13.6 points in his first six seasons, Gasol upped that average to 17.7 points over the next four seasons. His other two All-Star game appearances came in 2015 and 2017.

Take a look at his stats from each season:

Stat 2014-2015 2016-2017
Points 17.4 19.5
Assists 3.8 4.6
Rebounds 7.8 6.3
Blocks 1.6 1.3

In the 2014-2015 season, Gasol made the All-NBA First Team.

The Toronto Raptors acquired Gasol during the 2018-2019 season, and he shot 44.2 percent from three-point range in his 26 games with the Raptors. Both the team and Gasol won their first NBA championship.

He was also a big contributor in the postseason throughout his career, averaging at least 15 points in all six playoff appearances with the Grizzlies.

His achievements are better than most when it comes to second-round picks.

2. Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili was a key cog in the San Antonio Spurs dynasty throughout the 2000s and into the 2010s. Most saw him as the third member of the big three, along with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

However, I think it’s fair to say that the dynasty couldn’t have happened without Ginobili.

The Spurs drafted Ginobili 57th overall in a 58-player draft in 1999. He spent three seasons playing in Italy before joining the Spurs in 2002.

He only played 20 minutes a game, but his role grew during the Spurs championship run. Ginobili averaged 9.7 points, and 1.7 steals in the postseason.

Ginobili arguably had the best defensive season of his career in his second season. He averaged a career-high 1.8 steals per game.

In each of his next eight seasons, Ginobili had a player efficiency rating over 20. For reference, the league average is 15. He made his first of two playoff appearances in 2005, and the Spurs went on to win the Championship that season, with Ginobili averaging 20.8 points. 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists in the playoffs.

Despite not making the All-Star game, the 2007-2008 season may have been the best of Ginobili’s career.

Check out some of Ginobili’s numbers
  • 19.5 points
  • 4.8 rebounds
  • 4.5 assists
  • 1.5 steals
  • 40.1 three-point percentage

His points and rebound numbers were both career highs that season. He also won Sixth Man of the Year and made the All-NBA third team.

He made his final All-Star game appearance in 2011. The following season, he set career highs in field goal percentage (52.6) and three-point percentage (41.3).

In the final six seasons of his career, Ginobili’s numbers slipped. However, he won his fourth championship in 2014.

Following a 16-year career with the Spurs, Ginobili retired in 2018. He finished his career averaging 13.3 points, 3.8 assists, and 1.3 steals. His playoff stats look even better at 14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists.

Ginobili’s NBA career wasn’t the flashiest, but he’ll go down as one of the best international players and Sixth Men the league has ever seen.

He’s also undeniably one of the best second-round picks in NBA Draft history.

1. Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic is the youngest player on this list. However, the seven-footer has something that no other second-round pick has. Keep reading if you want to find out what that is.

The Denver Nuggets drafted Jokic with the 41st pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Jokic spent the 2014 season in Serbia before joining the Nuggets in 2015.

He averaged ten points and seven rebounds in his rookie season. He earned more minutes in the 2016-2017 season because of his shooting.

He shot a career-high 57.7 percent from the field, and the following season, he shot a career-high 39.6 percent from three-point range. He also averaged a double-double for the first time in his career.

Over his last three seasons, Jokic has become one of the best players in the league. Check out his regular-season numbers from 2018-2021.

Stats 2018-2019 2019-2020 2020-2021
Points 20.1 19.9 26.4
Rebounds 10.8 9.7 10.8
Assists 7.3 7.0 8.3
Steals 1.4 1.2 1.3
Field Goal % 51.1 52.8 56.6
Three-Point % 30.7 31.4 38.8

It’s not surprising to learn that Jokic made the All-Star game in each season. He has quickly established himself as a top-three center in the NBA.

In 2020, Jokic became the first second-round pick in NBA history to win MVP. He was also the first center to win the award since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.

As great as Jokic has been in the regular season, his playoff stats are better. In 43 playoff games, he has averaged 25.9 points and 11.3 rebounds, shooting 40.6 percent from the three-point range.

Jokic’s skillset is unbelievable for a seven-footer. He passes like a point guard, shoots like a shooting guard, and dominates the paint like a center. I think you can tell why he is number one on my list.

Other Great Second Round NBA Draft Picks

  • Gilbert Arenas
  • Lou Williams
  • Toni Kukoc

In his prime, Gilbert Arenas was one of the best players in the league. He made the All-Star game in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Over that stretch, he averaged 27.3 points. Unfortunately, injuries derailed much of his career.

Lou Williams is arguably the greatest Sixth Man in NBA history. The three-time award winner averaged over 20 points twice in his 16-year career.

Toni Kukoc never received the attention that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen got. However, Kukoc played an integral role in the Bulls’ second three-peat. Kukoc entered the Hall of Fame in 2021.

These are easily some of the better second-round NBA Draft picks, but the top-5 I broke down are the cream of the crop.

Every draft brings a new opportunity for players to surpass expectations, and it’s always worth debating who the best 2nd round picks are, as well as who could come next.

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Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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