Come NBA Draft night, all eyes are usually on the first round picks, as these are the players that scouts and coaches have believed to be the cream of the crop. Although a lot of NBA superstars are commonly drafted in the first round, it is worth noting that there are a handful of second rounders that proved to the world that they not only have a place in the NBA, but also have the ability to dominate the league. In fact, some of these second round picks have emerged to become star players of their teams.
Players drafted in the second round may not be the most highly touted players during NBA Draft night. However at the end of the day, how players enter the league is simply the beginning of their NBA chapter. What counts the most is how they performed in the league in terms of statistics and accolades.
For the past decade, we’ve seen a great number of second rounders that have stepped up for their teams. Because of this, let’s rank the top 10 second picks of the past decade.
Some players that barely made the cut are Knicks big man DeAndre Jordan, retired Carlos Boozer, and former Spurs guard Manu Ginobili. Ginobili would’ve easily made this list in terms of the best second round picks of all-time. However during the past decade, the numbers of the 6’6 guard saw his numbers dwindle. Nevertheless, Ginobili still deserves to be part of the honorable mention in this piece because of his impactful career.
10. Montrezl Harrell
Draft Selection: Round 2, 32nd Overall Pick by Houston Rockets in 2015
Career Stats: 12.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.9 blocks, 0.6 steals
Awards: 1x Sixth Man of the Year
Montrezl Harrell may not be the modern big man who can shoot from long range or bring the ball down like a skilled big man. However, he is a dependable big man who can crash the boards, block some shots, and finish around the rim with authority. Despite being undersized, Harrell has been a great piece in the Clippers’ rotation, especially off the bench.
The Louisville standout wasn’t a highly recruited player out of high school as he ranked 85th. NBA scouts also didn’t see him as a first round pick after a decent stint in college as he averaged 11.6 points and 6.9 boards per outing in three seasons.
Harrell struggled in his first few seasons in the league. With the Houston Rockets, Harrell only mustered 6.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in limited minutes. He did show flashes during his sophomore year, however his breakout came in his stint with the Clippers.
In the 2017-2018 season, Harrell often found himself scoring in double figures in just 17 minutes per outing. For the first time in his career, he averaged 11.0 points and 4.0 boards per game. With the Clippers breaking their superstar trio of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, Harrell found a niche in the rebuilding Clippers roster.
The Clippers center only got better from that season, as he even dropped 30 points against his former team when the Los Angeles Clippers took home a 133-113 victory against the Houston Rockets. Harrell was also steady in his first playoff appearance in 2019, as he registered 18.3 points and 5.5 boards per game in a series against the Warriors that needed six games.
Harrell proved to become one of the best second round picks in the league just in the recently concluded season, as he was declared the Sixth Man of the Year to start the new decade. During the 2019-2020 season, he put up career highs in points and rebounds. He scored 18.6 points per game and grabbed 7.1 boards per outing alongside the superstar duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
With the reigning Sixth Man of the Year entering free agency this year, there’s no question that teams contending for a championship should try to sign Harrell if they’re looking for an athletic big man who provide hustle plays and thunderous dunks. Harrell is still young at age 26 and could still achieve a lot more in his career. But for now, he sits at the 10th spot of this list.
9. Danny Green
Draft Selection: Round 2, 46th Overall Pick by Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009
Career Stats: 8.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks
Awards: 3x NBA Champion, 1x NBA All-Defensive Second Team
Throughout NBA history, there’s not a lot of second round picks who have won three NBA championship rings while being a game changer for his team. As a knock down shooter and a reliable wing defender, Green has helped three different franchises reach the pinnacle of the NBA including the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, and recently with the Los Angeles Lakers. The only other players who replicated this feat are John Salley, Robert Horry, and Lakers teammate LeBron James.
Green’s sniping makes him a valuable asset on offense. Throughout his career, he has shot an efficient 40% from deep. One of his memorable moments came in 2013 while suiting up for the San Antonio Spurs. Green made seven of his nine three pointers, which was a record at that time, as he accumulated 27 points in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Although the Spurs failed to capture title that year, the UNC standout put everyone in the league on notice. Of course, Green would eventually capture his first ever NBA title in the succeeding NBA Finals.
The former Tar Heel’s shooting also came in handy in Game 3 of the 2019 NBA Finals. Green punished the Golden State Warriors as he scored 18 points, spiked by six three pointers in 10 attempts. His explosion would eventually lead the Raptors the franchise’s first NBA title and his second individually.
Aside from his torrid three point shooting, Green has proven to everyone that he can be an impressive wing defender, making him one of the best 3-and-D players in the league today. His defense was evident during the Laker’s championship run just this year as Green was the man in charge of slowing down the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, and Tyler Herro.
Although Green isn’t a superstar that can score 20 points every night, his 3-and-D skills make him a valuable player for any championship contending team.
8. Khris Middleton
Draft Selection: Round 2, 39th pick Overall by Detroit Pistons
Career Stats: 16.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks
Awards: 2x NBA All-Star
Aside from Danny Green another great 3-and-D player on this list is Khris Middleton. The Bucks swingman has served as a reliable second option behind 2019-2020 League MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the recent;y concluded season, Middleton had the best numbers of his career as he put up 20.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per outing.
Although Middleton has been tearing it up for the past two years, which merited two straight All-Star Game appearances, the Bucks swingman has been showcasing his talent ever since he suited up for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Middleton fell into the second round, despite having decent numbers in college as he registered 11.3 points per outing. However, a knee injury certainly forced the Bucks’ value to drop. In his time with the Pistons, Middleton was hardly utilized as he only appeared in 27 games. In limited action, he could only muster 6.1 points per outing. As a result, the Pistons let go of their second round pick after just one season.
According to Detroit Free Press, Middleton said “I knew it was going to be hard for me to find my way into the rotation…Once I heard about the trade, I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to be on the court and show what I can do.”
Fortunately, Middleton started to shine with the Bucks. At 6’8 with a long wingspan, he is a crucial piece in the Bucks rotation that has conquered the Eastern conference standings for two straight seasons.
Not a lot of second round picks can progress to become a starter and a second option of a team at that. Furthermore, Middleton has also appeared in two straight NBA All-Star games in the past decade.
7. Lou Williams
Draft Selection: Round 2, 45th Overall Pick by Philadelphia 76ers in 2005
Career Stats: 14.5 points, 3.5 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks
Awards: 3x NBA Sixth Man of the Year
Lou Williams is arguably one of the best sixth men in the NBA today, given that he has won the trophy three times in his career, winning the previous two before this year. In fact, Williams was a runner-up this year as his teammate Montrezl Harrell was declared as such.
Nevertheless, Williams deserves to be in the conversation when it comes to the best second rounders in the past decade. Like a spark plug, the 6’1 guard is a dangerous scorer off the bench that comes in handy for teams that are gunning for a deep playoff run to support their stars.
For the past decade, Williams has put up double-digit scoring for the teams he played for that included stopovers with the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and now with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Out of all the teams he played for, Williams is having his best seasons with the Clippers. In three seasons off the bench, the 6’1 guard has averaged 20.4 points, 5.4 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per outing. Those numbers only prove that Williams has shined brightly in the NBA stage. Despite being denied another Sixth Man award this year, there’s no question that you can count on opposing teams to throw their best defense on a dangerous scorer like Williams.
6. Paul Millsap
Draft Selection: Round 2, 47th Overall Pick by Denver Nuggets in 2006
Career Stats: 14.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks
Awards: 4x NBA All-Star, 1x NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 1x NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Versatile and defense oriented big men are great players to have for any team. Because of this, there’s no doubt that Paul Millsap is one of the most solid big men we’ve seen in the past decade. The 6’7 power forward has been a consistent double-double threat for the teams he played for such as the Utah Jazz, Atlanta Hawks, and recently with the Denver Nuggets. In fact throughout his career, he has helped his teams reach the playoffs on 11 occasions.
His breakout season came in 2008-2009, when Jazz big man Carlos Boozer succumbed to injury. With Boozer out, Millsap wasted no time to fill the gap. After his first two subpar seasons in the league, the power forward averaged 13.5 points and 8.6 boards that season.
Although Millsap is currently no longer in his prime years, the Louisiana Tech standout was a force to be reckoned with during his days with the Atlanta Hawks. In his four year stay, he registered career highs in points and rebounds as he put up 17.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.3 dimes per game which only showed how versatile Millsap was. For opposing teams, they had to watch out for Millsap’s ability to shoot from long range and his potential to do some damage in the paint. Furthermore, his great decision making and high IQ also helps his teams execute well on offense which results in productive plays more often than not.
With Millsap entering free agency this year, there’s no doubt a championship contending team could make use of the four time All-Star’s services.
5. Goran Dragic
Draft Selection: Round 2, 45th Overall Pick by San Antonio Spurs in 2008
Career Stats: 13.9 points, 4.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks
Awards: 1x NBA All-Star, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 1x NBA Most Improved Player
When it comes to catquick scoring guards, there’s no doubt that Goran Dragić is one of the best in the league today. Despite struggling in his first few seasons in the NBA, the Slovenian guard was able to acclimate himself well in the NBA in his final season with the Houston Rockets. From then on, Dragić emerged to be a reliable All-Star guard that could punish defenders with his scoring abilities and passing skills that were no doubt guided by no other than former two time MVP Steve Nash.
In the past decade, Dragić has had productive stints with the Phoenix Suns and the Miami Heat. His time with the Suns saw him drop a career high 40 points in a victory against the New Orleans Pelicans, as The Dragon shot efficiently where he made 14 out of his 21 attempts. In a Suns uniform, the 2008 45th overall pick also took home the Most Improved Player Award in 2014.
Dragić emerged to be a legitimate guard for the Suns during his prime years. Now with the Heat serving as one of the veterans, there’s no question that the cat quick guard is just as productive in his new role. In his three season stint with the Heat so far, the one time All-Star has averaged 16.6 points and 5.3 assists per game. Furthermore, he has also helped the Heat make the Finals just this year before falling short to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately, Dragić wasn’t able to contribute much in the Finals as he could only play in Games 1 and 6 due to a torn plantar fascia. Nevertheless, the Slovenian All-Star was instrumental for this underdog Heat team during the NBA Bubble. In the 2020 Playoffs, The Dragon still put up 19.1 points and 4.4 assists per outing to compliment Heat star Jimmy Butler. If Dragić was healthy, who knows what the outcome could have been in the recently concluded 2020 NBA Finals. Nevertheless, The Dragon certainly deserves the recognition of his performances during the past decade.
4. Isaiah Thomas
Draft Selection: Round 2, 60th Overall Pick by Sacramento Kings in 2011
Career Stats: 18.1 points, 5.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks
Awards: 2x NBA All-Star, 1x All-NBA Second Team, 1x NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Underdog stories are certainly inspiring and there’s no doubt that one of the most successful underdogs in the NBA is Isaiah Thomas. The pint-sized guard had almost everything going against him. First of all, his height rendered him very undersized against the typical guard in the NBA as he stood at only 5 foot 9. Aside from this, Thomas barely made the draft as he was selected dead last in the 2011 NBA Draft.
However, Thomas never gave up. The 60th overall pick immediately made an impact for the Kings in his rookie year as he put up 11.5 points and 4.1 assists per outing. It is worth noting that his averages were even more productive compared to Kings’ first round pick that year in Jimmer Fredette, who was a hot shooting college sensation that was selected 10th overall. Despite playing behind Fredette, Thomas went on to reach various NBA milestones. Besides being part of the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, the pint-sized guard also achieved a triple double in a game against the Washington Wizards in 2014 where he logged in 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. With this triple double, Thomas became the shortest NBA player to achieve it. In that same season in a Kings uniform, the 5’9 guard averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists per outing, which placed him in the record books alongside Damon Stoudamire, Calvin Murphy, Dana Barron’s, and Michael Adams for players under 6’ to average at least 20 points and six assists.
For a player that was barely selected in the draft, Thomas had a storied career so far. Aside from the Kings, he also had stopovers with the Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, and the Washington Wizards. His best years came with the Celtics, where he achieved two All-Star game appearances and achieved career highs in terms of points and assists. In three seasons with the Celtics, he put up 24.7 points and 6.0 assists per outing. His time with the Celtics also saw him lead the franchise to three straight NBA Playoff appearances.
Although Thomas is currently without a team today and has been recently swarmed with injuries, there’s no doubt that his performances in the past decade were inspiring. Because of this, he deserves to be in the top five of this list. With Thomas reported to be healthy and entering free agency, it might not be long before we’ll see Thomas put up a scoring show in the NBA again.
3. Marc Gasol
Draft Selection: Round 2, 48th Overall Pick by Los Angeles Lakers in 2007
Career Stats: 14.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.9 steals
Awards: 1x NBA Champion, 3x NBA All-Star, 1x All-NBA First Team, 1x All-NBA Second Team, 1x NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 1x NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 1x NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Big men from Europe are definitely talented. Guys like Dirk Nowitzki, , Pau Gasol and his brother have certainly proved that. Coming into the NBA, Marc carried a lot of expectations brought about by the achievements of his older brother Pau. However, the younger Gasol definitely did not succumb to the pressure.
Just in his rookie year, the Lakers second round pick went to work as he scored 11.9 points and grabbed 7.4 boards per game which was enough for a spot in the All-Rookie Second Team. Standing at 6’11, the Spanish big man was certainly a great asset utilized by the Memphis Grizzlies as a rim protector and a major presence in the paint.
In the early part of the past decade, Gasol was outright dominant for the Grizzlies as he led the team in field goal percentage, while also breaking in the top 10 franchise leaders in terms of blocks, free throws made, and rebounds.
A big contribution by Marc was during the 2011 NBA Playoffs, where he helped the Grizzlies cap a 13 game winning streak. Furthermore, Gasol would be a vital cog in helping the team pull off a series upset against the number one seeded San Antonio Spurs in six games during the first round. Gasol averaged 14.2 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game in that series before succumbing to Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round which needed seven games to decide which team would advance.
Despite a disappointing exit, the Spanish center continued to shine brightly as he was selected as one of the Western All-Stars in 2012. Afterwards in 2013, he was crowned as the Defensive Player of the Year. The Spanish sensation continued to perform well for the Grizzlies, with Gasol declared as an All-Star in two more occasions. The 2016-2017 season was arguably the best individually for his career which saw him put up a career best 19.5 points while showcasing his playmaking abilities by dishing out 4.6 assists per outing.
Despite being a game changing big man for the Grizzlies, Gasol wouldn’t stay long with the franchise. The 6’11 big man was eventually shipped to the Toronto Raptors just the season after becoming the franchise’s all time rebounding leader.
Luckily for Gasol, he found himself on a championship contending Toronto Raptors in 2019. In his first stint with the Raptors, the newly acquired big man was a perfect fit since he had smart decision making skills while being a reliable anchor in the paint. Even if Gasol was no longer in his prime years, he gave a good account of himself for his new team in the playoffs. In the 2019 NBA Playoffs, he put up 9.4 points and 6.4 boards per outing. He was also instrumental in the NBA Finals, which saw him explode for 20 points in a Game 1 victory against the Golden State Warriors that set the tone for the series.
As history would have it, Gasol would help the Raptors dethrone the Golden State Warriors and give the franchise its first ever NBA championship. Individually, there’s not a lot of second picks that has achieved what Marc Gasol has done. As a result, he is no doubt one of the best second round picks we’ve seen in the past decade.
2. Draymond Green
Draft Selection: Round 2, 35th Overall Pick by Golden State Warriors in 2012
Career Stats: 9.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.1 blocks
Awards: 3x NBA Champion, 3x NBA All-Star, 1x All-NBA Second Team, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 1x NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 3x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 2x NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 1x League Leader in Steals
Arguably the most decorated player in this list, Draymond Green certainly emerged to become one of the greatest players in the league today. In the past decade, Green has been a focal point for the Warriors’ dominance. Despite not having a consistent shot from beyond the arc, unlike his teammates in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors power forward makes up for it with his lockdown defense, hustle, and playmaking abilities. Because of Green, the Warriors have a skilled big that compliments well with its shooters.
Although Green struggled mightily for the most part of the 2019-2020 NBA regular season with injuries to Curry and Thompson, his presence to the team is of great value. He does a great job in terms of the intangibles such as diving for loose balls and limiting opposing star players on defense. In fact, Green has been a major reason why the Warriors have won three NBA championships at the expense of LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. The King himself has acknowledged that the undersized power forward is their anchor on defense.
Furthermore, there’s no doubt his all-around play makes the Warriors even more dangerous in the postseason. In Green’s playoff career, he almost averages a triple double. In seven appearances in the NBA Playoffs, he averages 12.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 6.1 dimes per outing.
Despite not being a highly touted first round pick, Green certainly made a huge impact in the league. Although he isn’t the main face of the Warriors franchise, his hardwork and grit on the court during the past decade places him second in this list.
1. Nikola Jokic
Draft Selection: Round 2, 41st Overall Pick by Denver Nuggets in 2014
Career Stats: 17.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks
Awards: 2x NBA All-Star, 1x All-NBA First Team, 1x All-NBA Second Team, 1x NBA All-Rookie First Team
There’s hardly any explanation needed as to why Jokić tops this list. His all-around skills complimented with his size almost make him an unstoppable player on the court. He even makes a case to become the best big man we have in the NBA today due to his unique skillset. Just in the recently concluded 2019-2020 season, he put up 19.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 7.0 dimes per outing. The Joker is simply a walking triple double machine, as he was declared to be part of his second All-Star team and made the All-NBA Second Team this season. During the previous season, Jokić was even better as he put up career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. He averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.3 dimes per game which were no doubt superstar numbers.
Furthermore, he led the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs, which saw the team pull off two historic comebacks where they came back from a 1-3 deficit in the first and second rounds where they defeated the Utah Jazz and the heavily favored Los Angeles Clippers respectively who were led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. As a result, the Nuggets became the first team in league history to overcome a 1-3 deficit for more than one occasion during the same playoff season. Unfortunately, there were overpowered by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals with LeBron James and Anthony Davis spearheading the team. Nevertheless The Serbian star was a game changer and tough to handle during the 2020 NBA Playoffs, as he logged in 24.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists per outing.
Jokić simply put up a masterpiece during the past decade, as he surprised everyone with his magical passes and unbelievable shot making. In fact, his passing skills is unmatched among big men, with him averaging 7.1 dimes per outing for the past two seasons. With him still just at age 25, there’s no doubt we have yet to see the prime version of the Serbian big man. Who knows, this second round pick might just take over the league in a few years.