The NBA draft as a whole is a crapshoot. For every Lebron James a team drafts, there are 10 guys who do not last long enough in the NBA to get their second contract. Stars are hard to come by even if you have the #1 pick in the draft, and they are harder to find as the draft winds on. But some teams have hit paydirt late in the draft.
Most fans usually do not pay attention to the draft beyond the first round. After that point, the players picked rarely make an impact in the NBA. From 2010 until 2020 only 3 first-round draft picks have not played in the NBA; Livio Jean-Charles, Nikola Milutinov, and Leandro Bolmaro. Bolmaro, a first-rounder by the Thunder in 2020 will likely make his NBA debut in a few seasons. First-rounder plays in the NBA because of guaranteed contracts, but even before guaranteed contracts it was rare for a first-rounder not to play in the NBA. In the entire history of the NBA, only 31 first-round picks have never played in the NBA. Out of those 31 picks, 22 are before the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, and most of those were back in the days when getting a job at a bank would likely earn you a higher income than being an NBA player.
Second-round picks do not enjoy an automatically guaranteed contract like their first-round counterparts, they have to earn the guaranteed money. While it is true some second-round picks do earn a guaranteed contract, most do not and very few even have an assurance that they will get a roster spot. So this creates a problem where a player may choose to play in other leagues because the money is guaranteed. There is also the issue of talent. Most 2nd rounders are simply not as talented as their first-round brethren.
In all of NBA history, there are only a handful of players not drafted in the first round to make an NBA all-star team, and only 2 to ever win an MVP award and one of those was a 2nd round pick when the first round had 8 picks. So the talent drop-off also is a factor.
But some second-round picks persevere and become very good players, some become contributors, some semi-stars, some stars, and one an MVP.
Honorable Mentions: Jeremy Evans, Chandler Parsons, Mike Scott, Will Barton, Mike Muscala
#15. E’Twaun Moore #55 in 2011
Moore is an oftentimes forgotten role player, but he has notched out a role in the NBA as one of the best backup point guards in the NBA.
He has bounced around to a lot of teams and has been a contributor on every one of them. He has been a key contributor on three deep playoff runs for Boston, New Orleans, and Phoenix
14. Mitchell Robinson #36 2018
A player who will likely move up the rankings, Mitchell Robinson has become one of the better shot blockers in the NBA. The Knicks see him as part of their future, though his 2020-21 season was cut short by injury.
In just three short seasons in the NBA Robinson has made an impact and is one of the few second-round picks to ever make an all-rookie squad doing so in 2019.
13. Hassan Whiteside #33 in 2010
Whiteside has had a tortuous NBA career, especially in his stints in Sacramento. Originally a pick of the Kings he played 2 very uninspiring seasons there before falling out of the NBA altogether.
He played two seasons overseason before joining the Miami Heat in 2014. As a member of the Heat, Whiteside became one of the best centers in the NBA and a borderline all-star.
He was a two-time block champion, a member of the all-defensive team, and total rebounds champion.
His production began to fall off after the addition of Bam Adebayo and he was traded to the Portland Trailblazers.
He played well in his one season with the Blazer before rejoining the Kings and has since fallen off. he is only 31 years old so he should be able to have a few more seasons in the NBA
12. Norman Powell #46 in 2016
Powell a draft pick of the Raptors started off like most 2nd round picks, just barely getting minutes. But as the seasons wore on Powell became a more important part to a very good Raptors team.
He was a key component to the Raptors 2019 NBA championship backing up Kawhi Leonard.
In 2020 he was traded to the Blazers as the Raptors began to rebuild.
11. Lance Stephenson #40 in 2010
Stephenson has had a rocky NBA career. His attitude often leads him to have issues with coaches and is sometimes seen as uncoachable.
His best seasons came with the Indiana Pacers and he got a reputation as a hard-nosed defender in some epic series with the Miami Heat.
Stephenson left the Pacers when the Charlotte Hornets offered him a massive contract and he began his journey of getting bounced around the league.
From 2014 until 2019 he went from Charlotte to Memphis to New Orleans, to the Clippers to Minnesota, back to Indiana, and finally the Lakers.
He is still trying to find his way back into the NBA, but as he gets older that may be unattainable.
10. Jae Crowder #34 in 2012
One of the best role players in the NBA, he has had huge playoff moments for a lot of teams and has now made the finals with 2 different NBA franchises.
Originally a 2nd round pick of the Dallas Mavericks, he was a throw-in piece in a trade with the Boston Celtics. He flourished with the Celtics and helped them reach the NBA finals. He also had his best seasons statistically with the Celtics.
He was traded with the widely popular Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving but spent only a few months with the Cavs before being traded to the Utah Jazz. He again flourished with the Jazz and helped them make a deep playoff run in 2018.
After two seasons in Utah, he was traded to Memphis for Mike Conley. He lasted in Memphis for only a few months and was traded to Miami. He was part of the Miami bubble team that made the NBA finals, and he had one of the greatest shooting performances in NBA playoff history up until the finals.
He joined the Suns prior to the 2021 season and made another finals run with them.
9. Jordan Clarkson #46 in 2014
The 2021 sixth-man of the year was a pick by the Lakers. He had solid few seasons with the Lakers before he was moved to the Cavaliers.
He had a finals run with the Cavs but was widely seen as a chucker. After Lebron’s departure and the Cavs were forced to rebuild once again he was dealt to the Utah Jazz.
As a member of the Jazz he has become one of the best 6th men in the NBA. He has found a role that fits him and he helped the Jazz to their deepest playoff run since 2007 in 2021.
8. Bojan Bogdanovic #31 in 2011
Clarkson’s teammate Bogdanovic was not always seen as a top-tier player. His rights got bounced around for three years before he finally joined the NBA, and when he did he was a bench player for the Nets.
He began to show more and more and the Nets worried that they might lose him, dealt him to the Wizards.
Bogey did not last long with the Wizards and after half a season signed with the Indiana Pacers. he played two very good seasons with the Pacers before joining the Jazz.
He had his best season in 2020 averaging over 20 points a game, but a wrist injury ended his season during the pandemic lockdown.
7. Montrezl Harrell #32 in 2015
Trez is one of the best backup bigs in the NBA. A former 6th man of the year winner he was originally a pick by the Rockets.
Trez played sparingly for the Rockets his first two years but was one of the key assets traded by them for Chris Paul.
He found his spot in LA, so much so that when he became a free agent in 2020 he joined the cross-town Lakers.
6. Spencer Dinwiddie #38 in 2014
It took Dinwiddie a couple of seasons to find his footing in the NBA. He was an average player his first two seasons with the Pistons. it was not until he joined the Brooklyn Nets that he started to see success.
As a member of the Nets he became the focus of the offense and in 2020 averaged over 20 points a game. His 2021 season was cut short by an injury.
5. Malcolm Brogdon #36 in 2016
The 2016 draft class was largely terrible, though it has gotten better, but one of its bright spots was Malcolm Brogdon. He had a solid rookie year becoming the first and thus far only 2nd round pick to win rookie of the year honors.
Brogdon played three very solid years with the Bucks before joining the Indiana Pacers in 2019.
Initially struggling with the Pacers, Brogdon found his groove late in the season and started showing his potential.
His best season was the 2021 season where he averaged over 21 points per game and was talked about as being an all-star.
4. Draymond Green #35 in 2012
One of the most versatile players in NBA history, Green was passed up by almost every team in the NBA in 2021. It was thought that he was too small to be effective, but he has proven them wrong.
Individually Green is not the best player, but he is the quintessential teammate and facilitator type. He is a very good defender, rebounder, shot-blocker, and is fairly decent on offense.
He is a six-time member of the all-defense team, a 3 time NBA champion, a 3-time all-star, and the 2017 defensive player of the year. He is also a likely hall-of-Famer.
3. Kris Middleton #39 in 2012
Another player who took a little while before he found stardom. Originally a pick by the Pistons, Middleton played sparingly for the Pistons his rookie season before being traded to the Bucks.
He found success with the Bucks originally as a role player and then eventually as a primary scorer.
An injury kept him out of most of the 2017 season and that is when Giannis really took over as the #1 option for the Bucks. The two however formed one of the best scoring duos in the NBA.
He is a two-time all-star who has shown up in clutch situations for the Bucks and helped them win their first title since 2021.
2. Isaiah Thomas #60 in 2011
The last pick in the 2011 draft, Thomas was seen as one of the greatest late drafts picks in league history. He burst onto the scene early in his rookie season and took over the starting jobs.
He signed with the Suns after three years with the Kings but was inexplicably traded to the Celtics after half a season.
It was with the Celtics he hit his stride. He was a two-time all-star and a candidate for MVP. The Celtics were favorites to win the title before a hip injury derailed that he pretty much his career.
Since than he has bounced around still trying to reclaim his former glory. Since the Boston, at the end of the 2017 season, he has played in only 85 games.
1. Nikola Jokic #41 in 2014
The Joker was little thought when he was drafted in 2014, In fact, ESPN was on commercial break when his pick was announced and they hardly mentioned him.
He came on slowly, but the greatness was there. He quickly became Denver’s starting center and than an all-star.
He had his best season in 2021 averaging 26 points a game and becoming the 2nd second-round pick behind Willis Reed to ever win the MVP award.