After the Lottery: Part II
In Part I, we talked about strategies that GMs take coming into the draft when there’s no clear-cut choice at their draft position. Now, let’s take a look at how these strategies have paid off in the past, and the players that current GMs should be paying attention to outside of the lottery.
Best Players Picked Outside the Lottery – Past Five Drafts
[img_assist|nid=1266|title=Al Jefferson|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=429] Al Jefferson (15th in 2004) – This pick paid off for two teams. Minnesota got its first taste of the 20 and 10 Big Al will be putting up on a nightly basis while the Celtics used him to acquire a culture-changing Hall of Famer that led them to a title in his first year in Boston. Not bad for a 15th pick.
Kevin Martin (26th in 2004) – Despite having Cuttino Mobley, Doug Christie, and Bobby Jackson spending time at the 2, the Kings picked for the future and drafted the best player available. It paid off, as Martin scored 24 per game this past season while shooting over 40% from 3 and 85% from the line.
Josh Smith (16th in 2004) – Another “best player available” choice, Atlanta took smith just outside the lottery after taking fellow small forward Josh Childress with the sixth overall pick. While Childress has become a solid NBA player, Smith has blossomed into an all-around star, averaging 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game.
* The 2004 Draft is a perfect example of the importance of drafting outside the lottery. While players like Rafael Araujo, Luke Jackson, Robert Swift, Sebastian Telfair, and Kris Humphries went in the first 14 picks, the first three players on this list went outside the lottery along with JR Smith, Jameer Nelson, Sasha Vujacic, and Delonte West, important contributors in their own right.
Josh Howard (29th in 2003) – The Mavericks grabbed the former ACC Player of the Year with the last pick of the first round, and he has become a star alongside Dirk Nowitzki, averaging 20 points and 7 rebounds last season.
David West (18th in 2003) - The power forward from Xavier was considered undersized for the NBA despite averaging 20 and 10 and being named a 1st team All-American in college. He was an All-Star last season in New Orleans averaging 21 and 9. Power forwards that went before him in the draft include Michael Sweetney, Nick Collison, and Zarko Cabarkapa.
Monta Ellis (40th in 2005) - Ellis is steadily becoming the Warriors franchise player. With Baron returning for one more year, he could be handing the torch to Ellis sooner than later as there's talk that teams may be discussing a deal for fear-the-beard-on-skates.
Players just missing the cut were Mo Williams (47th in 2003), Leandro Barbosa (28th in 2003), and Danny Granger (17th in 2005).
Rodney Stuckey (15th in 2007) prved what a clutch performer he was in just his rookie season during the playoffs. And Rajon Rondo (21st in 2006) has already won a ring as the starting PG for the Celtics.
Countless other players have been selected in the late first and second rounds and have found niches in the NBA. But that’s in the past. These are the players from this year’s draft class that haven’t gotten all the hype, but could end up making noise in the right situation, making some GMs look like geniuses and others look…well, you know.
Players I'd draft:
DeAndre Jordan – A former surefire Top-5 pick, he’s seen his stock take major hits recently. But his size, athleticism, and physical likeness to Dwight Howard means a team in the 20s could come away with lottery talent.
Darrell Arthur – Mock drafts as of late have had him all over the board, ranging from lottery to as low as 27th. However, his skills and big-game experience should serve to prove all the doubters that pass on him wrong.
Jason Thompson – Posting 20 and 10 on a nightly basis in the MAAC is not enough to be a guaranteed first-round choice. A team that ends up with Thompson (either late in the first or early in the second round) will get a versatile power forward with ball-handling skills, range on his jumper, and an NBA body. The perfect compliment for Dwight Howard in Orlando.
Mario Chalmers – With the lack of point guards in this draft, his first round status is all but certain. He could go as high as 15 to the Suns, but will more likely get drafted somewhere between picks 20 and 27. If his scoring ability, defensive tenacity, and clutch performing can translate to the NBA level, he’d be a steal that late.
Brandon Rush – It’s been reported that this Jayhawk will not slip past 15, but draft day is always full of surprises. A team like the Cavs can snag a weapon on the perimeter with good size and athleticism if he slips.
Courtney Lee – He’s got four years of college experience and can put the ball in the basket. Could be the Michael Redd of this draft if he slips to the second round, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely.
Bill Walker – Stayed in the draft despite a knee injury, which leads me to believe he has a first-round guarantee. Nevertheless, his talent and athleticism say he should go much higher than he probably will.
Joey Dorsey – Ben Wallace 2.0 will probably go in the second round but could be extremely valuable if he sticks to what he does well: defense, rebounding, and rim-rattling dunks.
DJ White/ Richard Hendrix – These players will surely be second round picks. Say hello to the candidates for the “Best Contribution from an undersized 2nd Round PF” award, formerly belonging to Paul Millsap.
Jamont Gordon/Kyle Weaver – Two guards that can play both positions and have received minimal first round buzz. They are both skilled and experienced and would be wise second round picks for any team looking for added depth in the backcourt.
Most people say the lottery is the most exciting and important part of the draft, but I disagree. For the most part, we all know who will be among the first 14 players selected. The subsequent picks are the ones you should be paying attention to. That’s where the biggest surprises take place. That’s where the elite teams separate themselves from the good ones. That’s where the unheralded and un-hyped players begin their campaigns to make the teams that passed over them pay. Enjoy the draft, everyone.
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