Second Round of NBA Draft Like A Box of Chocolates

Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek is one example of a successful second-round pick made in the history of the franchise.
(NBAE Photos)
by Brad Faye

With so much emphasis on who the Suns could be taking with any of their three first-round selections, it’s easy to gloss over the fact that they have yet another pick in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft as well. And while it’s apparent that NBA legends like Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan don’t generally find themselves falling to such great depths, it’s been proven time and time again that it could be the second round that separates NBA contenders from pretenders.

In the franchise history of the Phoenix Suns alone, the organization has discovered such players as Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, Steve Kerr, Cedric Ceballos,  Richard Dumas Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic beyond the first round of selections. Each would go on to forge very different legends in Suns lore, but all share in common the fact that they had to sit through more than an entire round of the draft before hearing their name called.

Players like Ceballos and Dumas, of course, proved themselves crafty, high-flying scorers, the former of which would eventually emerge as an NBA All-Star. Hornacek, too, had the chance to shine amongst the league’s most elite talent, and along with Andrew Lang helped make the idea of bringing Barkley to the desert a reality. Evidence that second-round pieces can ultimately prove to be hot commodities in landing superstar talent. Meanwhile, Gortat would blossom with the Orlando Magic prior to his playing career as a Sun, but still shows exactly the type of talent which is often still available later in the draft.

Dragic is perhaps the best example of how much a player can prove naysayers wrong and blossom at the NBA level. Even with the much larger emphasis that has been placed on overseas scouting over the years, 44 players were still selected over Dragic; who last season became the first guard in the NBA to average at least 20 points while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point since the late Drazen Petrovic1. And while the playmaker is still currently in the process of writing his story, following a 2014 NBA Most Improved Player Award, it’s certainly one we can all safely assume with be a success.

All of these second round success stories prove that players can make an impact on a team regardless of where they are drafted, but it is perhaps Steve Kerr who serves as the best example of what a team can obtain that late in the process.

As mentioned, there is far too much good scouting in the NBA for a player like a Tim Duncan to slip outside of the lottery. But take a look at all of the supporting players who have helped make the San Antonio Spurs one of the league’s most elite team over the past couple of decades. Duncan and David Robinson were obviously the cornerstones of the 1999 title team, but other key contributors on that ballclub included Mario Elie (160th selection), Avery Johnson (not selected), Malik Rose (44th selection) and the aforementioned Steve Kerr. And while Duncan again remained the anchor of championship teams moving forward, other supporting cast members on those ballclubs have included Matt Bonner (45th overall) Bruce Bowen (undrafted), Manu Ginobili (57th overall) and Stephen Jackson (42nd overall – originally by Phoenix).

If we as Suns fans can put aside our disdain for the Spurs for just a moment, we find that a number of the players who can help put a team over the top are indeed still available in the second round. That isn’t to say it is the most probable scenario or that there aren’t also examples of players taken that deep into the draft who never pan out, but like the million dollar lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play. No, the Phoenix Suns will not draft the next Michael Jordan with their second round selection in 2014. But they can potentially find the next Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc or Dennis Rodman.

In a very short amount of time, this Suns front office regime have proven themselves capable of putting the organization in the mix of acquiring free agent stars. The best example came this past summer when just weeks onto the job they came out of nowhere to snatch a rising star in Eric Bledsoe. With that capability along with the number of first round picks they have in the coming years, it is apparent that they don’t need to seek stardom in the second round of the draft either this year or in years moving forward. But as Suns fans unfortunately know, it isn’t just the Michael Jordans or the Tim Duncans of the world who are capable of snatching away NBA Championship dreams… Sometimes it’s a 3-point shot by Mario Elie which could make the difference between going home or advancing in the postseason.

1That 2008 NBA Draft was particularly solid in the second round, with other players selected in that area including Mario Chalmers, DeAndre Jordan, and Omer Asik.