History's 5 best at the 2nd pick

Sam counts down to the draft lottery and looks back at the best to ever play at the 2nd pick
by Sam Smith


Logically, second place should be better than third place and silver is more valuable than bronze. Though not often in the NBA draft, where the No. 3 pick generally has a more significant history than the No. 2 pick. Of course, the most famous No. 2 was Portland passing Michael Jordan for Sam Bowie. But even a recent history of the No. 2 pick, which should be almost an automatic All-Star, shows a run of lesser talented players than lower selections. Even in recent years, would you take Marvin Bagley No. 2 last year, or Lonzo Ball the year before, or Brandon Ingram the year before that? Or No. 2 picks in the last decade like Jabari Parker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Evan Turner, Derrick Williams, Hasheem Thabeet and Michael Beasley? And then you get to 2007 when everyone agreed Greg Oden was the certain No. 1 pick. Here's a look at the best No. 2 draft picks since the merger of the leagues in 1976.


Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons, 1981. The Chicago native and Hall of Famer is regarded by many as the best so called small man ever being barely six feet tall. He was a 12-time All-Star, a Finals NBA with two championships, multiple All-Star game MVP and a league assists leader who even connected with the notorious Bad Boy Pistons once won the league's citizenship award.

Isiah Thomas #11 of the Detroit Pistons looks to make a play against the Boston Celtics during a game played in 1987 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.


Kevin Durant, Seattle Supersonics, 2007. The other guy in that Oden draft has gone on to become arguably the top player in the current NBA as a league MVP, two-time Finals MVP as the best player on the team going for a fourth championship this season, 10-time All-Star, four-time scoring champion and the best shooting big man in the game's history.

Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors is guarded by James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets during Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 08, 2019 in Oakland, California.


Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks, 1994, The Hall of Fame point guard was a 10-time All-Star, nine-time all-defensive player and five times league assist leader. He is among the all-time leaders in triple doubles and one of the rare players ever who was able to dominate play without scoring but through his defense and play-making.

Jason Kidd #5 of the Dallas Mavericks passes the ball against the New Jersey Nets on November 23, 1996 at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.


Gary Payton, Seattle Supersonics, 1990. One of the best defensive guards in league history who was a Defensive Player of the Year, nine times all-NBA and nine times first team all-defense. He is in the Basketball Hall of Fame and had a nine-year run when he averaged more than 20 points per game.

Gary Payton #20 of the Seattle SuperSonics dribbles during a game played on March 18, 1997 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.


Alonzo Mourning, Charlotte Hornets, 1992. Regarded as one of the game's most fearsome competitors, he was a seven-time All-Star and twice Defensive Player of the Year. He twice led the NBA in blocks and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Alonzo Mourning #33 of the Charlotte Hornets shoots the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 14, 1994 at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.

There isn't a great history of No. 2 picks in recent years with Victor Oladipo probably the most successful in the last decade and D'Angelo Russell coming on. Past No. 2 picks who have had excellent careers include LaMarcus Aldridge, Terry Cummings, Steve Francis, Mike Bibby and Rik Smits. Earlier in NBA history, the No. 2 pick proved more fruitful with the likes of Bill Russell, Jerry West, Rick Barry, Earl Monroe, Wes Unseld, Dave Bing, Maurice Stokes, Rudy Tomjanovich and Bob McAdoo.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.


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