Kings Capitalize on Second-Round Talent

In advance of the Draft, take a look at some of the most successful late-round selections in team history.
by Alex Kramers
Writer, Kings.com

What do Draymond Green, Nikola Jokic and Marc Gasol have in common?

They’re All-Stars, All-NBA selections and potential Hall of Famers who’ve helped their teams advance deep in the Playoffs.

They’re also second-round Draft picks who’ve defied the odds, emerging into superstars after being overlooked by advanced scouts across the globe and falling short in endless metrics used to identify top-tier talent.

Landing a franchise cornerstone outside of the Lottery may be an anomaly, but whether it’s a collegiate player with the tools to develop into a difference-maker or an overseas sensation who might be the next diamond in the rough, many of the League’s top teams have plucked promising talent and impactful contributors after the first 30 picks.

Besides Green and Gasol, this year’s conference finalists are bolstered by 13 other second-rounders, including Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, and Ersan Ilyasova of the Bucks; Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko of the Warriors; and Danny Green and Norman Powell of the Raptors.

The Kings – who hold the 40th, 47th and 60th picks in the 2019 Draft – have had similar success with late-round standouts, turning unknown or underappreciated prospects who were passed over by the entire League into starters or rotation regulars.

Let’s have a look at the team’s most valuable second-round gems since 1989, when the NBA adopted its current two-round Draft format.

Isaiah Thomas – 60th pick (2011)

Kings Stats: 216 G, 29.1 MPG, 15.3 PPG (44.7 FG%, 36.0 3PT%, 85.7 FT%), 4.8 APG, 18.7 PER

“Mr. Irrelevant” is the poster child for second-round success stories, surpassing all expectations by emerging into an All-Star candidate in Sacramento – and later, an MVP finalist in Boston – while winning the hearts of the city with his jet-like hustle, leadership and perseverance.

The Washington alum entered the League on a mission to prove everyone wrong, carrying a lifelong chip on his shoulder than outsized his 5-foot-9 frame. The underdog’s ascent from Draft afterthought to Rookie of the Year contender soon became one of the most compelling stories across the NBA. Halfway through his first season, No. 22 played his way into the starting lineup, and earned three Rookie of the Month awards and All-Rookie Second Team honors with post-All-Star break averages of 14.2 points and 5.2 assists per game.

“The Pizza Guy” continued to silence his doubters by outplaying anyone in his path, and during his breakout third season, was one of seven players to rank in the top-20 in both scoring (20.3 points per game – 17th) and assists (6.3 – 11th) – a stat-line that was nearly identical to the No. 1 pick from the same Draft, Kyrie Irving (20.8 points and 6.1 assists).

During his historic 2016-17 campaign with the Celtics, Thomas averaged a career-high 28.9 points and 5.9 assists – numbers matched by only Larry Bird and John Havlicek in Boston’s record books – and scored the second-most fourth-quarter points in NBA history (9.8 per game).

Michael Smith – 35th pick (1994)

Kings Stats: 246 G, 24.4 MPG, 6.2 PPG (54.8 FG%, 46.8 FT%), 7.1 RPG, 0.8 SPG

After selecting Brian Grant seventh overall, Sacramento further retooled its frontcourt by snagging hard-nosed big man Michael Smith, who’d outperform nearly every player drafted in the second round – and even many taken in the first – with 23.4 career win shares, according to basketball-reference.com.

“The Animal” – admired by fans for his willingness fight for every rebound, score effectively around the rim and sacrifice his body diving for loose balls – was named a starter in the All-Star Weekend Rookie Challenge (now Rising Stars) alongside four Lottery picks. Smith’s best season came in 1996-97, his first as a full-time starter, when he placed 14th in the League in rebounding (9.5 per contest) and 18th in defensive box plus-minus (2.8), while racking up 12 double-doubles.

In the Sacramento-era annals, the Providence alum ranks third in career offensive rebound rate (11.8) and fourth in defensive rebound rate (22.0) among players with at least 100 games played. He also holds the record for highest field-goal percentage (min. 1,000 attempts), and despite his foul-line woes, posted a better true-shooting percentage (54.5) than Chris Webber, DeMarcus Cousins and Vlade Divac.

Lawrence Funderburke – 51st pick (1994)

Kings Stats: 318 G, 14.9 MPG, 6.4 PPG (50.6 FG%, 67.5 FT%), 3.6 RPG, 16.5 PER

Fellow 1994 Draftee Lawrence Funderburke opted to play overseas for three years with four different European clubs – including PAOK in Greece, where he was teammates with Peja Stojakovic – before making his Kings debut at age 26.

“Mr. Fundy” developed into one of Sacramento’s key reserves for six seasons, averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in his first year and 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in his second. While his playing time dwindled later in his career, he epitomized professionalism and readiness, making the most of his minutes whenever Head Coach Rick Adelman called his number.

In seven starts, No. 51 put up 10.1 points and seven rebounds per contest, including 18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds in place of Chris Webber on March 28, 1999. In the Playoffs, the 6-foot-9 forward’s toughness and physicality were vital against Shaquille O’Neal and the rival Lakers.

Funderburke, who now operates a fitness center and founded a youth organization, is the author of three books, including a fiscal-responsibility guide with arguably the greatest name and cover of all time, “Hook Me Up, Playa!”

Tyus Edney – 47th pick (1995)

Kings Stats: 150 G, 25.7 MPG, 9.0 PPG (40.2 FG%, 32.8 3PT%, 80.1 FT%), 4.8 APG

Fresh of his unforgettable, coast-to-coast, buzzer-beating layup in the NCAA Tournament, Tyus Edney made an immediate impact with the Kings, wrestling the starting point guard job from the incumbent Bobby Hurley 11 games into the season and helping the team end a nine-year Playoff drought.

The 5-foot-10 floor general joined Kenny Smith as the second rookie in the Sacramento era to average over 10 points (11.8) and six assists (6.1) per contest en route to an All-Rookie Second Team nod. In the Rookie Challenge, Edney finished with 14 points and seven assists, outscoring the likes of Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and Michael Finley.

In his second and final season in purple and black, Edney primarily came off the bench behind Mahmoud Abdul-Rau and chipped in with 6.9 points and 3.2 assists in 19.7 minutes per outing; in 20 starts, he upped his averages to 8.0 points and 4.5 assists per night.

In addition to suiting up for the Celtics and Pacers during his NBA career, Edney thrived internationally, winning nine titles – including the EuroLeague Championship and Italian Supercup – and four MVP awards overseas.

Hassan Whiteside – 33rd pick (2010)

Kings Stats: 19 G, 5.8 MPG, 1.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.8 BPG | Per 36 Minutes: 9.4 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 4.9 BPG

If we’re only counting his Sacramento tenure, Hassan Whiteside shouldn’t qualify for this list. The athletic 7-footer – a worthwhile gamble in the second round, considering many projected him as a Lottery pick – showed glimpses of his potential with explosive dunks and swats in sporadic playing time. Injuries and inconsistency, however, led to a largely unmemorable two-year stint.

But Whiteside’s remarkable career trajectory and unlikely path to NBA stardom are impossible to overlook. After bouncing around from G-League to Lebanon to China, and failing to latch on with the Raptors, Lakers and Grizzlies, the Marshall product finally found a home in Miami, where he took the entire League by storm in 2014-15.

The big man has become an annual Defensive Player of the Year candidate and garnered All-Star buzz by averaging double-digit points and rebounds, as well as ranking among the League leaders in blocks, in each of his five seasons with the Heat.

Honorable Mention

Anthony Johnson (39th pick, 1997) – The Charleston product, who averaged 7.5 points and a team-high 4.3 assists per game while making 62 starts as a rookie, carved out a 13-year career as a steady backup with six other teams. Johnson returned to Sacramento for the final 27 games of the 2007-08 season, and racked up 13 points and 13 assists in his first start.

Randy Brown (31st pick, 1991) – Prior to his five-year Chicago stint, where he served as a defensive specialist during the Bulls’ “three-peat,” Brown spent four seasons as a Sacramento reserve. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 5.2 points, two assists and 1.2 steals in 16.9 minutes per game, ranking 15th in the NBA in steal rate (3.0) in 1992-93.

Jon Brockman (38th pick 2009) – Acquired from Portland via Draft-night trade, “The Brockness Monster” provided a spark off the bench as a ferocious rebounder, grabbing 11.7 boards per 36 minutes. With his infectious energy, hustle and tenacity – most evident during Sacramento’s historic 35-point comeback against the Bulls – the 6-foot-7 forward became an instant fan favorite. If that wasn’t enough, when he was traded to Milwaukee, the Draft pick the Kings acquired in exchange would be used to select none other than Isaiah Thomas.

Frank Mason (34th pick, 2017) – One of two second-round picks on the current Kings roster (Nemanja Bjelica – 35th in 2010), Mason provided instant offense off the bench with 7.9 points, along with 2.8 assists, in only 18.9 minutes per night as a rookie. The acquisition of Yogi Ferrell limited his playing time this season, but No. 10 improved his shooting from 37.9 to 42 percent and posted per-36-minute averages of 16.1 points and 7.0 assists.

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