Best second round draft picks in NBA history

Jokic Draymond Green
Apr 27, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) passes the ball around the reach of Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) in the first quarter during game five of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Second round picks don’t get that much attention since they are usually role players. They get picked late in the draft since they didn’t have the best college or overseas career. However, some of the best NBA second round picks defied all the odds and had great careers during their time in the league.

Best NBA second round picks

There have been few NBA second round picks that became stars. These second rounders evolved their game and proved that they belong to the league. Some of them even helped their franchises win a championship.

Here are the top NBA second round picks of all time.

10. Rashard Lewis

Drafted straight out of high school, Rashard Lewis was selected by the Sonics with their 32nd overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft.

Being a raw player out of high school, Lewis took time to develop his game and transition fully to NBA speed. It wasn’t until his third season in the league that his career took off and became a full-time starter.

His best seasons came with Seattle and Orlando where he was selected as a two-time All-Star. Lewis also became an NBA champion later in his career with the Heat.

9. Khris Middleton

Khris Middleton came a long way before he became an NBA starter. He was drafted by Detroit with their 39th pick in 2012 but played most of the season in the G-League. Middleton was then traded to the Bucks the season after.

With the Bucks, Middleton became an immediate contributor on both ends of the floor. He continued to evolve his game as a two-way scorer and closer in clutch situations.


Middleton is only in his 10th season and yet he’s already one of the best NBA second round picks ever.

8. Paul Millsap

It took a couple of seasons before Paul Millsap became a starter in the NBA. Once he became one, he proved that he was one of the best power forwards in the league.

Millsap was drafted 47th overall by the Jazz in the 2006 NBA Draft. However, it was with the Hawks where his career took off. There, he became an All-Star for four years in a row.

Now 36 years old, Millsap is in his sunset years. Still, he proves to be a valuable asset in the locker room with his leadership and as a backup forward.

7. Gilbert Arenas

There have been few NBA second round picks that became stars and Gilbert Arenas is one of them. He was drafted 31st overall by the Warriors in the 2001 NBA Draft.

Arenas had an impressive rookie season with the Warriors. However, he took it up a notch in his sophomore season when he averaged 18 points and 6.3 assists. This won him the 2002-2003 Most Improved Player award.

His best seasons came with the Wizards. Arenas took over the league from 2004 to 2007 — he averaged a career-best of 29.3 points per game in one of those seasons. He was unstoppable during this span and was then selected as a three-time All-Star.

However, injuries slowed him down eventually, finishing his NBA career prematurely. Still, Arenas proved to be one of the best, if not the best, of the All-Stars from the second round of the NBA Draft.

6. Toni Kukoc

As part of the first wave of European players entering the league, Toni Kukoc proved that he could make a major impact on American basketball. He was drafted by the Bulls in the 1993 NBA Draft with their 29th overall selection.

Kukoc was an important piece for Chicago given his three-point shooting, playmaking, and rebounding. He was their sixth man and thrived under the stardom of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. As a result of his stellar play, Kukoc won the 1996 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award.

At the end of his career, Kukoc was a three-time NBA champion. He had a long and productive career before he retired in 2006.

5. Draymond Green

After winning his fourth championship, Draymond Green sealed himself as one of the best NBA second round picks to play the game. He was selected by the Warriors with their 35th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Green’s game stands out outside the box score. He locks down opposing players, takes charges, dives for loose balls, creates screens for his shooters, and much more.

His skillset complements well with two of the league’s best shooters—Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. This makes him an important piece in the four championships Golden State won in the past decade. Without him, it’s hard to see the Warriors winning multiple championships.

4. Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol was drafted 48th overall by the Lakers in the 2007 NBA Draft. His draft rights were eventually traded to the Grizzlies involving his brother, Pau Gasol.

Throughout his rookie year, Gasol proved that he was worthy of being an NBA starter. He brought toughness and an inside scoring presence to Memphis’ thin frontcourt as soon as he stepped foot in the league. Gasol continued his high level of play and became the Grizzlies’ franchise cornerstone for 11 seasons.

It wasn’t until 2019 that he won his first NBA championship with the Raptors. Having three All-Star selections, one DPOY award, and one NBA championship, Gasol is arguably one of the best NBA second round picks ever.

3. Dennis Rodman

In 1986, the Pistons drafted Dennis Rodman with their 27th overall selection. As soon as he took the court, Rodman became one of the best defenders and rebounders in the league. He helped Detroit win back-to-back championships and was awarded two Defensive Player of the Year awards during his time there.

It was in Chicago where Rodman became one of the most famous NBA second round picks. More than defense and rebounding, his role with the Bulls was to pester and get in the heads of his opponents. His on and off-court antics also made him one of the most controversial players ever.

At the end of his career, Rodman was a five-time NBA champion, two-time All-NBA selection, two-time All-Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and eight-time All-Defensive selection.

2. Manu Ginobili

San Antonio is well-known for finding hidden gems late in the draft. In the 1999 NBA Draft, the Spurs drafted Manu Ginobili out of Argentina with the 57th pick. How could a team possibly find a player of this caliber so late in this draft?

Being selected at the 57th, Ginobili is of the best NBA draft day steals ever. He didn’t play for the first three seasons in the NBA and first took the hardwood in the 2002-2003 season.

When he came to the league, Ginobili quickly rose to prominence. He was the missing piece of the Spurs championship roster as he continued to improve every game. After just two seasons playing in the NBA, Ginobili was eventually selected as an All-Star for the first time ever.

Ginobili ended his career as a four-time NBA champion, two-time All-Star, and one-time Sixth Man of the Year. What a legendary career from one of the best NBA second round picks.

1. Nikola Jokic

After winning his second MVP award in the 2021-22 season, Nikola Jokic is the best 2nd round pick in NBA history. He and Willis Reed are the only two NBA second round picks to win MVP.

Jokic was drafted by the Nuggets 41st overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. His selection wasn’t even aired during ESPN’s coverage of the draft night. Rather, his name was announced on the bottom of a Taco Bell commercial.

NBA teams didn’t rave about Jokic’s potential due to his body type. He was labeled as slow, unathletic, and out-of-shape. In the Adriatic League, he averaged 11.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game in 25 games. Still, Denver expressed their interest in drafting him since he had a great feel for the game. 

Ever since he got drafted, Jokic worked on his strength and conditioning. He also vastly improved his post game and three-point shooting. What’s scary is that Jokic is still 26 years old and still continues to improve each season.

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About Jeremy Mallari 126 Articles
Jeremy lives and breathes basketball. He's an avid NBA fan for almost a decade now.

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