September 07, 2009
OK, we know the first decade of the 21st century doesn't really end until 2011. We think. But we also know there have been 10 full NBA seasons played since the phrase "Y2K" was on all of our lips (1999-2000), and here at Ball Don't Lie we've decided to use this as an offseason excuse to rank some of the best and not-so-brightest of the 10 campaigns in question. The result? Why, top 10 lists!
Drafting is an inexact science, save for the part where you're supposed to select the best player possible with the draft pick your team was assigned.
With that in mind, and with 10 2009-era drafts under our belt (and we considered the 2009 draft ... we swear!), here's our list of the 10 best players to come out of the second round over the last decade.
Walton's all-around game, frontcourt versatility, and ability to pick up the triangle offense were a huge boon to the Lakers when they selected him 32nd overall in 2003. Career averages of 5.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 19 minutes a game aren't much, but the Lakers are quite happy with his output.
Some say it might be a bit much to offer up a big man with just one season under his belt on this list over a litany of well-meaning and solidly contributing NBA veterans who were taken beyond the first round. I say, "Did someone order a 7-footer with skills?" No? No? Of course you did.
Gasol eschewed the college ranks after going to high school in Memphis, only to see his stock drop a bit overseas before being taken 48th overall by the Lakers in 2007. When the Grizzlies traded his brother Pau to Los Angeles a year later, the city of Memphis regained his rights, and he debuted with the Grizzlies in 2008-09, averaging 12 points, 7.4 rebounds and a block in 31 minutes per game.
People might be sick of his flop-happy ways by now, but Varejao is a minutes sponge in the frontcourt, and that's always a good thing to have. No real offensive moves, not a dominant rebounder, and his off-ball defense (taking those supposed "charges" and little else) isn't much, but he can ably play center and power forward for long stretches without hurting his team. This might seem like slim praise, but the 30th pick in the 2004 draft has carved out a solid, if annoying, niche in this league.
Houston GM Daryl Morey seems to regard Ariza as an all-world defender, something I'm just not getting at this stage. He looks like an athletic, damn-good defender who can lock down when the focus is on him, but a Battier/Artest-type?
Either way, Ariza is in Houston's plans, which is something to carp about after being wasted by the Knicks (traded for Steve Francis(notes) in 2006), the Magic (dealt for Brian Cook(notes), woof) and tossed aside by the Lakers (essentially switched out for Ron Artest(notes) this summer). The 43rd overall pick in the 2004 draft is only 24, as well.
After the Warriors selected him 40th overall in the 2005 draft, Ellis had to bide his time in his rookie year before bursting on the scene late in the season. The last of the great high school-to-pros products, Ellis is a hybrid guard with a scoring knack who has put up 16 points per game on 49 percent shooting in just 32 minutes a contest over his career with Golden State. He's also a great fan of the movie Quadrophenia, apparently.
I don't care what caliber of player he's banging bodies with, how 46 other potential draft'ers (including the Jazz) could pass on a 6-8, 250-pound forward who led the NCAA in rebounding for three consecutive seasons back in 2006 boggles the mind. We all should have known better, and Millsap set us straight with averages of 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in under 23 minutes a game over his first three seasons.
We might get on Okur from time to time for the things he can't or won't do, such as consistently defending or scoring huge numbers from the low post, but when you factor in what Okur can do, you have an absolute steal with the 38th pick in the 2001 draft.
Factor in that touch from all over the court, his ability to spread the floor, his ability to put up near-All-Star level production at the league's toughest position (center) to find All-Star level production at and an underrated rebounding streak, and you've got a 6-11 big who is well worth your time.
The Duke pedigree, the uneasy way he left Cleveland, the injuries that followed, the free-agent talk, picking up his player option and putting the Jazz over the luxury tax, the trade talk ... Boozer doesn't exactly have the NBA's largest fan base. The guy can play, though, and his status as the 34th overall pick in 2002 seems pretty laughable by now once you factor in his career averages of 17 points and 10 rebounds in only 32 minutes per game.
The 43rd overall pick in the 2001 draft doesn't really do anything else outside of scoring - Redd's career averages of 4.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists are pretty slim - but this shooter can truly fill it up. His scoring average of 20.5 points per game might not seem like an all-world number until you also consider the 34 minutes-per-game mark on Redd's career, a result of not receiving (if not "earning") starter's minutes until his fourth season.
Almost right away, during a rookie year on an awful Golden State Warriors team, it was obvious that Arenas was a much, much better player than his status as the 31st overall pick in the 2001 draft suggested.
A man supposedly without a position on draft night is more or less in the same situation now, but that hasn't halted GA from averaging 22.8 points, 5.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.8 steals over 37 minutes per game in a career looking to rebound after nearly two full seasons spent on the bench, recovering from knee ailments.