Manu Ginobili, Michael Redd, Gilbert Arenas, Carlos Boozer, Mo Williams, and Marc Gasol are all current NBA players who have made appearances in all-star games throughout the years. They’ve all been elite players and have had (or will have, in Marc Gasol’s case) long productive careers. There’s something else they have in common, and most may not expect this one: they were all 2nd round draft picks.
Looking back, these guys definitely made teams satisfied with their investments. For being expected to potentially make minimal contributions for their teams, they’ve achieved way beyond that. Ginobili has been one of the best defenders in the world for the last decade. Arenas was a gunslinger for the Wizards (in multiple ways). Boozer made immediate impact after he was drafted, and became an all-NBA player. These all-stars aren’t the only guys who’ve made earlier draft picks look bad. Trevor Ariza, Monte Ellis, Paul Milsap and Landry Fields each broke into permanent starting roles at young ages, and they were 2nd round draft picks.
Those were just a few guys worth mentioning, as every draft has a few guys who far exceed the level of expectation for their draft rank. In a loaded 2012 draft, it would be surprising not to see a 2nd round pick turn into a very good player. The question right now is, who will it be?
A good way to predict this is by looking at guys who may not be great athletes or well-rounded offensive players, but have attributes to their game that are better than most of the draft class. Manu Ginobili wasn’t the fastest guy or the best shooter, but he was an excellent defender and could get to the basket at will on offense. Carlos Boozer showed at the draft combine that he had the same vertical jump as a turtle, but he was such a good scorer and rebounder, in addition to being incredibly strong.
Other times, teams just miss players. Monta Ellis and Landry Fields somehow made it to the 40’s before they were picked in their respective drafts. Not only were they very skilled prospects, they were also very athletic. Either way, guys who have NBA-level skill in multiple areas will find their way into a starting lineup. That’s really something to look for in the 2nd round picks.
A couple of players from 2012 come to mind immediately. Jeffrey Taylor and Darius Johnson-Odom could definitely become very good NBA players in a short time.
For Jeffrey Taylor, being picked 31st doesn’t mean Taylor was overlooked, because he could have been drafted as low as 20. Still, 31 is in the 2nd round, so he counts. While Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will likely be the cornerstone of the franchise, Taylor has everything the Charlotte Bobcats need. 6’7” with a 40 inch vertical jump, so he’s clearly got the size and athleticism to play in the league, but Taylor is also a great defender and a very good shooter. As a 4 year Vanderbilt player, he’s definitely experienced and intelligent enough to make an immediate impact for his awful NBA team.
Darius Johnson-Odom had to wait a very long time to hear his name called. At pick 55, he will look to earn a roster spot with the Lakers. Actually, I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t. The main knock on Johnson-Odom is that he’s undersized for a shooting guard, being 6’2”. That shouldn’t matter anyway, because he’s got a 6’7” wingspan to make up for it. As far as his game is concerned, he’s a great shooter (shot over 40% from 3 during his college career), can run really fast, and jumps really high. He’s also a hoss, as he hit 17 reps on the bench press. Add in the fact that he’s joining a Lakers team with Kobe Bryant and a bunch of mediocre guards, and he’s got a chance to make an early impact. He’s shown that he can outwork other players, so don’t be surprised if he ends up a starting point guard, or an elite NBA 6th man. He’s definitely got some Jason Terry traits.
Players such as Jeffrey Taylor and Darius Johnson-Odom have yet to play a professional game, and nobody in the 2012 draft is completely guaranteed to be great. Given their abilities, however, Taylor and Johnson-Odom can be the next great overachievers. There’s a reason the NBA Draft has 2 rounds. You can’t find all the future stars in the first 30 picks.