On June 28, 2012, right after the Cleveland Cavaliers took Jae Crowder, the Warriors’ turn came up in the second round of the NBA draft. They opted for Draymond Green, a talented but slightly rounded forward from Michigan State. It will go down as one of the best draft picks in franchise history.
But how good was it?
In a league where each year’s emerging talent pool is thin and college and foreign players are exhaustively scouted, not a lot of second-round selections evolve into stars. Hardly any, really. But in his fourth season, Green is the second most important player on the best team in the NBA. He was seventh in this year’s MVP voting, and to those of us who watch him regularly, that seems low.
So how does Draymond Green compare to other second-round draft choices? For the evaluation to make sense, we need to go back to 1980. To go further makes the question too muddy. For one thing, there were so many fewer teams in the NBA’s “classic” years that the second round came a lot sooner. Gus Williams was a second-round pick by the Warriors in 1975 – at pick No. 20, which would put him solidly in the first round today. Willis Reed was the Knicks’ second-rounder in 1964 – at No. 8 overall.
But here’s the main problem with going back into the mists of afros and short shorts: Because scouting wasn’t as developed, more brilliant players lasted into the second round and beyond.
This isn’t to make Draymond look better by avoiding comparisons to the best second rounders. It’s just that at this young stage of his career, it’s impossible to stand him back-to-back with, say, Tiny Archibald (1970) or Alex English (1976) or Maurice Cheeks (1978). Too much speculation required.
So, arbitrary or not, we’re going back to 1980. Since then, there have been many good NBA second-rounders, but few great ones.
Here are the top six ranked by Win Shares: (1) Jeff Hornacek, 108.87; (2) Manu Ginobili, 101.23; (3) Rashard Lewis, 90.85; (4) P.J. Brown, 89.84; (5) Dennis Rodman, 89.83; (6) Clifford Robinson, 89.73.
Here are the guys with more than two All-Star appearances: (1) Mark Price, four; (t2) Gilbert Arenas, three; (t2) Paul Millsap, three.
Here are the four players with more-than-miniscule MVP Award Shares, with continued thanks to basketball-reference.com: (1) Price, .107; (2) Rodman, .040; (3) Arenas, .027; (4) Ginobili, .026.
And because I will take every opportunity to suck up to local coaches, here are the dudes with three or more NBA championships to their credit: (t1) Steve Kerr, five; (t1) Rodman, five; (3) Ginobili, four; (4) Toni Kukoc, three.
Other notable NBA second-rounders of the past 36 years would include Rick Mahorn, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Hot Rod Williams, Antonio Davis, Carlos Boozer, Monta Ellis, Marc Gasol and DeAndre Jordan. A lot of tough, heady players. Again, no unabashed superstars.
Breaking down their career numbers and accolades, the cream of the crop would seem to be Price, Rodman, Ginobili, and maybe Arenas and Lewis. And only one of those guys is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. That’s Rodman, whose incredible rebounding prowess made him indispensable to the Bad Boys Pistons and the second-edition Bulls of Michael Jordan. Maybe Ginobili has a chance to join him in Springfield. Probably not.
So there’s your Second-Round Gold Standard: Dennis Rodman.
Can Draymond Green fly by the careers of Mark Price, Rashard Lewis and Manu Ginobili? Can he be better than Rodman? A lot can happen on the way to greatness, obviously, but none of those other guys was as versatile as the kid from Saginaw, Mich. And when all is said and done, Green might have more All-Star nods than Price and, who knows, as many NBA titles as Rodman.
It seems entirely possible, then, that when the Warriors added Green to their 2012 draft haul of Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, they were making the best second-round draft choice in the modern history of the league.