First, here’s something to offer hope to fans of Iowa’s Devyn Marble and Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane:
Danny Green and Patty Mills were vital players for the San Antonio Spurs in their NBA championship run this spring. Both were second-round draft picks in 2009.
Now for the rest of the story. Few other second-rounders of the previous five NBA drafts have been impact players in the league, and most either never played in the NBA or didn’t last long.
Marble is projected by most as a second-round pick in Thursday’s 2014 draft. It sounds like it’s questionable if Kane or Ejim get selected at all.
Now, let it be clearly stated that you would have looked pretty foolish underestimating any of the three as collegians. You’re talking about three first-team All-Big Ten/All-Big 12 players. Once they get into NBA camps, they might be hard to cut loose.
But the NBA employs, basically, the world’s 450 best players. And basketball is a true global game. So those 450 jobs are hard to get, and for many who get them, hard to keep.
First things first. Do second-round draftees make NBA squads? Of course. Half of the 30 second-rounders in 2013 were on NBA rosters when the 2013-14 season ended.
Of those, though, only three were in the NBA for the entire season. Most of the rest played at least half of their games in the NBA’s D-League.
The leading scorer of the bunch was Ryan Kelly of Duke, who averaged 8.0 points for the talent-depleted, injury-racked Los Angeles Lakers. No other second-rounder played in as many games as Kelly, and he played in just 59 of the 82.
Do you remember Baylor guard Pierre Jackson amassing 17 points and 10 assists in Baylor’s win over Iowa in the 2013 NIT championship game? Jackson was a second-round pick. He didn’t stick with the New Orleans Pelicans, played for Idaho in the D-League in hopes of getting an NBA call-up, then left that team in February to make more money playing in Turkey.
Jackson led the Big 12 in scoring and assists in his senior season.
Deshaun Thomas averaged 19.8 points for Ohio State in 2012-13. He was a late second-round pick of San Antonio. He played in France this season.
But none of this is to insist the second round is where NBA chances go to die. You have to get picked by a team that has a spot for you and is patient, and you have to elevate your game each year.
Draymond Green of Michigan State did just that for Golden State. He was a 2012 second-rounder. His regular-season totals over two years are pedestrian, but he was terrific in this year’s playoffs in averaging 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Chandler Parsons of the Houston Rockets is a 2011 second-rounder who averaged 16.6 points this season. Lance Stephenson is a four-year Indiana Pacer and former second-rounder. He played little his first two seasons, but has made a name for himself since and stands to make a lot of money as a restricted free agent.
But such second-round success stories are exceptions, not rules.
Nonetheless, most of us would be happy to trade salaries with Ejim, Kane or Marble come this fall. The question isn’t if they’ll make good money playing pro ball. It’s where they do it.
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