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10 best second-round picks in NBA Draft history

Reign Amurao
best second-round picks
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When the NBA Draft arrives, many fans look past Round 2 with the expectation that most of the players will never make an impact. As some of the best second-round picks ever prove, some of the best players in basketball are found after Round 1.

Usually, players who get into the NBA are highly recruited. It doesn’t matter if they get a ton of attention playing in college or overseas. If scouts love a player’s game, he’ll likely get drafted into the NBA. The higher a player gets drafted, the more likely they are to have an impact in the league.

Throughout the years, there have been plenty of great players that were selected in the second round and have had an immense impact. It didn’t matter if almost all teams passed on them, they were still capable of doing a ton for their teams.

Related: 2023 NBA mock draft

With that said, here are my top 10 best second-round picks in NBA Draft history.

10. Paul Millsap

Basketball: USA Basketball Showcase
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Drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 47th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, Paul Millsap showed a ton of promise early on. After seven seasons with the Jazz, the undersized big man slowly blossomed into a star. That helped him with his tenure with the Atlanta Hawks. His four years with them proved fruitful, with four consecutive All-Star appearances. While the 6-foot-7 forward is now at the twilight of his career. But that hasn’t stopped Millsap from being a valued teammate in the past three seasons.

Related: NBA playoff predictions – Bracket picks & 2023 Finals champion

9. Khris Middleton

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Detroit Pistons
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The road to becoming one of the best second-round picks isn’t linear. For Khris Middleton, selected with the 39th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, he had to work his way up after being picked. He spent time in the G-League when the Detroit Pistons, only receiving his big opportunity with Milwaukee Bucks. Middleton has been in the league for ten years now, but he’s not showing signs of slowing down, making the He’s a three-time All-Star and won the title back in 2021.

Just 30 years old, Middleton is a three-time All-Star selection and played an integral role in Milwaukee’s 2021 NBA championship. He’s formed the perfect partnership with Giannis Antetokounmpo and created a championship culture, not bad for a player who suited up for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in 2012.

8. Mark Price

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Cleveland Cavaliers
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Going back through NBA Draft history, the league once went beyond the two-round format. In the 1986 NBA Draft lasted six rounds with several greats hearing their name called. One notable player was Mark Price, for who Dallas used the first pick in Round 2 (25th overall) and traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Price helped transform the franchise, spending nine seasons with the Cavs and making four All-Star appearances. Additionally, the sharpshooter made four All-NBA teams, fueling Cleveland the Cavs to seven playoff appearances. With his jersey now retired by the franchise, Price ranks second all-time in assists and steals in franchise history.

7. Toni Kukoc

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls
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When it comes to great 90’s players, Toni Kukoc often gets left out in the discussion. Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1990, the 29th pick had plenty of pressure before stepping foot on an NBA court. He would stay in Europe until 1993. With the Bulls, he added a ton of accomplishments to his already stacked resume. He finished his NBA career with three titles, a Sixth Man of the Year award, and an All-Rookie team.

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In 2017, Kukoc was elected to the FIBA Hall of Fame and he made it to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame four years later. His career accolades outside of the NBA deserve a dedicated piece on their own, especially as one of the first international players to experience a ton of success in the NBA.

6. Alex English

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets
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The Denver Nuggets have quite a history with some of the best second-round picks ever. However, some people still tend to forget about Alex English. Although he’ll forever be associated with the Nuggets, English had a tough NBA start with two franchises. Drafted 23rd overall in the 1976 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, he struggled to fit in the team’s offense. With the Indiana Pacers, however, he became a solid starter. It’s landing in Denver that truly changed his career trajectory.

  • Alex English stats (Denver Nuggets): 25.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.4 APG, 50.9 FG%

During his second full season in Denver, English was named an All-Star. And he was awarded the scoring title the following season after averaging 28.4 points for the 1982-83 season. With eight All-Star appearances and three All-NBA nods, it’s hard to ignore his influence in the league. English was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.

5. Marc Gasol

Olympics: Basketball-Men Group C - JPN-ESP
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Marc Gasol with the 48th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Immediately after getting drafted, he was traded to his brother Pau to the Memphis Grizzlies. With the Grizzlies, he helped shape an identity that remains iconic to this day. The “Grit n’ Grind” system that they used stood out as the rest of the league transitioned into a fast-paced game.

Gasol is a three-time All-Star, and he even made history with his brother. In 2015, the Gasol brothers became the first siblings to start in the same All-Star game. Big Spain is also a former Defensive Player of the Year winner, two-time All-NBA selection and an NBA champion.

4. Draymond Green

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics
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Draymond Green is one of the most vocal players in NBA history, which makes it fitting that he has a podcast. Selected with the 35th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Green’s game isn’t like many of the best second-round picks on this list. He plays fundamentally and doesn’t try to do too much. While it’s less typical in the modern NBA, he’s developed into one of the most important players in the Warriors’ success.

Throughout 10 seasons, Green has etched an extremely successful NBA career. Green is a four-time champion, four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA, seven-time All-Defensive player, and a Defensive Player of the Year award winner. Additionally, he was an Olympic Gold medalist back in 2016. Green’s career is far from over and it’ll be no surprise if he adds more hardware to his collection.

3. Dennis Rodman

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Texas Tech
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One of the most interesting NBA players of all time, Dennis Rodman had a spectacular career and is easily one of the best second-round picks ever. Chosen by the Detroit Pistons back in the 1986 NBA Draft with the 27th overall pick, he quickly showed he belonged in the association. By his fourth season, he was named an All-Star for the first time. While he only made two All-Star teams, don’t underestimate Rodman’s ability to impact a team. The two-time All-Star became one of the league’s premier rebounders in an era dominated by giants.

Rodman is a five-time NBA champ, two with the Pistons and three with the Chicago Bulls. He made the All-NBA team twice, the All-Defensive team eight times, he’s a seven-time rebounding champion and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner. Rodman is also a Hall of Famer and a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team. Interestingly, the two-time DPOY winner never averaged less than 10 rebounds from the 1990-91 season until his final season.

2. Nikola Jokic

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets found a gem in the 2014 NBA Draft with the 41st pick. Nobody knew who Nikola Jokic was when he got drafted because ESPN decided to play a Taco Bell commercial. Still, that didn’t hinder the big Serbian from showing what he’s capable of. Jokic started pretty well. During his second season, he bumped up his numbers and finished the season averaging 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. He was slowly becoming a fan favorite because of his selfless and flashy style of play.

The Joker’s career is still quite young. With seven seasons already in the bag, he’s shown everyone that he’s to be taken seriously. So far, Jokic has made four All-Star teams, four All-NBA teams, part of the 2015-16 All-Rookie team, and won the Most Valuable Player award twice. Internationally, Big Honey has helped lead the Serbian national team. Back in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the Serbian national team finished with the Silver medal. Jokic’s career is far from over, and he will certainly retire as the best second-round pick in NBA Draft history.

1. Manu Ginobili

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs
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Based on career accomplishments, the best second-round pick in NBA history is Manu Ginobili. The Argentinian legend is loved by many, and there’s a good reason behind it. Selected by the San Antonio Spurs back in the 1999 NBA Draft with the 57th overall pick, Ginobili took his time in joining the Spurs. He chose to stay in Europe and it paid off. In Europe, he racked up multiple All-Star selections, championships, Finals MVPs, league MVPs and he also won the Italian dunk contest in 2001. Yep, Ginobili has hops.

With the Spurs, Ginobili wasted no time in showing what he can do at the highest level. His “controlled chaos” playstyle left fans in awe and head coach Gregg Popovich scratching his head. Popularizing the Euro-step in the league, Ginobili collected awards and trophies throughout his 16-year NBA career. Manu is a four-time champion, two-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA, part of the 2003 All-Rookie team, and the 2008 Sixth Man of the Year. 

The winning culture he brought with him, along with his humility, helped him carve out a Hall of Fame career. Ginobili has proven that you don’t need to be a starter or the number one guy to have an incredible impact. All you have to do is play the game the right way.