2 Be or not 2 Be: the fall of the NBA Number Two Draft Picks
When Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was called second in the 2012 NBA Draft he made history, as – along with Number 1 Anthony Davis – it was the only time that the top two picks of the draft went to college teammates. But MKG’s achievement has come accompanied with a curse that has been following the ‘Number 2s’ for the last few years.
There will be no forgetting the second pick of the 2007 draft. That man was Kevin Durant and he was picked behind Greg Oden. Oden was a surefire favourite to go number one that year. Durant was surefire second place. Of course, things have changed drastically since. Durant has become one of the top two players in the world and Oden – plagued by injuries – doesn’t have an NBA job.
Perhaps the Durant bonanza was a way of the basketball gods to level things out, since over the past ten years, ‘second place’ has seemed like a cursed place to be. Since 2002, the number two picks have been Jay Williams, Darko Milicic, Emeka Okafor, Marvin Williams, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Hasheem Thabeet, Evan Turner, Derrick Williams, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Discounting the rookie Kidd-Gilchrist, only Durant and Aldridge out of the rest have become NBA stars. Okafor was rookie of the year back in 2005 but now is a below-average contributor in the NBA’s worst team.
The fall and mockery following the rest of the past decade’s Number 2 picks could make up for a Shakespearean tragicomedy:
Jay Williams: A superstar point guard in the making, out of Duke, destined to be the second-star after Yao Ming in a weak draft. But Williams could only complete his rookie season before getting hurt in a life-threatening motorcycle accident. He was waived by the Bulls and never played an NBA game again.
Darko Milicic: The man second only to LeBron, or at least that’s what the Pistons believed when they picked the Serbian second in the amazing 2003 draft, ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. You know what happened next. Darko sat on the bench on his way to a championship ring in Detroit in his first season. And he kept on the bench, mostly, for the rest of his career. He’s played in six teams in the last 10 years and never cracked double digits. Meanwhile, Anthony, Wade, and Bosh became regular All Star or superstar level players.
Marvin Williams: The Hawks needed a point guard in 2005. Chris Paul was available. Deron Williams was available. Monta Ellis, Louis Williams, Raymond Felton, Jarrett Jack, even Nate Robinson were available. The bigs weren’t bad either. Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger, David Lee… But the Hawks decided to go for for Marvin Williams. Williams hasn’t been a bad player per se – he’s averaged a shade over 10 points per game in his career – but he will be looked at as one of the biggest draft day mistakes ever. The Hawks have since sent him to Utah.
Michael Beasley: There was a time when – after his incredible college year – Beasley was earning comparisons to Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. The smooth lefty scorer was primed to become the best players of his draft class. But the Bulls in 2008 chose hometown boy Derrick Rose instead. It was a gamble, and except for Rose’s current injury status, it has mostly paid off. Rose has become MVP and the team’s franchise star. Beasley, who was picked second by the Heat, has meanwhile been a catastrophic disappointment. Yes, he can still score from time to time, but his teams have usually underperformed. He went from the Heat to the Timberwolves and from the Timberwolves to the Suns. Currently, the Suns are one of the NBA’s worst teams and Beasley has lost his starting spot.
Hasheem Thabeet: Few wonder why the Grizzlies picked the relatively unproven Tanzanian Thabeet ahead of James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, and many more of the mercurial 2009 class. Perhaps the biggest tragedy of Thabeet’s ‘career’ has been that, it has been too underwhelming even for criticism. It has simply been forgotten. Thabeet now plays for the Thunder, and has a chance in reinventing himself as a marginally-used bench player in a championship contender.
Evan Turner: Good for Evan Turner. The guard/forward had a tough start to his career even as he found himself in a decent 76ers squad that believed in sharing the offense amongst six or seven primary scorers. Turner didn’t seem to fit in. He wasn’t a good enough long-distance shooter or ball-handler for a guard and wasn’t strong enough for a forward. He only started 34 games over his first two seasons. But this year, with an improved three-point stroke and the departure of Andre Iguodala, Turner has begun to earn big starting minutes and is rewarding his team with career highs in points, assists, rebounds and pretty much all other categories. He may never become a superstar but has more than enough time to develop into a not-that-awful number 2 pick.
Derrick Williams: The problem sometimes with having the skillset to play both the forward positions is that you never master any one of them. Derrick Williams was picked second last year by the Timberwolves, behind Kyrie Irving, and was supposed to become a core piece of the Timberwolves team that had Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, who was finally starting his NBA career. But, unable to find his niche or his confidence, William played sparingly in his first season while Irving ran away with the rookie of the year award. With the arrival of Kirilenko in Minnesota, his minutes have fallen even further and he now finds himself amidst trade rumours on a regular basis.
Back to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, then. Considering how he has started his NBA life, it seems that MKG will be just fine. He is in a terrible team, true, but his defense and versatility on the floor have proven that he can earn big minutes in the NBA, no matter where he plays. And if he develops into even an above average NBA pro, he can be proof that the basketball gods do level their curse and sprinkle some goodness on the number 2s every once in a while.