This week, we've discussed the last 20 years of the top 20 picks in the NBA draft, but what about the late first round? Let's take a look.
21ST OVERALL PICK
Accumulative Stats (Last 20 #21 Overall Picks): 10.5 PPG - 4.2 RPG - 2.8 APG
All-Stars: 2 - Rajon Rondo (4), Michael Finley (2)
Over the last 20 years, the 21st pick in the draft has been a relatively successful draft position that has produced a plethora of quality ballplayers. The Celtics have particularly reaped the benefits of number 21 as health concerns helped Jared Sullinger slip to the Celtics in 2012, six years after Danny Ainge traded for the rights to Rajon Rondo during the 2006 NBA draft. These days, Rondo seems to have accumulated at least as many haters as he has fans but his style of play is one of a kind and as Celtics die-hards, we can't help but love him for what he accomplished in green and white. Rondo was an absolute ballhawk in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, helping the Celtics secure banner 17 before he went on to earn four NBA All-Star appearances.
What we'll remember Rondo most for is his unquestioned ability to raise his game to another level in the postseason, as he posted 16.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 10.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game in the playoffs from 2009-2012. When Kevin Garnett went down in 2009 and was unable to help the Celtics defend their title, Rondo was 0.3 rebounds and 0.2 assists per contest away from averaging a triple-double through two playoff rounds. Love him or hate him, that's remarkable value with the 21st pick.
The Phoenix Suns lucked out in 1995 when they landed two-time All-Star Michael Finley at 21, before trading him to Dallas early in his sophomore season in return for Jason Kidd. Of course, Kidd would go on to establish himself as one of the best point guards to ever play the game, but the Mavericks ended up getting the best of both worlds at the end of the day. Finley absolutely broke out in Dallas, where he put up 19.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game from 1996 to 2005, while they reacquired Kidd in 2008 and eventually went on to win a championship with him running the show in three years later.
In addition to that All-Star pedigree, Ryan Anderson, Boris Diaw, Anthony Parker, Morris Peterson and old friend Ricky Davis have all produced at a high level in starting roles. Darren Collison and Nate Robinson (aka "Donkey") have done well with extended opportunities as backup guards, and in Collison's case, a starting point guard at times. Jeff Foster quietly made a difference on the court as well, playing 13 consecutive years with the Pacers and gobbling up 8.1 rebounds per game from 2003-2009. Daequan Cook is nowhere to be found these days, but the sharpshooting two-guard has the 2009 NBA Three-Point Shootout victory under his belt and had a couple of solid years in the beginning of his career with Miami.
Gorgui Dieng is currently proving his worth in Minnesota, we as well, while rookie Mitch McGary averaged 9.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game when he played 15+ minutes for Oklahoma City this season (18 games).
With all of that said, I think it's safe to say that the Celtics wouldn't mind revisiting their number 21 selections in 1996 and 2001, where they whiffed on Dontae' Jones and Joe Forte. Craig Brackins, Pavel Podkolzine, Nolan Smith and Qyntel Woods didn't last very long for other organizations in the league, either, but the 21st spot has been extremely successful over the last 20 years.
22ND OVERALL PICK
Accumulative Stats (Last 20 #22 Overall Picks): 7.6 PPG - 3.8 RPG - 1.7 APG
Teams holding the 22nd pick haven't been quite as fortunate, however. Kenneth Faried, Jarrett Jack, Courtney Lee and Kenny Thomas have all established themselves as quality rotation players and former Boston College star Jared Dudley has exceeded expectations, as well. Journeyman Brian Skinner stuck around for 14 years, where he suited up for eight different teams, but there have been quite a bit of disappointments at number 22.
First of all, Fab Melo. Enough said.
Jeryl Sasser absolutely lit the Celtics up for 26 points and 10 rebounds on the night of Paul Pierce's first career triple-double in 2003, but he only lasted two years in the league while Victor Claver, Ed Gray, Donnell Harvey, Casey Jacobson, Viktor Khryapa, Zoran Planinic, Roy Rogers, Elliot Williams and Marcus Williams haven't been much to write home about either.
23RD OVERALL PICK
Accumulative Stats (Last 20 #23 Overall Picks): 8.3 PPG - 3.3 RPG - 1.8 APG
Former Sixth Man of the Year Bobby Jackson, 2004 NBA champion Tayshaun Prince, Wilson Chandler and Nikola Mirotic lead the pack at 23, while Francisco Garcia and DeShawn Stevenson have each played large roles on the wing. Former Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue's playing days are most remembered for when Allen Iverson hit a jumper and stepped over him on the floor in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals, but he was a quality backup point guard once upon a time and so was Travis Best, who played 22 minutes per game off the bench through six and a half years in Indiana.
Travis Outlaw enjoyed a small window of success with the Trail Blazers, but he joins the rest of the bunch in fairly mediocre fashion. Trevor Booker, Omri Casspi, Devean George and Kosta Koufos have had their moment to a much smaller degree, while the remainder of the group is working with guys like Brandon Armstrong, Josh Boone, John Jenkins, Sergei Monia and Efthimis Rentzias, who didn't stick around very long.
24TH OVERALL PICK
Accumulative Stats (Last 20 #24 Overall Picks): 9.1 PPG - 3.5 RPG - 2.4 APG
All-Stars: 2 - Andrei Kirilenko (1), Kyle Lowry (1)
Since 1995, more impact players have been discovered at 24th overall than we've found at 23. Andrei Kirilenko and Kyle Lowry highlight this position as a pair of All-Stars, while defensive savant and Serge Ibaka and the stat-stuffing Reggie Jackson have helped make Sam Presti and co. look good late in the first round as well.
Five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher had a role in the league for 18 years before becoming the head coach of the Knicks in 2014, and other guards like Rudy Fernandez, Tim Hardaway Jr., Luther Head and our guy Delonte West have all had productive years playing big minutes while bigs Brian Cook and Byron Mullens have been a part of a rotation for short periods of time.
Delonte, wherever you are, I speak on behalf of Celtic Nation when I say I hope all is well.
Former Celtic Nenad Krstic's NBA career was relatively short and sweet, but the seven-foot Serbian served as a four-year starting center for the Nets and he was able to put up 12.4 points and six rebounds per game when he was healthy from 2005-2007.
Felipe Lopez didn't quite live up to his potential, however, and Damion James had a terrific career in college at Texas but his game didn't quite translate to the pros as a tweener forward without a jump shot. Dalibor Bagaric, Jared Cunningham, Raul Lopez, Loren Meyer and Rodrick Rhodes didn't quite pan out, either, but the 24th spot hasn't been a bad place to pick over the last 20 years.
25TH OVERALL PICK
Accumulative Stats (Last 20 #25 Overall Picks): 8.7 PPG - 3.9 RPG - 1.5 APG
All-Stars: 1 - Gerald Wallace (1)
I have a lot of love for Gerald Wallace, but man, I wish the Celtics had a chance at getting him when he was a bit younger. "Crash" was an exceptional two-way player for Charlotte, Portland and the Nets in their last year in New Jersey, as the prototypical "Tommy Point" kind of player averaged 16.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game from 2006-2012, highlighted by an Eastern Conference All-Star appearance in 2010.
Nicolas Batum has turned into an excellent all-around player, as well, and we're all well aware of the career timeline of Tony Allen. The "Grindfather" spent his athletic prime in Boston, where he spent six years and was a part of the 2008 championship squad. Since moving on to Memphis, he has finally earned recognition for his elite defensive prowess, as TA has earned three All-Defensive 1st Team selections and an All-Defensive 2nd Team berth over the course of the last four years. Had he not attempted that silly post-whistle slam against the Pacers during the 2006-07 season, we may have seen Allen rise to a higher level on the offensive side of the ball, as well, but he has rebounded beautifully from that unfortunate accident and is a competitor that anybody can respect.
Al Harrington put together a nice career as a draft pick straight out of high school, as he has been a key contributor both as a starter and bench performer. From 2002-2012, Harrington accumulated over 15 points and six rebounds per game as a versatile combo-forward who once averaged 20.7 points per game for the Knicks in 2008-09, and he was a part of the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors team that upset the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs back in 2007.
Outside of those four names, other success stories at 25th overall are Shannon Brown, Carlos Delfino and Tony Wroten, but the rest of the group hasn't had a whole lot of luck.
26TH OVERALL PICK
Accumulative Stats (Last 20 #26 Overall Picks): 8.8 PPG - 4.1 RPG - 1.6 APG
The 26th spot in the draft has experienced its fair share of highway robbery, as well, with Aaron Brooks, Taj Gibson, George Hill, Kevin Martin and John Salmons have all had their moments as quality starters and high level sixth men, with guys like Samuel Dalembert, two-time NBA champion Jordan Farmar, Jason Maxiell, Quincy Pondexter and Jerome "Junk Yard Dog" Williams have all developed into key role players throughout their careers.
Miles Plumlee had a good year last season as the starting center in Phoenix, averaging 8.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, but he lost his starting job with the Suns this year and wasn't a regular member of the rotation in Milwaukee after he was moved at the trade deadline. Andre Roberson surprised a lot of people by earning the starting two-guard position in Oklahoma City this season, playing around 20 minutes per game as an energy guy, and it looks like he has room to grow.
Vonteego Cummings played over 20 minutes per game off the bench for Golden State from 1999-2001, but played his last NBA game just one year later while Ndudi Ebi, Sherrell Ford, Sam Jacobson, Mamadou N'Diaye and Charles Smith (2.0) were afterthoughts just as quickly, if not sooner.
27TH OVERALL PICK
Accumulative Stats (Last 20 #27 Overall Picks): 6.8 PPG - 3.1 RPG - 1.8 APG
As you would expect this late in the first round, the 27th spot is a mixed bag. Rudy Gobert and DeMarre Carroll are two recent examples that have made a lot of general managers cringe when they go back and try to figure out why they missed out, and Arron Afflalo has turned himself into a strong two-way player that could help any team. He even put up 18.2 points per game for Orlando in 2013-14, where he was in the discussion as an outside shot at making All-Star. Jamaal Tinsley adds to Indiana's late-first round success, as he averaged over 10 points and seven assists per game as their starting point guard from 2001-2008.
Former Celtic [point guard?] Jordan Crawford, Primoz Brezec, Jumaine Jones, Linas Kleiza, two-time NBA champion Sasha Vujacic (ugh) and 2008 champ Kendrick Perkins have all played well in key roles, while Jacque Vaughn was an underrated on-ball defender at one time.
28TH OVERALL PICK
Accumulative Stats (Last 20 #28 Overall Picks): 8.4 PPG - 2.9 RPG - 2.4 APG
All-Stars: 1 - Tony Parker (6)
You know Chris Wallace wishes he could go back and take Tony Parker 21st overall instead of Joe Forte in 2001, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. Parker has obviously gone on to put together a great career, winning four championships, earning the 2007 NBA Finals MVP award and appearing on six Western Conference All-Star rosters, while Forte was out of the league almost as fast as he got in.
Former Celtic Leandro Barbosa was terrific in his heyday, as well, where "The Brazilian Blue" averaged 15.4 points per game from 2006-2009 and earned the 2006-07 Sixth Man of the Year award. Greg Ostertag, Tiago Splitter and Greivis Vasquez have found success in the league, but over the last 20 years, the rest of the list of number 28 picks are more or less journeymen and guys who never worked out.
29TH OVERALL PICK
Accumulative Stats (Last 20 #29 Overall Picks): 6.0 PPG - 3.3 RPG - 1.0 APG
All-Stars: 1 - Josh Howard (1)
Josh Howard put up over 15 points and six rebounds per game through seven years with the Mavericks, highlighted by an All-Star appearance in 2007.
After Howard, the list of successful 29th overall picks is miniscule over the last 20 years as Nazr Mohammed and Mark Madsen are the next two most significant players of the group.
Oh yeah, and Travis Knight.
30TH OVERALL PICK
Accumulative Stats (Last 20 #23 Overall Picks): 10.2 PPG - 6.3 RPG - 1.6 APG
All-Stars: 2 - David Lee (2), Jimmy Butler (1)
Since the NBA didn't have 30 first round draft picks until 2005 along with the fact that we're going to break down second round steals in the fifth and final part of this series, we've only got 10 number 30 picks to work with here.
Of those 10 players, five are no longer on an NBA roster. Festus Ezeli and Joel Freeland each have roles as backup centers in Golden State and Portland, respectively, and it's too early to judge San Antonio rookie Kyle Anderson.
Jimmy Butler and David Lee have worked out quite nicely, to say the least. Lee's role has been reduced in Golden State due to the team's style of play more than anything, but I'm sure he's cool with a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals and the two-time All-Star averaged a double-double from 2007-2014.
Butler's offensive game has skyrocketed to unexpected levels as of late, and his remarkable 2014-15 campaign of 20 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game has been certified with the proper hardware with the league's Most Improved Player of the Year award and a spot of the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Keep your eyes peeled for the final piece of this series, where we will take a look at all of the notable second round steals over the last 20 years.