This is not a column about the 10 best players of the 2000’s. Rather, it is an article about the picks that were the best value. Obviously Dwight Howard is a better player than Paul Millsap, but Howard was a number 1 pick, so he is expected to be great. Meanwhile, Millsap was drafted in the second round, 47th overall, so the fact that he has become such an impact player makes him a better value than Howard. A few things went into my analysis of these players; the number the player was drafted, who else was taken in the draft they were in, and obviously, the effect they have had on the NBA thus far, whether it be All-Star appearances, All-NBA teams, or NBA championships. So, without further ado, here are the 10 Best (Value) Picks in the NBA since 2000.
10. David Lee: 1st Round, 30th overall (2005)
Drafted by the New York Knicks, David Lee was an impact player early on in his career, averaging a double-double in just his second year in the league despite starting just 12 games. With career averages of 14.3 points and 9.6 rebounds Lee has vastly out-produced the five players taken directly before him, who were all PF/C’s, the same position as Lee (Johan Petro, Jason Maxiell, Linas Kleiza, Ian Mahinmi, and Wayne Simien). Lee made his first All-Star game in 2010, becoming the first Knick to make an All-Star team since Allen Houston in 2001. This season Lee is averaging 20.1 points and 9.6 rebound for the Golden State Warriors.
9. Paul Millsap: 2nd Round, 47th overall (2006)
Although Millsap just became a full-time starter last season he has been productive during his time in the NBA. In his first year in the league, he led all rookies in double-doubles and made the All-Rookie second team. Last season he averaged 17.3 points and 7.6 rebounds for the Utah Jazz. He followed that up this year by averaging 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds while leading a young Jazz team to the NBA Playoffs in the Western Conference.
8. Carlos Boozer: 2nd round, 34th overall (2002)
Although Boozer has been thought of as a bit of a disappointment during his time in Chicago, he has had a nice career. Boozer has averaged less than 15 points per game only once in his career (during his rookie season he averaged 10.0 points per game). Along with career averages of 17.3 points and 10.1 rebounds, Boozer is a two time All-Star and made the All-NBA third team in 2008. Other than Boozer, nobody outside of the top 10 of the 2002 draft has made an All-Star team.
7. Monta Ellis: 2nd round, 40th overall (2005)
Taken 10 picks after David Lee, Monta Ellis is known as an electric scorer who has been stuck on a perennially bad team. With a career average of 19.4 points per game, Ellis sports the highest career average for anyone who has never been selected to an All-Star team. This is the third consecutive year that Ellis has averaged at least 20 points and 5 assists a game.
6. Marc Gasol: 2nd round, 48th overall (2007)
Of the last 22 picks of the 2007 draft, 11 never even made it the NBA. Gasol (part of those last 22 picks) in the meantime has become one of the best centers in the league. He made the All-Rookie Second Team in 2009 and made his first All-Star game appearance this season. He is only the third player from the draft of 2007 to make an All-Star team, joining Kevin Durant and Al Horford, who were taken 2nd and 3rd respectively. Gasol also helped lead the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies to an upset of the San Antonio Spurs in last year’s playoffs and averaged 15.0 points and 11.1 rebounds over the course of the playoff run.
5. Michael Redd: 2nd Round, 43rd overall (2000)
Known as a sharpshooter and dynamic scorer during his prime, Redd is perhaps the best player from the 2000 NBA draft. Only two other players from the 2000 draft even made an All-Star team (Kenyon Martin and Jamaal Maglorie). Along with one All-Star appearance Redd was an All-NBA Third Team selection in 2004. He has averaged over 20 points per game six times in his career including a career high 26.7 points in 2007. Redd also holds the record for most 3-point field goals in one quarter (8).
4. Rajon Rondo: 1st Round, 21st overall (2006)
Living in a region where the Celtics are rooted for religiously has made me despise them. Rajon Rondo (and his jumper) may be the most heated debate I have with any Celtics fan. However, in this case, I am actually going to talk about how great a player Rondo has been. Thanks to Brandon Roy and his knees, Rondo is arguably the best player taken in the 2006 draft. Other than Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, Rondo is the only player in the draft to make an All-Star team. Aldridge and Roy were taken 2nd and 6th respectively. Rondo is a three time All-Star as well as a three time All-Defensive Team selection (first-team twice, second-team once). Rondo also won an NBA championship in 2008 with the Celtics. He is one of only 4 players in NBA history to have at least 15 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists in a game, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, and Jason Kidd. However, he still has no jumper and it remains to be seen how he will fare without three future hall-of-famers by his side. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
3. Zach Randolph: 1st round, 19th overall (2001)
Although 19th overall doesn’t sound like a low pick, Randolph was the 11th PF/C taken in the draft. Notable names such as Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry, DeSagana Diop, Vladimir Radmanovic, Troy Murphy Steven Hunter, Kirk Haston, Michael Bradley, and Jason Collins were taken before Randolph. Although he has been known to be a bit moody and potentially problematic, Randolph’s numbers speak for themselves. He has averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds over a season five times in his career and boasts career averages of 17.6 points and 9.2 rebounds. He was the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2004 and was named to the All NBA Third Team in 2011.
2. Gilbert Arenas: 2nd round, 30th overall (2001)
Taken in the same draft as Randolph, “Agent Zero” was known as one of the most enigmatic figures in league history. He has career averages of 21.2 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game. Arenas is a three time All-Star as well as a three time All-NBA selection. He is also one of only 20 players in NBA history to have scored 60 or more points in a game. His career can be best summed up by the fact that he holds the Washington Wizards franchise record for both most turnovers in a game, as well as most points in a game. He also holds the unofficial NBA record for most guns brought into a locker room.
1. Tony Parker: 1st round, 28th overall (2001)
Apparently 2001 was the year of the sleeper as Randolph, Arenas, and Parker all come from the same draft. Parker however is the most accomplished of them all. A three-time NBA Champion and one-time NBA Finals MVP, Parker starred as the point guard during the San Antonio Spurs dynasty. With career averages of 16.9 points and 5.9 assists Parker has been producing for many years, although this one may be his best yet, as ESPN analyst Skip Bayless named him his NBA MVP (although, to be fair, Bayless often makes choices just to be different from the common opinion). Great value picks such as Parker are the reason the Spurs have been able to win 4 NBA Titles in the past 13 seasons.
Special Mention: Isaiah Thomas: 2nd round, 60th overall (2011)
The jury is still out on last season’s draft class as many of them have not had enough time to make an impact. However, I believe that Thomas deserves to be mentioned because he was the very last pick of the draft and has already turned into a very good player for the Sacramento Kings. The feisty point guard is currently averaging 11.5 points and 4.0 assists per game and ranks in the top 10 among rookies in 8 different categories.