With the NBA draft just a day of way, it is fitting and appropriate to take a look at the WCC draft picks of years past.
While many of this year’s prospects are long shots of being included in this years version of the draft – most of this has to do with this year class being so stacked, many are in good positions to be signed as undrafted free agents or join an NBA summer league team. Many former WCC players have been successful with this route, and the following text will illustrate that.
However first we will look at the highly touted prospects who had their name called on draft day.
NOTE: (We will only take a look at all the NBA drafts since 1989, considering the draft was three rounds prior in 1988 and seven rounds prior to that season.)
The First Rounders
There have been several former WCC players that have landed in the first round of the NBA draft, including a few that have landed in the lottery.
The highest overall draft pick in the “modern draft era” is Adam Morrison, who was selected third overall by the Charlotte Bobcats third overall in the 2006 draft. While his NBA career did not pan out the way most hoped, he is still cemented in WCC history for getting picked this high.
After Morrison would be former LMU guard Bo Kimble, who was selected eighth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1990 draft. Much like Morrison, Kimble’s NBA career was brief, but his draft position is impressive nonetheless.
The most recent WCC draft pick, Kelly Olynyk, came in at 13th overall in the 2013 draft. He was selected by the Dallas Mavericks, but he was essentially picked by the Boston Celtics because the Mavericks were initially going to trade that pick to Boston anyways. In his first NBA season this past year, Olynyk made the All-NBA freshmen second team and averaged 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds on a rebuilding Celtics team.
Arguably the most successful NBA player to come out of the WCC came next. Steve Nash was selected by the Phoenix Suns as the 15th overall pick in the 1996 draft. Nash has been a perennial All-Star and is a two-time MVP winner.
Austin Daye was also selected as the 15th pick, where he was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the 2009 NBA draft.
Doug Christie came in a 17 in the 1992 draft, representing Pepperdine by becoming the newest member of the Seattle Supersonics (R.I.P.). He ended being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers due to contract difficulties, which kick started his 15 year journeyman-like career.
Other first round draft picks include former Pepperdine Wave Brandon Armstrong (selected 23rd overall by the Houston Rockets -traded to the Nets- in the 2001 NBA draft) and former Gonzaga Bulldog Dan Dickau (selected 28th overall by the Sacramento Kings – traded to the Hawks – in the 2002 NBA draft).
A number of former WCC players have also been drafted in the second round the NBA draft as well, starting their careers that way.
Former Gonzaga star forward Ronny Turiaf was selected 37th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. Although a heart complication put his NBA career aside for a few seasons, Turiaf has been a consistent role player for the Lakers, Warriors, Knicks, Wizards, Heat, Clippers and Timberwolves for seven seasons.
Before Gonzaga became, well Gonzaga, Paul Rogers was selected in the 1997 NBA draft 53rd overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, although he never played an NBA game.
Although Patty Mills was projected to go earlier in the draft, the former Saint Mary’s star was selected 55th overall in the 2009 NBA draft by the Portland Trailblazers. The San Antonio Spurs picked him for the 2012-2013 season, and well, the rest is history.
The Minnesota Timberwolves took a shot on former Gonzaga guard Blake Stepp with the 59th pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Despite being picked, Stepp did not make the Timberwolves final roster and ended up retiring after a couple of seasons due to knee issues. He also made a run at professional poker.
Robert Sacre became the 2012 NBA draft’s Mr. Irrelevant by being selected 60th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. Sacre still remains on the roster. He is not alone though; former Pepperdine guard Alex Acker was selected 60th overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2005 draft.
BYU and Pacific
Although they were not in the WCC at the time, BYU and Pacific has had some notable success in the NBA draft.
The Tigers sent former center Michael Olowakandi into the NBA as the number one overall pick, as he was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1998 NBA draft. Although he is often regarded as one of the biggest NBA busts in history, Olowakandi’s favorable draft pick is a bright spot on Pacific’s men’s basketball history.
BYU, being a prominent basketball program, had a lot of success in the NBA draft pre-WCC. Shawn Bradley was selected second overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1993, Rafael Araujo was selected eighth overall in the 2004 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors, Jimmer Fredette was selected 10th overall by the Sacramento Kings in the 2011 NBA draft, Michael Smith was selected 13th overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1989 draft, Travis Hansen was selected 37th overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2003 NBA draft and Trent Plaisted was selected 46th overall by the Seattle SuperSonics (traded to the Detroit Pistons) in the 2008 NBA draft.
As mentioned before, not being drafted is not a death sentence to an NBA career.
Matthew Dellavedova, Elias Harris and Brandon Davies are all testaments to that. The former Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU stars all signed contracts with the Cavaliers, Lakers and Clippers directly after the draft. The Lakers ended up cutting Harris, as did the Clippers with Davies. Harris ended up playing professionally in Europe and Davies ended up getting signed by the 76ers. Dellavedova remained with the Cavaliers the whole time, and put together a solid rookie season, averaging 4.7 points, 2.6 assists and 1.7 rebounds.
Consequently, the NBA Summer League is a decent place to start a professional career. Former Gonzaga guard Steven Gray has played on a bevy of summer league teams since being undrafted in 2011. Matt Bouldin played on the Bulls summer league team in 2010 before playing in Europe and the D-League. Jeremy Pargo kicked off his professional career by playing on the Pistons and Magic summer league teams. Micah Downs played on the Phoenix Suns 2009 summer league team.
The Developmental league is another starting point for former WCC players. Former Pepperdine guard Mychal Thompson was drafted to the Erie Bayhawks after being undrafted in the 2011 NBA draft. Downs has jumped around the D-league, and currently plays for the Bayhawks. Former Santa Clara star center and WCC player of the year John Bryant has made a living playing in Europe, but initially he played for the Bayhawks as well (see a pattern here?). Former Portland guard Eugene “Pooh” Jeter started off with the Colorado 14er’s before starting a career in China.
For some players, it even takes a few years to land an NBA contract. Former Gonzaga wing Richie Frahm played for a bevy of teams throughout the world before playing for the SuperSonisc (again, R.I.P.), Trailblazers, Timberwolves, Rockets and Clippers in the span of four seasons. After going undrafted in the 1998 NBA draft, former Pepperdine Gerald Brown guard signed a contract with the Phoenix Suns in 1999.
Based on the WCC’s past history with professional basketball aforementioned above, these slew of WCC players vying for spots on NBA rosters are bound to make their marks on the basketball world in one way or another.
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