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Part I of this mini-series looked at the draft position of players who have recently appeared in the NCAA National Finals. Today, we will look at the teams who pursued these players, and how these players performed in the NBA. Tomorrow, Part III will explore two different one-and-done scenarios, and the NCAA Tournament history of players on top NBA teams. We will also see the “good ol’ days” are aptly named.
Say what you want about the Minnesota Timberwolves, but they are a bunch of winners (at least on draft night). Since 2005, four of Minnesota’s eleven first round picks have played on NCAA Championship teams. They also picked champions in the second round, netting Mario Chalmers and Chris Richard. These players have not helped Minnesota become a #winning team so far. Actually, Wayne Ellington is the only player among the six still with the Wolves. Two different luminaries, Kevin McHale and David Kahn, have made draft picks for the team during this time.
Ironically, Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz welcomed three members of the runner-up 2005 Illinois team to town. They used the third overall pick of the 2005 draft on Deron Williams, and he eventually assisted Sloan’s exit from Salt Lake City. They drafted Dee Brown in the second round of 2006, and Roger Powell signed with the Jazz after his Illinois career.
The Bulls ended up with three members of the 2001 Duke team at various stages of their careers. They drafted Jay Williams second overall in 2002. Two years later, they used a second round pick on Chris Duhon. In the summer of 2010, their decision was signing Carlos Boozer to a five year contract. In total, the Bulls have had eight players from the last eleven champions wear their jersey (Williams, Duhon, Boozer, Joakim Noah, Hakim Warrick, Lonny Baxter, Chris Richard, Ben Gordon).
Five teams (Dallas, San Antonio, Boston, Sacramento, Phoenix) haven’t selected a player who appeared in the National Finals since the turn of the century. It is worth pointing out some of these teams are major players in basketball analytics.
The dichotomy between the Timberwolves draft results and some of the analytical squads’ results leads to an obvious question: do the more analytical teams ignore winners, while teams like Minnesota think winners will bring them out of the basement?
We at least know the Mavericks philosophy. I e-mailed Mavericks owner Mark Cuban yesterday and asked him why his team hasn’t drafted a player from the National Finals since he took over. He just chalked it up to happenstance. He went on to say it is “not intentional at all. We don’t care who they play for.”
They started with a bang
Several players who appeared in the National Finals have started their NBA career auspiciously. Since 2000, seven 1st team All-Rookie players were part of championship teams: Al Horford, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon, Carmelo Anthony, Shane Battier, Jason Richardson, and Morris Peterson. The runner-ups placed five players on 1st team All-Rookie: Derrick Rose, Darren Collison, Deron Williams, Mike Miller, and Kirk Hinrich. Most of these players are still performing at a high level in the NBA.
Making the All-Rookie team is notable, but not overly impressive. Clearly, the players only compete with other rookies for spots. Also, these players might come into the Association with more name recognition than lesser known college players, leading to a more favorable ballot. Finally, as with many other awards, the voting is subjective.
And occasionally made an All-Star Game
A far more difficult task is making the NBA All-Star Game. Do you remember the 1998 home run battle between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa? Well, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett all have consecutive All-Star Game streaks that started before the classic home run chase. Unbelievable! Yao Ming, maybe the most popular player in the world, was selected in 2011 even though he played five regular season games. In short, spots are limited and the voting is subjective. However, we will use it to gauge players’ NBA success.
Six total players from the studied teams have played in an All-Star Game. Leading this group is Carmelo Anthony, who has arguably experienced the most personal success of any recent champion. He has made four All-Star Games, and finagled himself into home games at Madison Square Garden. NCAA champs Carlos Boozer and Al Horford have made two All-Star Games, with potential for more.
Recent runner-ups Derrick Rose and Deron Williams have made two All-Star Games as well, and will undoubtedly add to their total. Unfortunately for Orlando, Gilbert Arenas is paid like an All-Star, but a fourth career All-Star Game is probably out of reach for Agent 0.298.
One shining moment is fairly accurate
Recent NCAA champions should have savored the moment they were crowned college kings, because none of them have won an NBA ring (BBR qualifies a player as member of an NBA champion if they appear in at least one playoff game). Granted, it is a tough time period to acquire hardware with the Lakers and Spurs winning nine of the last 12 titles.
A quintet of runner-ups has moved past NCAA Finals losses to receive glitzy NBA rings. Matt Bonner was on board with the Spurs in 2007, and Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton rode Kobe’s coattails to multiple rings. Stan Van Gundy stuck around with the 2006 Heat for 21 games, but Udonis Haslem and Wayne Simien stuck around to the end and touched the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Part III will look at NCAA Tournament performances for current NBA stars, and also the players on top teams. Finally, we will deliver some data that will make you wish you were filling out brackets three decades ago.