Draft History: Best Picks Below 9, 2002-2012

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2007

Mar 17, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo (4) during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Milwaukee won 115-109. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Arron Afflalo (selected 27thby the Detroit Pistons)
Afflalo was drafted out of UCLA and is still getting better. His impact has been less measurable than some of the previous players listed, but that can happen as the players drafted later have been in the league for a shorter amount of time. He’s still a great scorer, but future greatness has yet to be determined. He averaged 16.5 points for Orlando last year.

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May 21, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) defends against San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) in game two of the Western Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at AT

Marc Gasol (selected 48thby the Los Angeles Lakers)
Gasol was drafted out of Akasvayu Girona (a Spanish League team) and was promptly traded in a deal with Memphis for his older brother, Pau Gasol. Marc was an All-Star in 2012 and won Defensive player of the Year for the 2012-2013 season. He is arguably better than his brother now (a 3rd overall pick), but time will tell who will leave the stronger legacy.

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2008

Apr 25, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) is fouled by Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) during the second half of game three of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the United Center. Chicago won 79-76. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Brook Lopez (selected 10thby the New Jersey Nets)
Lopez was drafted out of Stanford, just like his twin brother, Robin Lopez. Brook is now one of the best offensive centers in the NBA. At 7’0” 260, he controls the paint with ease. He made All-Rookie first team in his day, and made his first NBA All-Star appearance last year in the 2012-2013 season. He is an invaluable piece of the Brooklyn Nets’ lineup.

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Jun 3, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) reacts against the Miami Heat in the first quarter during game 7 of the 2013 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell- USA TODAY Sports

Roy Hibbert (selected 17thby the Toronto Raptors)
Hibbert was drafted out of Georgetown and was traded to the Indiana Pacers two weeks later. After just five seasons in the NBA, Hibbert is arguably the best rim protector in the NBA. The Trail Blazers pursued him in the 2012 offseason, but were let down when Indiana matched the max contract offer. In my opinion, he should have been DPOY last year.

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Honorable mention: Serge Ibaka (selected 24thby the Seattle SuperSonics)

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2009

April 17, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday (11) brings the ball up court against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jrue Holiday (selected 17thby the Philadelphia 76ers)
Holiday was drafted out of UCLA and began starting before the end of his rookie season. By the next year, he nearly doubled his points per game and solidified his role with the Sixers. Last season, he was in a tight race for Most Improved Player with Paul George of the Indiana Pacers. Jrue substantially as a facilitator in the 2012-2013 season.

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May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (3) dribbles against the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter of game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 92-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Ty Lawson (selected 18thby the Minnesota Timberwolves)
Lawson was drafted out of UNC and traded on draft night to the Denver Nuggets for the 2010 pick that would become Luke Babbitt (go figure). Lawson is one of the absolute quickest guards in the league and a pleasure to watch on the fast paced Nuggets. Lawson led the Nuggets in scoring and assists last year and will likely do so in the future.

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Honorable mention: Brandon Jennings (selected 10thby the Milwaukee Bucks)

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2010

May 28, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) dribbles the ball against the Miami Heat in game four of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana won 99-92. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George (selected 10thby the Indiana Pacers)
George was drafted out of Fresno State and  has taken the league by storm at 23 years old. Of the players on this list, George has potential to have the best career in the long run. In the absence of teammate Danny Granger, George won the Most Improved Player award, made his first All-Star appearance, and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

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Apr 28, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders grabs a loose ball in front of Miami Heat forward Shane Battier in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Larry Sanders (selected 15thby the Milwaukee Bucks)
Sanders was drafted out of Virginia Commonwealth and received marginal playing time as the Bucks tinkered with different options to replace the injured Andrew Bogut. When they settled on Sanders partway through last season, he shined as one of the best defenders in the NBA, passing Serge Ibaka in blocks per game for much of the year.

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2011

May 10, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (left) instructs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the fourth quarter in game three of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 102-92. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard (selected 15thby the Indiana Pacers)
Leonard was drafted out of San Diego State and immediately traded to the Spurs as part of the George Hill deal. Kawhi does a little, no, a LOT of everything and will almost certainly become the future of the Spurs. How many players can defend LeBron James well in their 2nd season? He showcased his skills on the championship stage and earned his spot on this list.

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May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets small forward Kenneth Faried (35) dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter of game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kenneth Faried (selected 22ndby the Denver Nuggets)
Faried was drafted out of Morehead State and quickly became my favorite player to watch. He requires 0 play calls; he just cleans up with sheer hustle. His basketball intelligence and athleticism is astounding. The Portland Trail Blazers will be kicking themselves for years to come for managing to draft Nolan Smith over Kenneth Faried (somehow).

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Honorable mentions:
Klay Thompson (selected 11thby the Golden State Warriors)
Nikola Vucevic (selected 16thby the Philadelphia 76ers)
Iman Shumpert (selected 17thby the New York Knicks)
Tobias Harris (selected 19thby the Charlotte Bobcats)
Jimmy Butler (selected 30thby the Chicago Bulls)

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2012

Mar 17, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Orlando Magic forward Moe Harkless (21) during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Milwaukee won 115-109. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Maurice Harkless (selected 15thby the Philadelphia 76ers)
Harkless was drafted out of St. Johns and traded two weeks later in the 4-team blockbuster that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers and left the Sixers utterly depleted. It has only been one year, so you can’t expect him to be a powerhouse, but he strung together a great stretch of minutes near the end of last season that included a career high 28 point game.

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Jan 24, 2013; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics power forward Jared Sullinger (7) is guarded by New York Knicks forward/center Amar

Jared Sullinger (selected 21stby the Boston Celtics)
Sullinger was drafted out of Ohio State University after sliding out of the top 20 due to injury risk. That injury risk became a reality as back issues caused him to miss nearly half the season. Nevertheless, when he performed, he performed very well, which is great news for the C’s who need some competent youth under the rim for the impending rebuild of their team.

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