[From the Fan Posts, Jeri Favis takes a moment to appreciate the Pacers home run swing in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft.]
After quite a number of highlight reel plays, triple-doubles and dance moves, it's safe to say that many NBA fans know who Lance Stephenson is. Whether you're a Pacer fan appreciating his transformation from scrub to stud, or a casual observer who finds it surprising and/or strange that the answer to the question "Who has the most triple doubles in 2013-2014?" isn't LeBron James or Chris Paul or insert-name-of-other-superstar-on-another-team, or a fan of an NBA team that Lance has put the moves on, you've probably encountered Lance in one way or another.
You almost didn't. Lance Stephenson's rise should not have happened. The odds were never in his favor. That's just the norm for NBA second round draft picks.
Lance Stephenson was the 40th pick of the 2010 NBA Draft. He was the second of three choices Indiana made that night - Paul George the first with the 10th pick and Ryan Reid the third with the 57th pick. Reid was traded on draft night for Magnum Rolle, and neither has made an impact on the Pacers since. That Paul George guy is still around though, doing things like this.
Make a quick scan of the 2010 Draft Class and you'll definitely see some recognizable names at the top like George, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward. Because he was taken in the second round, Lance's name was far from those aforementioned lottery picks. He was much closer to guys like Lazar Hayward (30th), Armon Johnson (34th), Terrico White (36th) and Darrington Hobson (37th). Yes, those ex-NBA players. And if you look at some of the other draftees taken in the first round, you'll see household names like Luke Babbit (16th), Kevin Seraphin (17th), Craig Brackins (21st) and Daniel Orton (29th). Again, Lance was taken with the 40th pick.
Pacer fans know this and revel in it. They know how well it's worked out for Indiana since that night. They know that it was a miracle to pull a player like Lance out of the hat after the other NBA teams 38 chances to take him before they did.
It wasn't all luck, sure. Thorough research and preparation came into play. Having a basketball Legend make the choices couldn't have hurt, either. But in the past ten years (excluding the 2012 and 2013 drafts since those players are still sophomores and rookies), most players taken in the second round are almost all average to good. Take a look:
2010 - Lance Stephenson
That's 34 players who were selected in the second round from 2004 to 2011 who can actually make a difference* in the league - and some of the choices are stretching it! Last year's Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol, is the only All-Star and the only All-NBAer. The rest have been good players on bad teams and role players on good ones.** The Indiana Pacers landed one that could potentially swing the title their way with his fearless play, amazing skill with the ball and a determination to win at all costs. And, yes, no one else from the second round of the 2010 draft makes the list.
Again, choosing a player is only part of the equation. The team has to develop a system to cultivate the individual, while the player needs to adhere to the plan and continuously improve himself. But as history shows, those instances of a player bucking the trend do not come often. Indiana waded through the murky waters of the second round of the draft and pulled out Lance Stephenson and somehow, the two parties made it work. He is averaging 13.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 5.2 APG as the starting shooting guard for the number one team in the NBA. He has three triple-doubles this season already. He scored 25 points masquerading as a bull (just ask Carmelo Anthony) in the deciding game of last season's Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. He is a threat to pull off these kinds of plays every night. And it was nothing short of a miracle that the Pacers found a player of his talent in the second round of the draft.
*I realize "make a difference" is a little nebulous, but for my purposes, these are players who can become part of a rotation, have the capacity to be a serviceable starter and make a substantial contribution to an NBA team. Again, for some of these guys, I'm stretching it. And I didn't include any 2012 or 2013 draftees since it's still too early into their careers.
**Although, Dragic and Ellis are making strong cases for All-Star status this year, and Isaiah Thomas, Chandler Parsons, Nikola Pekovic and DeAndre Jordan could potentially make it as well in the future.
***Forgot to include Chandler Parsons in my initial post. My bad, he's one of my favorite players and one of the first guys I thought of when thinking about second round studs.