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Michigan State NBA Draft History

Magic Johnson was Magic Johnson, but the recent crop of Spartans should have NBA front offices taking a close look at Travis Trice and Branden Dawson.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

With the NBA Draft coming up shortly, BTPowerhouse has been taking a look around the conference at how some of the teams have performed historically in the NBA Draft.  Today, we will be looking at how the Michigan State Spartans performed on Draft night.

Chet Aubuchon was the first Michigan State Spartan ever drafted into the NBA in 1947 (who could forget about good ol' Chet, right?) and Gary Harris was the most recent draftee last year. In between there have been 39 other players drafted. Relatively speaking, MSU hasn't suffered long droughts without sending players into the NBA: their longest dry period was from 1962-1968 and 2007-2013. No Spartans are projected to get nabbed by an NBA team this year in the draft, but it wouldn't be too surprising to see a team reach for Branden Dawson or Travis Trice.

Current Players in the NBA

Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets: Harris only averaged 13 minutes a game in his rookie season after being drafted 19th overall. Harris was a great college player despite his propensity to disappear for long stretches, and his discouraging first year campaign shouldn't be a cause for major concern just yet; the Nuggets were a mess all season and Brian Shaw's fundamental inability to relate to his players or compose sensible rotations was only superseded by his fundamental misunderstanding of how the modern NBA works. There's hope yet.

Kalin Lucas, Memphis Grizzlies: a D-Leaguer that finally made his way up to the show last year at the age of 26. He played six minutes a game despite all of the Grizzlies' injuries. He'll ride the pine until he realizes he can get more minutes (and consistent employment) overseas.

Adreian Payne, Atlanta Hawks: Payne's bounced between the D League and the NBA after lighting up the B1G during his last season at MSU, and after not really cracking the rotation in Atlanta he was traded to the Minnesota, where he has shown flashes of his potential and will undoubtedly get enough playing time to prove his worth.

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors: Green earned All NBA Defensive First Team honors last season and seems like he could be on track to become the second or third best professional Spartan ever. He was considered by media and teammates alike to be instrumental to the Warriors success, bringing toughness, cockiness, and swagger to a roster sorely in need of it (Draymond really does seem like Tom Izzo's Platonic Ideal of a former Spartan). Green may actually end up as the best player ever drafted in the second round (seriously, look it up. Manu Ginobili is far and away the best player drafted in the second round currently). He'll be a max player when his contract is up, and for good reason.

Shannon Brown, Miami Heat: Brown is a pretty clear example of someone who left college a year too early. He's athletic and was lethal on the break in college, but he hasn't yet developed NBA level passing or shooting ability. As a result, he's bounced around from team to team since he was drafted in 2007. He played 82 games twice with Lakers but could never crack 10 points a game and has never been able to reach the potential on the defensive end his athleticism suggests. He could be an effective role player in the right situation.

Alan Anderson, Brooklyn Nets: Anderson had a good D League career after coming back from overseas, where he played in Italy, Russia, Croatia, and Israel. He was a decent player for the Nets last year coming off the bench (waaay down the bench) and--at least next year--will probably find minutes in the opulent graveyard that Mikhail Prokhorov hath wrought.

Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies: The best current MSU player in the NBA, and probably the second best player the school has produced to date. Randolph's career took a few years to get off the ground, but he has become one of the best true post players in the league. He's probably one of the last of a dying breed, but he and teammate Marc Gasol anchor the best frontline in the NBA for an increasingly anomalous Memphis squad. As an added bonus, he's an ideal fantasy basketball player: he's going to put up at least 17 and 25 points and 8 and 15 rebounds a night. He does work, in short.

Jason Richardson, Philadelphia 76ers:

Nuff said.

Best Player

Unquestionably Earvin Magic Johnson. He led MSU to a national title and was the first overall pick in the 1979 NBA draft. We all know the story, so suffice it to say that Magic's a top five player of all time and the best player the Big Ten has ever sent into the NBA. MSU has had a Duke-like dearth of NBA talent for such a successful program but they at least had Magic.

Biggest Disappointment

Mateen Cleaves led the 2000 MSU squad to a national championship, and even Michigan fans couldn't deny that the plucky senior from Flint was a lovable, broad-smiling assassin. He and Morris Peterson fronted a juggernaut that burned through the regular season and entered the tournament as a one seed. They won the championship game by 13 and set Tom Izzo's streak of success in motion. Cleaves was drafted fourteenth overall by the Detroit Pistons but never lived up to the billing: he bounced from team to team, usually having to spend some time in the D League before he could even crack a roster. Fortunately, he's now one of the best basketball anchors on the BTN. Basketball is weird.


More than anything, it's really freaking hard to make it in the NBA. State has produced an all timer and a couple All Stars, and if Draymond Green has taught us anything, it's not to sleep on scrappy, intelligent MSU players like Travis Trice and Branden Dawson.