As we inch towards the 2016 NBA Draft, it's time to take a look at the Big Ten's track record when it comes to representation on basketball's highest level. Here at BTPowerhouse, we are breaking down the draft histories of each team and counting down the top NBA players these schools had to offer.
Today we are examining Michigan basketball's production of NBA talent and the best pros to ever don the maize and blue.
When you think about the blue bloods of college hoops, the obvious historic programs come to mind. Duke, Kansas, and North Carolina are powerhouses. Indiana, Kentucky, and UCLA are college basketball royalty. These programs have been the best teams in history but they have also been factories of the best players as well. Michigan may not be a true blue blood, but they have certainly produced great NBA talents.
According to Basketball Reference, there have been 66 collegiate basketball players to be drafted into the NBA from the University of Michigan, the first one being Bob Harrison in the 1949 BAA Draft. (The Basketball Association of America was the original iteration of the NBA.)
The most recent Wolverines drafted into the league were the 2014 trio of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas. Right now, there are six active NBA players that used to call Ann Arbor home: The aforementioned three, Trey Burke, Jamal Crawford, and Tim Hardaway Jr.
But what happened in 2015?
Well, the 2014-2015 Michigan Wolverines were a young team, and while the "one-and-done" and players leaving for early draft entry is the prevalent trend, that Michigan roster possessed no such talent. That year, Michigan went 16-16 and finished ninth in the Big Ten. The best player on that team was guard Caris Levert, but he only played 18 games before sustaining a season-ending foot injury, and he later decided to return for his senior season.
But Michigan hasn't gone too many years without producing NBA players, and its longest drought was way back in the mid 20th century when no Wolverine was drafted from 1950-1959. In fact, Michigan has had 24 first round picks, and two number one overall selections, Cazzie Russell in 1966 and the Fab Five's Chris Webber in 1993.
Speaking of C-Webb, the talisman of those 1991 and 1992 seasons is one of the greatest Michigan products to ever play in the NBA.
Let's countdown the top five Wolverines in league history.
5. Jalen Rose
Casual NBA fans may just remember Rose as the guy guarding Kobe Bryant when the Mamba went for 81 points in 2006. But after the leader of the Fab Five left for the league, he went on to have a solid career. Over Rose's 13 year career, he averaged 14.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. He played for six different teams, but had some of his best seasons for the Pacers, where he won Most Improved Player in 2000, and the Bulls, where he averaged a career-high 22 PPG.
4. Jamal Crawford
One of the most exciting players in the NBA, Crawford's dynamic playmaking ability as well as his longevity in the league is what edges him past Jalen Rose. The man with the killer crossover is entering his 17th NBA season has a highlight reel full of plays that leave you awestruck. He is one of the best players in the league creating off the dribble, and (fun fact) he holds the record for career four-point plays. For his career, Crawford is averaging 15.5 PPG, is seventh all-time in made three pointers, and is a three time winner of the Sixth Man of the Year award, the first ever player to do so.
3. Glen Rice
Rice led Michigan to a national title in 1989 and then declared for the NBA draft where he was taken fourth overall by the Miami Heat. He played 15 seasons in the league and averaged 18.3 PPG while also making 1559 threes and shooting 40% for his career. He was one of the best long range shooters in the league and led the league in three-point percentage in 1997. The three-time NBA All-Star scored over 18,000 points in his career and won a ring with the Lakers in 2000.
2. Rudy Tomjanovich
This man has his iconic number 45 retired just about everywhere it seems as it hangs in the rafters of the Crisler Center as well as the Toyota Center in Houston. The second overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft is one of the greatest players in Rockets history. Though his career was cut short after an infamous and nearly fatal altercation with Kermit Washington, Tomjanovich still had a very successful 11 year career. Rudy T averaged 17.4 PPG and 8.1 RPG, was a five-time all-star, and is the third-leading scorer in Rockets history.
1. Chris Webber
The best player on the Fab Five went on to have a great NBA career. C-Webb was the first overall pick in 1993 and became that season's Rookie of the Year. He went on to play 15 seasons with five different teams, most notably the Sacramento Kings. The five-time NBA All-Star averaged 20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 4.2 APG. He was also the league's leading rebounder in 1999 and All-NBA First Team in 2001. The Kings ultimately retired his jersey in 2009.