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. This time we are going to go through the illustrious draft history of the Michigan State Spartans and examine the greatest pros to come out of East Lansing.
Michigan State basketball is one of the premier programs in college hoops and have enjoyed grand success under head coach Tom Izzo. The Spartans are eighth all-time in Final Four appearances and ninth all-time in NCAA tournament winning percentage. But to go along with their team accomplishments, they have produced a multitude of great individuals that have taken their talents to the pros.
There have been a total of 58 Spartans to get drafted into the NBA, per Basketball Reference, beginning with Gordon Stauffer in the 1952 draft. The most recent Spartan to make it to the league is Branden Dawson, who was selected in the second round of the 2015 draft. Currently, there are six Spartans in the NBA: the aforementioned Dawson, Alan Anderson, Draymond Green, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, and Zach Randolph.
Eighteen Spartans have gone in the first round and five have been first round picks. Their one and only first overall pick is the one and only Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Magic Johnson is easily the greatest Michigan State product to go pro but there have been several other Spartans to make a name for themselves in the Association.
5. Steve Smith
Smith was the fifth overall pick in the 1991 NBA draft and played four seven different teams in a span of 15 years but was best known when playing for the Atlanta Hawks. There he averaged his highest points per game average for his career (20.1) and also made an All-Star team in 1998. Smith was known for his great shooting ability and even led the league in three point percentage in the 2001 season when he shot 47.2%.
4. Draymond Green
While some may say it's premature, a major reason I put the Golden State forward on this list is because of the potential for a great career after a very good start. By his fourth season, Green has already been an all-star, a two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, and a key starter on an NBA championship team. He is a stout and versatile defender who has developed range from the three point line and Green is also an adept playmaker with his great passing ability. If he continues on this upward trend, Green will become an established star in NBA and one of the great all-time pro Spartans.
3. Jason Richardson
The 6'6" shooting guard was one of the most electrifying players in the league with his great dunking ability and his sweet stroke from deep. In his 15 year career, Richardson averaged 17 points per game to go along with five rebounds a game and 2.7 assists. He ranks 18th all-time in three pointers made and is one of the best dunkers we have ever seen, as evidenced when he won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2002 and 2003.
2. Zach Randolph
Definitely one of the most menacing Spartans in NBA history, Randolph, however, is also known for his sweet post moves and soft touch around the rim. Z-Bo is one of the best bigs in the NBA even know going into his 16th year in the league. Undersized at power forward, Randolph makes up for it with his supreme toughness and doggedness playing amongst the other trees in the forest that is the NBA. He dominates in the low post and forms one of the best frontcourt tandems in pro basketball with center Marc Gasol. The two-time all star is averaging 17 PPG and 9.4 RPG for his career.
1. Magic Johnson
There is no doubt that Magic is the greatest Spartan of all time as well as the greatest Spartan to ever don an NBA uniform. The 6'9" Hall of Famer is also widely considered the greatest point guard in league history. His accolades are numerous: five-time NBA champion, three time regular season and Finals MVP, 12-time all-star, nine-time All-NBA First Team, and on and on. Magic revolutionized the point guard position with his size and extraordinary vision/passing ability. Magic led the league in assists four times and steals twice. The Laker great nearly averaged a triple double for his career with 19.5 PPG, 11.2 APG (the most all-time), and 7.2 RPG. What, you're not impressed? For Christ's sake, the guy started at center in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals and he dominated racking up 42 points and 15 rebounds! Though his career was cut short due to an HIV diagnosis, Magic is the best point guard the NBA's ever seen and one of its most beloved characters.