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 taking a peek at the Wisconsin Badgers and their draft saga.
Wisconsin basketball has been a very successful program, especially in recent years. They have made it into the NCAA tournament every year since 1999. Despite their team success, the school has not produced a ton of high caliber NBA talent. In fact, there have only been four Badgers drafted in the first round since the turn of the century, and half of those picks came in the 2015 draft.
The first college basketball player from Wisconsin to be drafted into the pros was Glen Selbo in 1947, while most recently Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker were taken ninth and 18th overall last year. In total, 40 Badgers have been selected in an NBA Draft, including 10 first rounders. As of the 2015-2016 NBA season, there are currently five Wisconsin players on NBA rosters: Duje Dukan, Devin Harris, Jon Leuer, Kaminsky, and Dekker.
But now let’s look to the past to examine the best Badgers to make it to the pros (warning Badger fans: the pickings are slim).
5. Brad Sellers
Yup. The pickings are so slim that I'm going with a guy that actually graduated from Ohio State. The 7-footer started in Madison, but finished his college career in Columbus. But hey Badger fans, you take what you can get. Sellers was actually a pretty high pick, going ninth overall in the 1986 draft. He is one of the rare Wisconsin players to play more than even five NBA seasons. Sellers suited up for four NBA teams in just six seasons, giving him the fourth longest NBA career amongst all former Badgers. He is just one of six former Wisconsin players to play at least 5 years in the league, and he is fourth all time amongst his fellow Badgers in years played and games played. He averaged 6.3 points per game and 2.67 rebounds per game, but that's not important, he's just on here for longevity.
4. Frank Kaminsky
Yup. The pickings are so slim that I'm going with a guy that has played a total of one NBA season. Taken ninth overall in last year's draft, I'm putting Kaminsky fourth based on potential. He played 81 games for the Charlotte Hornets this season and started three of them. He only averaged 7.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, but had some promising games where you could see him becoming a significant contributor to an NBA team. He went for a season-high 23 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes on December 23rd, as well as 18 points and 11 rebounds (a season high) in 30 minutes of playing time on April 10th. So yeah, not a ton to go off just yet, but there's definitely potential enough for Frank the Tank to climb up this list.
3. Wes Matthews (Sr.)
The 14th pick in the 1980 draft, Matthews had a fairly promising start to his career when he averaged 12.4 points per game and 5.2 assists per game in his rookie year. The following season he went for 10.9 PPG and 6.3 APG. He played for eight seasons (making him third on the Badgers all-time list) and even won two NBA championships with the Showtime Lakers. Despite the fast start, Matthews only ended up averaging 7.9 points and 4.2 assists, but it really doesn’t matter: he's got a couple rings, something the Badgers haven't achieved since 1941.
2. Devin Harris
The semi-journeyman point guard has established a solid NBA career for himself and could become the longest tenured Badger in the pros. After 11 seasons, Harris has averaged 11.7 points and 4.4 assists and is a serviceable backup NBA point guard. However, when I think of the former Badger, all I can really picture is him getting shook twice by some guy in jeans. (Sorry, Wisconsin).
1. Michael Finley
Hey, look. We've finally gotten to a semi-NBA star on this list. Finley is probably the greatest Badger of all-time and took his talents to the NBA where he was more than just a decent contributor. In his rookie year, the 6'7" wing averaged 15 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. After being traded to Dallas, Finley, playing alongside Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, led the Mavericks in points, assists, and steals in his first year there. Finley is a two-time all-star and was a solid contributor on the Spurs' 2007 championship team as he was a valuable outside shooter. For his career, Finley shot 37.5% from the three-point line and averaged 15.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.