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Michigan State Has Led The Big Ten In Recent NBA Draft Performances

What has been the recent history of Spartan players in the NBA Draft?

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans have as robust an NBA Draft history in the 21st century as any team in the Big Ten conference. Tom Izzo’s team has seen 17 players get drafted since the year 2000, and many have produced at a high NBA level. Michigan State produces talented players, with strong work ethics, that display the rare characteristic of resiliency.

Here is a look at the most successful draft picks from the Michigan State basketball tree since the 2000 season.

-2000 - Mateen Cleaves 14th, Morris Peterson 21st

It didn’t take Tom Izzo long to bring a National Championship to East Lansing. In just his fifth year as head coach, the Spartans hung a banner behind two great college players in point guard Mateen Cleaves and forward Morris Peterson.

Cleaves was one of the most accomplished Big Ten players in the history of the conference. He won back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year honors in 1998 and 1999. After leading Michigan State to the NCAA Championship while winning the Most Outstanding Player Award of the Final Four, Cleaves was selected 14th in the 2000 NBA Draft by the hometown Detroit Pistons.

Cleaves NBA career did not mimic his college success, as he played for four different teams in six seasons, finishing with averages of only 3.6 points and 1.9 assists per game.

Morris Peterson was the less heralded of the two players coming into the draft, but had the significantly better NBA career. After the championship in 2000, Peterson was selected 21st by the Toronto Raptors. He made the 2001 All-Rookie NBA First Team, and had his best season in 2005-2006 when he averaged 16.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game.

Peterson played seven of his 11 career NBA seasons in Toronto, and finished with an overall career average of 10.7 point per game, while shooting a superb 37.3 percent from three-point range.

-2001 - Jason Richardson 5th, Zach Randolph 19th

After a 14 year professional career, Jason Richardson can certainly say he enjoyed “sustained success” in the NBA. He was drafted by Golden State with the fifth overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.

As one of Michigan State’s most decorated basketball alumni, Richardson finished with 14,644 points, 4,245 rebounds, and 2,284 assists. “J-Rich” played for five NBA teams, with his best years coming with Golden State in his first five professional seasons. He even reached the Western Conference Finals in 2010 with the Phoenix Suns after averaging 19.3 points per game in the regular season.

Richardson’s most famous NBA accomplishment? His back-to-back NBA Slam Dunk Championships in 2002 and 2003.

At the age of 35 years old, Zach Randolph is still a major scorer in the NBA. After leading the Spartans to their third straight Final Four in 2001 as a freshman, Randolph entered the 2001 draft and was taken by Portland with the 19th overall pick.

Randolph as been a major force in the league during his entire career. He was voted third team all NBA in 2011 and has been an All-Star twice. Randolph has averaged over 20 points per game six times during his career with four different teams (Memphis, New York, Los Angeles Clippers, and Memphis).

The highlight of Zach Randolph’s career was when his eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies eliminated the number one seed San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs.

Both Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph have enjoyed incredibly successful NBA careers after their Michigan State college years.

-2006 - Shannon Brown 25th

There were three Michigan State Spartans taken in the 2006 NBA Draft: Shannon Brown (25th), Maurice Ager (28th), and Paul Davis (34th). The one with the most impressive NBA career was clearly the two-time NBA champion, Shannon Brown.

After being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2006, Brown suffered limited playing time during his first two seasons due to injuries.

Brown then bounced from Chicago to Charlotte, before finally landing on his best fit with the Los Angeles Lakers. His scoring average increased each season with the Lakers, from 3.2 to 8.1 to 8.7 points per game. Brown was part of the Lakers’ NBA championships in 2009 and 2010.

Brown played 12 seasons in the league and is another huge basketball success from the Spartan family.

-2012 - Draymond Green 35th

Without a doubt, Draymond Green is the most successful current Michigan State alum in the NBA. Despite not being a first round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Green has served as a key starter for the Golden State Warriors and just won his second NBA title in the last three seasons.

Green has racked up the accolades in his five year NBA career. He is a two time NBA All Star, two time All NBA Defensive Team, and lead the NBA in steals this past season. Green was named to the All-NBA Second team in 2016 and the All-NBA Third team this past season.

Draymond Green has simply continued his incredible Michigan State success, which saw two Final Fours and one Big Ten Tournament Championship during his illustrious four seasons.

-2014 - Gary Harris 19th

After a being named All-Big Ten during a great sophomore season, Gary Harris declared for the NBA Draft and was selected 19th by the Chicago Bulls, but was immediately traded to the Denver Nuggets. Harris was the second Spartan taken that year, with teammate Adreian Payne selected 15th by the Atlanta Hawks.

Harris has improved every year in Denver, and has been a starter each of the past two seasons. He raised his scoring average from 3.4 points his rookie season to 12.3 points last season, and a career high 14.9 points per game this past season. Always a high percentage shooter at Michigan State, Harris shot over 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range this past season.

While Payne has received minimal minutes in his three seasons, Gary Harris has clearly carved out a huge role on a rebuilding Denver Nuggets team.

-2016 - Denzel Valentine 14th, Deyonta Davis 31st

Both Denzel Valentine and Deyonta Davis saw limited playing time in their first season. Valentine did play in 57 games this past season, averaging 5.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He served as primarily a stationary shooter for the Bulls, but is already preparing for an expanded role next season.

Deyonta Davis did not see much playing time this past season, but with a 6’10” frame and still only 20 years old, he should have an opportunity to potentially replace his fellow Michigan State alum, Zach Randolph.


The Michigan State Spartans have consistently produced quality NBA talent throughout their history, and that trend has certainly continued under head coach Tom Izzo. During that time, the Spartans have produced 18 drafted players since 1996, including ten first round draft picks.

While there doesn’t appear to be any Michigan State players who will be selected in this year’s NBA draft, there will likely be multiple selections after an upcoming 2017-2018 season already filled with Final Four aspirations.