For the early part of the 21st century, the Wisconsin Badgers were a great college basketball team that simply did not produce NBA draft picks. Wisconsin made a Final Four in 1999 and a Sweet Sixteen in 2003 without having a single player drafted in those respective seasons.
The Badgers have only had five players drafted since 1997, but four have been first round selections. Let’s take a closer look at the NBA career of those recent Wisconsin draft picks.
-2004 - Devin Harris 5th
After being drafted fifth by the Washington Wizards, Devin Harris was traded on draft day to the Dallas Mavericks. He was a solid contributor for the Mavericks, improving his scoring each season to the high of 14.4 when he was traded mid-season in 2008 to the New Jersey Nets.
Harris produced the best seasons of his career in New Jersey, including career highs with 21.3 points per game and 1.7 steals per game in 2009. For his performance, Harris was named an NBA All-Star that season. He was traded again in 2011 to Utah and is currently back playing for the Mavericks.
-2007 - Alando Tucker 29th
Wisconsin basketball’s all-time leading scorer was selected 29th in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. Alando Tucker scored 2,147 points during his tremendous four year Badgers career. Tucker was Big Ten Player of the Year and a 1st Team All-American in 2007.
Tucker spent his first three years in Phoenix, traveling between the NBA and the developmental league. In 2009, he was traded to Minnesota, and was subsequently waived in 2010. He has played overseas since that season, and his still currently playing in Israel.
Tucker is unfortunately a prime example of the early 2000’s reputation that Wisconsin Badgers players do not translate to good pros.
-2011 - Jon Leuer 40th
The 6’10” big man was selected 40th by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2011 NBA Draft. After a brief stay in Cleveland, Leuer found a home in Memphis where he blossomed into a solid role player.
Leuer played in 63 games for the Grizzlies during the 2014-2015 season, averaging 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He was traded to Phoenix, where he continued to steadily improve averaging 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds while starting 27 games during the 2015-2016 season.
His 2016-2017 season was his career best, averaging 10.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists for the Detroit Pistons. He is an exciting young big man who continues to improve each season in the league.
2015-Frank Kaminsky 9th, Sam Dekker 18th
Very few players in Big Ten history had a more accomplished collegiate resume than the Badgers Frank Kaminsky. The 7’0” 240 lb center was first team All Big Ten twice (2014, 2015), the Big Ten Player of the Year (2015), and National Player of the Year (2015). Kaminsky led the Badgers to the NCAA Championship game in his senior year averaging 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists.
Kaminsky was drafted ninth in the 2015 draft by Charlotte and has blossomed into a solid NBA big man. In his second season, he started 16 games and averaged 11.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. He even got a taste of the NBA playoffs in a tough seven game series loss to Miami.
Sam Dekker parlayed a breakout NCAA Tournament into the 18th overall selection after declaring for the draft as a Wisconsin junior. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the West Region, and finished the year averaging 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds for a 36 win Wisconsin team.
Dekker was selected 18th by the Houston Rockets, but missed most of his rookie season after back surgery. He served as a valuable role player this past season averaging 6.5 points in 77 games played. In January, Dekker had a career high 30 points in a big road win at Memphis including six of 11 from three-point range.
The Wisconsin Badgers do not have the most storied history when it comes to quantity of NBA Draft picks, but the last few years they have produced solid contributors on the next level. Players like Devin Harris, Jon Leuer, Frank Kaminsky, and Sam Dekker have brought back attention from league executives to the Wisconsin program.
The Badgers remain one of the most successful college programs in the Big Ten, and have a chance to add four year Nigel Hayes to this list during Thursday’s 2017 NBA Draft.