Spartans In The NBA Draft During The Izzo Era

Spartans In The NBA Draft During The Izzo Era

Basketball

Spartans In The NBA Draft During The Izzo Era

Tom Izzo has sent a busload of Spartans to NBA.  The facts support this.

Contact @crowleysullivan

I have semi-knowledgable pals who choose to view Tom Izzo’s basketball program as one that doesn’t have the chalk.

They choose to think that Michigan State’s basketball program has a fine pedigree featuring Final Four runs but one that falls short due to a supposed shortage of players that end up in the NBA.

I’m not saying these guys don’t know what they’re talking about.

All I’m saying is that they think that Michigan State is located in Lansing, Michigan.

I’m also only saying that they think that Chicago is “back east.”

I’m also only saying that they believe that if one goes to Santa Cruz, California once or twice a year, that makes one “worldly.”

But back to the point.

They’re wrong about the overall chalk component.

When Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson, Jr are selected in the NBA Draft tomorrow night, the number of Spartans in the Izzo Era to be drafted by an NBA team will be 20.

Izzo has been the head coach for 23 years.

That’s a decent ratio of players selected over that span.

I’m not even positive that it’s a “ratio” – is it a “quotient” or simply an “amount?”

Whatever it is, it seems to me that 20 players being selected in the NBA Draft over 23 years is a thing that can be described as being “good.”

Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal has a fantastic breakdown of every one of Izzo’s players that has been drafted below.

His piece reminds us of the pre-draft skinny and the results of each player’s time in the NBA.

He also points out how much cabbage each player ended up earning in the NBA.

Take a look at long-since-forgotten Jamie Feick.

After the 76ers selected Feick with the 48th pick of the draft, and after Feick had the Sixers’ front office convince him he was not being punked by his high school buddies, Philadelphia wound up cutting the big man in training camp.

However, Feick toiled in the CBA for a spell before signing a couple of 10-day contracts and, before anyone knew who Feick was, the guy wound up raking in $9.87 million.

If pulling in ten million bucks isn’t chalk enough, sign me up for lacking the chalk.

How about Shannon Brown?

Couch uses the word “journeyman” to describe Brown as an NBAer.

I think I’d consider committing to celibacy in order to be a “journeyman” who pulled in $17.5 million over nine years.

Jason Richardson was the 5th overall selection in the 2001 NBA Draft after a shiny career for Izzo.

J.R. wound up hauling in $105.4 million in thirteen seasons.

I was having a discussion about Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson, Jr with a Pac 12 “expert” fan who said, with certainty, that Bridges and Jackson would both be “typical Michigan State busts in the NBA.”

Jason Richardson, I’ll repeat, made $105.4 million dollars over the thirteen years he played in the NBA.

I asked the Pac 12 expert what he thought about Richardson (without yet knowing how much Richardson actually earned in the NBA) and the Pac 12 expert said, “I don’t remember him – who was he?  What team did he play for?”

The fact that the Pac 12er – we’ll call him Gabriel Lemschler for this article – didn’t remember Jason Richardson was weird since Richardson recently created a website dedicated to Lemschler’s legendary accomplishments as a middle aged man with a pear-shaped physique.

I was able to contact Jason Richardson through his agent and I asked Richardson about the website dedicated to Lemschler.  Here is a brief portion of the interview transcript:

Sullivan: “Thanks for sitting down for this important talk, Jason.  I’ll get right to the point – Why the decision to create the website dedicated to Gabriel Lemschler?”

Richardson: “Well, I just had always heard of how smart Lemschler has been with regard to critiquing college and pro basketball players and so many other things and I don’t think he’s ever really gotten his due.  So, I figured if someone had to pay some overdue respect to Gabriel Lemschler, it might as well be me.”

Sullivan: “How has the reception been from the public since you launched the Gabriel Lemschler website?”

Richardson: “It’s been a bit lukewarm, to tell you the truth.  It’s a little surprising since I just figured everyone would love to learn about things in his life.  Like, for instance, I have section in the website dedicated to Lemschler’s theories related to coaching Little League baseball – to me, that seems like red meat for Lemschler fans.  But that part of the site hasn’t gotten a lot of traction.”

Sullivan: “Hmm.  That’s curious.  I’d expect a spike in clicks in that Little League baseball coaching portal.  Have you spoken with Gabriel Lemschler since the launch?  What does he think of how you’ve created this living monument to his fandom and ability to critique college and pro basketball players?”

Richardson: “I actually sent him a LinkedIn thing, asking him to connect but that was, like, three weeks ago and I haven’t ever gotten any response from him.  I did a Google search on him and I think he was away at a work conference of some sort so maybe he’ll respond to me next week.”

Sullivan: “Good luck with the website.  Sometimes it takes time for people to engage in a site like the one you’ve created.  I’ve reviewed it, spent a lot of time in the various sections.  I really think people will like the section where you’ve addressed Lemschler’s ability to provide insights into so many other areas where he has expertise – the right place to go on a family vacation, the best ways to irrigate your back yard lawn, the right time to refinance a mortgage, and parenting strategies galore.  Some great, valuable stuff in there – and it’s all digestible, thanks to you, Jason.  Thanks very much.”

Richardson: “It’s a passion project of mine – so, no need to thank me.  I just hope that Gabriel sees what I’ve done and respects my attempt to properly pay tribute to his many different areas of expertise.”

For anyone who wants to engage in Jason Richardson’s website dedicated to Gabriel Lemschler, simply go to http://www.gabriellemschlerlifetributesite.com.

And for a deeper dive into the Izzo Era Spartans who have been drafted by an NBA team, take a look at Graham Couch’s piece below…

Couch: A look at Izzo’s Michigan State players in the NBA Draft, Jamie Feick through Deyonta Davis

Michigan State has had 4 players selected in the NBA draft lottery since it began in the 1985 season. Here’s how their pro careers went or are going.

Come Thursday night, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges could become the earliest pair of Michigan State players selected in the NBA Draft during the Tom Izzo era. They’ll be far from the first pair.

Under Izzo, first-round picks almost always happen in twos: Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson, Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph, Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager, Adreian Payne and Gary Harris.

If Deyonta Davis had been selected one pick earlier two years ago to join Denzel Valentine in the first round, all of MSU’s first-round picks during the Izzo era would have happened two to a year.

In all, 18 players over Izzo’s 22 previous seasons have been selected in the draft. It’ll be 20 in 23 years by about 9:15 p.m. Thursday.

Here’s a look back at the 18 — when they were chosen, what they did with their NBA careers and how much money they earned.

1996

Jamie Feick, Pick No. 48, 76ers

The draft night skinny: Feick became an NBA prospect during his senior season — Izzo’s first as Michigan State’s head coach — developing an outside shot to go along with his rugged interior play. His 20 3s were second-most on a bad-shooting Spartan team. At 6-foot-9, without great length, he was undersized for a big man and drafted at a juncture of the second round where many players didn’t stick in the NBA.

His NBA career: Feick was cut by Philadelphia in training camp and played in the CBA until signing a 10-day contract with the Charlotte Hornets in January of his rookie season. Later that winter, he signed two 10-day deals with San Antonio and then for the rest of the season. He went on to play multiple seasons with both the Bucks and Nets, starting 81 games at center for New Jersey in 1999-00. His career was cut short by an Achilles tendon tear the next season.

NBA earnings: $9.87 million

2000

Mateen Cleaves, No. 14, Pistons

Morris Peterson, No. 21, Raptors

The draft night skinny: The stars of MSU’s 2000 national championship, both seniors, were the Spartans’ first big NBA prospects under Izzo. Cleaves was seen as a winner, with strength and toughness and the clutch gene at basketball’s most important position, point guard. There were concerns about his quickness and shot, but he was thought to be a 10-year NBA point guard. Peterson, a 6-6 shooting guard/small forward was viewed as a good athlete and silky smooth offensive player, though not a great passer or ball-handler.

Their NBA careers: Cleaves, who began his career still hobbled by a foot injury and overweight, didn’t last with the Pistons and became an NBA bust (though he did play parts of six seasons in the league). His best year was his rookie season, with Detroit, when he played in 78 games and started eight, averaging 5.4 points and 2.7 assists per game. Peterson played 10 full seasons in the NBA, the first seven and his most productive years with Toronto. He was a starter for six seasons and four times averaged better than 12 points per game. His best year came in 2005-06, when he averaged 16.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and made nearly 40 percent of his 3-point shots.

NBA earnings: Cleaves – $5.1 million; Peterson – $41.8 million

2001

Jason Richardson, No. 5, Warriors

Zach Randolph, No. 19, Trail Blazers

Andre Hutson, No. 51, Bucks

The draft night skinny: Richardson, an out-of-this-world athlete and dunker even by NBA standards, was MSU’s highest draft pick since Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser in 1979. He had gone from a highlight-reel role player as a freshman on MSU’s national championship team to its leading scorer as a sophomore, with a still-evolving game. The NBA was intrigued by Randolph — his soft touch around the basket, his strength, agility and creativity — but not as in love as it should have been. Fellow big men Steven Hunter, Kirk Haston, Michael Bradley and Jason Collins all went in the five picks before Randolph. None of them did much in the NBA. Hutson was an NBA afterthought, seen as too small and limited for the league. Bucks coach George Karl crassly questioned why the team drafted Hutson, saying there was no room for him in Milwaukee.

Their NBA careers: This remains MSU’s best draft class of the Izzo era. Richardson had a really good NBA career — both in peak and career value — though was never an all-star in 13 NBA seasons with five different teams. He averaged better than 18 points per game six times and three times more than 21. His best season came in 2005-06, when he averaged 23.2 points per game for the Warriors, who traded him a year later. Randolph, who just finished his 17th season and is still playing, is a two-time NBA All-Star, who seven times has averaged more than 20 points per game and, last year, at age 36, tallied 14.5 points and 6.6 rebounds for the Sacramento Kings. Randolph began his career on notorious Portland teams, but will be remembered for his seven-year stint with the Memphis Grizzles, which ended in 2017. Hutson, a smooth interior scorer on great MSU teams, was cut by the Bucks before the 2001-02 season and never played in the NBA. He did play 9 seasons at top levels overseas.

NBA earnings: Richardson – $105.4 million; Randolph – $187.5 million

2002

Marcus Taylor, No. 52, Timberwolves

The draft night skinny: Taylor’s big February as a sophomore at MSU helped him lead the Big Ten in scoring and assists. It also led to the decision to leave early for the NBA – too early, it turned out. He was considered a borderline first-round pick and slid deep into the second around. With today’s rules, which allow players to go through the NBA scouting combine and return to school, Taylor likely would have had better information.

His NBA career: Taylor didn’t make the Timberwolves roster out of training camp and had several workouts with teams in the following years, though never played in the NBA. He played several seasons professionally overseas, as well as in the CBA and G-League.

2005

Erazem Lorbek, No. 46, Pacers

The draft night skinny: Lorbek was a beloved, quirky, crafty and productive freshman at MSU, a Slovenian power forward destined for a big career in East Lansing before unexpectedly turning pro at the urging of his father. Two years into his career in Europe, the Spurs selected him in the 2005 NBA Draft. In 2011, the Pacers traded Lorbek’s draft rights to San Antonio.

His NBA career: Lorbek never played in the NBA, though he did play on the Spurs’ NBA Summer League team in 2016, at age 32. Don’t feel badly for him. He’s been one of the highest-paid players overseas for some time. In 2012-13, for example, Lorbek earned the equivalent of $7.8 million, as much as any other player in Europe and more than all but two others.

Shannon Brown, No. 25, Cavaliers

Maurice Ager, No. 28, Mavericks

Paul Davis, No. 34, Clippers

The draft night skinny: Brown, like Jason Richardson before him, was a high-riser and superb athlete, even for the NBA. But at 6-3, he was undersized for a shooting guard and entered the league at a time the NBA was overly obsessed with height. Ager had more true NBA size and was also a bona fide NBA athlete, but was knocked for his ball-handling and passing. The NBA viewed Davis as a skilled big man with a finesse game, who didn’t always dominate as he could have at MSU.

Their NBA careers: Brown finished his nine-year NBA career as the definition of a journeyman, having played with eight different teams. His best years came from 2009-13 with the Lakers (where he won two NBA titles) and Suns. He averaged double figures in points during both of his years in Phoenix as a part-time starter. Ager spent three full seasons under NBA contract — with the Mavericks and Nets — bouncing between the big league and the G-League. Davis played three seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, averaging career-highs 4.0 points, 2.5 points and 11.9 minutes in 2008-09. After two games with the Wizards the next season, he finished his career overseas.

NBA earnings: Brown – $17.5 million; Ager – $3 million; Davis – $1.5 million

2009

Goran Suton, No. 50, Jazz

The draft night skinny: Suton’s stock rose during the 2009 NCAA tournament. Enough that the Utah Jazz selected him late in the second round.

His NBA career: Suton was cut by the Jazz before the regular season and has played at high levels overseas since.

2012

Draymond Green, No. 35, Warriors

The draft night skinny: No one knew what Green would be as an NBA player after an All-American senior season at MSU. He was undersized for an NBA power forward, a capable shooter but not a stretch-4. Green can name all 34 players selected before him in the 2012 draft. If the draft were redone today, he would go No. 3 overall, behind only Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard.

His NBA career: In fairness to NBA teams, no one thought Green would become a three-time all-star, NBA defensive player of the year, $85-million man and essential piece to the three-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors by the age of 28. He is the most important player on, arguably, one of the great NBA teams of all-time, because what he does for Golden State can’t be duplicated by anyone else on that illustrious roster.

NBA earnings: $48.6 million

2014

Adreian Payne, No. 15, Hawks

Gary Harris, No. 19, Nuggets (via Bulls)

The draft night skinny: Payne, physically, looked like a prototype modern NBA big man during his senior season at MSU — long and strong with a 3-point shot. The questions about Payne had to do with his understanding of the game and ability to maximize his physical tools. Harris was viewed as a tweener, a shooting guard with point guard size, a quality defender, a decent shooter. Steady, at worst. No one seemed sure of his ceiling on draft night.

Their NBA careers: Payne’s NBA career might be over already. He was on the verge of washing out of the league — after three uninspiring seasons with Atlanta (which traded him quickly) and Minnesota. When reports of a 2010 sexual assault investigation became national news in January, the Orlando Magic cut him. Harris’ NBA career has gone in the opposite direction. After a tough rookie season, Harris has become a quality starting shooting guard for the Nuggets, averaging 17.5 points per game last season while hitting about 40 percent of his 3-point shots over the last two seasons. He signed a four-year, $84 million contract extension last summer, which kicks in this coming season.

NBA earnings: Payne – $5.8 million; Harris $7.2 million

2015

Branden Dawson, No. 56, Clippers (via Pelicans)

The draft night skinny: Everything MSU fans thought about Dawson, the NBA did, too. He was a ferocious athlete, undersized for his position, with limited skill and an unreliable motor. Worth a late second-round pick, right where he was chosen.

His NBA career: Dawson played in six games as a rookie with the Clippers, spending the bulk of the season in the G-League. The Clippers waived him in the offseason. The Orlando Magic cut him before the next season. He played in Israel and Japan last season.

NBA earnings: $525,000

2016

Denzel Valentine, No. 14, Bulls

Deyonta Davis, No. 31, Grizzlies (via Celtics)

Bryn Forbes, undrafted, signed with Spurs

The draft night skinny: Valentine had a dazzling senior season for MSU, which made him an intriguing NBA prospect, even if questions about his athletic ability remained. His court vision, shooting and his cerebral game made him a borderline lottery pick. Davis was seen as the opposite — a player with all the physical tools, but raw and young, having left MSU unexpectedly after his freshman season. His slide to the top of the second round on draft night, at the time, looked like a cautionary tale. Forbes, known as a dynamic shooter but one-dimensional player, went undrafted.

Their NBA careers: Valentine averaged 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in his second NBA season, which including 37 starts in 77 games played for a Bulls team that won 27 games this past season. He overcame athletic limitations in college, though questions about his ceiling as an NBA player remain. Davis, it turned out, landed in an ideal spot in Memphis, where he spent his rookie season with veterans Marc Gasol and Vince Carter, who took him under their wings. He played in 62 games in his second season, averaging 5.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. Next season is his final year in a three-year, $4-million contract, though he seems headed for a long NBA career. It’s unclear yet in what role. Forbes, who picked the perfect organization with which to sign as a free agent, made the Spurs as a rookie after a stellar preseason and averaged 6.9 points per game in his second season.

NBA earnings: Valentine – $4.2 mllion; Davis – $2.6 million; Forbes $1.8 million

Contact Graham Couch at gcouch@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter at Graham_Couch.

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