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What Does the No. 21 Pick in the NBA Draft Get You?

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The Utah Jazz have the No. 21 pick in this year’s draft. How good has that pick been historically?

Utah Jazz Photo by Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz have the No. 21 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. And of course, SLC Dunk has you more than covered on potential targets for the team there.

Today’s exercise, though, will take a look in the opposite direction. How has the No. 21 pick fared in the NBA over the course of league history?

A total of 29 players have been taken at 21 since 1989, when the two-round draft format was implemented. And the average of those 29 players yielded surprisingly decent production:

You can get a better look at the above chart here.


The average career length for a player selected at this point is 427 games (over five seasons’ worth). And of course, that number isn’t static, as seven of these players are still in the NBA.

The average basic stat line is 9.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists. The median Box Plus-Minus is minus-0.8 (below average, but better than replacement level). For the sake of context, the players whose career statistical profiles come closest to that above are Rick Fox and Bryant Stith.

Of the 29 players, 22 appeared in at least a season’s worth of games (82). Twelve played in at least 500 games. And two had over 1,000 appearances.

Five had career Box Plus-Minuses of at least one. Thirteen were at zero (average) or better. Seventeen were at minus-two (replacement level) or better.

The seven total All-Star appearances came from three different players. Rajon Rondo has four. Michael Finley had two. Jayson Williams had one.

Just over 10 percent of the No. 21 picks since 1989 being All-Stars is a bit surprising, though obviously still an unexpected outcome.

That, of course, is the likely ceiling of any prospect taken there in 2018. The floor would be an outcome like Pavel Podkolzin (six total appearances), Dontae’ Jones (15), Craig Brackins (17), Joseph Forte (25) or Mitch McGary (52). All five were out of the league within two seasons. That works out to around 17 percent of the 29 players above.

The median Box Plus-Minus is represented by two guys: Blue Edwards and Ricky Davis.

Edwards, of course, was drafted by the Jazz in 1989. Over the next three seasons, he started in 186 of the 225 games he played, and averaged 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and one steal, while shooting 51.8 percent from the field.

And while Davis has been the punchline of plenty of jokes on NBA Twitter, a volume scorer off the bench might actually fill a need for this particular Jazz team. Davis averaged double-figures in seven different seasons, and even topped 20 a game in 2002-03.


Long story short, the number of potential outcomes at No. 21 is large. But as I said earlier, the results of this dive into history were surprisingly good. Finding a contributor this late in the draft isn’t impossible, and Dennis Lindsey has hit on players in the 20s before. I mean, he certainly beat the odds with No. 27 pick Rudy Gobert.

Expecting that kind of a hit again may be asking too much, but Utah can find some help at 21, particularly in a draft as deep as this one.

Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com or Basketball Reference.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for SLC Dunk and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewDBailey) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R’s Dan Favale.