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May 24, 2011

Gators in the NBA Draft - Boom & Bust

The NBA Draft is fast approaching, and former Gators Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus will hold be holding their breath on June 23 hoping to hear their name called during the two-round event.

No doubt the trio, as well as the teams that end up drafting them, will be hoping for long and productive NBA careers, but a draft selection alone does not a career make.

Since Billy Donovan took over UF basketball in 1996, Florida has had 13 players taken in the draft, including eight in the first round.

Former Gators have had mixed success in the association, as is to be expected by a big program moving a lot of players to the next level -- some will succeed and some will bust.

Here are a few former Donovan-era UF players who met or exceeded draft expectations based on where they were selected:

Jason Williams; 1st Round, 7th pick of 1998 NBA Draft, Sacramento Kings "White Chocolate" created quite a buzz immediately upon entering the league in 1999, wowing Sacramento crowds with his slick dribbling and passing skills. Williams always seemed to be in the playoffs throughout his career, making appearances as a member of the Kings, Grizzlies, Heat and Magic. He averaged just over 10 points per game and just shy of six assists per game for his career, and won a ring with the Heat in 2006.

Mike Miller; 1st Round, 5th pick of the 2000 NBA Draft, Orlando Magic Miller is currently in the middle of a playoff run as a member of the Miami Heat, but he was originally selected by Orlando, where he went on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. His best years were in Memphis, where he played from 2002-08. Miller averaged over 18 points per game with the Grizzlies in the 2006-07 season before becoming a bit of a journeyman, stopping in Minnesota and Washington for a brief stay before signing with the Heat this offseason. Throughout his career, Miller has always been a well-rounded small forward, scoring, rebounding and passing at a high level. For his 12-year career, Miller has averaged 13.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

David Lee; 1st Round, 30th pick of 2005 NBA Draft, New York Knicks Taken at the end of the first round by the Knicks, it took Lee a while to earn starters minutes on an unimpressive team run by Isaiah Thomas. Early on, Lee made a name for himself with stat-heads by putting up unbelievable per 48 minutes rebounding numbers as a bench player, before finally emerging as a star in his fourth year with the team. He averaged 20.2 points,11.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists in his final season in New York, earning him a huge six-year, $80-milion free-agent contract with the Golden State Warriors before this season.

Al Horford; 1st Round, 3rd pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, Atlanta Hawks It's still early in Horford's career, but the fourth-year pro has a great chance of being the greatest NBA player in Florida basketball history, if he isn't already. Horford has already made two All-Star teams as a center for the Hawks, and this season he made the All-NBA Third Team, becoming the first former Gator to make any All-NBA squad. Horford is one of the best young centers in the league with an above average offensive game that includes nice touch from mid-range and a defensive game that really provides the bulk of his value. In addition to averaging 12.8 points per game, Horford has averaged 9.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.

In comparison, here are a few former Donovan-era UF players who disappointed after being drafted.

Donnell Harvey; 1st Round, 22nd pick of the 2000 NBA Draft, New York Knicks Harvey was a raw, young talent who could jump out of any gym, O'Connell Center or otherwise. He decided to leave school early following his freshman year, and was subsequently drafted high by the Knicks, though he never played a game with the franchise. Harvey could never put it together and develop the all-around game needed for the NBA and found himself out of the league in 2002. He has since played overseas in Turkey, Puerto Rico and Bosnia, where he currently resides while still playing professional basketball.

Nick Calathes; 2nd Round, 45th pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, Minnesota Timberwolves Calathes' story still has plenty of chapters to be written, but as of right now the second-rounder hasn't even played in an NBA game yet. Calathes made the extremely rare decision to leave college early in order to play basketball overseas. The Mavericks still thought highly enough of him to trade for his rights even though Calathes signed with Panathinaikos of the Greek league before the draft, where he recently won the Euroleague Championship. Calathes averaged 7.7 points per game on 62.2 percent shooting and three assists per game this season. It should be noted that he also only averaged 18.9 minutes per game, as European teams are often reluctant to commit lots of minutes to young American players right away.

Corey Brewer; 1st Round, 7th pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, Minnesota Timberwolves Brewer can still prove to people that he isn't a bust, but time is fast running out. The No. 7 overall pick was given plenty of minutes by the Timberwolves to prove that he could grow into a franchise cornerstone, but his lack of offensive skill lead to him being traded to New York in the Carmelo Anthony trade this season. The Knicks cut him immediately and Brewer signed with Dallas, where he is currently watching his Mavericks make a title run from the bench mostly. Brewer's length made him a premier wing defender as he averages 1.3 steals per game for his career, but his inability to put the ball on the floor or be a serviceable spot-up three-point shooter made him a quick failure in Minnesota.

Though he signed with Florida out of high school, since he never actually suited up for the Gators, Kwame Brown isn't included on the list of disappointments.
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