4. Nick Van Exel – Selected 37th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1993 NBA Draft – One of the true enigmas of the 1990s and early 2000s, Nick Van Exel’s game was perfectly summed up in his nickname, “Nick the Quick.” Listed at a generous 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Van Exel may have been small, but he didn’t let that get in the way of him. Not only was he a reliable playmaker, who was among the top 10 leaders in assists five times throughout his career, but he was a lethal scoring threat as well. His quick, high arching, left jumper was difficult to guard, and it helped him average at least 13 points per game in each of his 13 NBA seasons. He was one of the leagues premiere starting point guards from his rookie year in Los Angeles, through his three and a half years in Denver, until he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks midseason in 2002, where he became the team’s spark plug off the bench. A Cincinnati Bearcat product, Van Exel is 14th on the NBA’s list of 3-point field goal leaders, and boasts career averages of 14.4 points and 6.6 assists per game.
3. Carlos Boozer – Selected 34th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft – Duke basketball players have been a hot commodity in the NBA for quite some time, and although Boozer may have been a product of Blue Devil basketball, it didn’t help him sneak into the first round of the 2002 NBA Draft. However, it didn’t matter, as he found instant success during his rookie year with the Cavaliers, averaging 10 PPG and 7.5 RPG while being named to the all-rookie second team. After two years with the Cavs, Boozer bolted for the Utah Jazz in a controversial contract negotiation, which ended up staining his image among NBA teams. During his time in Salt Lake City, Boozer became one of the league’s top big men, and most intimidating forces, putting up a double double in all but two of his six seasons with the Jazz. He’s a two-time all star, and is now Derrick Rose’s sidekick on the Chicago Bulls. While he has had a fairly injury-plagued career, Boozer has definitely established himself as one of the all-time great second round steals, posting career averages of 17.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
2. Gilbert Arenas – Selected 30th overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 2001 NBA Draft – Since his two college season’s at the University of Arizona, Gilbert Arenas has always been an underdog. He was told he wouldn’t be a starter during his freshman year, Arenas thought otherwise. Halfway through the season, he found himself in the starting lineup and finished they year with a 15.4 PPG scoring average. After a second season with the Wildcats, despite being told he should remain in college, Arenas entered his name in the 2001 NBA draft, under the impression he would be a first round selection. He waited, and waited, but did not hear his name called until the second round by the Golden State warriors. During his rookie season, parallels to his freshman year in college were constructed, as he was expected to not receive much playing time, let alone start. However, continuing the parallels with his first year at Arizona, he was not phased, and for the entire month of March and April, he had become the team’s official starting point guard and finished the season out with an average of 10.9 PPG. After two years in Northern California and a Most Improved Player award in 2003, he used his free agent rights to sign with the Washington Wizards, where he became one of the league’s top scoring threats, improving his scoring average each year (19.6 in 2004, 25.5 in 2005, 29.3 in 2006 and 28.4 in 2007). His career took a turn for the worst when he suffered a major knee injury at the end of the 2007 season, forcing him to undergo microfracture surgery – a very difficult procedure to recover fully from. Since then, he has yet to become the player he once was, and is now a member of the Orlando Magic, where he has assumed the role of the highest paid sixth man in NBA history, as he made over $17 million this past season.