There's never been a Florida Gator taken No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft. No matter: The Gators that do get selected all pan out, almost to a man.
While reading some NBA Draft coverage yesterday — and preparing our own stuff for this evening — I noted that, in Bill Simmons's latest epic undertaking, a repicking of every NBA Draft since 1995, the Gators were almost uniformly excellent picks.
Not one of the six Gators taken in the lottery under Billy Donovan in the era Simmons circumscribes — Bradley Beal in 2012, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, and Joakim Noah in 2007, Mike Miller in 2000, and Jason Williams way back in 1998 — fell into Simmons's Lottery Whiffs pack, with all of those players but Brewer rating as one of the top 10 picks of their respective draft, and a starter-quality player. Beal, Horford, and Noah all rated as "All-Star" players, in Simmons's view, and while Miller and Williams weren't ever All-Stars, both players made the NBA's All-Rookie teams, and stayed good enough for long enough to pick up at least one ring.
Brewer, meanwhile, is a "Rotation Guy," per Simmons, but he's been a starter, too — and, remember, he dropped 51 earlier this year, so he's clearly not done in the league.
But what's really impressive is the number of Gators who have been picked late, or not at all, and still stuck. The two biggest success stories are obvious: Simmons re-ranks Chandler Parsons, drafted with the 38th pick, as the No. 4 player in the 2011 NBA Draft, behind Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson, and gives him a "Quality Starter" designation, while David Lee, taken No. 30 in 2005, rises to No. 3, and gets a Quality Starter asterisk of his own.
Nick Calathes went No. 45 in 2009; he's labeled a Rotation Guy. Marreese "Mo" Speights is a Rotation Guy after having been the No. 16 pick in 2008. Matt Bonner gets slotted in as a Rotation Guy despite having gone No. 45 in 2003.
And Udonis Haslem, not mentioned by Simmons because he wasn't drafted, would probably land somewhere between Starter and Rotation Guy, in my estimation.
The Gators that have been drafted from 1995 to 2013 and weren't mentioned by Simmons are Andrew DeClercq (34th in 1995), Donnell Harvey (22nd in 2000), Christian Drejer (51st in 2004), Chris Richard (41st in 2007), Taurean Green (52nd in 2007), Vernon Macklin (52nd in 2011), and Erik Murphy (49th in 2013). Of them, only Harvey was a first-round pick or an early entrant, and the consensus has long been that he made a poor decision by leaving early; he's a "bust," if not a bust, but that reflects more on him leaving than what Donovan was able to impart. And DeClercq, a Lon Kruger product, had an 11-year career as a backup big man before retiring.
Of the other five, all Donovan players, only Murphy still has a chance at an NBA career — but all five have had professional careers, even Drejer, who burned a lot of bridges while at Florida. Other than maybe Drejer, I don't think any of those five second-rounders would have gotten even a sniff from the NBA without developing significantly in college.
With a sterling record of performance from his blue-chippers, a sterling record of performance from his overlooked products, and a minimal risk of bust, Billy Donovan's track record is very, very good when it comes to producing productive NBA players. He's never had the clear best player in the NBA Draft, sure — though Noah might well have gone No. 1 in the 2006 NBA Draft, had he come out — but he's developed young guys into professional-minded men who are usually ready to excel from the jump.