In the 2011 draft, the Sacramento Kings made waves by taking BYU sparkplug Jimmer Fredette with the 10th overall pick. In addition to Fredette, they also took 5’9” Washington point guard Isaiah Thomas with the draft’s 60th overall pick, making him Mr. Irrelevant. Contrary to expectations, it was Thomas who evolved into an impact player for the team in 2012, putting up an impressive line of 11.5 points per game on 45% shooting, with 4.1 assists and a 17.6 PER. (Compare that to Fredette’s miserable 7.6 points on 39% shooting, with 1.8 assists and a 10.8 PER.)
But more importantly, how does Thomas’ performance compare with that of other Mr. Irrelevants since the draft was reduced to two rounds in 1989? Simply put, it was the best season of any last pick ever, and it was only Thomas’ rookie year.
Of the 22 players who became the draft’s final selection, only nine ever played a minute in the NBA: 1990’s Sean Higgins; 1994’s Zeljko Rebraca; 1995’s Don Reid; 1998’s Macceo Baston; 2002’s Corsley Edwards; 2003’s Andreas Glyniadakis; 2005’s Alex Acker; 2006’s Will Blalock; and 2008’s Semih Erden. (Erden is the only player currently on a roster.) And from these nine guys, only one has started more games in their career than Isaiah Thomas did last season — that would be forward Reid, whose PER was only 11.8 over the course of his career. Besides him, Rebraca and Higgins are the only guys who have started more than 20 games, with 22 and 27 respectively.
Thomas’ success as a last pick is even more unprecedented because he’s a guard. The only Mr. Irrelevants who have played guard were Blalock and Acker, and the pair never started a single game between them, both washing out of the league over the course of a few years. The guys who managed to stick around appeared to do so because they were big bodies and effective per-minute rebounders, like Semih Erden, who currently plays for the Cavs and averages 7.4 boards per 36 minutes.
Moral of the story here: the Los Angeles Lakers shouldn’t get their hopes up with that 60th pick. And the Kings should consider themselves very, very lucky.