For a second-round pick, Glen Rice Jr. came at a considerable cost to the Washington Wizards, which bodes well for the former Georgia Tech guard. Rice was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the fifth pick of the second round of the NBA draft late Thursday night, but the 76ers shipped him to Washington in exchange for the Wizards’ 38th and 54th picks.
It was an important milestone in a remarkable turnaround for Rice, who was dismissed from the Yellow Jackets team in March 2012 after he was suspended twice by coach Brian Gregory and then faced a charge stemming from a shooting outside an Atlanta nightclub. Rice played last season in the NBA Development League and led the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to the league championship by averaging 25.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in six postseason games.
His performance vastly raised his draft profile, particularly considering he lasted until the fourth round of the D-League draft in November, the 55th player taken in a draft of players deemed not worthy of the NBA.
“We had Glen rated very high on our draft board due to his shooting ability and overall game,” Washington president Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. “He was able to use his season in the D-League to show that his commitment to the game matched his talent, and we’re confident that he will work hard to take advantage of this opportunity.”
By falling out of the first round — many mock drafts had him going in the bottom half of the opening round — Rice faces a more challenging route to an NBA career. First-round picks receive guaranteed contracts, but second-round picks do not. That investment typically offers first-rounders more opportunities to prove themselves.
Not counting international “draft and stash” players who have not played in the NBA, the 25 players drafted with the fourth, fifth and six picks of the second round in the past 10 years have played an average of 130.6 games. In that same span, the nine players taken with the last pick of the first round who have entered the NBA have played an average of 187.4 games.
Eight of the nine players in the first-round group have started at least one game. Of the 25 players in the second-round group, 16 have started one game or more.
The career of the 35th pick of the 2009 draft — DaJuan Summers — is typical. He has played 83 games, starting seven, for three teams. He also played in the D-League this past season. Others lasted a season or two before getting washed out and ending up in European leagues.
That said, Rice can draw inspiration from Mario Chalmers, the 34th pick of the 2008 draft. Chalmers has played his entire 366-game career with the Miami Heat and won two NBA titles. The player picked after Chalmers, DeAndre Jordan, was given a four-year, $43 million contract in 2011 by the Los Angeles Clippers, the team that drafted him.
That the Wizards traded two players for Rice indicates they strongly believe he can play at the NBA level. It will be up to him to make good on that promise.
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