NBA Draft: 5 best picks of lottery era at No. 31

NBA Draft Elie Okobo. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
NBA Draft Elie Okobo. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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NBA Draft
NBA Draft Elie Okobo. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With the Brooklyn Nets holding 3 picks in the NBA Draft and reportedly looking for frontcourt help, here are the best picks of the lottery era at No. 31.

The NBA Draft has gone through a lot of iterations over the years, but since 1989, the draft has been essentially the same — two rounds long — with the top pick at a minimum determined through some sort of lottery system since 1985.

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The Brooklyn Nets currently hold three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft, set for June 20 at Barclays Center.

In addition to their own pick in the first round at No. 17 overall, the Nets own the No. 27 overall pick in the first round (from the Denver Nuggets, courtesy of last summer’s salary dump trade in which Brooklyn took on Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur) and the New York Knicks second-round selection at No. 31 overall (acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in December 2017).

The No. 31 pick was once a fourth-round selection in the 1950s and 1960, before expansion pushed it first into the third round and then into the second.

With the last expansion in 2004, when Charlotte rejoined the NBA, the No. 31 pick is now the first pick of the second round.

Last year’s No. 31 pick was made by the Phoenix Suns, who selected French point guard Elie Okobo and signed him to a four-year, $6 million deal.

Unlike first-round picks, whose contracts are locked in via the rookie scale in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, second-round selections can negotiate deals of up to four years, though they are usually less than those given to first-round picks.

Okobo’s deal is non-guaranteed for 2020-21 and includes a team option for the final season in 2012-22.

The left-hander started 16 games and played in 53 overall for the Suns last season, averaging 5.7 points and 2.4 assists in 18.1 minutes per game and shooting 39.3 percent overall and 29.5 percent on 2.5 3-point attempts per game.

The No. 31 spot is not a prime-time pick, to be sure, but there have been some gems unearthed from that position on the draft board.

In the pre-lottery era, All-Stars Danny Ainge (1981, Boston Celtics) and Doc Rivers (1983, Atlanta Hawks) came out of that position, along with journeyman big man Jim Chones (1973, Los Angeles Lakers).

As for the Nets, they’ve picked at No. 31 just once in their history, tabbing 7-foot-3 German center Tibor Pleiss with the first pick of the second round in the 2010 NBA Draft.

But Pleiss didn’t stick around long; New Jersey traded his rights, along with those to Jordan Crawford, to the Atlanta Hawks for Damion James.

Pleiss’ rights would bounce around, through the Oklahoma City Thunder and eventually to the Utah Jazz, who signed him in 2015. He was with Utah for one season, but actually played more for the Idaho Stampede in the NBA Development League (28 games) than for the Jazz (12 games).

Pleiss logged just 82 NBA minutes for the season, averaging 2.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in 6.8 minutes per game and shooting 44 percent overall while missing both of his 3-point attempts.

He was dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers in August 2016 in a deal that also sent a couple of 2017 second-round picks to the 76ers in exchange for Kendall Marshall. Pleiss was waived five days later and played this season with Anadolu Efes in Turkey.

So that would not be one of the great success stories from the old No. 31 spot. But there have been some.

Here are the five best picks at No. 31 overall in the lottery era (since 1985), just something to ponder as the Nets prepare to make a pick in that position later this month.