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A History of Recent 48th Picks in the NBA Draft

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The 48th pick in the draft is better than the 56th pick — but how much better?

Los Angeles Clippers v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The better of the Clippers’ two picks in the 2019 NBA Draft is the 48th pick, which is their own selection. This is right around the area when teams start selecting international stashes and long-term development projects rather than players who they think might contribute soon, and those players are always of far less interest to fans. However, like any pick, good players have been selected 48th, and the Clippers could certainly find a valuable rotation player even that deep into the draft. After all, if NBA players can be discovered at pick 56, they can be snagged eight full picks earlier too.

Since 2010, eight of the nine players to hear their names called at 48 played in the NBA, with the one exception being Latavious Williams. The three 48th picks before him appeared in NBA games as well, so odds are whoever the Clippers pick is one who will at least make a showing in the NBA. Most of the players picked at that spot in the last decade are out of the NBA, but six of them have played at least 400 minutes in the NBA. Compared to the 56th pick, which had no players reach that benchmark since 2007, the 48th pick looks strong indeed, with perhaps the best of the bunch being the Clippers’ own Sindarius Thornwell (the inspiration behind these pieces)! Here’s the full list:

2010 – Latavious Williams

2011 – Keith Benson

2012 – Kostas Papanikolaou

2013 – Ryan Kelly

2014 – Lamar Patterson

2015 – Dakari Johnson

2016 – Paul Zipser

2017 – Sindarius Thornwell

2018 – Keita Bates-Diop

The only real positives here, once again, are that the names are a little more recognizable than those who were picked 56th. Kostas and Kelly had a couple years as NBA rotation players, while Zipser had a semi-promising rookie season before falling off a cliff in his second year. Sindarius played a real part on the Clippers’ injury-battered 2017-2018 squad, and should be able to make a nice NBA career off his defense alone. Bates-Diop, meanwhile, was quite good for the Wolves in his rookie season, and could be a legitimate piece for their franchise going forward.

Expanding the range to the 2000s decade doesn’t raise the average performance of the pick too much, though Marc Gasol, a future Hall of Famer, was taken with the 48th pick in the 2007 draft. He was very much an exception, however, with Mickael Gelabele (2005) being the lone other player to appear in games in more than one NBA season. The rest of the players all either never appeared in the NBA, or played in only a handful of games in garbage time.

The Clippers got Sindarius at this pick in the draft just two years ago, and he’s given them real minutes over the past two seasons. History tells us that Sin is at the upper end of what can reasonably be expected from this draft pick, so if they can select another guy with his level of talent, that would be a win. Hopefully, one of the two picks pans into a player who can at least give them something for cheap over the next few seasons. Anything more than that would be a very pleasant surprise.