Now that the NBA season is winding down, the draft is right around the corner. With three Maryland alums taking the next leap of their basketball career to the pros, here is a look at the top 10 Maryland players based on their NBA careers. DISCLAIMER: this is not a ranking of the best Terps in Maryland uniforms — strictly as NBA players.
10. PF Chris Wilcox, 8.2 ppg 4.9 rpg
Wilcox, a member of the 2002 NCAA National Championship team, finds himself at No. 10 on my list of best Terrapins in the NBA. Wilcox did not have a shiny NBA stat line, but he was a bruiser for 11 years in the league. Wilcox was drafted by the Clippers and remained a backup until he was traded during the 2005-2006 season to the Seattle Supersonics. In Seattle, Wilcox shined as a starter for two and a half seasons, averaging more than 13 points and upping his rebounding totals to more than seven per contest. Once the Supersonics left for Oklahoma City, Wilcox never saw the same minutes and became a journeyman until he retired after the 2012-2013 season.
9. PG Steve Blake, 6.5 ppg 4.0 apg
Of the four Terps who made it to the NBA from the 2002 title team, it is Steve Blake who stayed in the league the longest. Although Blake has played most of his career as a backup, his grit and pass-first play has kept him in the league for 13 seasons. At his best, he was a starter during the 2008-2009 season, averaging 11 points (his only double-digit points campaign), five assists and one steal per game with the Portland Trail Blazers. Blake has earned the No. 9 spot on this list because he’s still useful on an NBA roster, as shown by the eight different teams he’s played for.
8. PG Brad Davis, 8.2 ppg 4.9 apg
Davis spent his first two seasons with three different teams, and his career was on life support after the 1979-1980 season when he played in just 18 games and fell out of the league. Davis’ career was rejuvenated when he signed with the expansion Dallas Mavericks in the middle of their first season in 1980. For five straight seasons, Davis averaged at least double-digit points and more than six assists per game, cementing his spot in the starting lineup. In the 1986-87 season, he lost his spot in the starting lineup to Derek Harper, and Davis never earned the same minutes after that. However, he still contributed off the bench for six more seasons. Davis played 12 seasons in Dallas and still has the second-most assists in Mavericks history (4,524), only behind Derek Harper (5,111).
7. SF Albert King, 12.2 ppg 4.2 rpg
Not many Maryland fans know that NBA Hall Of Famer Bernard King’s brother played as a Terp in the late 70s. Like his brother, he had a short prime, but he quietly put together a solid career. At his peak, he averaged 17 points and just under six rebounds and four assists per game. King was a fixture on offense for the Nets during his twenties, averaging double-digit points for five seasons. After his six-year run with the Nets, he bounced around the league for three seasons before playing in Italy with NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo and NBA head coach Mike D’Antoni.
6. PF Joe Smith, 10.9 ppg 6.4 rpg
If you ignore the fact that Joe Smith was the Naismith Player of the Year and number one overall pick in the 1995 NBA draft, he actually had a solid 15-year career in the league. Smith was a beast for the Warriors in his first two and a half seasons, averaging 17 points and eight rebounds per game before he was traded to Philadelphia.
Smith was a free agent after the 1997-98 season and was at the center of a salary cap scandal when he signed with Minnesota, and he never put up the same numbers.
Smith remained a fixture on an NBA team’s starting lineup until the 2005-2006 season, when he started coming off the bench. He retired in 2011 after playing for 12 different teams. Smith may have never reached his potential, but he was a solid player for over a decade.
5. SF Walt Williams, 11.8 ppg 3.9 rpg
Williams’ numbers may seem low to rank number five on this list, but he torched teams with his three-point shot in the late 90s, shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc numerous times throughout his career. As a rookie, Williams averaged 17 points and earned NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors. At the beginning of his career, Williams was Mitch Richmond’s go-to wing player on the Kings until he was traded to Miami in 1998. He continued to average double-digit point totals most of his 11-year career.
4. PG John Lucas, 10.7 ppg 7.0 apg
In 1976, Lucas was the first Maryland player to be drafted No. 1 overall. As a floor general, he played 14 seasons and averaged the most assists per game of any NBA Terp. Lucas also bounced around from team to team; the longest he stayed with any team was three seasons with Golden State. Lucas averaged just under eight assists and 12 points per game during his prime and was a solid player in the league. However, looking back at the 1976 draft, Lucas might be considered a disappointment because he was taken before four NBA Hall of Famers, including Nuggets great Alex English and four-time NBA Champion Robert Parish.
3. PG/SG Gene Shue, 14.4 ppg 4.1 rpg
Gene Who? Gene Shue. Shue was the third overall pick in the 1954 NBA draft and had a stellar career with the Detroit Pistons in the late 50’s and early 60s. At his peak, Shue was an all-star five years in a row from 1958-1962, more than any other Maryland alumnus. Shue scored at will, averaging 19.4 points during that span, and he made an All-NBA first team after scoring 22.8 and grabbing a career high 5.5 rebounds per game.
Bleacher Report ranked Shue as the 20th best player ever in Detroit Pistons’ history. Shue only played 10 seasons, but he coached for 23 after his playing days. He was a two-time NBA Coach of the Year and reached the NBA Finals twice.
2. PG Steve Francis, 18.1 ppg 6.0 apg
Steve Francis was not the best Maryland player in the NBA, but he was pretty damn good. He was drafted second overall by the Houston Rockets in 1999 after Elton Brand, whom he shared the Rookie of the Year award with in 2000. Francis had the best peak of any Terp, averaging over 20 points in his career three times and earning three straight All-Star appearances with the Rockets.
However, the Rockets wanted to move in a different direction during the 2004 offseason, and they traded Francis in a package deal for Tracy McGrady. Francis was never the same player after getting traded, causing headaches in every locker room he entered before his game suddenly dropped off after leaving the Knicks in 2007. Knee injuries plagued Francis’ career before he left the NBA after the 2008 season and never returned. Still, Francis at his peak was an incredible talent.
1. PF Buck Williams, 12.8 ppg 10.0 rpg
Now I have to sell you on Buck Williams.
Did he have the as many All-Star appearances as Steve Francis? Yes.
Did Williams ever average 20 points per game? No, but he averaged double-digit scoring for more seasons than Francis lasted in the league.
Was Williams as explosive as Francis? Probably not, but Williams averaged a double-double for seven straight seasons.
The difference: In eight seasons, Buck Williams scored the most points and grabbed the most rebounds in Nets’ history, and nobody has passed him. At his peak, he averaged 18 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, but he accomplished this feat three different times in his career. Williams played 17 seasons and was named to two All-Defensive first teams and two All-Defensive second teams in addition to being a three-time All-Star. His career didn’t end after leaving New Jersey; as a power forward for the Portland Trail Blazers for seven years, he led the NBA twice in field goal percentage while still averaging at least eight rebounds per game in six of seven seasons. Buck Williams did not have a Hall of Fame career, but he earned the number one spot as the best player in the NBA from the University of Maryland.