Looking at Billy D’s 17 NBA draft picks


Erik Murphy has joined a long list of former Gator basketball players taken in the NBA draft.

There have been 17 in all since Billy Donovan took over the UF program in 1996. The 17-year Gator coach has produced ready-made NBA players with his pick-and-roll, motion offense. The 6-foot-10 Murphy was taken in the second round (49th overall) by the Chicago Bulls because of his combination of size and shooting ability.

Here’s a look at UF’s 17 draft picks in Donovan’s tenure:

1998 — Jason Williams, G, first round (seventh overall), Sacramento Kings

2000 — Mike Miller, G-F, first round (fifth overall), Orlando Magic

2000 — Donnell Harvey, F, first round (22nd overall), New York Knicks

2003 — Matt Bonner, F, second round (45th overall), Chicago Bulls

2004 — Christian Drejer, G, second round (51st overall), New Jersey Nets

2005 — David Lee, F, first round (30th overall), New York Knicks

2007 — Al Horford, F-C, first round (third overall), Atlanta Hawks

2007 — Corey Brewer, F, first round (seventh overall), Minnesota Timberwolves

2007 — Joakim Noah, C, first round (ninth overall), Chicago Bulls

2007 — Chris Richard, F-C, second round (41st overall), Minnesota Timberwolves

2007 — Taurean Green, G, second round (52nd overall), Portland Trail Blazers

2008 — Marreese Speights, C, first round (16th overall), Philadelphia 76ers

2009 — Nick Calathes, G, second round (45th overall), Minnesota Timberwolves

2011 — Chandler Parsons, F, second round (38th overall), Houston Rockets

2011 — Vernon Macklin, C, second round (52nd overall), Detroit Pistons

2012 — Bradley Beal, G, first round (third overall), Washinton Wizards

2013 — Erik Murphy, F, second round (49th overall), Chicago Bulls.

Of note:

— Florida’s three consecutive Elite Eight seasons have produced four NBA draft picks, but only one player (Bradley Beal) has been taken in the first round. The run has produced good talent, but not quite Final Four-level talent.

— Nine of the draft picks have been taken in the first round. Eight have gone in the second round.

—  If you count 6-foot-8 swingman Mike Miller as a guard, Florida’s 17 draft picks under Donovan include 11 frontcourt players and six guards. Of the six guards picked, only two (Miller and Beal) are still currently playing in the NBA. Jason Williams is retired after a 14-year NBA career.

— In a testament to Donovan’s player development, only seven of UF’s 17 draft picks were McDonald’s All-Americans coming out of high school (Beal, Macklin, Calathes, Miller, Harvey, Brewer and Lee).

— Of the 17 picks, only two were one-and-done (Harvey and Beal), while five (Bonner, Lee, Parsons, Macklin, Murphy) stayed all four years. Of the five who stayed four years, only one (Lee) was a first-round draft pick.



  1. Kevin, you know I am going to disagree on backcourt player development as one of Billy’s key strengths. I think the frontcourt ability they players exhibited was on the strength of their games coming into UF. My observation is after most of his front court players sophomore years, which is the year players get better from experience alone in most sports, their games didn’t increase much more. The growth after the soph. years are the ones attributed to player development. Donovan as done a great job recruiting frontcourt players, much better than talented backcourt players.

    It is not surprising, because Donovan has always had backcourt dominated teams. The offense is built around 3 point shooting. With his limited amount of time he can work with his team he has focused on the frontcourt. Which is natural, because he was a backcourt player.

    Billy Ball is at its core an offense that was designed for a player like he was at Providence. Physically and athletically limited. Billy’s offense is a pass-pass-make the extra pass to an open three point shooter, who are typically backcourt players. Whether you are athletically or physically gifted, Billy Ball will get you open looks in the regular season. (Tournament defense chokes off players who aren’t quick).

    Not only have the majority of his offenses been led by his backcourt players, but also the team. His frontcourt players have rarely carried the team, with the exception of the 04s. The irony is that the frontcourt players by far have been his most gifted athletes. Evidence by the fact that there are many more of them playing NBA ball than his guards. With the exception of Jason Williams, none of his other point guards have made it in the NBA. By the way, I choose to count Miller as a swing man.

    With the focus on a backcourt centric offense, players like Haslem, David Lee, Tyus, Parsons, Speights, Noah and Macklin developed much more after Donovan than with Donovan. Haslem came into UF with a ton of talent and his game stayed the same as his game his sophomore year. Haslem was a simple back to the basket guy who had to bull his way to the basket, because the offense didn’t account for getting frontcourt guys the ball moving to the basket. As a result he was a charging machine who sat a lot of minutes in foul trouble. After leaving UF he became a face the basket player and starter for a championship caliber team. Prior to that he went to Europe to become a finished frontcourt player.

    David Lee was one of the hottest McDonald All Americans in his class. May have been the best player in his class. He was dynamic and the sky was the limit. His career at UF was good, but not as great as his talents. Donovan’s offense doesn’t traditionally lend itself to by its design to get talented frontcourt players good looks. Lee like most of our front court players have to get their looks with a defender on their back because the ball is simply dumped in, rather than passed to them while in motion, making them easier to defend. Or the frontcourt players get points on put-backs. Which is how David Lee got his points. You recall his parents used their means to get David big man tutelage after he left UF to make up for is development deficit and he surprisingly rose up draft boards after pre-draft camps.

    Lee and Haslem where the most talented players on the floor when they played, yet they played secondary to Brett Nelson, Teddy Dupay, Matt Walsh, Drejer, and Roberson. Both players became very good face the basket players who could put the ball on the floor and get to the basket, and not the simple post up players they were under Donovan.

    Even Chandler has blown up much more as a pro than he did under Donovan. It really wasn’t until his Sr. year and there was not much around him where he was able to get any real shine under Donovan. Donovan held his talent hostage on the bench for much of his tenure at Florida. He is a superstar in the making. Chandler was a take it to the basket and slam it on you guy coming into Florida and that style of ball, wasn’t Billy Ball. That type of basketball acumen wasn’t exploited by Donovan or his system. So it wasn’t until Chandler had a good three point shot, that Donovan could use him, Chandler’s utility in the system was three point shooting. Well Chandler’s greatness is his full package. The ability to finish at the rim and shoot.

    Chandler, UD, David Lee all should have been College POY candidates their final years, with the level of talent they have. But none of them were even All Americans. The years our frontcourt players were the dominant force and not the backcourt, our teams went to the Final Four and won two titles. It would seem to me that since Billy recruits more gifted frontcourt players than he does backcourt players he at some point should modify his offense to fully exploit his frontcourt players. He would have a Final Four resume like Coach K and he would have as many POY and All Americans as coach K, a coach who has frontcourt players with more glory than his backcourt players.

    Donovan’s frontcourt players’ best basketball has always been post Donovan. His backcourt players’ best basketball has always been with Donovan.

    • Some good points Sidney, but you forgot to mention Bradley Beal as an athletic guard who played under Donovan, albeit one-and-done. Beal and Jason Williams are the two guards that had the best combination of talent, athletic ability and basketball IQ that Billy D has coached.

  2. Kevin, I mentioned that Jason Williams was the only Gator point guard to really make his way into the NBA. Roberson has been given a 2nd look. I am not sure if has stuck. Beal, if we consider Miller a swing-man, is Donovan’s first Gator backcourt NBA level recruit (Jason Williams came over with Donovan from Marshall). He had NBA size, athletic ability, and skill coming into UF.

    The rest of Donovan’s backcourt players have not gone on to play any meaningful NBA ball, because they had limitation, limitations I really believe Donovan identified with because he had them as well. He was slow, not very athletic, and relatively short. His point guards particularly have been one or all of those things, as well as two guards to some extent:
    – Dupay (short, not athletic)
    – Roberson (short, moderate athlete)
    – Nelson (not very athletic)
    – Green (short, and moderate athlete)
    – Calatheas (Limited athleticism, couldn’t jump higher than a phone book)

    I was impressed with the Beal pickup, because he had been in on a number of guards who were NBA caliber over the years, who went elsewhere. I feel like all of them went to UK. He finally bagged one in Beal. Rosario was a transfer and I think he may be one of the top 3 players he has had in his backcourt with NBA ability.

    If he is going to continue on with Billy Ball (pass-pass-make the extra pass to a perimeter shooter) it would be great to get NBA level backcourt guys at a moderately higher rate than the 2 over 17 years.

    • Kasey Hill will be interesting, only 6-1 in sneakers but plays above the rim. A poor man’s John Wall, but like Wall, Hill needs to improve his perimeter shooting to keep defenders from sluffing off him. Brandone Francis, the 2014 commitment, has good size and athleticism, is A 6-5, 210 lb combo guard. So we’ll see if BD can turn the tide in that area in the future.

  3. sidneygator, good observations. you might be right about some aspects of billy ball like in terms of lack specific skills developed in the frontcourt or lack of backcourt athleticism, however, it seems donovan’s players come out with the right team attitude and working hard on every possession. the number of solid professional players coming out of donovan coached teams is really impressive. it’s marked by consistency and that matters a lot.

  4. Chuck, I agree with you 100% Donovan has always put a team on the court that would compete hard. His front court guys who don’t typically get featured offensive status in his system or skill/moves development, they are able to flourish on the next level. They flourish because Donovan recruits really good front court talent, as well if not better than any other coach in the country. (Can you imagine if he was frontcourt oriented coach the NCAA tourney maven he would have been). As I stated, much better physical and athletic ability than his backcourt players. You combine their talent and ability they come to UF possessing with Donovan’s ability to get guys to play very hard and with great character, you get the NBA yield we see in our former bigs.

  5. Kevin, I am looking forward to watching Kasey and seeing how Billy uses him. Or rather how much he lets him play. With Billy it is often the case if you are backcourt player not strong shooting the three you may find yourself languishing on the bench, even if you have prove to be prolific at scoring at or “above the rim.” Traditionally Billy Ball, as a system, hasn’t rewarded the player who is a scorer (which means to me getting to the rim for buckets much more than 3 point shooting), nearly as much as it rewards strong 3-point shooters.
    Kasey has a better chance now of getting meaningful minutes and opportunities to do his thing, than he would have years ago. I think Donovan is becoming more open to individual athletic prowess having a place in generating scoring. Especially against tough NCAA tournament defenses that get out on his perimeter shooters.