The Detroit Pistons had just one pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. They used it to select junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie from Colorado. He was taken in the second round with the 38th overall pick. As a result, Dinwiddie has now become the latest in an extended line (28 total since 1957) of Colorado Buffaloes to be selected by an NBA team during the draft. Let’s take a look back at a few of those draft picks that have been taken in recent memory.
During his junior campaign at CU, Dinwiddie got the Buffs off to a hot start in regular season play. After suffering a 12-point loss in their first game to a then-nationally ranked Baylor Bears squad, the Buffs bounced back with a vengeance and won their next 10 games. They had a much-anticipated matchup against a Marcus Smart-led Oklahoma State Cowboys team. The Buffs (10-1 overall at the time) had acquired national attention and respect and were ranked number 20 in the country by the Associated Press. Marcus Smart (whom went on to be taken by the Boston Celtics with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft) had also led his team to an impressive record by that point. The Cowboys were ranked seventh by the Associated Press. Smart and the Cowboys won the nationally televised matchup against Dinwiddie and the Buffs by just five points. Dinwiddie led his team to four more straight victories after that, including a nine-point victory over a top-10 ranked Oregon team, before tearing his ACL in a 17-point loss to Washington in January. He had been Colorado’s leader in points per game (14.7) and assists per game (3.8). By that point, Colorado had accumulated a 3-1 conference record and a 14-3 overall record. The Buffs played on without their star point guard for the rest of the 2013-14 season, which ended with a second-round loss to Pittsburgh in the NCAA tournament.
Like Dinwiddie after him, Roberson left Colorado after his junior season with the Buffs. He was taken in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. The Minnesota Timberwolves selected him with the 26th overall pick that year. Roberson participated in postseason play during all three of his years in school. The Buffs made it into the NCAA tournament during his last two years with the team. Roberson’s team also had success during his freshman campaign. That year, as a freshman, he was a member of a Buffaloes squad that defeated multiple nationally ranked opponents and made its case for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Despite the team’s success, Colorado was ultimately left out of the big dance that year but did secure a one-seed in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). Many college basketball analysts believed that the Buffs had been slighted. In the NIT, however, Colorado made a deep run before bowing out in the semifinals to Alabama, another one-seeded team.
One of the most exciting players to leave his mark on the Colorado basketball program, Burks spent just two years at the school before departing early for the NBA draft. During his first season with the team, he was voted the Big 12 freshman of the year. That year, Burks averaged 16.8 points per game, which led all other freshmen in the conference in scoring. His name was also included on the all-conference honorable mention list. He achieved success as a freshman despite not being heavily recruited coming out of high school. During his sophomore campaign, Burks, alongside seniors Cory Higgins and Levi Knutson, propelled the Buffaloes to one of their best seasons in recent years. They defeated a Texas Longhorns team that was ranked number five in the country at the time by the Associated Press. They also won all three of their matchups with in-conference foe Kansas State. K-State, a team that went on to play in the NCAA tournament that year (unlike Colorado), was ranked two out of the three times the Buffs beat them. As a sophomore, Burks averaged 20.5 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game and 2.9 assists per game. He led his team in points per game and assists per game that season. He was second on the team in rebounds per game, behind only Andre Roberson. Burks was taken by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft. The Jazz selected him with the 12th overall pick. Only three Colorado Buffaloes have been drafted higher than Burks in the NBA draft.
Billups is the highest-drafted Colorado Buffalo ever. He was taken in the first round by the Boston Celtics with the third overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. A future Hall of Famer, Billups had his most successful years in the NBA as a member of (you guessed it) the Detroit Pistons. He was the floor general on Pistons teams in the 2000s that made six straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances. During that incredible run, a run that saw the Eastern Conference being dominated by a team that did not quite have that one true superstar, Billups managed to lead his team to the NBA Finals twice. The Pistons were crowned the NBA champions in 2004 after defeating a Los Angeles Lakers club that was laden with elite players. In 2004, Billups was honored as the Finals MVP. In 2006, he led the Pistons to a league-best 64-18 regular season record. He made three consecutive NBA All-Star game appearances while playing for Detroit in the 2000s. To date, he is, without question, the most successful player to come out of the Colorado basketball program.
Dinwiddie is now the 28th Colorado Buffalo since 1957 to be taken in the NBA draft, and just the second since Colorado became a member of the newly formed Pac-12 Conference a few years ago. Before his season-ending ACL injury, he was considered to be a future first-round pick in the June 26 draft. He had also been on the verge of leading the Buffaloes to a much higher seed in the NCAA tournament; the Buffs were favored to make it at least as far as the Sweet 16 when Dinwiddie was still playing. Therefore, though it is still too early to tell for sure, it is pretty safe to say that the Pistons had a good draft this year. Stan Van Gundy and company essentially got a steal in the second round by drafting a first round-caliber player. The Motor City should be excited. Two thumbs up for the Pistons in the 2014 NBA Draft. The next season awaits.