The 29th pick. It’s the slot that, prior to the start of the 2021 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns find themselves in. While looking at big boards, watch YouTube clips, and assess the talent that we think will be available during that stretch of the draft, you have to wonder: has anyone drafted #29 amounted to anything in the NBA?
Wonder no more. Your resident “go back and look at the history of the NBA so you don’t have to” guy is here. Uh, that’s me. The old “you don’t know where you’re going unless you understand we’re you’ve been” mantra? I love that. I get excited to go down the historical rabbit holes, hoping to find some trend that leads to an ah-ha moment.
There are least of those moments when looking at 29, especially on how it intersects with Phoenix Suns history. Join me as we look at the history of the #29 pick. Will this give us any insight as to what the Suns will do tonight? No. But it’s fun to know where you’ve been.
Fun Facts About 29
When you look at the list of players drafted 29th in the draft, some names are instantly recognizable. Others you kinda-sorta remember. And, like many other draft slots, it is full of draftees who could never pull a Jim Moriison and break on through to the other side. From Olmpians to our favorite Sixth Man of the Year winner, there has been plenty of talent drafted at two-nine.
Most Points Scored: Eddie Johnson
That’s right! Bally Sports Arizona’s own Eddie Johnson was the 29th pick once upon a draft night! Eddie was taken in the 1981 draft by the Kansas City Kings and, after posting 16.0 points per night and 19,202 points in his career, is the highest scorer the 29th pick has ever seen.
Back in 1981 the pick was in the second round (due to the size of the league at the time), so EJ was the 6th pick of the second round.
Most Rebounds: P.J. Brown
Drafted in 1992 by the New Jersey Nets, the Big Cat had a long career in the NBA, playing 15 seasons with 6 different franchises. No matter where P.J. went, he snagged boards. He ended his career with 8,409 of them.
Brown was a three-time All Defensive Team recipient as well as an NBA Champion with the 2008 Boston Celtics.
Most Assists: Dennis Johnson
The pride of Pepperdine University! D.J. went 29th overall in the 1976 NBA Draft, selected by the Seattle SuperSonics. After four seasons with the Sonics he was traded to the Phoenix Suns for Paul Westphal. During his time in the desert he racked up 1,048 assists, which added to his total of 5,499, the most ever out of number 29.
Johnson is a Hall of Famer, five-time All Star, two-time All-NBA recipient, and was named to nine All Defensive teams. He was also a three-time NBA Champion and the MVP of the 1979 NBA Finals. Whew! Let’s hope Phoenix gets a guy who impacts a team like D.J. did!
Other Notable Picks at #29
What other names taken in this position have you heard of? Here are a few:
- Toni Kukoc - 3-time NBA Champion
- Vinny Del Negro - former radio commentator and director of player development for the Suns
- Keldon Johnson - Current member of Team USA
- Cory Joseph - averaged 12 point-per-game last season with the Pistons
- Archie Goodwin - Hey, we know Archie!
- Josh Howard - The guy who never put it all together
- Derrick White and Dejounte Murray - Another of those annoying Spurs
The Suns and Pick #29
When the envelope is given to the commissioner this evening — if the Suns don’t trade the pick — it will be the fourth time in franchise history that Phoenix has selected from that position. The previous three times were in 1970, 1994, and 2007. If you look at those years, especially the latter two, it makes sense. They had #29 after a solid 1993-94 season. The 2006-07 season, in which Phoenix lost to the Spurs after the infamous Horry hip-check, landed them in the same spot.
Who did Phoenix take in those previous drafts?
1970: Joe DePre, G, St. John’s
Ah yes, Joe DePre. Do you have his jersey hanging in the gameroom? No? Oh that’s right. He never played a minute with the Suns, nor in the NBA. While he did get some time in the ABA in the mid-70’s, he never donned the purple and orange. Of course he was drafted at the back end of the second round in 1970, so the expectations weren’t high.
1994: Antonio Lang, F, Duke
Lang, who is currently an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers, won two National Championships with the Duke Blue Devils prior to declaring for the draft. The 6’9” player was an All-ACC Third Team selection in 1994 prior to being drafted by Phoenix.
In his rookie season he played a total of 53 in 12 games for the Suns. But that’s what we remember him for, how is it? In October of 1995 it was Lang who was a part of the deal that sent Dan Majerle to Cleveland in exchange for Hot Rod Williams.
Lang was a journeyman for a few years prior to retiring from the NBA in 2000 and opting to play overseas in Japan.
2007: Alando Tucker, G/F, Wisconsin
I remember liking Alando Tucker. Drafted during the height of the 7SOL Era as a first-team All American from Wisconsin, I thought his 6’6” frame would be of assistance for the Suns. He showed flashes of competency while playing for the D-League — there was just no room for him in the pro level rotation — but never truly broke through for the Suns.
He was traded to the Timberwolves, left the NBA, and also ended up playing overseas.
Who knows what will happen tonight. While we’ve seen that #29 can produce some really appealing names, we’ve also seen that other fizzle and fade away. It’s the part of the draft in which players are joining teams that are close to winning a championship. They typically aren’t in “development” mode. The Johnson’s — Eddie and Dennis — were second round picks going to teams that could spend the time on them.
Given that the Suns are a team that made such an incredible jump this past season, coupled with their cap sheet, there may be some opportunity for the incoming draftee. Only time will tell.