The NBA Draft is a yearly event where the best college basketball players are selected by professional teams. Some of these players become superstars in the NBA, while others are considered draft busts. However, there have been a few players who were drafted late or not drafted at all but ended up becoming some of the best players in NBA history. In this blog post, we will take a look at the 10 best draft steals of all time!
1. Nikola Jokic
Jokic was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the 41st overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. At the time, he was considered a prospect with a lot of raw potential. However, he has quickly developed into one of the best players in the league. Last season Jokic averaged 27 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists per game. He is also a four-time All-Star and was named to the All-NBA First Team in 3 consecutive years. Jokic won back-to-back MVP awards in the 2021 and 2022 seasons. From a mid-second-round pick to a two-time MVP is a crazy story that only the joker can tell and which truly makes him one of the best draft steals of all time.
2. Dennis Rodman
Drafted in the second round with the 27th overall pick by the Detroit Pistons in 1986, Rodman was a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and won five NBA Championships (three with the Chicago Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs). While scoring wasn’t Rodman’s strong suit, only averaging 7.3 points per game throughout his career, Rodman was all about the other stuff. He averaged 14 rebounds per game throughout his career. In the last 30 years, there have only been 13 thirty-plus rebound games in the NBA, and Rodman holds five of those.
3. John Stockton
Drafted in the first round with the 16th overall pick by the Utah Jazz in 1984, Stockton is the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals. He was a ten-time NBA All-Star and a member of the 1992 United States Olympic “Dream Team”“. Stockton averaged 13 points and 11 assists throughout his 19 seasons and holds the record for most assists of all time with over 15,000 and most steals with over 3,200. He was inducted into the NBA hall of fame in 2014 as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Draft steals can come from any point in the draft, and a guy like Stockton getting picked out of the lottery is just crazy.
4. Steve Nash
Drafted in the first round with the 15th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns in 1996, Nash is a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and eight-time NBA All-Star. NAsh also made the all-NBA team 8 times, three of which were All-NBA first teams. Nash was part of the “50-40-90” club for 4 seasons in his career. Nash was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2018 as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He currently serves as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.
5. Giannes Antetokounmpo
Drafted in the first round with the 15th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013, Giannis has quickly become one of the best players in the NBA. He is a two-time NBA MVP and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. He has led the Bucks to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances and beat the Phoenix Suns in the 2021 NBA finals. The “Greek Freak” is coming off a year averaging 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists.
6. Manu Ginobili
Drafted in the second round with the 57th overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs in 1999, Ginobili is a four-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. While Manu’s stats weren’t crazy like some of the other players on this list, there is no denying he had a huge impact on the Spurs dynasty with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018 as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
7. Tony Parker
Drafted in the first round with the 28th overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs in 2001, Parker is a six-time NBA champion and four-time NBA All-Star. The Spurs have an act for drafting great players in the later picks of the draft. Maybe if he was drafted by another team, he wouldn’t have developed the way he did, but being under legendary coach Greg Popovich, he was bound to develop into a great player. He currently serves as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets.
8. Draymond Green
Drafted in the second round with the 35th overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in 2012, Green is a four-time NBA champion and one-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Draymond averages a mere 8 points per game, but that isn’t what he is known for. Draymond Green is one of the NBA’s best defenders year in and year out and he is such a vital part of the Golden State Warriors’ ongoing dynasty. He is currently one of the league’s best all-around players.
9. Kawhi Leonard
Drafted in the first round with the 15th overall pick by the Indiana Pacers in 2011, Leonard was traded to the San Antonio Spurs on draft night. He went on to win two NBA Championships with the Spurs and Raptors and was named the NBA Finals MVP in both 2014 and 2019. Leonard’s last season played was in the 2020 NBA season because of injuries, but before he got hurt, Kawhi averaged 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He currently plays for the Los Angeles Clippers and is currently one of the betting favorites to win the NBA championship next season at +700 on Fanduel Sportsbook.
10. Jimmy Butler
Drafted in the first round with the 30th overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in 2011, Butler is a four-time NBA All-Star and one-time NBA Most Improved Player of the Year. He has also been named to the All-Defensive team on three occasions. After stints with the Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Philadelphia 76ers, he currently plays for the Miami Heat. “Jimmy Buckets” averaged 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists this past season. After just falling short of the NBA finals by one game, Butler is sure to run it back with Miami next season, especially now that they are in the mix to get generational talent, Kevin Durant, via trade from the Nets.
It’s hard to believe that some of the best players in NBA history were drafted so late in the first round or even the second round! But, as we’ve seen, it can happen. These ten players all went on to have amazing careers and prove their original teams wrong for not drafting them sooner. Who do you think will be this year’s draft steal? Let us know in the comments below!