At the conclusion of every NBA season, the thirty NBA teams have the opportunity to improve their rosters by way of selecting the best available talent in that year's NBA Draft. There are those teams who miss out on the NBA Playoffs that have the luxury of holding selections at the earlier slots in the draft. But, at the same time, this does not dictate that talent can only be found inside of the NBA Lottery. On the contrary, many notable players have been found outside of the lottery with many even being found in the second round. Plenty of franchise cornerstones have been taken at spots which make you scratch your head. The fact of the matter is NBA talent can quite literally be found at all sixty of the slots in the NBA Draft.
From the year 2000 up until present day (with the last NBA Draft having taken place in 2017), teams have found talent at picks that to this day are unbelievable. Here, we take a look at the biggest steal of every NBA Draft since 2000. Not to worry - as there have been multiple steals in many drafts, we touch on those steals as well!
18 2000 - Michael Redd (44th Overall)
The 2000 NBA Draft isn't one renown for producing stars as the lone All-Star selection in regards to lottery selections was Kenyon Martin. The only other All-Star selected in the first round was Jamal Magloire who was selected with the nineteenth overall pick. There was one other All-Star selected in this draft and he just so happens to be the biggest steal of the 2000 NBA Draft. That man is none other than Michael Redd.
Redd played the entirety of his NBA career for the Milwaukee Bucks (with the exception of the 2011-2012 season in which he played for the Phoenix Suns) from the 2000-2001 NBA campaign until the 2010-2011 campaign. Redd was only selected for one NBA All-Star team which was in the year 2004. In the same year, Redd was also selected to his lone All-NBA Team selection which happened to be on the All-NBA Third Team. Redd finished his NBA career with averages of 19.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 2.1 APG.
While Redd's number hasn't been raised to the rafters in Milwaukee as of yet, it's likely that it's only a matter of time until the Bucks do so as Redd was easily their biggest contributor in the 2000s.
17 2001 - Tony Parker (28th Overall)
In 2001, there were only twenty-nine teams in the NBA as opposed to the thirty teams in the NBA today. At the time, the Minnesota Timberwolves held the twenty-ninth overall pick in the draft but were unable to make a selection due to a salary cap violation. As a result, the San Antonio Spurs essentially ended up with the final pick of the draft and they made it count.
With the twenty-eighth overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft the San Antonio Spurs selected Tony Parker from Paris Basket France and what a selection it was. Parker, now thirty-five is at the tail end of his career and now plays in a bench role. While Parker may now be a shell of himself his accomplishments speak volumes for him. Parker is a 4x NBA Champion having won rings in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. The 2007 NBA Championship had to be especially special for Parker as he also was named NBA Finals MVP in this year.
In addition, Parker has been selected to the NBA All-Star team on six separate occasions (2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014) and is a 3x All-NBA Second Team selection (2012, 2013 and 2014). It's not a matter of if Parker's jersey will be raised to the rafters in San Antonio- it's a matter of when.
16 2002 - Carlos Boozer (35th Overall)
Prior to the Cleveland Cavaliers selecting LeBron James with the number one overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, there was little to smile about in Cleveland. But, in 2002, the team got an absolute steal in former Duke Blue Devil Carlos Boozer when they selected him thirty-fifth overall. The only problem is that Boozer is more remembered for swindling his way out of Cleveland as opposed to staying there for the long run.
After the 2003-2004 season concluded, the Cavaliers had the option to retain Boozer at a rate of $695,000 or to make him a restricted free agent. The Cavs who had talks with Boozer and his agent had allegedly come to an agreement which would pay Boozer $39 million over the course of six years. Thus, Cleveland allowed Boozer to become a free agent. However, this is where things went South. The Utah Jazz swooped in and signed Boozer to a six-year $70 million deal which Cleveland did not match.
Boozer was a two-time All-Star in 2007 and 2008 with the Jazz, was selected to the All-NBA Third Team in 2008 and finished his career averaging 16.2 PPG and 9.5 RPG playing for the Cavs, Jazz, Bulls and lakers over the course of a thirteen year career.
15 2003 - David West (19th Overall)
The 2003 NBA Draft will forever be remembered for having one of the most memorable draft classes of all-time as the first five picks included LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. There was also Darko Milicic who was selected 2nd overall by the Detroit Pistons but we're discussing steals and not busts.
With the nineteenth overall pick, the New Orleans Hornets selected Power Forward David West from Xacvier University. West played for the Hornets from 2003-2011 and then played for the Indiana Pacers from 2011-2015 and then with the San Antonio Spurs from 2015-2016 and now with the Golden State Warriors. Now 37, father time is closer then ever for West as he currently finds himself coming off of the Dubs bench. West was named an NBA All-Star in 2008 and 2009 and finally was able to get the illusive ring that had evaded him his whole career in 2017.
With career averages of 13.6 PPG and 6.4 RPG, it's highly unlikely that West will ever be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. However, it isn't out of the question for him to have his number thirty retired by the Hornets (now New Orleans Pelicans).
14 2004 - Tony Allen (25th Overall)
For those fans that aren't fully appreciate of the defensive side of the ball, Tony Allen may not strike you as a player who has made a severe impact. But, a stamp of approval by the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant, should erase any doubt of Allen's impact in the NBA. In February of 2017, Bryant gifted Allen with a pair of sneakers with the words "to Tony, the best defender I ever faced!". If that amount of praise from one of the NBA's greatest players doesn't let you know how much of a defensive stalwart Allen was, I don't think anything will make you appreciate how much of a nightmare Allen was for the opponent he was guarding. Allen's been selected to the NBA All-Defensive Team on six different occasions. In 2012, 2013 and 2015, Allen was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team. In 2011, 2016 and 2017, Allen was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. After signing with the New Orleans Pelicans for the 2017-2018 season, Grizzlies owner Robert Pera announced Allen's jersey would be retired by the team upon Allen's retirement. Allen's not just highly respected in Memphis, but in Boston as well. However, his jersey being raised to the rafters in Boston is extremely unlikely.
13 2005 - David Lee (30th Overall)
The New York Knicks get many things wrong and the Knicks got even less right when Isiah Thomas was calling the shots in the "Big Apple". But, one thing that both the Knicks and Thomas got right was the selection of David Lee with the last pick of the first round at thirtieth overall.
Lee played for the blue and orange donning franchise from 2005-2010 where he established himself as a double-double threat any time he was on the court. In his final season where he played for the Knicks, Lee put up career high averages of 20.2 PPG and 11.7 RPG. After his stint in New York, Lee moved across the country to play for the California based Golden State Warriors. Lee's career with the Warriors started off strong as he put up 16.5 PPG and 9.8 RPG in his first year with the team.
It was in 2010 in which Lee was named to the All-Star team for the first time and he'd be named to the team a second time in 2013. The 2013 season also saw Lee being selected to the All-NBA Third Team which was his first and only selection to an All-NBA Team. Lee won an NBA Championship in 2015 with the Dubs and called it a career on November 19, 2017 via an Instagram announcement.
12 2006 - Paul Millsap (47th Overall)
Selected forty-seventh overall in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Salt Lake City based Utah Jazz, Power Forward Paul Millsap is far from the only steal in the forenamed draft. For one, there's Point Guard Rajon Rondo who is a 4x NBA All-Star and former NBA Champion in 2008 that was selected with the twenty-first overall pick. Secondly, there's Point Guard Kyle Lowry who was selected with the twenty-forth overall pick and is also a 4x NBA All-Star and even made an All-NBA Team as he was selected to the All-NBA Third Team in 2016.
The reason Millsap is a bigger steal than Rondo and Lowry is he was taken almost a whole twenty-four picks after the twenty-forth pick, Lowry, was selected. Like Rondo and Lowry, Millsap is also a 4x NBA All-Star having been selected in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Millsap was also recognized for his contributions on the defensive side of the ball as he was selected to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2016.
Millsap, now a member of the Denver Nuggets, holds career averages of 14.2 PPG and 7.4 PPG. Millsap was unable to stay healthy in his first year in the "Mile High City", but he figures to form one of the NBA's most deadly front courts alongside Center Nikola Jokic.
11 2007 - Marc Gasol (48th Overall)
The 2007 NBA Draft wasn't a very strong one and is best remembered for the Portland Trail Blazers passing on a highly gifted player on the offensive end that was lanky and frail by way of the University of Texas - a man named Kevin Durant. Instead, the Trail Blazers did as they did in 1984 when they selected Sam Bowie with the second overall pick over Michael Jordan who was selected with the next pick by the Chicago Bulls.
In fairness to the Blazers in 1984 they did have a highly gifted Shooting Guard by the name of Clyde Drexler on their roster so passing on Jordan wasn't something you could blame them for at time. But, in 2007, the Blazers did have a glaring gap at Small Forward; but, they also had a glaring gap at Center too. They decided that the Center position was more important to upgrade at and that Oden had the higher ceiling which clearly ended up being quite the regrettable decision.
The Blazers could have gotten a highly gifted big man in the second round by the name of Marc Gasol. The younger brother of Pau, Marc is a 3x NBA All-Star having made the team in 2012, 2015 and 2017, was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and was named to the All-NBA First Team in 2015.
10 2008 - Goran Dragic (45th Overall)
A number of role players were drafted in the 2008 NBA Draft who to this day remain mainstays as role players in the systems of their respective NBA franchises. The twenty-forth, twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth slots are arguably the epitome of the selection of role players as the first of the three picks saw the Oklahoma City Thunder (then officially still the Seattle Supersonics) select Serge Ibaka, the second of the two picks saw the Houston Rockets draft French swingman Nicolas Batum (who was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers shortly after) and the San Antonio Spurs take Point Guard George Hill out of IUPUI.
The Los Angeles Clippers found a franchise cornerstone at the thirty-fifth slot when they selected big man DeAndre Jordan out of Texas A&M who to this day still plays for the stepsister basketball franchise of the "City of Angels", Los Angeles. While Jordan was certainly a steal, there was a bigger steal ten picks later by way of Slovenia named Goran Dragic. Dragic, a ten-year NBA veteran was named an NBA All-Star for the first time in 2018 and was named to the All-NBA Third Team in 2014, the same year he was named the NBA's Most Improved Player.
9 2009 - Stephen Curry (7th Overall)
On the surface, it seems outright comical to view the seventh overall pick of any NBA Draft as a steal. However, when you look at the two picks that came before him you quickly realize that Stephen Curry was indeed a steal. To make matters worse, the team who had the fifth pick not just had that selection but they also had the following selection with the sixth pick. If that doesn't sting enough, this unnamed team (for now) also selected two Point Guards (the same position as Curry) with the fifth and sixth pick respectively.
At number five, the Minnesota Timberwolves took Ricky Rubio who has proven to be a serviceable Point Guard in the NBA. At number six, the Minnesota Timberwolves struck out as they took Syracuse Orange Point Guard Jonny Flynn. The Golden State Warriors capitalized and took Davidson sharpshooter Stephen Curry. The rest is history.
Curry was named NBA MVP in both 2015 and 2016; he won an NBA Championship in 2015 and 2017; he's been named an NBA All-Star on five straight occasions from 2014-2018; he's been named to the All-NBA First Team on two occasions in 2015 and 2016; in short, Curry is headed to Springfield, Massachusetts to be forever enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame when he hangs up his Under Armours.
8 2010 - Paul George (10th Overall)
A lottery selection, Paul George is the beneficiary of many lackluster picks having been selected after him and four Small Forwards (the same position as him) being selected before him. Not a single player after George at the tenth pick has been selected as an All-Star and with the exception of Avery Bradley, Eric Bledsoe and Hassan Whiteside, there aren't many names that are pivotal parts of their teams rotations today.
Prior to the swingman who gave himself the self-proclaimed nickname and title of "Playoff P" being selected by the Pacers, the Philadelphia 76ers whiffed by taking Small Forward Evan Turner number two overall; the Minnesota Timberwolves passed on PG-13 instead opting for Syracuse SF Wesley Johnson; the Los Angeles Clippers passed on the California native in favor of Wake Forest SF Al-Farouq Aminu; the Utah Jazz made a respectable pick which cannot be scrutinized (but still would likely be switched to George in retrospect) with the selection of Butler three Brad Stevens.
Let's look at George's resume which only continues to grow: he's been named an NBA All-Star in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and he's been named to an All-NBA Defensive Team in 2013, 2014 and 2016 which clearly establishes that he's one of the NBA's best two-way players. Good luck keeping him, OKC!
7 2011 - Isaiah Thomas (60th Overall)
The 2011 NBA Draft had a number of picks which were steals. For instance, Kawhi Leonard fell outside of the lottery as he was selected fifteenth overall. Nikola Mirotic was taken eight picks later at twenty-three. Jimmy Butler fell to the second round as the Bulls made him pick number thirty. But no selection was a bigger steal then the Sacramento Kings selecting Isaiah Thomas sixtieth overall.
There has never been another noteworthy selection with the final pick in the NBA Draft and to think that Thomas is still in the league today almost a decade later is practically unfathomable for the sixtieth selection of the NBA Draft. By being selected sixtieth, it automatically illustrates that teams have deemed you more unlikely then likely to succeed in the NBA. But, Thomas has succeeded and then some. Thomas is a two-time NBA All-Star having been selected to the Eastern Conference All-Stars in 2016 and 2017 as a member of the Boston Celtics. He also made the All-NBA Team in 2016 and holds career averages of 18.9 PPG and 5.1 APG.
Thomas' situation in free agency in the 2018 offseason should be one of the more intriguing free agent situations as his 2017-2018 campaign has been drastically different than his 2016-2017 campaign (which was without a shadow of a doubt his most memorable).
6 2012 - Draymond Green (35th Overall)
Arguably the NBA's most polarizing player today, Draymond Green was selected thirty-fifth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft out of Michigan State by the Golden State Warriors with a pick they had acquired from the Brooklyn Nets. Green, one fifth of the "Hamptons Five" aka the "Death Lineup" of the Warriors (along with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant), is as renown for getting under the skin of his opponents as he is for being a two-way threat for the defending NBA Champions.
The undersized 6'7'' Power Forward who often also finds himself playing the Center position is a throwback in today's NBA as his nitty gritty style compiled with endless trash talk is something that is rarely seen in the league today. Green has two rings for his fingers as he's won an NBA Championship in 2015 and 2017; he has three NBA All-Star selections to his name having made the team in 2015, 2016 and 2017; he has two All-NBA Team selections; he has three All-Defensive Team selections; he was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. Whether you love him or hate him it's impossible to deny that when Green is on the court he's making an impact on both ends of the floor.
5 2013 - Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th Overall)
With all due respect to Rudy Gobert who was was selected twenty-seventh overall, it's impossible to overlook fourteen teams who skipped out on Giannis Antetokounmpo as he's a once in a generation type of player. Just twenty-three, Antetokounmpo has shown considerable growth in his five years in the NBA and if his 2017-2018 year which saw him put up career-high averages of 26.9 PPG and 10.0 RPG are a sign of what's to come, the NBA should be very, very scared.
Antetokounmpo is not just the face of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but he's one of the faces of the NBA as he's a nightmare for NBA defenses and offenses as one of the games best two-way players. "The Greek Freak" has been named an NBA All-Star in 2017 and 2018 and made both the All-NBA Team and All-Defensive NBA Team as a selection on the Second Team for both. For the record, selections for 2018 have not yet been announced and you can easily bank on Antetokounmpo being selected to both and you can likely bank on him being selected to the First Team for both the All-NBA Team and the All-Defensive NBA Team. Antetokounmpo has all the potential in the world to become an NBA legend- not just a Milwaukee legend.
4 2014 - Nikola Jokic (41st Overall)
When fans discuss who the NBA's best big man is the names of DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns are frequently at the top of the list. One man who is often left outside of these lists and unrightfully so is Denver Nuggets Center by way of Serbia, Nikola Jokic. Jokic, one of the NBA's quietest superstars has been in the league for three years now and in 2017-2018 he took a real leap to NBA stardom.
Jokic finished the year averaging 18.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 6.1 APG and 1.2 SPG which were all career highs. The number that immediately pops out at you is the 6.1 APG average which is unheard of for a Center (and exceeds the dime total for many guards) not just in today's NBA but throughout NBA history. The 6'10'' big man is just twenty-three (like Mr. Do It All, Giannis Anteokounmpo in Milwaukee) and if he looks this promising at the raw age of twenty-three it's scary to think what's to come in the near future. Denver, you got yourselves a good one! The rest of the NBA? Be scared; be very, very scared. If the Nuggets put the proper pieces next to Jokic he may very well undoubtedly become the league's best big.
3 2015 - Devin Booker (30th Overall)
Before discussing Devin Booker, it's important to note that "Scary Terry" Terry Rozier III who was selected sixteenth overall out of Louisville certainly was a steal. With his performance in the 2017-2018 NBA Playoffs Rozier III is making quite a name for himself, but considering it's a small sample size and that he's a backup to franchise cornerstone Kyrie Irving, we went with THE franchise cornerstone in Phoenix, Devin Booker.
Booker has been a part of some absolutely terrible Suns teams but while his team has been nothing to rave about, he has been someone to rave about. Booker's performance on March 24th, 2017 is one that will forever go down in history as he became only the sixth player in NBA history to drop seventy or more points as he absolutely lit up the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. At the same time, the Celtics won comfortably and Booker was given the green light to shoot at will in the forth quarter.
Quite frankly, Booker has shown since he was drafted in 201t that getting buckets is something that isn't of grueling difficulty for him. In 2017-2018, Booker notched a career-high 24.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 4.7 APG. Hey Phoenix, can you get this guy some help already?!
2 2016 - Malcolm Brogdon (36th Overall)
When taking a look at the 2016 NBA Draft selections it's hard to pinpoint many steals and one can argue that the word "steal" is practically defunct in this draft. The top three selections were Ben Simmons out of LSU, Brandon Ingram out of Duke and Jaylen Brown out of California. These three forenamed individuals have proven in their short NBA careers (only one season in Simmons case) that they were worthy of their selection slots as the following names were selected after them: Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray, Marquese Chriss, Jakob Poltl and Thon Maker.
Domantas Sabonis, the eleventh pick, may very well go down as the steal of this draft but currently the steal of this draft is the thiry-sixth pick, Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2017 and unsurprisingly was also named to the All-Rookie First Team as well. Brogdon currently holds career averages of 11.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 3.8 APG and figures to be a focal point of the Milwaukee Bucks franchise for years to come (even with the recent demotion to the bench due to the acquisition of former Los Angeles Clipper and Phoenix Sun, Eric Bledsoe).
1 2017 - Donovan Mitchell (13th Overall)
Selected with the twenty-seventh overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Kyle Kuzma was certainly a steal for the Los Angeles Lakers. But, as of now, unless you're the Boston Celtics who selected Jayson Tatum third overall, you're likely kicking yourself for passing on Donovan Mitchell. Furthermore, if you're the Denver Nuggets, you're especially kicking yourselves as the thirteenth selection was originally yours and you chose to trade it in favor of the twenty-forth overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft (Tyler Lydon) and former NBA Lottery pick Trey Lyles.
Mitchell's Rookie campaign has been full of highlight reel moments as he put up 20.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.7 APG. The loss of Gordon Hayward had many thinking that the Utah Jazz were headed towards rebuilding mode. But, Mitchell has made sure that the Jazz haven't missed a beat. Not only did the Jazz make the 2017-2018 NBA Playoffs, but they even upset the Oklahoma City Thunder in the First Round. Mitchell, just barely legal to drink at the ripe age of twenty-one is only getting started. The former MLB hopeful has brought excitement to Salt Lake City which hasn't been reached since the John Stockton and Karl Malone days.