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NBA Draft Steals: The Best Players Drafted Late Every Year Since 2000

No draft in professional sports induces more terror and anxiety in fans quite like the NBA draft. Thirty teams, sixty players, and the future of every single franchise in the association riding on the

No draft in professional sports induces more terror and anxiety in fans quite like the NBA draft. Thirty teams, sixty players, and the future of every single franchise in the association riding on the shoulders of a group of young men, many of whom can’t even legally drink on the night of the event. It's basically sports Thunderdome. Kinda. Don’t dwell too hard on that analogy, okay?

Given that many of the best players in NBA history not named Kobe Bryant were selected within the first ten spots in the draft, it’s generally considered that’s where teams will land a franchise changing talent. Some teams have actually tried to lose as many games as they possibly can to increase their odds at drafting one of those generational talents, the Philadelphia 76ers being the most recent, and notorious, example. It’s made even more difficult because most teams only have two picks to use, if they’re run well (Hi, Knicks and Nets fans!). However, it’s not impossible to find valuable players outside the lottery (the first fourteen picks), but it’s certainly not easy. For every great steal like John Stockton, there are twenty other players that never meet the lofty expectations the league and their clubs have for them. With that in mind, the following names are among the greatest steals in NBA history, all of them finding their place in the league as stud rotation players, serviceable starters, or even All-Stars.

16 2000 - Michael Redd

via bleacherreport.com

Notable Achievements:

- 1x All-Star

- 1x All-NBA Third Team

It’s no secret that the 2000 NBA draft is widely considered the worst in the history of the association. It produced only three All-Stars, none of whom received the honor more than once. Among those three was former Ohio State shooting guard Michael Redd. The Milwaukee Bucks took Redd with the 43rd pick in the draft and the former Buckeye was practically a superstar compared to the other fifty-nine men selected that day. He averaged 20+ points per game, with decent accuracy, for six straight seasons and was an franchise cornerstone for the Bucks for decade. His high frequency, off the dribble, “SHOOT ALL THE SHOTS EVER” style of play was a precursor to the trigger happy NBA we enjoy today. He called it a career in 2012, after a single lackluster season with the Detroit Pistons.

15 2001 - Tony Parker

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 4x NBA Champion

- 1x NBA Finals MVP

- 6x NBA All-Star

- 3x All-NBA Second Team

- 1x All-NBA Third Team

- NBA All-Rookie First Team

The 2001 NBA draft will go down in history as the draft that gave the world Kwame Brown, something that may haunt Michael Jordan more than a billion memes ever could. However, it was a surprisingly solid draft underneath that, and possibly the best player chosen that night was Tony Parker, a little known point guard from Paris Basket Racing. As of this writing, Parker almost certainly is the most successful player on this list. The French national was selected 28th overall by the San Antonio Spurs and would go on to become one of the cornerstones of the Spurs dynasty that won four championships between 2003 and 2014, even being named Finals MVP in 2007.

14 2002 - Carlos Boozer

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 2x NBA All-Stars

- 1x All-NBA Third Team

- NBA All-Rookie Second Team

Carlos Boozer has had a fairly maligned career. Today, he's considered a toxic presence and defensive sieve, but back in the day, he was a valuable big man. Drafted 35th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the former Duke Blue Devil quickly exceeded his second round expectations, averaging 15 points per game and 11 rebounds per game in his sophomore season. However, he fled the Land for the Utah Jazz that summer, for more money and a larger role away from burgeoning megastar LeBron James. Alongside Deron Williams (drafted in 2005), Carlos Boozer would become an All-Star caliber player for the Jazz and the duo achieved a decent amount of playoff success, reaching the Western conference finals in 2007. After so-so stints with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, he’s currently a free agent.

13 2003 - David West

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 2x NBA All-Star

- All-Time Leading Scorer in New Orleans Pelicans History

David West has had a career almost the polar opposite of Carlos Boozer. Drafted 18th overall out of Xavier by the New Orleans Hornets (Now the Pelicans), David West floundered his first few years in the league, barely seeing 18 minutes of court time per game. However, when the Hornets drafted Chris Paul in 2005, his minutes doubled and he became the Point God’s right hand man, averaging at least 17+ points per game for the next six seasons. However, despite the duo’s brilliance, they saw very little playoff success. In 2011, West became the veteran presence for the young Indiana Pacers team that challenged the Miami Heat in 2013 and 2014. Today, he’s still going strong, taking an unprecedented pay cut to come off the bench for the San Antonio Spurs.

12 2004 - Tony Allen

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 1x NBA Champion

- 3x NBA All-Defensive First Team

- 2x NBA All-Defensive Second Team

Many people don't value defense as much as they do offense, which will probably make Tony Allen's selection here a bit contentious, considering he's extremely offensively challenged for a shooting guard. However, his résumé as a top notch defender speaks for itself. Drafted 25th overall by the Boston Celtics, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy won a championship with the club in 2008, but he really made his bones as a defensive savant when he joined the Memphis Grizzlies in 2010, becoming the heart and soul of their bruising style of play. Aside from his handful of All-Defense nods, Kobe Bryant named Allen as the best defender he’s ever faced. That’s high praise from the Mamba. Also, he famously shouted “All-Defense first team!” before slamming down a fast break dunk in the 2015 playoffs. That’s objectively awesome.

11 2005 - David Lee

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 1x NBA Champion

- 2x NBA All-Star

- 1x All-NBA Third Team

Despite the last fifteen years of internal chaos, the New York Knicks actually do draft well (when they draft at all), even if they're not great at developing, or retaining, that talent later. David Lee is a prime example of this. Drafted 30th overall out of the University of Florida, Lee quickly became a useful contributor and All-Star for the aimless, talent deprived Knicks. However, in 2010, he bolted the Big Apple to play for the Golden State Warriors. In Oakland, he'd continue to play at a high level and he helped the club win a championship in 2015, coming off the bench behind emergent star Draymond Green. Last summer, he was traded to the Boston Celtics and currently comes off the bench for the Dallas Mavericks, backing up Dirk Nowitzki.

10 2006 - Rajon Rondo

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 1x NBA Champion

- 4x NBA All-Star

- 1x All-NBA Third Team

- 2x NBA All-Defensive First Team

- 2x NBA All-Defensive Second Team

- 3x NBA Assists Leader

- 1x NBA Steals Leader

- NBA All-Rookie Second Team

Rajon Rondo is one of the most interesting characters in NBA history, known around the league for his no-nonsense attitude and occasionally anti-social tendencies. Drafted 21st overall by the Phoenix Suns, then traded to the Boston Celtics on draft night, the former Kentucky Wildcat quickly made a name for himself in Bean Town, running the point for the Celtics championship run in 2008 and out-playing LeBron James in the 2010 Eastern Semis to help them reach the Finals again . In 2014, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, where his unpleasant disposition got him shipped out after half a season. He spent last season on the Sacramento Kings.

9 2007 - Marc Gasol

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 2x NBA All-Star

- 1x NBA Defensive Player of the Year

- 1x All-NBA First Team

- 1x All-NBA Second Team

- 1x NBA All-Defensive Second Team

- NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2009)

The younger brother of future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol has had a unique trip to the top of the league. Drafted 48th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, the Spanish national never played for the Purple and Gold. Instead, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008, ironically in an exchange that sent his older brother to Los Angeles. He didn't actually play an NBA game until 2009, but since then, he's been the stalwart big man anchor for the Memphis Grizzlies, becoming the centerpiece to their "Grit and Grind" style of play. Under Gasol's leadership, the club managed to reach the Western Conference Finals in 2013.

8 2008 - DeAndre Jordan

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 1x All-NBA First Team

- 1x All-NBA Third Team

- 2x NBA All-Defensive First Team

- 2x NBA Rebounding Leader

DeAndre Jordan’s worth as an NBA player was on full display last summer, when the Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks engaged in a bizarre bidding war for his services, which ended with the Clippers, allegedly, barring themselves in the Jordan’s house until he agreed to sign their contract. That’s how you know you’ve made it in the NBA. Drafted 35th out of Texas A&M by the Clippers, he’s since established himself as one of the best defending big men in the league. Further establishing his value and impact on the Clippers success, he was (somewhat controversially) named to the All-NBA First Team earlier this year, despite his limited offensive game and the fact that he's never even made an All-Star team.

7 2009 - Jrue Holiday

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 1x NBA All-Star

At the time of this writing, Jrue Holiday is best known for two things: being perennially injured and being the centerpiece of the trade that officially kicked off the Philadelphia 76ers' Tankapalozza in 2013. However, people tend to forget that when he’s healthy, Holiday’s one of the better point guards in the NBA. Drafted 17th overall by the 76ers, the former UCLA standout starred alongside Andre Iguodala (before the latter was traded to Denver in 2012) and powered a Sixers team made the playoffs several times. He was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on draft night in 2013 for Nerlens Noel and has since spent most of his time in the Big Easy on the bench battling various injuries. If he can achieve a modicum of health, his pairing with Pelicans megastar Anthony Davis could become one of the fiercest one-two punches in the league.

6 2010 - Avery Bradley

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 1x All-NBA Defensive First Team

- 1x All-NBA Defensive Second Team

The Boston Celtics probably didn’t know it when they drafted him, but Avery Bradley has grown into a pitch perfect replacement for Rajon Rondo’s otherworldly defense, but with a much better three point stroke and a cooler temperament. Drafted 19th overall by the Celtics out of the University of Texas, Bradley toiled on Boston's D-League affiliate, the Main Red Claws, for a while, struggling to find playing time on a stacked Celtics team one year removed from the Finals. However, after Ray Allen’s departure for Milwaukee, he was thrust into the starting role and never looked back. Despite battling injuries at times, he’s established himself as one of the league’s premier guard stoppers and may even be Tony Allen's heir apparent, knocking Allen off his perch on the All-Defensive first team this season.

5 2011 - Kawhi Leonard

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 1x NBA Champion

- 1x NBA Finals MVP

- 1x NBA All-Star

- 1x All-NBA First Team

- 2x NBA Defensive Player of the Year

- 2x NBA All-Defensive First Team

- 1x NBA All-Defensive Second Team

- NBA All-Rookie First Team

- 1x NBA Steals Leader

The man affectionately known as the Claw, Kawhi Leonard has had an incredible young career and when it's all said and done, he may end up being the most successful player on this list. Drafted 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers out of San Diego State, then traded that same night to the San Antonio Spurs for George Hill, Leonard has quickly evolved into an über-efficient shooter and the best perimeter defender the league has seen since Scottie Pippen. He was an integral part of the Spurs 2014 championship run, performing masterful defense on LeBron James and claiming the Finals NBA trophy in the process.

4 2012 - Draymond Green

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- 1x NBA Champion

- 1x NBA All-Star

- 1x All-NBA Second Team

- 2x NBA All-Defensive Second Team

Draymond Green is not an All-Star in the traditional sense. He doesn’t score many points and he’s not an amazing shooter, but his versatility, which allowed him to rack up 12 triple-doubles this year alone, is second-to-none. Drafted 35th overall by the Golden State Warriors, Green barely saw the court his first two seasons, instead riding the pine behind David Lee and Andrew Bogut. However, since Steve Kerr took over sideline duties, the former Michigan State Spartan has been an indispensable weapon for the Dubs. Their small-ball “Lineup of Death” with him at center has powered the Warriors to one, possibly two, championships. His defensive mastery and jack-of-all-trades skills have made him possibly the most important player on one of the greatest teams in basketball history.

3 2013 - Giannis Antetokounmpo

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- NBA All-Rookie Second Team

Known throughout the league as the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a special player on the cusp of super-stardom. Drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, Antetokounmpo was considered a project by many, coveted for his sky high potential and boundless athleticism. Under Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, Giannis may reach greater heights than any thought possible. At 6’11” with a lightweight frame, Antetokounmpo started his career as a small forward, but has since transitioned to point guard, where his length, speed, and uncanny court vision make him a force to be reckoned with. It's an unconventional strategy that seems primed to pay off in a big, big way, as he recorded five triple-doubles this past year. If his development continues trending upwards, he’ll undoubtedly be a perennial All-Star and one of the most unique players in basketball history.

2 2014 - Nikola Jokić

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- NBA All-Rookie First Team (2015)

This entry easily could have gone to Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, who burst onto the scene for a rock bottom Lakers team, but the potential Nikola Jokić possesses is too difficult to ignore. Drafted 41st overall by the Denver Nuggets in 2014, the Serbian national didn’t debut until this past season and so far, he hasn't disappointed. His skill set has been favorably compared to Larry Bird, with the caveat that he's already a better defender than Larry Legend ever was. He finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting and actually received a few votes for Defensive Player of the Year, a high honor for a rookie player. On a Nuggets roster chock full of promising foreign big men (JUSUF NURKIC!), Jokić is looking like an essential part of the club’s now surprisingly bright future.

1 2015 - Bobby Portis

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements:

- None... YET!

This is where it becomes difficult to evaluate a player's worth to their team, because all the players who qualified for this entry just finished their rookie seasons, and none of them exactly showed out. However, based on the small sample size, Bobby Portis could turn out to be a special player. Drafted 22nd overall by the Chicago Bulls out of the University of Arkansas, Portis was a bright spot on a relatively dreary season in the Windy City. Although he spent much of the season on the bench behind Taj Gibson, he made use of what playing time he did receive, particularly during a 20 point, 11 rebound outburst against the New York Knicks. With Gibson's future with the club in question as they look down the barrel of an inevitable rebuild, Portis could see his minutes skyrocket in the coming seasons.

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NBA Draft Steals: The Best Players Drafted Late Every Year Since 2000