Every NBA star wants to develop a legacy that will see them forever referenced when discussing the best player in a franchise. The current climate is seeing players switch teams more than ever with free agent movies, blockbuster trades and shocking releases becoming part of the annual offseason period. Even when players move around, the team that drafted them usually get to have them for a few years. LeBron James won two rings with the Miami Heat and is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, but his career will likely be remembered for the run he had with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Teams that draft great talent typically get at least a few years to make an impact with them.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule as fans may struggle to name the team that drafted some of the most memorable players in recent years. There are the instances of teams drafting someone on draft night and instantly dealing them like the recent Trae Young for Luka Doncic deal between the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. Many noteworthy NBA players have been drafted by teams you wouldn’t expect when looking at their current or past careers in the league. Find out if your favorite player could have spent his career with another team if they made a wise move. These are twenty NBA players most fans forget were drafted by random teams.
20 Vince Carter: Golden State Warriors
NBA veteran Vince Carter recently made headlines when signing with the Atlanta Hawks for his 21st season in the league. Carter will turn 42 years old during the season as the oldest player currently playing for the NBA.
The career of VC started back in 1998 with his rookie season on the Toronto Raptors. While everyone remembers Carter for starting his career in Toronto, he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors with the fifth overall pick. Toronto picked Antawn Jamison in the draft and traded him to Golden State for Carter. Both men were teammates in college at North Carolina adding more shock value to the move.
19 Rajon Rondo: Phoenix Suns
Rajon Rondo entered the NBA in a great situation spending the first eight seasons of his career with the Boston Celtics. The second season of Rondo saw him start at point guard helping the big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen win the 2008 NBA Championship. Rondo will always be treated with love and respect from Boston fans for his run there.
A little-known fact is that the Celtics didn’t even draft him. It was the Phoenix Suns that selected Rondo with the 21st pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. Phoenix instantly dealt Rondo and veteran Brian Grant to Boston in exchange for a future first-round draft pick. The Suns didn’t think Rondo would be anything special, and the Celtics took advantage of that.
18 Chris Paul: New Orleans Hornets
The legendary career of Chris Paul is still going as he recently signed a max-contract to play another three or four seasons with the Houston Rockets. Paul truly has been an elite point guard since entering the league back in 2005. The New Orleans Hornets picked Paul with the 4th overall pick and found a star out of the draft.
Paul’s time on the Hornets saw them have a few very good regular season teams, but they never would truly contend in the postseason. It led to the franchise trading him to the Los Angeles Clippers. Most fans think of the Clippers or the Rockets now when remembering the best moments of Paul’s career. The Hornets are a distant memory that is easily forgotten to have drafted CP3.
17 Khris Middleton: Detroit Pistons
Khris Middleton is a huge part of the Milwaukee Bucks’ future. If Milwaukee wants to have any chance of contending in the Eastern Conference, Middleton must become a borderline All-Star as the second or third option on the team.
The talented player has been a fixture for the Bucks over the past five seasons, but that wasn’t the team to draft him. Middleton was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the 39th overall pick as a second-round flyer. Detroit was not impressed with his rookie season and traded him to Milwaukee in a deal for Brandon Jennings. It ended up being the best thing for Middleton’s career.
16 Jrue Holiday: Philadelphia 76ers
Jrue Holiday earned more respect in NBA circles after a tremendous postseason with the New Orleans Hornets this past year. The superb play of Holiday on both sides of the court saw him emerge as a second potential superstar alongside Anthony Davis. New Orleans swept the Portland Trail Blazers and managed to win a game against the Golden State Warriors super team.
It is easy to forget just how long Holiday has been in the league since he’s been under the radar for quite a few years. The Philadelphia 76ers selected Holiday almost a decade ago with the 17th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Holiday did well in his first few seasons but could not make a major impact. New Orleans now however believes he’s their guard of the future.
15 Kyle Korver: New Jersey Nets
Role player Kyle Korver has become more well-known in recent years thanks to being a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Finals appearances in 2017 and 2018. The career of Korver is better than most realize with statistics making an argument he’s an all-time great three-point shooter.
Korver’s best run came with the Atlanta Hawks when he made the All-Star team in 2015. However, the career of Korver technically started when the New Jersey Nets selected him with the 51st overall pick in the legendary 2003 NBA Draft. New Jersey traded him that night to the Philadelphia 76ers for $125,000. It ended up being a foolish move as Korver could have helped the Jason Kidd era Nets with his elite shooting.
14 Paul Millsap: Utah Jazz
Another star to see his career skyrocket with the Atlanta Hawks is Paul Millsap. The power forward made four consecutive All-Star appearances with the Hawks and developed a reputation for being the most underrated star in the league due to the lack of recognition for his great play.
Many forget the Utah Jazz was the team to select Millsap with a second-round pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. Millsap was a part of the good Jazz teams led by Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. Unfortunately, his impressive play didn’t help him stand out as a role player on a team with little media attention. Following seven seasons in Utah, Millsap took his game to the next level in Atlanta.
13 Kevin Love: Memphis Grizzlies
It feels like Kevin Love has been part of the Cleveland Cavaliers for most of his career due to the pressure placed on him. Love helped Cleveland win the 2016 NBA Championship and was part of the team that made four consecutive NBA Finals.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are the other team fans remember for Love’s career as he spent six impressive seasons with them. However, Love was surprisingly drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies with the 5th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Memphis traded a package with Love as the main player to Minnesota for a package centered around OJ Mayo. It was an all-time horrible move in Grizzlies history.
12 Nicolas Batum: Houston Rockets
Nicolas Batum is a talented player that gets lost in the shuffle on the woeful Charlotte Hornets team. Many contenders would love to add a talent like Batum as a role player where he could contend for a title. Charlotte signed Batum to a fat contract after his run with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland fans were impressed with Batum’s early seasons as he looked like a potential future star. Despite spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Blazers, Batum was drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 25th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Houston traded Batum that night for Darrell Arthur and Joey Dorsey in a terrible trade.
11 Ray Allen: Minnesota Timberwolves
The legendary Ray Allen has finally retired from the game after teasing a return for many years. Allen’s legacy will be remembered for winning the 2008 NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics, hitting a clutch shot to help the Miami Heat win the 2014 NBA Championship, and tremendous runs as an all-time great for the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle SuperSonics.
Surprisingly, none of the four teams listed was the one to draft Allen. The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Allen with the fifth overall pick in the legendary 1996 NBA Draft. A draft-night saw Minnesota trade Allen for fellow rookie picked right before him Stephon Marbury. While Marbury did play well for Minnesota, pairing Allen with Garnett could have given them an eventual contender.
10 Kevin Durant: Seattle SuperSonics
Kevin Durant is still being criticized for leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors ready made super team designed to easily win rings. Most fans view his Thunder run as being more impressive than anything that he can accomplish in Golden State with a basically unbeatable roster.
Oklahoma City fans still hold out hope that Durant will want to return to end his career there one day. While he did have his best seasons in OKC, he was drafted as a member of the Seattle SuperSonics. Durant was taken with the 2nd overall pick by the Sonics and spent his rookie season there before the franchise became the OKC Thunder. Seattle fans still feel the pain of losing the team when Durant joined.
9 Eric Bledsoe: Oklahoma City Thunder
Very few fans would be able to guess that Eric Bledsoe was originally selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 18th overall pick in 2010. Oklahoma City sent Bledsoe’s rookie rights to the Los Angeles Clippers who believed strongly in his talent.
Bledsoe had some impressive seasons for the Clippers but was ultimately a backup to Chris Paul. The Clippers traded him to the Phoenix Suns in a three-team deal to land JJ Redick. Bledsoe now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks but is already in trade rumors less than one full year into his run. We may see Bledsoe bounce around, but the Thunder will always be the team that drafted him.
8 Rudy Gobert: Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz fans are ecstatic about the future of the franchise after an impressive postseason first-round victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder last year. Donovan Mitchell is the name everyone talks about, but Rudy Gobert is right there with him as an emerging All-Star.
Gober recently won the 2018 Defensive Player of the Year Award and has played every NBA game in Utah over his first five seasons. The Denver Nuggets was the team to select Gobert with the 27th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Utah swooped in and traded for Gobert on draft night making him their young center of the future.
7 Isaiah Thomas: Sacramento Kings
The career of Isaiah Thomas has seen him unable to find a home in the NBA as every team seems to underappreciate him. Most fans forget that Thomas started his career with the Sacramento Kings when they drafted him with the 60th and last overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Despite playing well with DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento traded him to the Phoenix Suns. Thomas would get dealt again from Phoenix less than one season into his run to the Boston Celtics. This was the best run of his career becoming an MVP candidate until being dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. Cleveland traded Thomas to the Los Angeles Lakers for half a season, and now he’s a Denver Nugget. Hopefully he finds a long-term home soon.
6 Pau Gasol: Atlanta Hawks
Pau Gasol will likely be a Basketball Hall of Famer when his career ends. The average NBA fan will remember Gasol for being the second option on the Los Angeles Lakers squad that won the 2009 and 2010 NBA Championships.
Diehard fans even consider his time with the Memphis Grizzlies as a huge success considering he put up outstanding numbers and could be argued as the best player in franchise history. However, a shocking realization is that the Atlanta Hawks were the team to draft Gasol with the 3rd pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. Atlanta traded Pau to the Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Raheem in a regretful move.
5 Kobe Bryant: Charlotte Hornets
One of the most embarrassing moves in NBA history saw the Charlotte Hornets draft Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick in the 1996 Draft and trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers that night. Many teams were concerned with Bryant skipping college to come right out of high school. There was also rumors that he would refuse to play for other teams that wanted him.
Charlotte selected Bryant with the intent to trade him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. The rest is history as Kobe went on to have an iconic career and retire as a Laker legend. Hornets management claimed they had no intention of picking Bryant if not for the Lakers request in the trade talks which made them look even more foolish.
4 LaMarcus Aldridge: Chicago Bulls
LaMarcus Aldridge is currently a huge asset for the San Antonio Spurs. Fans of the team hope Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan will become the new superstar duo to lead them to contention after Kawhi Leonard demanded a trade.
Aldridge joined the Spurs a few seasons ago after having an incredible run with the Portland Trail Blazers. Many argued Aldridge become the best power forward in game following his first nine seasons in the league with Portland. The Trail Blazers were surprisingly not the team that drafted him. It was the Chicago Bulls to select Aldridge with the 2nd overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft before trading him to Portland in a horrible deal for bust Tyrus Thomas.
3 Kyle Lowry: Memphis Grizzlies
Kyle Lowry is going to be remembered as an all-time Toronto Raptors great. The franchise has never had a point guard as great as him. Lowry was a journeyman in the NBA struggling to find a good fit before he headed to Toronto.
The Memphis Grizzlies drafted Lowry with the 24th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. Lowry did nothing of note during his three seasons in Memphis. The Houston Rockets were the next team to fail to unleash the skills of Lowry. Following seven years in the league, Lowry joined the Raptors and found his NBA home. It is impressive that Lowry became a franchise player and 4-time All-Star after struggling for so long.
2 Kawhi Leonard: Indiana Pacers
The recent controversy involving Kawhi Leonard has seen San Antonio Spurs fans grow a hatred for him. While the horrible exit demanding a trade did hurt Leonard’s San Antonio legacy, he had a tremendous run for them with the high point of leading them to the 2014 NBA Championship as Finals MVP.
San Antonio has been a top tier team since the late 90s making it a surprise that they were able to land a talent like Kawhi during the run. It was the Indiana Pacers to make a foolish move when drafting Leonard with the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and instantly trading him to the Spurs for George Hill. Indiana missed out on a future superstar for a solid guard.
1 Dirk Nowitzki: Milwaukee Bucks
The Dallas Mavericks lucked out when Dirk Nowitzki blossomed into becoming an all-time great. Nowitzki is still going 20+ years into his NBA career with every game played for the Mavericks. The run of Dirk saw him win an MVP Award, make 13 All-Star appearances and lead Dallas to their only NBA Championship in franchise history.
It is stunning to remember that Mavericks didn’t even technically draft him. The Milwaukee Bucks selected Nowitzki with the 9th overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. Milwaukee didn’t believe he could become a star and traded him that night for Robert Traylor. An all-time horrible trade saw the Bucks send one of the greatest players in NBA history to Dallas for someone you likely don’t even remember.