The draft is a time for NBA franchises to add great young pieces to their team from the college world, and is one of the most exciting times of the year for basketball fans. Making good on a valuable pick is vital to NBA teams, as their decisions made on draft night can completely alter the future of their team and could ultimately propel them into a championship contender in a few years. While high draft selections are usually the best time for franchises to grab their next young star, every draft class ends up having a hidden gem that one team saw from the beginning. Finding the best steals from the draft is something every franchise wants to do.
In this article, we will be looking at the biggest steal from the last 20 NBA drafts. I will be going through the last 20 years of NBA draft classes and seeing which players was the biggest gem of each draft. All of these players went on to do big things in the league, and it goes to show that not all great NBA players have to be top draft prospects coming out of high-school, and every selection could be a future superstar.
As always, feel free to leave any comments you have on this matter in the comment section below, as we would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Here is the biggest steal of the last 20 NBA drafts.
20 1997 - Tracy McGrady (Picked 9th)
Tracy McGrady was drafted with the 9th pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, and ending up being the steal of the night. McGrady came into the league right out of high-school, and teams must have been tentative to grab the high flyer high in the draft. The Raptors took McGrady with their top 10 draft selection that year and ended up getting one of the best scorers to ever grace the NBA hardwood, as he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame with the 2017 Class later this year. McGrady had some very memorable moments throughout his long NBA career, and even though he only played for Toronto for only three seasons, he was the biggest steal of the 1997 NBA Draft.
19 1998 - Rashard Lewis (Picked 32nd)
Rashard Lewis turned out to be an excellent player after he was taken with the 32nd pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. The SuperSonics ended up getting a franchise player with their 2nd round draft pick, as they selected the steal of the draft class when they took Rashard Lewis from Alief Elsik High School in Houston. Lewis had to work his way up the ranks of the SuperSonics, as he didn't play much in his first few seasons with the team. In his prime in Seattle however, he averaged 22 points per game as he and Ray Allen brought a certain spark to each SuperSonic game that made Lewis a very popular player. Rashard Lewis was without a doubt the biggest draft steal in the 1998 NBA Draft.
18 1999 - Manu Ginobili (Picked 57th)
Manu Ginobili wasn't just the biggest steal of the 1999 NBA Draft, he is easily one of the biggest steals in all of the league's long history. The Spurs have been great at acquire good players no matter what draft pick they have, and selecting Manu Ginobili with the 57th pick in 1999 was a fantastic decision as Ginobili is still in the league and has had one of the most successful NBA careers of all-time as he and the Spurs have won four championships together.
Ginobili hinted at retirement following the Spurs' elimination this year following their sweep at the hands of the Warriors. We should expect a decision very soon. If it is the end, it's been a heck of a career for Manu.
17 2000 - Michael Redd (Picked 43rd)
Michael Redd was a dominant scorer for the Milwaukee Bucks, and was the biggest steal of the 2000 NBA Draft. Redd was taken with the 43rd pick to the Bucks, and barely got any playing time his first season. Growing as a player, Redd was given more time to produce and ended up becoming the Bucks' best player in a few years time. Redd played for Ohio State for three seasons and showed he was a good scorer, but still, many teams passed up on Redd, allowing the Bucks to grab him with the 43rd pick. Redd turned out to be arguably the best player of the class, as he was the only player to be selected to an NBA All-Star Game and to an NBA All-Team roster.
16 2001 - Tony Parker (Picked 28th)
This one could have went to Gilbert Arenas who was taken with the 31st pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, but Tony Parker has overall been a better player and has enjoyed a more decorated and lengthy career. Another fantastic late Spurs pick, Tony Parker blossomed into one of the league's most consistent guards and has been a key player in the Spurs long success. He will no doubt be a Hall of Famer as he has won four NBA championships and has a long list of other awards to his name. Parker has been the Spurs franchise point-guard for over a decade now and was a great pick for the Spurs organization back in 2001. It was yet another pick that allowed the Spurs to stay ahead of the curve and stay on top for so long.
15 2002 - Carlos Boozer (Picked 35th)
Carlos Boozer had a successful NBA career, and many scouts did not expect the power forward from Duke to turn out to be one of the best players from the 2002 NBA Draft class. Boozer was drafted with the 35th pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and played two solid seasons for the franchise. He played the prime of his career in Utah however, as he was a franchise player for the team as he was a great scorer but also brought a certain intensity with him every game that made him a fan favorite. Boozer is now out of the league, but he can look back on his career with pride, as he proved so many doubters wrong.
14 2003 - Kyle Korver (Picked 51st)
The 2003 NBA Draft class is easily one of the best drafts in the history of the league, as it welcomed in superstars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh. The 2003 class also had its few share of gems hidden in it among the stars, with Kyle Korver being the most coveted steal of the legendary class. Korver is one of the greatest NBA shooters of all-time, and the fact he was grabbed with the 51st pick in the draft is crazy. Korver was originally drafted by the Nets, but the Sixers saw something in Korver and traded for him on draft night, getting themselves a deadly sharpshooter from deep. Korver is currently playing for his first ring with the Cavaliers, and hopefully he is able to achieve his goal as he definitely deserves it.
13 2004 - Al Jefferson (Picked 15th)
The 2004 Draft was definitely a drop off from the excellent 2003 class, as the pool of talent to choose from was not as star studded. Al Jefferson turned out to be the steal of the draft at pick 15, as he was taken by the Boston Celtics and blossomed into one of the league's best power forwards in the prime of his career. Jefferson played three seasons for Boston before signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves where he had the best few seasons of his career even averaging over 23 points per game in one season with them.
Jefferson played for the Pacers this season and was supposed to be a scoring spark off the bench, but age has played a part on Al's game, as he is not the same dominant player he was just a few years ago.
12 2005 - Lou Williams (Picked 45th)
Lou Williams has been one of the best scorers in the NBA for years now, as he is one of the most underrated players in the league in my opinion. 6th Man of the Year winner in 2015, Williams has been torching NBA benches for his entire career as he is just too good at scoring for bench guys to lock him up. Drafted with the 45th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft to the Philadelphia 76ers, Williams was a hidden gem as many teams passed up on him for guys that have been well out of the league, never living up to the career Williams has had. Sweet Lou had a great second half of the season with the Rockets, as he fit in perfectly with their high-capacity scoring game and is still enjoying a successful NBA career.
11 2006 - Paul Millsap (Picked 47th)
Paul Millsap was the best steal of the 2006 NBA Draft. Being drafted with the 47th pick to the Utah Jazz, Millsap easily became one of the best players of the 2006 class. He has been one of the league's best power forwards for a while now as he is a perfect blend of offensive talent and defensive prowess. Millsap's stats have been climbing every since he entered the league, as he had his best season scoring wise this year averaging 18 points per game.
If Millsap was smart, he would sign with a team contending for a championship because Millsap doesn't have too many good years in the league left, and it would be cool to see him win a championship after being slept on by a lot of NBA teams back in his rookie season.
10 2007 - Marc Gasol (Picked 48th)
Marc Gasol was taken with the 48th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, and boy did that turn out to be an excellent move by the Grizzlies, who traded for him from the Lakers who originally drafted him with the selection. Gasol has been a dominant center in the NBA for a while now, and is one of the most graceful big men in the league as he has much more talent than just scoring down low and grabbing rebounds. While he hasn't been as successful championship wise as his brother Pau Gasol, Marc has made a case for himself as being the better of the two, as he is just so gifted on the basketball court. It's too bad he seems to be stuck in Memphis, as they are good enough to consistently make the playoffs, but can't get over the hump.
9 2008 - Goran Dragic (Picked 45th)
The 2008 NBA Draft brought in some of the league's biggest current superstars, with Goran Dragic being included even though many scouts didn't think he could amount to much. Dragic was drafted with the 45th pick in the draft to the Spurs, but the Spurs ended up trading him to the Suns. Dragic didn't do anything special his first run around with the Suns, but after playing for Houston and then going back to Phoenix, Dragic transformed into one of the most talented guards in the league.
Dragic had a great year for the Heat this season, and he has slowly proven that while it took some patience, he has become one of the best of his draft class and definitely should have gone higher.
8 2009 - Jeff Teague (Picked 19th)
Jeff Teague is a dynamic NBA point-guard, and turned out to be the steal of the draft back in 2009. He was taken with the 19th pick eight years ago to the Atlanta Hawks, and became the teams franchise point-guard in a few years time as he grew into a great all around player. Teague recently left the Hawks and signed with the Indiana Pacers, and while Indiana had a disappointing year due to all the new talent they acquired, Jeff Teague had an excellent season and showed once again he is a very talented NBA guard. Teague will continue to be a great player in this league for years, and was the gem of the 2009 NBA Draft.
7 2010 - Hassan Whiteside (Picked 33rd)
Hassan Whiteside recently made a name for himself in the NBA after showing he could be one of the most dominant players on the court due to his rebounding and excellent defensive ability in the paint. Drafted 33rd by the Sacramento Kings in the 2010 NBA Draft, no scouts thought that Whiteside was worthy of a top 10 selection. He played two lackluster seasons with the Kings, and would blossom into the player he is today with the Miami Heat, as he averaged a spectacular 17 points and 14 rebounds per game season. Whiteside is still growing as a player, and will continue to show why so many teams should not have passed on him on draft night. He may not be on superstar level, but a lot of teams sure would love to have him.
6 2011 - Isaiah Thomas (Picked 60th)
Isaiah Thomas was drafted with the final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Taken by the Sacramento Kings, Thomas would have to fight to survive in the NBA, as the 60th pick is not usually destined for greatness in the league. Thomas was destined for something special in the NBA however, as he has transformed into one of the league's best players as he went from being the last pick in the draft to an NBA superstar. Thomas played a few seasons with the Kings, a season with Phoenix, and was then traded to Boston where he has found his home. Averaging an incredible 28.9 points per game, the 5-foot-9 Thomas is defying all odds and is possibly the greatest NBA draft steal of all-time.
5 2012 - Draymond Green (Picked 35th)
Hate him or love him, you have to admit Draymond Green is one of the best overall players in the NBA today. The heart and soul of the Golden State Warriors, Draymond can really do it all on the court. He was drafted by the Warriors with the 35th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. After playing four successful seasons at Michigan State, more teams should have seen the value of Green's game where he showed he could score and rebound like a pro. His passing game has developed immensely since coming into the league, as Green is an important piece of the Warriors super-team. Let's hope he'll learn from his mistakes of the last 12 months and continue to grow as a player.
4 2013 - Giannis Antetokounmpo (Picked 15th)
Giannis wasn't drafted that deep in the 2013 NBA Draft, but the fact he was taken with the 15th pick and could go down as one of the best players of all-time is what makes him such a gem selection for the Bucks. Giannis was still very young and raw when his name was in the prospect pool a few years ago, but the Bucks saw the potential of the Greek teenager and drafted him with the 15th pick in the draft. Giannis took a few seasons, but he has since developed into one of the league's greatest players, and at only 22 years of age, "The Greek Freak" is in for a long, successful career in the association. He can score, rebound, and pass excellently and at 6'11", Giannis is a man among boys on the court. Easily the best player from the 2013 draft class, Antetokounmpo was the steal of the night.
3 2014 - Nikola Jokic (Picked 41st)
Nikola Jokic is something special, and while it is still early to say, he was the steal of the 2014 NBA Draft. Jokic has recently come into his own with the team that took him 41st on draft night, as he and the Nuggets are both aware that he is going to be one of best players in the league sooner than later. His minutes were sporadic early in the season, but once the Nuggets let him off the leash, he showed how good he could be and put up some seriously eye-opening numbers.
Even achieving some triple-doubles this season, Jokic has a serious talent for rebounding and passing, and is one of the best overall bigs in the game. Jokic is going to be a superstar in no time, which means the Nuggets cashed in with their 41st pick back in 2014.
2 2015 - Devin Booker (Picked 13th)
Devin Booker is going to go down as one of the best shooters in all of the NBA's long history, and the fact he was taken with the 13th pick in the draft two years ago makes him the steal of the night. Booker showed he could score in his lone season with Kentucky, but he must not have shown enough to go higher in the draft, as he fell to the Suns with the 13th pick. Booker got some time in his rookie season to develop, and ended up averaging about 14 points per game. He took a big step forward in his sophomore season this year, as he scored about 22 points per game and even had a historic scoring night where he dropped 70 points against the Boston Celtics. More special nights like that are in store for Booker, who will have an excellent NBA career.
1 2016 - Malcolm Brogdon (Picked 36th)
Wow, two big steals in four years for the Bucks...
After just one season of being able to gauge this, it looks as though Malcolm Brogdon from the University of Virginia was the biggest steal of the draft. Brogdon was still on the board when the Bucks were selected with the 36th pick, and Milwaukee wisely took the four year college player with their second round selection. Brogdon had a great rookie year, and played like a veteran on his way to becoming one of the league's front-runners for Rookie of the Year.
Brogdon showed he could be a great player in the NBA and I am excited to see how his career turns out, as he is going to continue to make a whole bunch of NBA teams regret that they didn't take him.