The NBA Draft is always a special time for players entering the league. Predictably, the best players are drafted first and the less talented players are drafted later. Though the players drafted early on are usually the best NBA players, there are a handful of guys drafted in later rounds who ended up being great.
Former NBA Commissioner David Stern's quote below seems to touch on this very concept:
"You will ultimately be defined by the sum total of your responses to circumstances, situations and events that you probably couldn't anticipate and indeed probably couldn't even imagine. So just keep your eyes on the course and be ready to move in different directions depending upon the crises and opportunities with which you are faced."
Stern notes that true athletes always strive to be their very best self. This is especially true with basketball players. Basketball players work hard to achieve their best possible skill set. They never stop working. Several players embody this more than others.
Though draft position is a big factor in understanding who is already good, it does not necessarily determine who is destined to be great. Players, regardless of their draft position, join the NBA ready to make a difference. Their goals are defined by their desire to be the very best player they can be. If they do not wish to be a good basketball player, they will communicate that to themselves. Players that work hard, and give 110 percent every day will most likely be successful.
This is not some philosophical consideration. In the NBA, we have seen time and time again that players can be better than they were expected to be, despite their draft positions. These players truly add something to the fans' experience.
Here are The Top 15 NBA Players Who Exceeded Their Draft Position.
15 Kyle Korver
Korver was selected 51st overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. Korver is a great three-point shooter, who easily should have been a way higher draft pick. Though his career could be winding down, he did very well in the NBA. There are countless guys ahead of him, who in hindsight didn't even deserve to be drafted. For many years, he has led the NBA with the best three-point shooting percentage. His best years may have been with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Utah Jazz.
14 Steve Nash
Though he wasn't taken really late in the NBA Draft of 1996, he ended up being an amazing guard. Steve Nash was selected 15th overall, but is easily the third best player in this draft, which is saying something, considering how legendary that draft was. The only players better than him in this draft are Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, and arguably Ray Allen (4th). Nash was a great passer in the league, and a prominent scorer, and adept at getting to the rim with the Suns.
13 Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler has developed into one of the most versatile shooting guards in the NBA. He is leading the Bulls in the right direction, even though they aren't doing so hot right now. He was selected 30th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Picked ahead of him were Cory Joseph, Norris Cole, and some guy named JaJuan Johnson, so you could say he should have been picked higher. The Bulls got an absolute steal in Butler.
12 Tony Parker
Selected 28th overall in the 2001 NBA Draft, Tony Parker has defied his draft position outstandingly. Every team that passed on him is still feeling the regret, as it must have set in soon after he was taken in the draft.
The Frenchman has been a stud in the NBA, and continues to be productive. With a multiple championships under his belt, he's one of the premier guards the league has ever seen.
11 Bill Laimbeer
Put aside your hatred for Bill Laimbeer for a second. (Odds are you hated him if you weren't a Pistons fan). Laimbeer was very good for the Detroit Pistons. Would it surprise you to hear he was drafted 65th overall? It surprised me indeed. Laimbeer was a four time NBA All Star, and in his 14 years in the NBA, he won championships. While loathed for his style of play, there's no doubt he was an effective piece for the Pistons Bad Boys. The Pistons will never forget this legend, and the city of Detroit will not either.
10 Gilbert Arenas
The University of Arizona alum was selected by the Warriors with the 30th pick. Arenas was a stud, and possibly the NBA's best guard when he was playing. He was a high scorer, and good passer. He was a solid defender, who got steals as well.
Gilbert Arenas should have been taken so much higher than he was. The Warriors saw something in him that no one did, and indeed benefited from that vision. It's too bad they couldn't hang on to him very long, as he signed with the Wizards in 2003.
9 Shawn Kemp
An NBA legend with the Sonics, Shawn Kemp was selected 17th overall in his 1989 draft class. Kemp and Gary Payton were a go-to duo for the team, and true leaders. Kemp was an athletic monster on the court, who played the game perfectly. The Sonics are now the Thunder. Can Westbrook and Durant stick together, and match this ultimate combo of Payton and Kemp? We will see this offseason.
8 Hal Greer
Hal Greer was a second round pick, but also one of the greatest players of all time. He's a Hall of Fame inductee, and an NBA Champion, along with his former teammate Wilt "The Stilt." He was a late-round pick who manifested into a premier NBA legend.
Ironic? I think so. The Philadelphia 76ers made a FANTASTIC move picking Hal, even if they weren't sure who he was. Sixers fans still talk about the good old days, before they only won 10 games a year. Trust me, I'm from there.
7 Joe Dumars
Here we come to another Detroit Pistons bad boy. The six-time NBA All-Star was the 18th pick in the NBA Draft. He is a Hall of Fame inductee, who was electric with the basketball. His defensive skills were essential to the Pistons success. He was awesome at taking the ball, and taking it down the other end for a layup.
Dumars is a prime example of someone who should have been selected a little earlier in this draft.
6 Dennis Rodman
Rodman was a legend with the Pistons, as well as the Chicago Bulls, and is now one in North Korea too. Taken 27th overall, Dennis became a legendary rebounder and scorer. He won five NBA Championships, and two defensive player-of-the-year awards. He was a tenacious rebounder, and an adept scorer down low.
Dennis had crazy hair, and was a beloved player of the NBA. Mind you there were plenty who despised him, but his status as an NBA legend cannot be ignored.
5 Manu Ginobili
Taken 57th overall likely did little for Manu Ginobili's self-esteem. But since then, Ginobili has made a name for himself. He's a great shooter who will be in the HOF one day. Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker have formed an incredible trio that has been very successful in the NBA with championships.
Ginobli should have been a top-five pick, or at least top 10. He's so valuable to the Spurs, and continues to be semi-productive even though he is aging.
4 George Gervin
He was the 40th pick in the 1974 NBA Draft, and shocked the world from there. The "Iceman" was a very good shooter, and shot above 50%. He was a high scorer as well, and would have big breakout games.
He made the list of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, and is recognized for his talent around the world. Anybody who doubts Gervin can look up his stats. They'd instantly be proven wrong.
3 Karl Malone
Karl Malone is one of the best big men to ever play the game of basketball. The "Mailman" made the All-Star game 14 times, and was a major scoring threat. He also had double doubles regularly.
Malone was a beast for the Jazz, and they got super lucky taking him with the 13th pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. He should have been taken earlier, and he surprised everybody by becoming the legend that he did. The only thing missing in his career was an NBA Championship.
2 John Stockton
He was the 16th pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, and was a stud. Noted as the best passer in NBA history, John Stockton was immaculate with the ball. He was a beast, and a great teammate. The 2009 HOFer was a good stealer, and defensive player.
The Utah Jazz will never forget Stockton's amazing play, and even though players try to mimic his flow, it can never be repeated. Stockton was a once in a lifetime kind of player.
1 Kobe Bryant
Kobe was selected 13th overall in the 1996 NBA Draft. The Mamba was by far the best turnout in this draft, and will forever be known as one of the greatest NBA players ever. This man needs no introduction, for his accolades are so legendary.
The Mamba won five NBA Championships, and is a true warrior. He never gave up, and is comparable to Michael Jordan. He defied his draft position awesomely. He showed the haters that he was a BEAST. A Mamba.