The NBA Draft is supposed to be what keep parity in the game. The draft gives every team a fair chance at finding their next superstar or franchise player. Obviously, not every draft pick pans out, and of course some draft classes have less more than others, but overall the draft is a time when teams get to control their future in many ways.
During the draft, and the time leading up to it, general managers from across the league are on the phone discussing trade possibilities and any other scenario that could improve their franchise. There is a lot of value in high draft picks, and teams with those higher picks are sometimes able to swap that high pick for multiple lower picks, or even a proven NBA players. The thing about a draft pick, regardless of how high they are picked, is that they are still unproven at the NBA level. With that in mind, often times general managers are willing to part ways with potential in favor of a proven commodity. However, on occasion that draft pick that is traded away in favor of an already proven player can turn into something very special. As we get into theses 15 players be prepared to be shocked, as you may not have been aware that some of the all time great players were not drafted by the team that you associate them with.
15. Brandon Roy
One of the ultimate ‘what-ifs’ in NBA history. Brandon Roy was selected 6th overall in 2006 by the Minnesota Timberwolves but made his name with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Roy was traded to Portland on draft day in ’06 and immediately burst on the scene as a rookie. In his first season Roy averaged 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game on his way to a nearly unanimous Rookie of the Year Award. Roy established himself as the second best shooting guard behind Kobe Bryant after only three seasons. After making three All-Star appearances in his first four seasons, Roy’s knees began giving him serious problems.
His knees had been an issue since college, but at 25 years old the lack of cartilage became a serious problem. After several surgeries to repair his knees Roy was forced to retire at 27 years old. He attempted a brief comeback in 2011 but his knees would not allow him to continue. Roy is currently coaching Nathan Hale High School in his hometown of Seattle Washington, and he currently has them as the number one ranked high school team in the nation.
14. Marc Gasol
In 2007 the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Marc Gasol late in the second round. The Lakers were looking to add one more All-Star to join Kobe Bryant for a possible title run.
The Memphis Grizzlies had Marc’s brother Pau Gasol, and they were willing to part ways with Pau before his contract expired and he left via free agency. So in 2007 for the first time ever, two brothers were traded for one another. There were other pieces to the trade but ultimately the two best players in that traded turned out to be the Gasol brothers. The Lakers would ultimately go on to win two NBA championships with Pau and Kobe leading the way. The Grizzlies have held on to Marc, who has turned himself into arguably the best center in the NBA. This trade seems to have worked out for both teams, which is hardly the norm in these types of draft day deals.
13. Kevin Love
Love spent only one season at UCLA, but that was all he needed to prove that he was ready for the NBA. During his single season with the Bruins he earned First Team All-American honors, as well as being named the Pac-10 Player of the Year and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
Once he entered the draft it was unclear where he would be drafted, but he was a sure fire top 5 talent. Ultimately he was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies with the 5th overall selection. After the draft Love was the center piece, along with fellow rookie O.J. Mayo,m in a blockbuster eight player trade which landed him in Minnesota. Love played his first six season with the Timberwolves, earning two All-Star appearances along the way. In 2015 Love was again traded for a rookie, this time it was Cleveland who sent the number one overall pick Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota for Love. This traded put Kevin as the third member of Cleveland’s big 3 with Lebron James and Kyrie Irving. So far it has worked out for him, as he has been to the NBA Finals two consecutive years with Cleveland.
12. LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge was a can’t miss prospect coming out of Texas back in 2006. It was a mystery to many at the time, and still remains a mystery to many why the Chicago Bulls traded him on draft day after selecting him second overall. The Bulls shipped Aldridge to Portland for Tyrus Thomas and Victor Khryapa, (who?) much to the chagrin of many excited Bulls fans.
Once he arrived in Portland Aldridge began one of the most consistent careers in recent memory. Aldridge is the poster child for efficient, under the radar production. Since his second season in the league Aldridge has put up over 17 points per game while shooting over 48% from the field. Over the past couple seasons Aldridge has even expanded his game to become a viable threat from behind the arc. After spending his first nine season in the Pacific Northwest, Aldridge signed with the San Antonio Spurs in 2016.
11. Chris Webber
‘C-Web’ was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the 1st overall pick of the 1993 NBA draft. When he was drafted he became the first sophomore since Magic Johnson to be selected first overall. The Orlando Magic immediately traded him to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway and three future first round draft picks.
After winning Rookie of the Year in 1994, the Warriors shipped Webber to the Washington Bullets, later renamed the Wizards, in exchange for Tom Gugliotta and three first round draft picks. Webber spent time with six franchises during his Hall of Fame caliber career, but his biggest successes came with the Sacramento Kings. Webber was the captain of the great Kings teams of the early 2000s; teams that included Mike Bibby, Jason Williams, Vlade Divac, and Peja Stojackovic.
10. Rajon Rondo
After two seasons at Kentucky, Rondo decided he was ready to enter the NBA. In 2006 he was the first point guard drafted when the Phoenix Suns selected him 21st overall. In a draft day trade, Rondo was shipped off to the Boston Celtics for a future first round pick.
Rondo didn’t see a lot of action with the Celtics in his rookie season, but in his second year he started 77 games and established himself as the team’s point guard moving forward. A major factor in the immediate improvement in Rondo’s game that season was the additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. With the big three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, the Celtics were immediately title contenders. Combine the big three with the emergence of Rondo as both an amazing distributor and a hard nosed defender, it was clear that Boston was title bound. So with those ingredients the Celtics would go on to win the championship in only Rajon’s second season. Those seasons with KG, Ray, and Paul were the highlight of Rondo’s career, as he has yet to find a situation nearly as successful since.
9. Vince Carter
During his time at UNC Carter became incredibly close with teammate Antawn Jamison. The two helped lead the Tar Heels to multiple Final Four appearances during their time together. On draft day 1998 Antawn was selected 4th and Vince 5th, on the same day, the two were traded for one and other.
Carter was drafted by the Golden State Warriors, but when he was traded for his best friend he became a member of the Toronto Raptors, a franchise he would single handedly put on the map. Carter took the lowly franchise and carried them to several deep playoff runs, including one of the most epic seven game Conference Semi-Finals in NBA history. Carter and Allen Iverson battled it out for seven grueling games back in 2001. During that incredible series both Carter and Iverson had 50+ points games, with Iverson ultimately getting the best of Carter, but the series will forever be remembered for the two superstars going back and forth at one and other.
8. Dominique Wilkins
Dominique Wilkins’ draft story is an interesting one. He was selected 3rd overall by the Utah Jazz in 1982, but money problems within the Jazz organization, along with Wilkins’s reluctance to play with the Jazz, led to him being traded to the Atlanta Hawks. In return for Wilkins, the Jazz recieved John Drew, Freeman Williams and $1 million in cash. The trade is now considered among the most lopsided deals in NBA history, as Drew and Williams would only play a combined four seasons for the Jazz.
Wilkins would go on to become of the faces of the league, and one of the most prolific scorers to ever play the game. The knock on Wilkins’ career is his lack of playoff success, which is a fair knock, but he will forever be revered as one of the most original, and talented dunkers the game has ever known.
7. Pau Gasol
Perhaps behind only Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol is arguably the best foreign born player in NBA history. In 2001 the Atlanta Hawks selected Pau with the 3rd overall pick in the draft, only to to ship him to Memphis for Shareef Abdul-Rahim.
By the end of his rookie season Gasol had already made the Hawks regret their decision, as he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year. In seven seasons with the Grizzlies, Gasol averaged nearly twenty points, and eight rebounds. He also helped lead the Grizzlies to three playoff appearances during his time there. In 2008 Pau was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he would gel perfectly with Kobe Bryant while helping lead them to three NBA Finals appearances, and two titles. Gasol has spent the twilight of his career chasing more rings, as he is currently helping the San Antonio Spurs pursue another championship trophy.
6. Ray Allen
Up until Steph Curry showed up on the scene Ray Allen was the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history. Allen was a silky smooth shooter coming out of UConn in 1996, and the Minnesota Timberwolves decided to selected him with the 5th pick of the draft that year. Immediately after selecting Allen, the Wolves decided to ship him to Milwaukee for the 4th pick in that same draft, Stephon Marbury.
Allen had some success in Milwaukee, making a name for himself by being the best shooter in the NBA. But Allen really started to hit it big when he joined the Seattle SuperSonics, and later the Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat. As his career progressed Allen morphed into a sniper, simply put he was an assassin from behind the arc and there was really nothing anybody could do about it. Ray won a title with the Celtics in 2008, before joining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami for a second title run. He will likely be remembered most for his game tying three-point shot at the end of Game 6 in the 2013 NBA Finals.
5. Kawhi Leonard
Leonard was somewhat under the radar when he came out of San Diego State back in 2011, but the Spurs defiantly had their eyes on him. It was the Indiana Pacers who actually drafted him, with the 15th overall pick, but the Spurs immediately began trade talks with the Pacers after they chose him. In one of the most lopsided draft day trades ever, the Spurs scored Kawhi Leonard for George Hill.
Once Leonard arrived in San Antonio, Gregg Popovich quickly began molding him into what he knew he could become. In Kawhi’s second season coach Pop had high praise for his youngster, saying “I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs, I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player.” What also helped Kawhi turn into one of the elite players in the game today was the mentorship he got from hall of fame teammates Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.
4. Scottie Pippen
The greatest sidekick to ever play is without question Scottie Pippen. There is no doubt that the Chicago Bulls were Michael Jordan’s team, but what people often forget is when MJ played baseball for a year, Scottie led the Bulls to 55 wins.
In 1987 the Seattle SuperSonics had the 5th overall pick, and they hit a homerun with it when they selected Pippen. However, unfortunately for Seattle, they traded him to the Bulls for relatively unknown Olden Polynice.
The Bulls got the perfect piece to play along side the greatest player ever. Pippen would ultimately go on to become one of the greatest 50 players in history and a member of the 1992 Dream Team. The 1996 NBA Finals could have been Jordan versus Pippen had Seattle hung onto him.
3. Dirk Nowitzki
Back in 1998 international players were not as highly valued in the draft as they are today which is why Dirk was able to fall to 9th in the draft. When the Milwaukee Bucks decided to take him with their pick they were still a little uneasy on Dirk so they traded him for the more prototypical forward Robert ‘Tractor’ Traylor.
The expectations on Dirk were low at first, as he was only 20 years old when he entered the league, but he soon shed those low expectations and began to build his now Hall of Fame career. After his first two seasons Dirk was already averaging nearly 20 points per game. After two seasons of figuring out the NBA, Dirk averaged over twenty for 14 straight years, including 2007 when he averaged 24.7 on his way to winning league MVP. However, it was in 2011 when Dirk had his career year. That season he led the Mavericks to the NBA title, beating the LeBron James led Miami Heat in the Finals, also winning Finals MVP in the process.
2. Bill Russell
An icon in basketball history, Bill Russell is regarded as the greatest winner in basketball history… 11 NBA titles in 13 years will do that for ya.
In 1955 the Red Auerbach Celtics had finished second in the league and were sitting on one of the lowest picks in the upcoming draft, which left them all but out of the running for the highly touted Russell who was projected as a top pick. Russell ultimately was drafted second overall by the St. Louis Hawks, which ended up being wildly serendipitous for Auerbach and the Celtics. The St. Louis Hawks who drafted Russell, had repeatedly shown extreme interest in Celtics center Ed Macauley, a six-time All-Star. Macauley also had roots in St. Louis. Auerbach being the genius he was, agreed to trade Macauley, who was from St. Louis, in exchange for the young Russell, and the rest, as they say, is history.
1. Kobe Bryant
Coming out of high school, Kobe Bryant was a bit of an unknown. There was no doubt that Bryant had the raw potential but as we all know, potential is not certain. For these reasons, Kobe slipped to the 13th pick of the 1996 draft, ultimately being selected by the Charlotte Hornets.
As a 17 year old Kobe was the first guard drafted straight out of high school. It has been rumored that Bryant refused to play for Charlotte, but other reports suggest the Hornets and Lakers had worked out a trade before the Hornets ever selected Bryant. Either way the Lakers made out with one of the greatest players in league history, and all they gave up was Vlade Divac, whom they replaced with Shaquille O’Neal shortly after. Once Kobe was able to get acclimated to the NBA game, and speed of the game, he became a scoring machine. His intensity often pushed teammates and coaches away, but it is what ultimately separated him from the rest of his peers. Bryant went on to win five NBA championships in his twenty year career, and will forever be a mistake the Hornet franchises wishes it never made.
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