NBA teams can have a maximum of twelve players on their roster by the time the regular season starts. The NBA draft has 60 spots for players to get selected. Only the first 30 selections are given guaranteed contracts, while the other 30 players will have to compete with other players to earn a spot on the roster. In other words, it is incredibly difficult to make it in the NBA.
Not coincidentally, most of the successful players in the NBA were taken early on in the draft and were considered to be top prospects coming into the league. There could be a wide variety of factors going into players' draft stock. How elite of a basketball program their school had or how strong their competition was. How tall and NBA ready their body is or how raw their talent and basketball skills are. Sometimes teams may select a player who didn't prove a lot at the college level simply because of his raw athletic abilities and high ceiling, as opposed to the more polished basketball player who don't seem to have superstar potential. As an NBA scout, you have to go through all of these different factors and weigh the pros and cons.
Oftentimes, assumptions of players made by scouts result in great players falling through the cracks and all of the sudden they allowed an NBA All-Star to fall into the second round, or worse, left them completely undrafted. Going into the draft, some of the players on this list were labeled "too small" or "too slow" to compete at the NBA level. This is why a lot of the players on this list were also known to play with a chip on their shoulder. Being under-appreciated coming into the league, they had to fight to prove that they were even worthy of making an NBA roster. These players ended up proving all of their critics wrong, and they all have had successful NBA careers.
15 Michael Redd
After being drafted 43rd overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, Michael Redd had trouble getting on the court because he was playing behind Ray Allen. Once he began to get playing time, Redd flourished and turned into one of the best scorers in the league. Being left handed and an elite shooter, Redd was one of the hardest people to guard in the league. From the years 2003-2009, he averaged 23.5 points per game. He was a sharpshooting guard who became the leader of the Bucks and was an All-Star in 2004 along with earning a spot on the All-NBA Third Team.
14 DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre Jordan was a project coming out of college and the Los Angeles Clippers decided that he had enough potential to take him in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft. Jordan proved to be exactly that, a project with loads of potential. He struggled in his first few years in the league, but began to focus on his strengths, which were defense and rebounding. Now that he has figured out his role in the NBA, DeAndre has become one of the best big men in the league. He has led the league in rebounding twice and has turned into one of the best rim protectors in the game.
13 Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap is a player who has gotten better as he has entered the latter stages of his prime. He was drafted in the second round, 47th overall by the Utah Jazz in 2006. Initially he provided a spark off the bench for the Jazz, but after a few years he turned into a very productive starter. Once he left Utah for the Atlanta Hawks in 2013, his game continued to improve. He is now the the primary player for a Hawks team that has recently been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Initially thought to be too small to be a successful power forward, Millsap is now one of the best all around players in the game and, at 31 years old, he has been an NBA All-Star for three consecutive years.
12 Rashard Lewis
Rashard Lewis came into the NBA out of high school and was a bit of an unknown because of this. He was one of the top 15 prospects invited to the green room on draft day, but because of the uncertainty in his game, he wasn't selected until the third pick of the second round, 32nd overall. Lewis had an incredibly unique combination of length and shooting. At 6'10", he became one of the first successful stretch four players in the game. He was a fluid scorer who had one of the best three-point shots in the game. During his time with the Seattle SuperSonics, he was one of the best scorers in the league and eventually won a championship in 2013 with the Miami Heat.
11 John Starks
John Starks is one of the NBA's greatest underdog stories. He went completely undrafted. He earned a spot with the Golden State Warriors, but was cut from the team and then played a couple of years in different leagues. He finally got his shot when the New York Knicks picked him up. While playing with the Knicks, Starks embodied everything that the '90s Knicks were about. He was a rugged perimeter defender, who would get under the skin of his opponents. On offense, he was a smooth shooter who could dunk with ferocity. He won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1997. John Starks will always be remembered for playing every game like it was his last.
10 Mark Price
Mark Price was selected in the second round of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he would end up playing point guard for nine seasons. Initially thought to be too slow and small for the NBA game, Price was one of the league's premier court generals. Not only did he have great vision and passing abilities at point guard, but he turned into one of the greatest shooters the NBA has ever seen. His shooting ability landed him the in the prestigious 50-40-90 club, (50% field goals, 40% three pointers, 90% free throws) a club whose only other members are Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Reggie Miller, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry.
9 Marc Gasol
Marc Gasol was taken late in the second round of the 2007 Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, who then traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies in a deal that involved his All-Star brother Pau. Marc was essentially a throw-in player in the trade and not many expected him to turn into the player he is today. Fast forward eight years and he is still with the Grizzlies as their franchise player. Marc turned into of the best rim protectors in the league and earned the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013. Offensively he is incredibly efficient and is one of the best passing big men in the league.
8 Gilbert Arenas
Throughout his career, he wore number zero, because that's what people thought of him. Gilbert Arenas said he picked the number because that's the number of minutes he expected to play during his freshman year at the University of Arizona. He was selected by the Golden State Warriors with the second pick of the second round in 2001. It wasn't until a few years later with the Washington Wizards where Arenas would turn into one of the best players in the NBA. He earned three All-Star appearances with the Wizards. He was one of the most unstoppable scorers in the game and led the league in scoring in 2005-2006 where he averaged 29.3 points per game.
7 Draymond Green
There may not be a more emotional competitor in the NBA today than Draymond Green. He was taken in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors, and I don't think many people could have predicted he'd end up where he is today. Now at just 26 years old, Draymond has turned into arguably the most versatile player in the league and is the heart and soul of the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Coming off of his first All-Star appearance, Draymond is now one of the best defenders in the league because of his ability to guard every position. Also a tenacious rebounder and unselfish passer, he is a triple-double machine, who you could argue is just as vital to his team's success as his MVP teammate Stephen Curry.
6 Maurice Cheeks
An integral part of the great Philadelphia 76ers teams of the 1980s, Maurice Cheeks was a hound on defense. He made the NBA All-Defensive First Team four consecutive years from 1983-1986, along with the Second Team in 1987. Along with Julius Erving and Moses Malone, he won a championship in 1983. Not only was he one of the greatest perimeter defenders in NBA history, he was able to be an effective court general at the point guard position. During the 1985-1986 season he averaged over 15 points and nine assists per game.
5 Ben Wallace
One of the most physically draining players to ever play against, Ben Wallace was an unheralded player heading into the draft. He had played his college basketball at the Division II school, Virginia Union University and went completely undrafted. Wallace didn't have much skill with the ball in his hands, but it was his heart and hustle that earned him a spot in the NBA. After short stints with the Wizards and the Magic, Big Ben found his home with the Detroit Pistons. He became the defensive anchor on their 2004 championship team, and was named the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year four times, an NBA record he shares with Dikembe Mutombo.
4 Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili was drafted with the 57th pick of the 1999 draft, and after he was the MVP of the Italian League for consecutive years, he joined the San Antonio Spurs in 2002. Ginobili, along with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, have been the foundation of the Spurs' dynasty that has won four NBA Championships. Manu's style has always had a lot of flair to it, and he has had a huge impact on the NBA game. He helped popularize the Euro-step, a move used to elude defenders that is used today by many of the game's star players. Throughout his career, Ginobili has been both a crafty scorer and a court general who can run his team's offense. Ginobili will also always be known for clutch ability to knock down shots towards the end of games.
3 Alex English
Alex English was one of the most prolific scorers the NBA has ever seen. He was one of the most durable and dominant players of the 1980s. From 1980-1989 he averaged 26.9 points per game and only missed seven games in that span. After being drafted in the second round of the 1976 Draft, it took Alex English a couple of years to gain a lot of playing time and it wasn't until he joined the Denver Nuggets that he solidified a prominent role and became a key player for his team. Clearly one of the most slept on draft picks ever, English is now in the Basketball Hall of Fame and has his number retired by the Nuggets.
2 Dennis Rodman
One of the most polarizing and eccentric players to ever play in the NBA, Dennis Rodman's hard work and hustle made him an incredibly effective player. After being drafted in the second round out of Southeastern Oklahoma State, he became the embodiment of the Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons that won consecutive championships in 1989 and 1990. He very well could be the greatest rebounder the NBA has ever seen. At 6'7", he led the league in rebounding in seven consecutive seasons, averaging a whopping 18.7 and 18.3 rebounds per game in 1992 and 1993. Also considered to be one of the greatest defenders of all-time, he made the All-NBA Defensive First Team seven times and was twice voted as the Defensive Player of the Year. After playing with the Pistons, Rodman won three more championships playing alongside Michael Jordan and the Bulls, which cemented his NBA legacy.
1 Dennis Johnson
Dennis Johnson may very well be the most underrated player to ever play in the NBA. The Seattle SuperSonics selected him with the sixth to last pick in the 1976 NBA Draft. While playing for a young SuperSonics organization, Dennis Johnson led them to an NBA championship where he was named the Finals' MVP in just his third season. After playing for the Sonics, Johnson had a short stint with the Phoenix Suns and then joined Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics en route to two more NBA Championships. Dennis Johnson is one of the greatest two-way players the league has ever seen. He was one of the NBA's first premier perimeter defenders, having been named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team six times and the Second Team, three times. On offense, he consistently posted great numbers in points, assists, and rebounds per game. Even after a long and prestigious career in the NBA, it seems as thought Dennis Johnson is still one of the more under-appreciated NBA legends.
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