For years NBA draft system was rewarding for teams with the lowest score. Fewer victories meant the better chance for the highest pick. So teams were “tanking”, losing on purpose so they can get better players. But higher pick doesn’t always mean better players. Some teams, like Spurs, were settling for a low pick but managed to get better players. So in this article, we’ll go through biggest draft steals in NBA history.
We’ll start with some old school. Kevin Durant before Kevin Durant. He was selected by Bucks with the second round pick in 1978. He flourished when he was traded to Nuggets in 1980. English was one of the best scorers in the 90’s, scored more points than any NBA player in that time. Selected to an Allstar game 8 times and introduced in Hall of Fame in 1997. Not bad for a second-round pick.
Agent 0 was 31st pick overall in 2001 NBA draft. Warriors selected him but he didn’t get much playing time there. After the trade to the Wizards Agent 0 started to play excellent basketball. He was one of the best guards in the game, brilliant offensive player and in his prime he was scoring over 25 points per game. Unfortunately, injuries got to him, so he couldn’t play to his full potential.
One of the best players of all time was selected by Hornets with the 13th pick. Immediately he was traded to Lakers for Vlade Divac. Mamba’s resume speaks for itself, there isn’t much to add here. 14 Allstar appearances and 5 championships and one Oscar for Mamba as he goes as one of the greatest Lakers in history.
At first Suns fans were not satisfied with their 15th pick in 1996 draft. A guard with no defense, weak frame and the fans thought he couldn’t bring anything to the team. He was traded to Mavs but came back to Suns, and all of the fans were regretting their decision. Consecutive MVP titles, two Western Conference Finals and 8 times Allstar, Nash was the definition of a playmaker and one of the best passer of all time.
Who could predict that the crazy guy picked with the 27th pick in 1986 would become one of the best defender and rebounders in the history of NBA. The Worm was crucial in winning teams like Pistons and Bulls. He could guard positions 1-5 and he rebounded like “mad man”. Two-time Defensive player of the year and he won two titles with Pistons and three with Bulls.
When you’re second in league’s all-time scoring and you were selected with the 13th pick, you know you’re a steal. The mailman was one of the best Jazz players in history. One of the best power forward who ever played the game and just because of Jordan he went in retirement without the ring.
Just like Malone Stockton was an incredible steal for the Jazz. They selected him two years earlier with the 16th pick. Malone and Stockton were one of the best duos in the history of the game, they couldn’t be stopped (except for Jordan…) Stockton finished his NBA career as the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals.
In the new era, kings of draft steals were San Antonio Spurs. They drafted the Frenchmen with the 28th pick and he became one of the pillars of their dynasty. Six-time All-star, Finals MVP in 2007 and he was the first European player with Finals MVP in his resume. Incredible career for French guard who became one of the best players in Spurs history.
When you hear the words draft steal one of the first things that come to your mind surely is Manu Ginobili. He was almost undrafted, and Spurs selected him with the 57th pick in 1999. And he soon became one of the best Spurs of All Time. Arguably the best sixth player of all time, two time All-star with a tone of basketball imagination. A true legend, not bad for almost the last pick in the draft.
So Jordan was the 3rd pick, but everything besides the 1st was a steal for the best ever. No need to tell you who Jordan is. Blazers missed him and selected Bowie and sent their franchise in different direction. No in a good way. Jordan was the game in his prime, and arguably the best player that ever played this game.