Everyone knows that the NBA Draft can be a crapshoot sometimes. There is no method of telling how good a prospect will turn out, unless they are a generational talent, like LeBron James.
However, over the past decade, there have consistently been players that went on to massively outplay their draft position and become the steals of their draft. Some of these players became franchise cornerstones while others went on to have very decent NBA careers.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest NBA draft steals in the past ten years.
Drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers – 48th overall, 2007
Marc Gasol was taken by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 48th overall pick in 2007. It’s hard to believe that Gasol never ended playing a single NBA game for the Lakers. Ironically, the Spaniard's rights were traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in a package deal that involved his brother Pau Gasol going the other way.
Since joining the Grizzlies in 2008, Gasol has become a franchise cornerstone. He has been a top-five center in the NBA for many years, is a three-time NBA All-Star (2012, 2015, 2017) and also captured the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2013.
After all these years, it’s fair to say that Gasol was the biggest steal of the 2007 NBA Draft, and some may still find it hard to believe that there were only 12 players selected behind him in the entire draft.
Drafted by the San Antonio Spurs – 45th overall, 2008
As successful as the San Antonio Spurs has been in drafting and developing players over the years, it is fair to say that they missed out on Goran Dragic. In 2008, they traded Dragic away to the Phoenix Suns, after taking him with the 45th pick. In return, the Spurs got Malik Hairston, the 48th pick in the same draft, who went on to play two uneventful seasons with San Antonio before going overseas for good.
Even though Dragic had a slow start to his NBA career, "The Dragon" has gradually worked his way to becoming a very respectable starting point guard in the NBA. Dragic boasts a career high of 20.3 points, 7.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He also won the NBA Most Improved Player Award in 2014 and was a third team All-Star in the same year.
One could only imagine how much better Dragic’s career might have turned out had the Spurs kept him in 2008. He would have probably been a franchise point guard for San Antonio and might have helped them win more than one championship.
Drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers – 35th overall, 2008
Aside from Goran Dragic, DeAndre Jordan turned out to be one of the biggest steals in the 2008 NBA Draft. The Los Angeles Clippers were able to take him at 35th overall in the second round. Jordan didn’t take long to make an impact for the Clippers, playing his first NBA game in early 2009 and quickly wowing fans with his highlight-reel-dunks and impressive finishing ability around the hoop.
He almost became a Golden State Warrior in 2011, after signing an offer sheet with them, but luckily for Clippers fans the team matched the offer and kept him in the City of Angels. From then on, Jordan went on to add many accolades to his resume; two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team and two-time All-NBA Third Team. On top of all of that, the Texan appeared in his first NBA All-Star game in 2017.
The Seattle Supersonics had three draft picks before the 35th pick that year; they used the 4th overall on Russell Westbrook, the 24th overall on Serge Ibaka, and the 32nd overall on Walter Sharpe. Had they used the 32nd overall pick on Jordan, only one could imagine how good Oklahoma City might have been.
Drafted by the Golden State Warriors – seventh overall, 2009
Although Stephen Curry was taken seventh overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, he would likely be a top-two pick in many re-drafts. Many knew Curry was a good shooter, but it doesn't seem like they anticipated him becoming this good.
Since joining the Warriors in 2010, Curry has transformed Golden State into a playoff team and has taken the franchise to new heights. At the same time, he has changed the way modern-day NBA basketball is played, thanks to his three-point shooting prowess. Curry is a two-time NBA MVP (2015, 2016), two-time NBA Champion (2015,2017), and a four-time NBA All-Star (2014 -2017). When it’s all said and done, he will likely add several more accolades to his resume, and go down as the best shooter in NBA history.
Looking back, it must be tough for Minnesota Timberwolves fans to know that their team passed up on Curry twice with the fifth and sixth overall picks that year, taking Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn instead. Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Sacramento Kings fans may also wonder what their team would have looked like today had they taken Curry in 2009.
Drafted by the Atlanta Hawks - 19th overall, 2009
The 2009 NBA Draft was loaded with All-Stars such as James Harden and the aforementioned Curry, but the Atlanta Hawks did well for themselves that year. They were able to land Jeff Teague with the 19th overall pick, which can be considered one of the most underrated steals of that draft.
Teague took a few years to develop in the NBA but really came into his own around 2012. Since then, he has been the Atlanta Hawks' starting point guard for the better parts of six seasons. During his time with the Hawks, he had a career high of 16.5 points and 7.8 assists per game. He has also helped the Hawks to six consecutive playoffs appearances.
Although he was never able to help the Hawks capture an NBA Championship, Teague is probably still considered one of the best point guards to ever play for Atlanta. The list includes other legendary names such as Spud Webb, Doc Rivers, Lenny Wilkens and Mookie Blaylock - not bad for a player that was selected 19th overall. In hindsight, Teague could have arguably gone somewhere in the top five of his draft, only behind Steph Curry, James Harden, Blake Griffin and DeMar DeRozan.