In the NBA Draft, it is sometimes the lower picks that develop to have the highest value.
While those selected at the top are perceived to be franchise-altering players in the future, it has been a common theme every year that a few prospects slip between the cracks in the league’s annual rookie selection.
And with the 2018 NBA Draft just around the corner, let’s take a look at the major draft steals of the last seven seasons.
Notes: Only those players selected No.15 or lower are considered a steal. Our list starts from the 2011 draft onwards.
2012, Drafted No.35
From a second-round pick to a starter for three-time NBA Champions Golden State Warriors. Indeed, there no story quite like Draymond Green’s.
While some would argue that he’s a mere system player who happens to be in the right place at the right time, he has more than proven himself as a major draft steal. Besides his rings, he also has the three-time All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year award to show.
For what it’s worth, he’s been in the league for just six years!
2013, Drafted No.15
There’s something about you when you are nicknamed “The Greek Freak.” And Milwaukee undoubtedly hit the jackpot when Antetokounmpo fell on their laps at number 15 in the 2013 draft.
In his first five seasons in the league, Antetokounmpo has shown exponential growth, improving his production every year. He’s already a two-time All-Star at just 23-years-old and is often tabbed as a future league MVP.
2011, Drafted No.30
With how Butler is playing, it’s easy to forget that he was selected last in the first round of the 2011 draft.
Butler exploded in his fourth season with the Chicago Bulls, averaging 20 points a game en route to his first All-Star selection. Unfortunately, the Bulls traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves last year.
Still, Butler has been a consistent force in the league, earning his second All-NBA selection as he guided the Wolves to the playoffs this 2017/18 campaign.
2014, Drafted No.41
How many NBAers can boast being the face of their franchises after being drafted midway through the second round?
Jokic’s rise came as a surprise—thanks to the stigma about European big men—but he has proven that he is not a flash in the pan after establishing himself as one of the league’s best centers.
Also known as one of the most elite passing bigs in the NBA, the 23-year-old Serbian averaged 18.5 points, 6.1 assists and 10.7 rebounds per game as the Denver Nuggets barely missed the 2017/18 playoffs.
2011, Drafted No.60
IT needs no introduction. After becoming the 2011 draft’s Mr. Irrelevant, he exploded onto the scene with his scoring ability.
If becoming an All-Star despite being the last pick of a draft class is not enough to be considered a steal, it’s also worth noting that Thomas averaged 28.9 points in 2016-17 to lead the Boston Celtics to an Eastern Conference Finals berth.
As everybody probably knows, he was traded last campaign for what is virtually a swap of the 2011 top pick and the last pick!
2013, Drafted No.27
Despite almost falling out of the first round five years ago, Gobert earned his keep and became a force to be reckoned on the defensive end of the court.
His elite rim protection sets him apart the rest of the 2013 draft class, and it’s no wonder why he is the front-runner to win the DPOY award this year.
A two-time NBA Defensive first team, the Stifle Tower was drafted behind the likes of other centers like Nerlens Noel (6), Steven Adams (12) and Mason Plumlee (22). Talk about a real steal!
Indubitably one of the most complete two-way players in the NBA, Leonard is capable of becoming the best in any team (when healthy). With that said, it’s confusing why 14 teams would pass on him to allow the Pacers (traded to the Spurs) to grab him at No.15.
Leonard is now an NBA Champions, NBA Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time All-Star.
Honorable mentions: Malcolm Brogdon (2016, No.36), Kyle Kuzma (2017, No.27), Caris LaVert (2016, No.20), Dillon Brooks (2017, No.45)