Ranking the biggest steals in NBA draft history

It’s not about when you draft, it’s who you draft. While it’s nice to have a top three, top five or top 10 pick, It doesn’t mean you cant get a quality player if your pick is later than that. All you have to do is look at the 2013 draft to prove my point. While the top of the draft was a little bit of a mess, there were still plenty of impactful players available at the backend of the first round. The biggest steal of the group was Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. Gobert was taken with the 27th pick by the Denver Nuggets before he was traded to the Jazz, and is now widely considered one of the best players in the whole draft.

But Gobert’s story is not unique. Plenty of great NBA players had to wait to hear their name called before going on to remarkable careers.

This list is my ranking of the best of those players – guys who were drafted outside the top 10 who went on to do special things in the NBA.

All statistical, award and draft information from Basketball-reference.com.

H.M. Jimmy Butler

Butler was taken with the 30th overall pick in the 2011 draft. He has played four seasons with the Bulls and is one of the best young players in the game today. His most productive season came in 2014-15 when he made the all-star game, was second-team all-defense and won the most improved player. That season, he averaged 20 points on 46.2 percent shooting from the floor with 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals in 65 games.

To this point in his career, he is averaging 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals in 256 games (152 starts).

H.M. Paul Millsap

Millsap was selected with the 17th pick of the second round (47th overall) by the Utah Jazz in the 2006 draft. He has played nine seasons for the Jazz and the Atlanta Hawks and is a two-time all-star. His most productive season came with the Hawks in 2013-14 when he averaged a career-high 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks in 74 games.

To this point in his career, he is averaging 13.5 points on 50.3 percent shooting with 7.3 rebounds, 2. 0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks in 687 games (411 starts).

H.M. Kawhi Leonard

Leonard was taken with the 15th overall pick by the Indiana Pacers in the 2011 draft and traded to the San Antonio Spurs. He has played four seasons for the Spurs and has already earned second-team all-defense, first-team all-defense, defensive player of the year and finals MVP. His most productive season came in 2014-15 when he averaged 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 steals in 64 games.

To this point in his career, he is averaging 12.3 points on 49.6 percent shooting with 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 steals in 252 games (225 starts).

H.M. Marc Gasol

Gasol was selected with 18th pick in the second round (48th overall) by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2007 draft. He was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies before ever playing a game and has spent his seven-year career in Memphis. During that time, he has made two all-star games, earned all-NBA first-team and second-team and won defensive player of the year. His most productive season came in 2014-14 when he averaged 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 blocks in 81 games.

To this point in his career, he has averaged 14.1 points on 50.9 percent shooting with 7.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.6 blocks in 517 games (510 starts).

H.M. Zach Randolph

Randolph was taken with the 19th overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2001 draft. He has played 14 seasons for the Trail Blazers, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies. He has made two all-star game appearances, won most improved player and earned all-NBA third-team. One of his most productive seasons came with the Trail Blazers in 2006-07 when he averaged 23.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 68 games.

So far in his career, he is averaging 17.1 points on 47.3 percent shooting with 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 916 games (767 starts).

H.M. Klay Thompson

Thompson was selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2001 draft by the Golden State Warriors. He has played four years with Golden State and has already made an all-star game and been named all-NBA third-team. His most productive season came in 2014-15 when he averaged 21.7 points on 43.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He added 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 77 games.

So far in his career, he is averaging 17.5 points on 44.3 percent shooting with 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 306 games (269 starts).

25. Jermaine O’Neal

O’Neal was taken with the 17th overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1996 draft. He played 18 seasons for the Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors. The best stretch of his career came with the Pacers where he made six straight all-star games and made the all-NBA second or third-team three times. One of his best seasons came in 2002-03 when he averaged 20.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 2.0 assists in 77 games.

For his career, he averaged 13.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.4 rebounds in 1,011 games (697 starts).

24. Larry Nance

Nance was selected with the 20th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns in the 1981 draft. He played 13 seasons for the Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was a three-time all-star and also made first or second-team all-defense three times. One of his best seasons came with the Suns in 1986-87 when he averaged a career-high 22.5 points on 55.1 percent shooting from the floor. He added 8.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.2 steals in 69 games.

For his career, he averaged 17.1 points on 54.6 percent shooting with 8.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.2 blocks in 920 games (795 starts).

23. Jamaal Wilkes

Wilkes was taken with the 11th overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in the 1974 draft. He played 12 seasons for the Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. He was a three-time all-star, made second-team all-defense twice and won the rookie of the year in 1974-75. One of his best seasons came with the Lakers in 1980-81 when he averaged 22.6 points on 52.6 percent shooting from the floor. He added 5.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals in 81 games.

For his career, he averaged 17.7 points on 49.9 percent shooting with 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals in 828 games. He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

22. Calvin Murphy

Murphy was selected with the first pick in the second round (18th overall) by the San Diego Rockets in the 1970 draft. He played his entire 13-year career with the San Diego/Houston Rockets and made an all-star game. One of his best seasons came in 1973-74 when he averaged 20.4 points on 52.2 percent shooting from the field. He added 7.4 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 81 games.

For his career, he averaged 17.9 points on 48.2 percent shooting with 4.4 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 1,002 games. He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

21. Manu Ginobili

Ginobili was selected with the 28th pick in the second round (57th overall) by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 draft. He has played 13 seasons with the Spurs and has been a part of four championship teams. He has made two all-star game appearances, earned third-team all-NBA twice and won the sixth man of the year in 2007-08. One of his best seasons came in 2007-08 when he averaged 19.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals in 74 games.

So far in his career, he is averaging 14.3 points, 4.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 865 games (349 starts).

20. Shawn Kemp

Kemp was taken with the 17th overall pick in the 1989 draft by the Seattle SuperSonics. He played 14 seasons with the Sonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers and the Orlando Magic. He made six all-star games, including five as a starter and made all-NBA second-team three years in a row. One of his best seasons came with Seattle in 1995-96 when he averaged 19.6 points on 56.1 percent shooting from the floor. He added 11.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals in 79 games.

For his career, he averaged 14.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals in 1,051 games (728 starts).

19. Richie Guerin

Guerin was taken with the eighth pick in the second round (17th overall) by the New York Knicks in the 1954 draft. He played 13 seasons with the Knicks and the St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks. The best stretch of his career came with the Knicks where he made six straight all-star games and made all-NBA second-team three times. One of his best seasons came in New York in 1961-62 when he averaged 29.5 points, 6.9 assists and 6.4 rebounds in 78 games.

For his career, he averaged 17.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 848 games. He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

18. Chet Walker

Walker was selected by the Syracuse Nationals with the fifth pick in the second round (12th overall) of the 1962 draft. He played 13 seasons with the Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls and was a seven-time all-star. One of his most productive seasons came with the Bulls in 1971-72 when he averaged 22 points on 50.5 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

For his career, he averaged 18.2 points on 47 percent shooting with 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 1,032 games. He was inducted in to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

17. Harry Gallatin

Gallatin was taken with the 40th pick by the New York Knicks in the 1948 BAA draft. He played 10 seasons with the Knicks and the Detroit Pistons. He was a seven-time all-star and earned first or second-team all-NBA twice. One of his best seasons came in New York in 1953-54 when he averaged 13.2 points, 15.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 72 games.

For his career, he averaged 13 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 682 games. He got his call to the hall of fame in 1991.

16. Tim Hardaway

Hardaway was taken with the 14th overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in the 1989 draft. He played for 13 seasons with the Warriors, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and the Indiana Pacers. He made five all-star games appearances and earned all-NBA first, second or third-team five times. One of his best seasons came in 1990-91 when he averaged 22.9 points on 47.6 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 9.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.6 steals in 82 games.

For his career, he averaged 17.7 points, 8.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 867 games (770 starts).

15. Joe Dumars

Dumars was taken with the 18th overall pick by the Detroit Pistons in the 1985 draft. He spent his entire 14-year career with the Pistons and was a huge piece of two championship teams. He made six all-star game appearances, earned first-team all-defense four times and was second or third-team all-NBA three times. One of his best seasons came in 1992-93 when he averaged 23.5 points, 4.0 assists, 1.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 77 games.

For his career, he averaged 16.1 points on 46 percent shooting with 4.5 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 1,018 games (944 starts. He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

14. Dennis Rodman

Rodman was selected with the third pick of the second round (27th overall) by the Detroit Pistons in the 1986 draft. He played 14 seasons for the Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks and was one of the best rebounders of his generation. He made two all-star games, won defensive player of the year twice, was named third-team all-NBA twice, won five championships, led the league in rebounding seven times and was first or second-team all-defense eight times. One of his best seasons came in 1991-92 when he averaged 9.8 points on 53.9 percent shooting with 18.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 82 games.

For his career, he averaged 7.3 points on 52.1 percent shooting with 13.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 911 games (573 starts). He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.

13. Dennis Johnson

Johnson was selected with the 12th pick in the second round (29th overall) by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1976 draft. He played 14 seasons for the Sonics, Phoenix Suns and the Boston Celtics. He was a five-time all-star, won three championships, was first or second-team all-defense nine times, named first or second-team all-NBA twice and was the 1978-79 finals MVP. One of his best seasons came with the Suns in 1981-82 when he averaged 19.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.3 steals in 80 games.

For his career, he averaged 14.1 points, 5.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 1,100 games. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 2010.

12. Cliff Hagan

Hagan was taken in the third round (24th pick) of the 1953 draft by the Boston Celtics, but never played a game for the Celtics. He played 13 seasons in the NBA and ABA for the St. Louis Hawks and the Dallas Chaparrals. He was a six-time all-star who earned second-team all-NBA honors twice. ONe of his best seasons came with the Hawks in 1959-1960 when he averaged 24.8 points on 46.4 percent shooting to go along with 10.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 75 games.

For his career, he averaged 17.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 839 games. He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978.

11. Reggie Miller

Miller was taken with the 11th overall pick by the Indiana Pacers in the 1987 draft. He spent his entire 18-year career with the Pacers and was one of the premier shooters in league history. He made five all-star game, earned third-team all-NBA three times and is 18th all-time in points scored in the NBA. One of his best seasons came in 1989-1990 when he averaged 24.6 points on 51.4 percent shooting to go along with 3.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals.

For his career, he averaged 18.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 steals in 1,389 games (1,304 starts). He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

10. Tony Parker

Parker was taken with the 28th overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2001 draft. He has spent his entire 14-year career with the Spurs. He has made six all-star games, won four championship rings, been named second or third-team all-NBA four times and won the finals MVP in 2006-07. One of his best seasons came in 2008-09 when he averaged 22 points on 50.6 percent shooting to go along with 6.9 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 72 games.

So far in his career, he is averaging 16.9 points on 49.4 percent shooting with 5.9 assists and 2.9 rebounds in 1,008 games (995 starts).

9. Alex English

English was taken with the sixth pick of the second round (23rd overall) by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1976 draft. He played 15 seasons in the NBA for the Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks and was an elite scorer. He made eight all-star games and earned second-team all-NBA three times. One of his best seasons came in 1982-82 when he averaged a league-leading 28.4 points to go along with 7.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.4 steals in 82 games.

For his career, he averaged 21.5 points on 50.7 percent shooting with 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 1,193 games (753 starts). He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.

8. Tiny Archibald

Archibald was selected with the second pick of the second round (19th overall) by the Cincinnati Royals in the 1970 draft. He played 13 seasons for the Royals/Kansas City-Omaha/Kansas City Kings, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks. He was a six-time all-star, earned first or second-team all-NBA five times and won a championship with the 1981 Celtics. One of his best seasons came with the Kings in 1972-73 when he averaged a league-leading 34 points, 11.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 80 games.

For his career, he averaged 18.8 points, 7.4 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 876 games. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1991.

7. Hal Greer

Greer was selected with the sixth pick in the second round (13th overall) by the Syracuse Nationals in the 1958 draft. He spent his entire 15-year career with the Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers. He was a 10-time all-star, earned second-team all-NBA seven times and was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players. One of his best seasons came in 1967-68 when he averaged 24.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 82 games.

For his career, he averaged 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 1,122 games. He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.

6. Bill Sharman

Sharman was taken in the second round (17th overall) by the Washington Capitols in the 1950 draft. He played 11 seasons for the Capitols and the Boston Celtics where he was one of the best players in the early days of the NBA. He made eight all-star games, earned first or second-team all-NBA seven times, won four championships and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. One of his best seasons came in 1955-56 when he averaged 19.9 points, 4.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds in 72 games.

For his career, he averaged 17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 711 games. He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976.

5. Steve Nash

Nash was selected with the 15th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns in the 1996 draft. He played 18 seasons for the Suns, Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers. He made eight all-star teams, earned first, second or third-team all-NBA seven times, led the league in assists per game five times and won two MVPs. One of his best seasons came with Phoenix in 2005-06 when he averaged 18.8 points on 51.2 percent shooting from the floor. He added 10.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 79 games.

For his career, he averaged 14.3 points, 8.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 1,217 games (1,053 starts).

4. Clyde Drexler

Drexler was taken with the 14th overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1983 draft. He played 15 seasons for the Trail Blazers and the Houston Rockets. He made 10 all-star teams, earned first, second or third-team all-NBA five times and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. One of his best seasons came in Portland in 1988-89 when he averaged 27.2 points on 49.6 percent shooting from the floor. He added 7.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.7 steals in 78 games.

For his career, he averaged 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.0 steals in 1,086 games (950 starts). He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 2004.

3. John Stockton

Stockton was selected by the Utah Jazz with the 16th overall pick in the 1984 draft. He played his entire 19-year career with the Jazz and is the league’s all-time leader in assists and steals. He earned first, second or third-team all-NBA 11 times, made 10 all-star games, led the league in assists per game nine straight years, was second team all-defense five times and was named one of the 50 best players in NBA history. One of his best statistical seasons came in 1987-88 when he averaged 14.7 points on 57.4 percent shooting from the floor. He added 13.8 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.9 rebounds in 82 games.

For his career, he averaged 13.1 points, 10.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 1,504 games (1,300 starts). He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 2009.

2. Karl Malone

Malone was taken with the 13th overall pick by the Utah Jazz in the 1985 draft. He played 19 seasons for the Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers and finished his career as the second leading scorer in league history. He made 14 all-star games, was first, second or third-team all-NBA 14 times, finished in the top five in scoring 13 times, made first or second-team all-defense four times, won two MVP trophies and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. One of his best seasons came in 1990-91 when he averaged 29 points on 52.7 percent shooting from the floor. He added 11.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks in 82 games.

For his career, he averaged 25 points on 51.6 percent shooting with 10.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 1,476 games, (1,471 starts). He was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

1. Kobe Bryant

Bryant was taken with the 13th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 draft and then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. He has played his entire 19-year career in Los Angeles and is one of the greatest scorers the league has ever seen. He has made 17 all-star games, named first, second, or third-team all-NBA 15 times, earned first or second-team all-defense 12 times, won five championship as well as securing four all-star game MVPs, two finals MVPs and the league MVP in 2007-08. One of his best years came in 2005-06 when he averaged 35.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.8 steals in 80 games.

So far in his career, he is averaging 25.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals in 1,280 games (1,132 starts).

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