LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The NBA Draft began in 1950 and is a day in which young athletes who are draft eligible are selected by the 30 NBA teams in the hopes of finding the next superstar. These players mostly come from the collegiate basketball sphere, although there has been a rise in international prospects being drafted in the past 10 years.
High school students used to be able to declare for the NBA Draft, but as of 2006, new rules were instituted requiring players to be one-year removed from high school. This has created the “one-and-done” phenomenon, or even the rare Brandon Jennings / Emmanual Mudiay plan of attack, which was to forgo college in the U.S., and instead play professionally under contract in China.
The excitement of the draft affects all teams, because no one knows if the 1st pick will end up being better than the last pick. Any team can get the next superstar in the draft, despite not having a top pick. In the 1999 Draft, for instance, Manu Ginobili was selected 57th (2nd to last) by the Spurs, and Elton Brand was selected 1st overall by the Bulls.
If you compare the success and overall career statistics of both players, Ginobili has the edge in almost every category, despite being selected 56 players after Brand. Ginobili is a four-time NBA Champion and two-time all star, despite not beginning his career in the NBA until the 2002-03 season.
Brand played only two years for the Bulls and then was traded to the Clippers. He was plagued with a myriad of injuries throughout his career, and could never live up to the number one overall pick hype.
Here is a list of the biggest NBA Draft steals in the last 10 years:
5. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors, 35th overall pick, 2012 Draft, Michigan State
In just his third season with the Golden State Warriors, Draymond Green has made quite a splash for a 2nd round pick out of Michigan State. Green has improved every year in the league, averaging 2.9 points his rookie year, 6.2 points last year, and 11.7 points this year. Green also was selected to the NBA’s 1st team All-Defensive team this year.
Every single team passed on Green in the 2012 draft, and now he is the catalyst for the Golden State Warriors who won the NBA Finals this year in part due to Green’s versatility on the defensive end, high energy, and his improved shooting ability. Green was rewarded for his stellar play with a five-year, $85 million contract this off-season.
4. Marc Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers, 48th overall pick, 2007 Draft, Spain
The Los Angeles Lakers found a diamond in the rough with this pick in the 2007 draft, although he would later be traded for his brother, Pau Gasol, Marc has gone on to have an incredible career with the Memphis Grizzlies. Gasol is a 2 time NBA All-Star, and he won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013.
He’s been on the All-NBA Second Team (2013) and the All-NBA First Team (2015) as well. Gasol has flourished since he came into the league, and will be a free agent at the end of this season, and many teams have expressed interest in the seven foot Spaniard. This year, Gasol averaged 18.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.1 asssists and 1.8 blocks as a 7 foot center.
3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs, 15th Overall Pick, 2011 NBA Draft, San Diego State
It’s no surprise that the Spurs made this list, as they are known for swooping up talent late in the draft. If you don’t know him, Leonard is the guy who guarded and beat Lebron James in the NBA Finals last year. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP has certainly found a home in San Antonio after being passed on by 14 teams in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Aside from winning the NBA Championship with San Antonio in 2014, Leonard was also the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2015. He has been on NBA All-Defensive first and second teams, and is an up and coming superstar in our league. When the triumvirate of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili eventually retires in San Antonio, it is going to be the Kawhi Leonard show.
2. Kevin Durant, Seattle Supersonics, 2nd Overall Pick, 2007 NBA Draft, Texas
Kevin Durant was the NBA’s MVP in the 2014 season after leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs by averaging a league high 29.9 points a game to go along with 7.0 rebounds a game and 4.3 assists per game as well. Since his first year, Durant has been a perennial All-Star and has been an outstanding role model off the court as well. How can the number two overall pick in the draft be considered a steal? All you have to do is look at the 1st overall pick in the same draft.
Greg Oden, a seven-footer out of Ohio State who, to put it kindly, has not come close to the accomplishments of Durant. Oden battled injuries from the outset of his career, missing multiple seasons between 2010-2013. Oden has never started more than 39 games in the eight seasons since being drafted, and is no longer in the NBA. After the Supersonics moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder, they needed a superstar to create a basketball culture and identity for a relocated team. Durant has exceeded expectations and has created a winning and competitive environment for the fans of Oklahoma City.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors, 7th Overall Pick, 2009 NBA Draft, Davidson
Stephen Curry was named the 2015 NBA MVP and 2015 NBA Champion after his Golden State Warriors beat Lebron James and the Cavaliers. We all watched Curry in the 2008 NCAA March Madness Tournament when he was a slender kid jacking up three pointers for Davidson University. But how many of predicted that this undersized guard from a small school would rise to become the NBA MVP and grow into the superstar he is today? Well the Warriors took the risk drafting him at number seven overall and it has paid huge dividends for them.
Curry has been called the best shooter in NBA history by legends and current players alike, and is one of the best scorers the NBA has ever seen. Since entering the league in 2009, Curry has never averaged less than 17.5 points per game in a year, and never less than 5.3 assists per game in a year. He is a 2 time All-Star, an NBA Three-Point Shootout Champion, and has made it to both the All-NBA First and Second teams.