The NBA draft has had many busts and many players that didn't live up to the hype. At the same time, there have been numerous players that have surprised people and have been known as a "steal" for the team that drafted them.
Check the Top 10 NBA Draft Steals (current players).
10. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Antetokounmpo was drafted by the Bucks with the 15th pick in the 2013 draft. Now entering his 4th season, he has improved in just about every statistic year by year. His field goal percentage which was .506 last year has improved every year. Coming off a year in which he scored 16.9 points per game he has also improved in that category every year. He has also improved in rebounds, steals, blocks, and assists. To put stats aside, this guy is simply a freak of nature.
He is one of the most athletic players in the league and it seems like every day there is a new highlight of some insane euro-step dunk or crazy athletic play that he is doing. In conclusion, there were 14 players selected before Antetokounmpo and it is arguable that the "Greek Freak" as they call him has turned out to be better than all of them.
He has certainly turned out to be better than the 1st pick that year: Anthony Bennett. And even though Steven Adams, CJ McCollum, and Victor Oladipo were drafted before him, the case can be made that he is better than all of them. Because of these reasons, Giannis Antetokounmpo is no doubt a huge draft steal.
9. Hassan Whiteside, Drafted by the Sacremento Kings, now play for the Miami Heat
Hassan Whiteside was drafted 33rd overall to the Sacremento Kings in the 2010 draft. After bouncing around D-league teams and international teams for years the Miami Heat finally took a shot on him, and what a good idea that was. Whiteside is now one of the most dominant rim protectors in the NBA and is making max money.
It's simply unheard of to see a guy go from the D-league/overseas league to a max contract player. Last year Whiteside made the All-Defensive second team and also lead the league in blocks. Last year he had 14.2 ppg, 11.8 rebounds per game, and 3.7 blocks per game. Going from the 33rd pick in the draft, playing 1 game in his rookie year, playing 18 games the next, being in the D-league and overseas for 2 years, and now a premier defender in the NBA, Hassan Whitesides story, and the journey is incredible.
8. Marc Gasol, selected by the Los Angeles Lakers, now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies
Marc Gasol was selected with the 48th pick in the 2007 draft. He was then traded to the Grizzlies in a blockbuster trade that involved his brother, Pau Gasol going to the Lakers.
This trade is known as one of the best trades the Grizzlies ever made as Marc Gasol turned into a star. Now 31 years old, Marc Gasol is a 2-time All-Star, 1-time NBA first team, and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
Gasol has provided nothing but a consistent effort for the Grizzlies and he has been a big part of their "grit and grind" era. Although his Grizzlies teams have fallen short in their playoff runs numerous times, the Grizzlies always seem to be a team right in the thick of things in the Western Conference; and there is no doubt that he is a big reason for his teams consistent regular season success.
He averaged a career 14.3 ppg, 1.5 blocks per game, and 7.8 rpg but it's his great defensive impact that does not show up on the stat sheet. He is also a great passer for a big man and is one of the only truly fundamental big men left in the NBA. So the fact that he was the 48th pick in the draft is unbelievable, and the Grizzlies are grateful that they took the chance on trading for him.
7. Rajon Rondo, drafted by the Phonix Suns, now plays for the Chicago Bulls
Rajon Rondo was drafted 21st to the Suns in the 2006 draft. He was traded to the Celtics before playing a game for the Suns, he ended up playing the next 9 seasons in Boston. A trade that the Celtics look back on as being a great one, Rajon Rondo was a great young point guard for a veteran Boston team. He helped the Celtics win a championship in 2008 and Rondo is also a 4-time All-Star and is an All-NBA 3rd team and a 2-time All-NBA Defensive first team. Rondo, who is now on the Bulls has been one of the best passers ever since entering the league year after year.
He is a 3-time NBA assist leader and even led the league in steals one year. He has a career ppg average of 11 ppg and 8.7 apg. His contribution to the Celtics teams should not go unnoticed as he was such a great ball distributor to guys like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.
Looking back, the Celtics couldn't be happier that they made that trade with the Suns to acquire a point guard that did so much for that team and helped them win a title.
6. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Drafted 15th to the Pacers, Leonard was traded to the Spurs on draft night for George Hill, a trade the Spurs are happy about, and the Pacers wish they never did. Kawhi Leonard is now a top 10 maybe even a top 5 player in the NBA.
He is arguably the best 2-way player in the NBA and has been a huge success for the next generation of the Spurs. Leonard helped the Spurs take down Lebron's Heat by a record margin in 2014 in which Leonard won the finals MVP. Leonard is a quiet guy and isn't known as a big NBA personality.
However, his stats and accolades speak for very loudly. He has won the Defensive Player of the Year 2 times in a row which is unheard for a nonbig man. Last year he averaged 21.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, and 2.6 apg. Some of his best features can't be seen on the stat sheet; he has a huge defensive impact of whoever he is covering and he is a player with a great basketball IQ, he takes good shots and has learned a lot from being around guys like Tim Duncan and a great coach in Gregg Popovich.
Today, he is one of the best players in the NBA and an NBA champion. There is no doubt that Kawhi Leonard was a steal at 15th in the draft.
5. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
One of the best shooting guards in today's NBA, Jimmy Butler was drafted 30th to the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 draft. Despite being homeless as a teenager, Butler followed his dream and made it to the NBA but no one, even the Bulls thought he would be this good.
He is right there with Klay Thompson, James Harden, and Dwyane Wade in terms of best shooting guards in the league. He has vastly improved his game every year and is also fresh off of a gold medal with team USA.
He won the Most Improved Player Award, which was well deserved. He is also a 2-time All-Star and is 3-time All-Defensive second team. He averaged 20.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 4.8 apg last year. For being picked with the 30th pick, the Bulls are ecstatic that they stole Jimmy Butler, a young player with all types of potential.
4. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Green was drafted by the Warriors in 2012 with the 35th pick in the draft... in the second round. Green has proven to so many that he deserved to be not only drafted in the first round but with one of the top picks in the first round.
Draymond is a Dennis Rodman type player with an offensive game. He can pass, shoot, penetrate, defend, and block shots. Basically, he can do just about everything and can even cover and play every position on the court. He has been in the running for defensive player of the year the past few years but has never won, however, he is still and NBA Champion, an All-Star, and a 2-time All-Defensive first team.
He has been a huge reason for Golden State's success these past few years and is someone that you hate if he's not on your favorite team but you absolutely adore if he's on your team. He is a leader and a stat sheet stuffer; last year he averages 14 ppg, 9.5 rpg, and 7.4 rpg. The amount of triple doubles he racks in show how much of an all-around player he is. Green can even name all the players that were drafted before he was off the top of his head, but a lot of those teams that passed on him are now highly regretting it.
3. Paul Pierce, drafted by the Boston Celtics, now plays for the Clippers
Pierce was drafted 10th overall by the Celtics and has had some career. He is considered one of the greatest small forwards of all time and has the resumé to back it up. He is a 10-time All-Star, 1-time All-NBA second team and a 3-time All-NBA third team.
And his biggest accolade of all was bringing a championship to Boston in 2008 in which he was named finals MVP. The Celtics beat Kobe Bryant's Lakers in 6 games and Paul Pierce was a big reason why. Another reason he was a steal was because he gave the Celtics all he had for 15 years. It's not too often you see a great player stick around a team for 15 years and even deliver them a championship.
Pierce is also 16th on the NBA All-Time scoring list, with 26,316 points. And besides the Mavericks acquired Dirk Nowitzki in the 1998 draft after the Bucks drafted him, Paul Pierce left the 9 teams who passed on him wishing they had taken him, making him one of the biggest NBA draft steals ever.
2. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
Another Spur, Tony Parker was drafted with the 28th pick in the 2001 draft. He has been a Spur his entire career and he has been nothing short of a consistent point guard for Gregg Popovich. He has won 4 NBA titles and was even named finals MVP in 2007. He is a 6-time All-Star and 3-time All-NBA second team.
Parker is known for his ability to weave through defenders despite his height being 6 foot 2; he is also an all time great ball handler. With career points per game of 16.6 and assists per game of 5.9 paired with Parkers basketball resume, he was a huge steal in the draft at pick 28.
1. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
With the 3rd Spur on the list and the 57TH PICK IN THE 1999 draft, Manu Ginobili almost went undrafted. Still playing in the NBA despite being 39 years old, Manu Ginobili has been a vital part of the dynasty that the Spurs have grown. Ginobili is a 4-time NBA Champion and has meant so much to the Spurs for the past 20 years.
Never known as a superstar unlike some other players in this list, Ginobili is known for his great IQ and his ability to know his role. He has benefited greatly from the system of Gregg Popovich with career stats of 14 ppg, 3.7 rpg, and 4 apg. It is simply unheard of to see a guy that went from almost being undrafted to a 4-time NBA Champion, a similar story to that of NFL's Tom Brady. And for these reasons, Manu Ginobili goes down in my book as the biggest steal ever by a team that is the best at finding hidden talent: the San Antonio Spurs.