With the 2012 NBA Draft approaching, I thought it would be fun to go back down memory lane and focus on 25 of the most notable STEALS of the NBA Draft since 1976. This started out as an idea to do busts of the NBA Draft, but thanks to a GREAT twitter community, I decided to focus on some Cinderella stories of the NBA Draft. I define a draft steal as a player that exceeded any critics expectations in the league and in the process shocked NBA-Land. These 25 steals are not in any particular order, just sit back and reminisce with me.
1. Nick Van Exel: 37th overall pick in 1993 by the Los Angeles Lakers. Nick would average 14.4 points, 6.6 assists over his career; during 1999-2000 season Nick ranked third in total assists with 714.
2. Gilbert Arenas: 30th pick in 2001 by Golden State Warriors. Two words about the #1 pick in this draft: Kwame Brown. Arenas has averaged 20.7 points, 5.3 assists per game during his career; during the 2005-06 season he was second in steals with 161. He also ranked third in points per game (28.4) and total points (2105) in 2006-07.
3. Bill Laimbeer: 65th overall pick in 1979 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. This third-round pick would become a 4-time all-star, average 12,9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game for his career, part of the infamous Bad Boys of Detroit — won back-to-back NBA Champions ships in 1989,1990 — and in the 1985-86 season he ranked first in the league in defensive rebounds (770), total rebounds (1075), rebounds per game (13.1), and defensive rebounding percentage (28.9).
4. Michael Redd: 43rd overall pick in 2000 by the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s averaged 19 points per game in his career, in the 2004 All-Star games, and in 2006-07 was fifth in the league in scoring per game with 26.7 points. Marcus Fizer (#4) or Jason Collier (#15) were chosen before Redd.
5. Kobe Bryant: 13th overall pick in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets, but was traded to the Lakers (the trade for Kobe to L.A was revealed to happen before the pick was made). NBA top 5 player of all-time, NBA MVP, 25.4 points per game (career), 14-time NBA All-Star, and 5 NBA Championships among a slew of other notable awards.
6. Karl Malone: 13th overall pick in 1985 by the Utah Jazz. Career averages of 25 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, 14 All-Star games, 11 All-NBA First Teams, 2 MVP’s and led the league in defensive rebounds in 1990-91 (731) and 1994-95 (715).
7. Maurice Cheeks: 36th overall pick in 1978 by the Philidelphia 76ers. NBA Champion, four All-Star Games, four All-NBA Defensive Teams (first).
8. Steve Nash: 15th overall pick in 1996 by the Phoenix Suns. His start in Phoenix was sketchy, traded to Dallas and came into his own and then returned in 2004. A future Hall of Famer, eight All-Star games, two MVP’s, led the league in assists per game for five seasons and total assists for six seasons.
9. Spud Webb: 87th overall pick in 1985 by the Detroit Pistons. Career averages of 9.9 points and 5.3 assists per game and led the league in free throw percentage in 1994-95 with 93.4%.
10. Rajon Rondo: 21st overall pick in 2006 by the Phoenix Suns (traded same day to the Boston Celtics). NBA Champion, top point guard in the NBA, three All-Star games, led the league in assists per game in 2011-12 (11.7), steals per game in 2009-10 (2.3), and two All-NBA Defensive Teams (first).
11. Alex English: 23rd overall pick in 1976 by the Milwaukee Bucks. Eight All-Star games, led the league in field goals for three seasons, won the scoring title in 1982-83, averaged at least 23 points for nine consecutive seasons.
12. Gerald Wallace: 25th overall pick in 2001 by the Sacramento Kings. Appeared in one All-Star game, led the league in steals during the 2005-06 season (2.5 spg) and has career averages of 13.5 points, 1.5 steals and 6.3 rebounds per game.
13. John Stockton: 16th overall pick in 1984 by the Utah Jazz. Going from a mid first-round pick to one of the best point guards in the history of the game is a huge draft steal. 10 All-Star games, 11 All-Nba Games (2-1st, 6-2nd, 3-3rd), led the league in total assists and assists per game or nine consecutive seasons, total steals and steals per game for two seasons.
14. Derek Fisher: 24th overall pick in 1996 by the Los Angeles Lakers. Not too shabby for a five-time NBA Champion with 16 years of experience in the NBA.
15. Tony Parker: 28th overall pick in 2001 by the San Antonio Spurs. This late pick was a starter as a rookie, four All-Star games, Finals MVP, three-time NBA Champion, and has career averages of 16.8 points and 5.9 assists per game.
16. Danny Ainge: 31st overall pick in 1981 by the Boston Celtics. He has career averages of 11.5 points and 4 assists per game, appeared in one All-Star game, two-time NBA Champion, and led the league in three-pointers made in 1987-1988 with 148.
17. Carlos Boozer: 34th overall pick in 2002 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has career averages of 17 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, two All-Star games, and was third in the league for defensive rebounds during two seasons.
18. Dennis Rodman: 27th overall pick in 1986 by the Detroit Pistons. Career averages of 7.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game, led the league for seven consecutive years in rebounding, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and five-time NBA Champion.
19. Clyde Drexler: 14th overall pick in 1983 by the Portland Trail Blazers. Appeared in 10 All-Star games, NBA Champion and has career averages of 21.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.
20. Toni Kukoc: 29th overall pick in 1990 by the Chicago Bulls. Former Sixth Man of the Year, three-time NBA Champion, has career averages 11.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game.
21. Dirk Nowitzki: 9th overall pick in 1998 by the Milwaukee Bucks ( was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks). 11-All-Star game appearances, MVP, Finals MVP, 12 All-NBA Teams ( 4-1st, 5-2nd, 3-3rd), and NBA Champion.
22. Joe Dumars: 18th overall pick in 1985 by the Detroit Pistons. Finals MVP, six All-Star appearances, four All-NBA Defensive Teams (1st) appearances and two-time NBA Champion.
23. Marc Gasol: 48th overall pick in 2007 by the Los Angeles Lakers. He has career averages of 13.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, one All-Star game appearance, and is an established force on the Grizzlies team.
24. Paul Pierce: 10th overall pick in 1998 by the Boston Celtics. 10 All-Star game appearances, Finals MVP, NBA Champion, and led the league in total points during the 2001-2002 season with 2144 points.
Now, the holy grail of all draft steals….
25. Manu Ginobili: 57th overall pick in 1999 by the San Antonio Spurs. A clutch shooter that has appeared in two All-Star games, three NBA Championships, former Sixth Man of the Year, and has averages of 15.2 points, 4 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Honorable Mentions - I held an informal twitter poll and these were the most common answers.
- Charles Barkley: 5th overall pick in 1984 by the 76ers
- Monta Ellis: 40th overall pick in by the Warriors
- Kevin Martin: 26th overall pick in 2004 by the Kings
- Rashard Lewis: 32nd overall pick 1998 by the SuperSonics
- Luis Scola: 55th overall pick in 2002 by the Spurs