Every year, 30 general managers head into the NBA Draft looking for their team’s future star. Some make the easy decision and take the best player available. But others are more daring. In every draft, there are players who will be labelled “draft steals” if they achieve success down the line. These players are normally taken late in the draft, and are quite difficult to find. But as you would expect, some GMs get the job done and find those diamonds in the rough. Here, we will look at and examine the top NBA Draft steals since the year 2000. In part one, we’ll count down one half of the top ten.
Top NBA Draft Steals Since 2000: Part One
Tony Parker – 2001, 28th Overall – San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker‘s basketball career has been extremely successful. He’s a four-time NBA champion and six-time NBA All-Star, having won numerous European awards as well. Gregg Popovich was head coach of the Spurs when Parker was drafted, and helped develop an undersized European point guard into a star.
There were two point guards taken ahead of Parker in 2001, Raul Lopez (24th) and Jamaal Tinsley (27th). Those two players combined to play 14 NBA seasons; Parker alone has 15 years of experience in the league.
Parker is definitely one of the best steals of this generation. To this day, Parker has 17,884 points and 6,349 assists in his 15-year career. Parker was passed on 27 times on draft day, a decision that many GMs will regret for a long time.
Amar’e Stoudemire – 2002, 9th Overall – Phoenix Suns
Amar’e Stoudemire played 15 seasons in the NBA before recently retiring and choosing to finish his basketball career in Israel. The power forward was a six-time All-Star and won the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 2003.
Stoudemire was the only player taken out of high school in the whole 2002 NBA Draft. Five big men were taken ahead of Stoudemire, but only one would go on to have a Hall of Fame caliber career, Houston Rockets center Yao Ming.
Dwyane Wade – 2003, 5th Overall – Miami Heat
Dwyane Wade is arguably the second best player taken in the 2003 NBA Draft, but fell kindly to Miami at fifth overall. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony all turned out to be great selections for their teams. But Wade was the first of the four players to lead his team to an NBA championship.
Wade won his first ring in 2006, and would go on to win two more down the line. Strangely enough, Wade’s next two championships were won alongside fellow top five picks James and Bosh.
Wade went from being looked at as the fifth best player in the 2003 draft to one of the best players in Heat history. Wade has three titles and 12 All-Star appearances. He is destined to make the Hall of Fame.
Paul Millsap – 2006, 47th Overall – Utah Jazz
Paul Millsap is now 31 years old, and seems to be improving every year. After being drafted 47th overall by the Jazz, Millsap moved on to Atlanta to play for the Hawks. The under-sized power forward has risen from second round pick to All-Star over the course of his ten NBA seasons.
Despite falling out of the first round, Millsap has averaged 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds for his career. Millsap was a steal for Utah, as he gave them seven really good years. Numerous big men were taken ahead Millsap, yet just one can be considered more successful. LaMarcus Aldridge was taken second overall and has had a great career, making it to five All-Star games.
The 2006 NBA Draft will be remembered for one big mistake. Andrea Bargnani was selected first overall, and he’ll go down as one of the worst No.1 picks of all time. When you compare the careers of Bargnani and Millsap, it’s very one-sided. The fact that Millsap was passed on 46 times in the draft is simply jaw dropping.
Marc Gasol – 2007, 48th Overall – Los Angeles Lakers
Marc Gasol was drafted by the Lakers in 2007 but stayed in Europe for a couple more years. In 2008, Marc was awkwardly traded away in a deal that involved his brother, Pau Gasol. This was the only instance in NBA history in which a trade involved two brothers.
So Gasol not only dropped into the second round, but he was passed on again by the Lakers and handed to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers still benefited, as Marc’s brother would go on to help them win two NBA championships. But in this deal, Memphis would land a future star at center. Gasol is now a two-time All-Star and one-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. So despite the Lakers enjoying the trade, it’s Memphis who reaped the benefits of Marc Gasol’s success.