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 two, we’ll count down the rest of the top ten.
Check out part one here.
Top NBA Draft Steals Since 2000: Part Two
Stephen Curry – 2009, 7th Overall – Golden State Warriors
was the third point guard taken in just the first seven picks of the 2009 NBA Draft
. You would think that Curry would be the first off the board, especially knowing what we know now. The Minnesota Timberwolves
had the fifth and sixth picks in the first round. They would go on to select two point guards not named Curry — Ricky Rubio
and Jonny Flynn
Curry is now seven seasons into his NBA career and is an NBA champion, two-time MVP, and three-time All-Star. We could go on all day talking about Curry’s achievements since being drafted, but let’s focus on Rubio and Flynn. Rubio has yet to make an All-Star game and is considered injury prone. Flynn is no longer in the league and last played for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2012.
It is a travesty that these two players were selected ahead of Curry. David Kahn
, the Timberwolves GM at the time, turned
Curry into a steal. Without Kahn, NBA history would look very different.
Paul George – 2010, 10th Overall – Indiana Pacers
A three-time All-Star, Paul George has achieved more than what’s expected of a 10th overall pick. After winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2013, a serious injury hit George in the summer of 2014 and cost him over a year of basketball.
George has become a terrific player and proved many to be wrong, after he fell in the draft. George has outperformed the other small forwards from the 2010 NBA Draft, and will go down as one of the best steals of his era.
Jimmy Butler – 2011, 30th Overall – Chicago Bulls
Jimmy Butler was the final pick in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Butler can only be considered a steal due to the wingman making All-Star appearances and representing Team USA in the 2016 Olympics. The shooting guard was also named Most Improved Player in 2015 and is getting better every year.
Butler was selected 30th overall and was passed on far too many times. When you re-evaluate the 2011 draft, only one player has made more All-Star games than Butler — Kyrie Irving
, who was the first overall pick that year, has made three of them.
Isaiah Thomas – 2011, 60th Overall – Sacramento Kings
Standing at just 5’9”, Isaiah Thomas has slowly developed into a quality starter in the NBA. Being under-sized was the main reason that Thomas fell so dramatically on draft night. The Sacramento Kings took a small risk on Thomas by selecting him with the 60th pick of the 2011 draft.
Being the final selection, Thomas had a long journey to make it in the NBA. But Thomas would go on to be very successful. Getting better every season, Thomas would finally find a home with the Boston Celtics, where he could play to the best of his abilities. It took Thomas six seasons, but the point guard was named an All-Star last year.
The Kings and the Phoenix Suns would end up regretting the decision to move on from Thomas. Thomas averaged 22.2 points per game in his All-Star season last year. Now 27, Thomas is continuing to play great basketball and has proved that he shouldn’t have been the last pick of the draft in 2011.
Draymond Green – 2012, 35th Overall – Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green was an experimental pick by the Warriors, as he had the height of small forward but the body of a power forward. Green eventually worked out what he truly was, as he developed into a versatile power forward, with the ability to score in the post and shoot the three consistently. He also became a monster on the defensive end, finishing as the runner up for Defensive Player of the Year in each of the past two seasons.
Eight power forwards were taken ahead of Green on draft night, but not one has reached the same heights — not even first overall pick Anthony Davis
. Green is an NBA champion and has made one All-Star appearance. Not only has Green achieved NBA success, but he has also represented Team USA in the Olympics.
Green may make strange decisions on and off court, but he will go down as a player who many GMs will regret passing on back in 2012.