Top 10 NBA Draft Day Steals Since 2000

The 2022 NBA Draft is Thursday, taking place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, where Jabari Smith out of Auburn is looking likely to be taken as the No. 1 overall pick, currently -135 with PointsBet to have his name called out first by the Orlando Magic. 

But as there are every year, among the 60 players who will be selected by the 30 teams, there will be selections that we look back on in future years as shocks - both for bad reasons and good. 

We've cast our eye back over the past 21 years to see which players were the biggest steals of draft days gone by.

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Top 10 NBA Draft Steals

10. Donovan Mitchell (2017, Pick 13) 

After a couple of disappointing seasons for the Utah Jazz, Donovan Mitchell's stock has dipped a little, but disregarding that, at his best, Mitchell is one of the league’s most gifted scorers who may very well flourish if rumors of an off-season move out of Utah to another team turn out to be true. What makes this draft day steal even more pronounced is that Denver were the ones who drafted him and immediately brokered a trade with the Jazz for Tyler Lyndon and Trey Lyles (yeah, we’ve never heard of them either).


9. Rudy Gobert (2013, Pick 27)

So this begins our European players criminally overlooked by US scouts because they don’t play in America’ segment of the list. Frenchman Rudy Gobert was selected by Denver with the 27th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft but traded to the Utah Jazz (Hey, Denver, why do you keep trading stars to Utah?!). Since then, the man with a wingspan of 7 feet 8 ½ inches has gone on to become a defensive powerhouse for the Jazz, winning the league Defensive Player of the Year trophy three times.


8. Pascal Siakam (2016, Pick 27)

Sometimes a speculative late-round draft pick can take a little bit of time to pay dividends, and for the Toronto Raptors, they had to wait a few years for their 27th pick in the 2016 draft to deliver, but Siakam has repaid the faith and more. The Cameroon native spent time in the G League before partnering with new recruit Kawhi Leonard in the 2018/19 season to bring a Championship to Toronto for the first time. He also capped off the season by collecting the Most Improved Award to cement his superstar status.


7. Draymond Green (2012, Pick 35)

When the Warriors selected Draymond Green with the 35th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the front office could not have known what was to come. Green was the third of Golden State's 'Big 3' to be drafted, behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, forming a core that would lead them to four NBA titles over an 8-year span. The man out of Michigan State has been a defensive lock for the Dubs, winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2017. That is supreme value for a guy taken in the second round.


6. Jimmy Butler (2011, Pick 30)

The mere fact that Jimmy Butler made it to the NBA Draft is a story in itself. Enduring a tough childhood in which he was homeless from the age of 13, Jimmy Buckets has been on a mission ever since. Taken in the second round of the 2011 Draft, the five-time All-Star has gone on to prove any doubters he had heading into the draft wrong, leading the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals in 2020 and coming within one three-pointer away from getting back there in 2022.


 

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5. Luka Doncic (2018, Pick 3)

This might be controversial considering the Slovenian was taken pretty high at 3, but the fact that he slipped that far is kind of crazy. Doncic, who won the Euroleague MVP playing against men at the age of 19, was absolutely the best player heading into the 2018 Draft. The only knock anyone had to say about him in the lead up to draft day was the fact that he was plying his trade in Europe and not in front of everyone's minds in the American college system. The Rookie of the Year from his draft year has already ensured that Phoenix and Sacramento, who overlooked him, plus Atlanta who drafted him just to trade him, will regret the decision to not draft a man who will eventually be in the Hall of Fame.


4. Stephen Curry (2009, Pick 7)

Once again, another player from within the top 10, it might seem weird initially that Curry is included in this conversation. However, when you consider that he was the third point guard taken in this draft behind Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn, who, for some reason, were taken in back-to-back picks by the Minnesota Timberwolves, this really goes down in the books as one of the all-time heists by the Golden State Warriors. Taken at pick 7, No. 30 has gone on to do absolutely everything in the game. Titles, MVPs, All-Stars, All-NBAs, you name it. Oh, yeah - he also just changed the way basketball is played.


3. Nikola Jokic (2014, Pick 41)

Nikola Jokic slipping to 41 in the 2014 Draft continues to defy logic. Somehow the man from Serbia got past almost everyone until the Nuggets finally took him in the second round. The Joker has gone on to be the most versatile big man in the league, regularly notching up triple-doubles on his way to back-to-back MVP awards over the past two seasons. 


2. Kawhi Leonard (2011, Pick 15)

A moderately rated recruit out of college, the Klaw thrived under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich at the Spurs, winning a Finals MVP in just his third season at the age of 23. Since then, he delivered Toronto its first-ever title during his lone year there in 2019, picking up another Finals MVP in the process. He is now the marquee man for the LA Clippers.


1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (2013, Pick 15)

Not even the Bucks knew what the Greek Freak would turn into when they selected him in 2013. The Milwaukee forward/guard/center/everything, took a little bit of time to come on, but is now in the conversation as one of the best players in the league. A 2-time league MVP, Giannis capped off his ascent to superstardom by leading the Bucks to their first NBA title in 40 years in 2021. He is without a doubt the biggest steal of the NBA Draft this century.

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