Check out the 1983 draft when you can and you’ll just how big a miss so many teams made that year. Clyde Drexler became one of the best NBA Draft steals in history when Portland took him 14th overall. This resulted in Drexler lighting the league on fire as a scorer. He averaged over 20 points per game for his career which likely how he became a 10-time NBA All-Star.
Drexler landed on the All-NBA Third Team twice, All-NBA Second Team twice, and All-NBA First Team once. He eventually joined the Rockets where Clyde was able to win the 1995 NBA Championship alongside Hakeem Olajuwon.
The story of the 2011 NBA Draft is that teams missed hard or hit it big. Golden State belongs to the latter, as they drafted Klay Thompson who somehow landed in their laps at 11th overall. As a member of the “Splash Brothers” for the Warriors, Klay has quickly become one of the deadliest shooters in the NBA.
He can hit 3’s all game and completely light up teams if they don’t guard him. He averages over 20 points for his career and has done this as a second or third option on Golden State. This has resulted in him becoming a 5-time NBA All-Star and 2-time All-NBA Third Team selection. To top it off, he’s a 3-time NBA Champion as well.
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Drafted 15th Overall In 2013)
The impressive Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the greatest NBA Draft steals ever, full stop. The 7-footer is impressively athletic and capable of doing anything. He’s an amazing scorer, rebounder, and defender. He has also improved in every major stat line every single year of his career.
This has resulted in a 2019 year where he averaged 12 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.5 blocks, and over 27 points per game. All in all, Giannis is a 3-time NBA All-Star, 2-time All-NBA Second Team selection (2017, 2018), an All-NBA First-Team selection (2019), an All-Defensive First Team (2019) selection, and All-Defensive Second Team selection(2017). He should also end up being the 2019 NBA MVP.
The 1984 draft was loaded but had several misses in it along with great players too. Stockton happened to randomly fall to the Utah Jazz at 16th overall and he’d make every team regret passing up on him. Stockton is now known to NBA fans as the greatest passer and steals artist who ever lived. He is #1 all-time in both passes and steals for a career by a massive margin.
Stockton led the league in assists 9 times and led the league 2 times in steals. He is a 10-time NBA All-Star who is, quite frankly, one of the most unstoppable players who ever lived. This is mostly because he played both sides of the ball and was a nightmare for every team. Gary Payton even claimed Stockton was a harder guard than Michael Jordan. That is saying something!
It’s quite clear by now that Manu Ginobili is one of the greatest NBA Draft steals ever. To find him at 57th overall and see him become so amazing is saying a lot. Manu was always a great European player but no one knew how he’d adapt to the NBA upon arrival. However, he proved to be massively valuable to the San Antonio Spurs as a part of their big three for more than a decade.
This resulted in Manu being a 2-time NBA All-Star and 2-time All-NBA Third Team selection. Due to an injury, Manu had to miss some time and then the Spurs made him a bench man in 2007-2008, which resulted in Manu being named the 2008 NBA Sixth Man of the Year! All in all, Manu helped the Spurs win 4 NBA Championships. That is something special!
During the 80s, the NBA had more than 2 rounds for the draft. This is how Mark Eaton was capable of being picked in what amounted to the 4th round at the 72nd overall pick by Utah in 1982. Eaton developed into one of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game. For his career, he averaged an NBA record 3.5 blocks per game.
He also led the league in blocks 4 times, with one year putting up a still NBA record 5.6 blocks per game. He is a 2-time All-Defensive Second Team selection & 3-time All-Defensive First Team selection. This is on top of being a former NBA All-Star and 2-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Mark is still 4th all-time in total blocks with 3,064.
The Spurs got it right more than once later in the draft and managed to pick up the future Hall of Famer Tony Parker at 28th overall in 2001. Like Manu, Parker was an amazing European player but some did not know how well he’d translate to the NBA. Parker was able to make everyone pay as he became a major fixture for the Spurs for a decade.
He had several years where he put up 17 points per game or more. Overall, his success at the Spurs led to being a 6-time NBA All-Star, 3-time All-NBA Second Team Selection, and 1-time All-NBA Third Team selection. Parker is also a key reason why the Spurs won 4 NBA Championships while he was there, even taking NBA Finals MVP honors in 2007 to prove it.
Draymond Green is one of the most well known NBA Draft steals in history for obvious reasons. He is a massive reason why the Golden State Warriors have been successful. Green is an amazing rebounder and defender, yet he is also one of the most gifted passers in the NBA too.
As a defender, Green is a 2-time All-Defensive Second Team selection and 3-time All-Defensive First Team selection. He led the league in steals & even won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2017. Green is a 3-time NBA All-Star, 1-time All-NBA Third Team selection, and 1-time All-NBA Second Team selection. As previously mentioned, he has also been a key reason for the Warriors’ title runs, helping them win 3 NBA Championships.
Kawhi Leonard has proven himself to be among the best NBA Draft steals ever. He came into the league as a good defender but quickly improved as a scorer as well. By 2015, he was putting up 21 points per game and up. Yet he has always relied on his defensive abilities. This as allowed him to become a 2-time All-Defensive Second team selection & 3-time All-Defensive First Team selection.
Leonard led the league in steals in 2015, yet he was impressive in 2016 defensively too. This allowed him to become the NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice as a result. He’s a 3-time NBA All-Star who has now led two different teams to NBA Championships and was the NBA Finals MVP for both of them.
We’re not sure how so many passed up on Kobe Bryant in the 1996 draft, yet he has now become one of the most iconic NBA Draft steals in history because of it. Kobe would be drafted by Charlotte yet traded to the Lakers the same night. It’s not common for franchise players to fall this far. Kobe is a notable scorer, averaging 25 points per game during his career. He even led the NBA in scoring twice.
Despite this, Kobe is also a very gifted defender. This allowed him to become a 3-time All-Defensive Second Team selection & 9-time All-Defensive First Team selection. Kobe is also an 18-time NBA All-Star & 11-time All-NBA First Team selection. Not to mention, the NBA MVP in 2008. Bryant also helped guide the LA Lakers to 5 NBA Championships, where he was NBA Finals MVP twice.
Dennis Rodman is clearly among the best NBA Draft steals ever, but he might be the biggest due to falling all the way to the second round in 1986. While Rodman was never known as a notable scorer, he is known for being one of the greatest defenders and rebounders in NBA history. He was a key asset to two different championship franchises, Chicago & Detroit.
As a member of the Bad Boy Pistons, he became the NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice. Overall, he is a 7-time All-Defensive First Team selection and even became a 2-time All-NBA Third Team selection. On top of being an NBA All-Star twice, he led the league in rebounding 7 times. He even did this 7 straight years (1992-1998). Overall, Rodman managed to win 5 NBA Championships in his NBA career.