With a month until the 2014 Draft, speculation about the first overall pick is heating up. Predictions about how the lottery will shake out are changing daily. As we mentioned in Part 1 of our draft primer, there have been plenty of solid players selected with the 20th pick, which is where the Toronto Raptors will be drafting in the first round, barring a trade.
In the 19 years since the team’s inception, here’s a look at the best post-20th pick draft-day steals.
Michael Finley’s 15-year career started in Phoenix when he was drafted with the 21st overall pick. Finley would go on to be a two-time All-Star as a Maverick before winning an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. Digging deeper into the 1995 draft shows that Eric Snow was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 43rd pick. Best known for joining Allen Iverson in the backcourt that faced off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, Snow spent 13 years in the league.
In the same year that the Los Angeles Lakers set themselves up for the next two decades by trading for 17 year-old Kobe Bryant (after he was selected by Charlotte with the 13th pick), they used their 24th pick on a stocky point guard from Arkansas. 18 years later Bryant is one of the greatest to ever play the game, while 39 year-old Derek Fisher is trying to earn a sixth ring and help the Oklahoma City Thunder get to the Western Conference Finals.
Thanks to a verbal promise made to Mike Bibby’s mother, the Phoenix Suns selected Stephen Jackson with the 42nd pick in the 1997 draft. He wouldn’t make the Suns roster that year, though, and wouldn’t play his first minutes in the NBA until 2000. In Portland, the Trail Blazers drafted the point guard that would go on to become one of the most beloved players in Raptors history when they used the 47th pick on Alvin Williams.
When the Indiana Pacers selected 18-year-old Al Harrington with the 25th pick they likely had no idea he would still be playing 16 seasons later. The same could be said for Utah selecting Nazr Mohammed with the 29th pick. When the then-Seattle Supersonics selected Rashard Lewis with the 32nd pick everyone was just happy to see him finally get to leave the green room after he was expected to be selected in the lottery. After making more than $155 million in his career, Lewis is now enjoying the perks of playing alongside LeBron James in South Beach.
The San Antonio Spurs have made the rest of the league look like fools for various reasons for many years. The best example is probably when they used the 57th pick on Manu Ginobili. Today you can find Ginobili still partnered up with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. The three-time NBA champion will go down in NBA history as one of the greatest shooting guards (and sixth men) of all-time.
With the 21st pick, the Raptors drafted Morris Peterson and a love affair between Peterson and the fans of Toronto began immediately. In Milwaukee, the Bucks were overjoyed to luck into the chance to select lefty shooter Michael Redd with the 43 pick. While knee injuries would force Redd into an early retirement, those who watched him at his peak know how special he was.
Once again the Spurs outsmarted everyone when they selected 18 year-old Tony Parker with the 28th pick. Three championships and a Finals MVP later, Parker will be a Hall off Famer when he retires. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Golden State Warriors drafted Gilbert Arenas with the 30th pick. Arenas immediately increased the league’s zaniness level and averaged 29 points per game at his peak.
Two-time All-Star Carlos Boozer was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 34th overall pick in 2002. 12 seasons later, Boozer is waiting on Derrick Rose’s return to try to make a postseason run with the Bulls. In Memphis, the Grizzlies selected Matt Barnes with the 45th pick. He has been antagonizing his opponents ever since.
San Antonio selected Leandro Barbosa with the 28th pick and immediately sent him to the Phoenix Suns. The Brazilian Blur went on to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 2007. The New Jersey Nets selected sharpshooter Kyle Korver with the 51st pick. In 2014, Korver set a record for most consecutive games with a three-point field goal made.
When the Boston Celtics drafted Tony Allen with the 25th pick, they couldn’t have predicted he’d spend the next 10 years as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. In New York, the Knicks grabbed Trevor Ariza with the 43rd pick. Ariza turned a solid two-year tenure in Los Angeles into a five-year, $34-million deal.
Golden State Warriors big man David Lee began his career in New York as the Knicks’ 30th pick. In Golden State, the Warriors selected Monta Ellis. In Detroit, the Pistons took a chance on high schooler Amir Johnson. Johnson would spend time in the D-League before being traded to the Raptors and becoming one of the NBA’s most underrated players.
There are always players who fall through the cracks, but 20 teams passing on Rajon Rondo before the Boston Celtics selected him with the 21st pick is a move 20 teams have revisited. While Paul Millsap hasn’t won an NBA Championship like Rondo, him being available when the Utah Jazz picked 47th seems incredible all the same. Meanwhile, in Memphis, Kyle Lowry was selected with the 24th overall pick. Establishing himself as one of the best point guards in the Eastern Conference this season, Lowry now looks like a ridiculous steal to find in the mid-20’s.
When the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies, they traded the rights to Gasol’s younger brother, Marc, to the Grizzlies. At the time, it seemed like Memphis got robbed. Seven years later, the younger Gasol brother has developed into one of the best big men in the game, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013.
When the then-Sonics selected big man Serge Ibaka with the 24th pick, he couldn’t speak English and many people didn’t know what to expect from him. Ibaka signed a four-year $49 million extension in 2012 when he was just 22 years old. Nicolas Batum and Geroge Hill went immediately after Ibaka. Hearing his name 34th was Miami Heat point guard, Mario Chalmers. Deep in the second round, San Antonio used the 45th pick to select Goran Dragic, the 2014 Most Improved Player.
The Chicago Bulls grabbed senior Taj Gibson out of USC with the 26th pick. The Spurs —seriously, is anyone better at using the draft than San Antonio? — took a chance on the ACL-less DeJaun Blair with the 37th pick. In Los Angeles, the Lakers used the No. 42 selection on Patrick Beverley, now a crucial piece for the Houston Rockets after playing overseas since being drafted.
Raptors reserve point guard Greivis Vasquez was selected 28th overall by the Grizzlies, while Landry Fields was a second-round pick for the Knicks at the 39th spot. Coming in directly after Fields was Lance Stephenson, who went to Indiana. When he isn’t riling LeBron James up during the postseason, Stephenson has been working on earning himself a big pay cheque this offseason.
With the final pick in the first round, the Chicago Bulls selected Jimmy Butler. He didn’t play much as a rookie, but as a sophomore Butler was lucky to get a minute to breathe during Chicago’s postseason series against the Miami Heat. Literally. With the 38th pick, the Houston Rockets took a chance on Chandler Parsons. Similarly to Butler with the Bulls, Parsons quickly proved himself to the Rockets and is now regarded as the biggest bargain in the entire league. While the 60th pick is often forgotten almost immediately after being selected, the Sacramento Kings hit a home run when they drafted Isaiah Thomas out of the University of Washington. Thomas has already proven himself to be the greatest 60th draft pick ever.
There were a handful of talented young players selected after the 20th pick in 2012 — Evan Fournier with the 20th pick by then-Denver general manager Masai Ujiri, Jared Sullinger with the 21st pick by Boston Celtics, Tony Wroten with the 25th pick by the Grizzlies, Miles Plumlee immediately after that by the Pacers, Draymond Green by the Golden State Warriors at 35— but no one was expecting Portland’s 40th pick, Will Barton, to play a key role in the team’s 2014 postseason run. A lanky swingman, the 6-foot-6 Barton weighs in at 174 pounds, but plays with a heart and fire as big as anyone in the league.
While the 2013 draft class has been considered one of the weakest in recent memory, outside of the lottery are some names that could be around for awhile to come. With the 21st pick, the Jazz selected big man Gorgui Dieng out of Louisville. Brooklyn used the 22nd pick to draft Mason Plumlee immediately after Dieng. Two picks later, the Knicks nabbed Tim Hardaway Jr. In the second round, point guard Nate Wolters was chosen with Washington’s 38th pick. After being flipped to Philadelphia and then Milwaukee in two separate draft-day trades, no one expected Wolters to start 31 games for the Bucks in his rookie season before breaking his hand.