The recently-concluded 2020 NBA Draft unleashed a handful of potential stars and quality players in the league. The likes of Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, and others promise to be of All-Star and franchise-cornerstone quality. We can just speculate in the meantime as to whether they will be hits or misses.
One can really only do so when trying to draft the next great player. Each draftee’s statistics, eye test, and other indicators can only foresee so much. Time and time again, general managers drop the ball and select absolute stinkers with their high NBA Draft picks. The likes of Anthony Bennett and Kwame Brown serve as cautionary tales to owners everywhere.
Here, we take a look at the best players drafted in the 2010’s, and rank the 10 greatest ones among them. That is, players who have been selected between the 2010 and 2019 NBA Drafts. In doing so, we considered their individual statistics and awards, as well as team accolades. The list will be updated accordingly, as per its nature; players can enter and climb up the ranks as their careers go on. Likewise, players can fall off the list as new names take their places.
Let’s see the draftees who made good on their promise.
2010s NBA Draft Honorable mentions: John Wall (2010 NBA Draft), Joel Embiid (2014 NBA Draft), Karl-Anthony Towns (2015 NBA Draft), Ben Simmons (2016 NBA Draft), Jayson Tatum (2017 NBA Draft), Donovan Mitchell (2017 NBA Draft)
10) Paul George (2010 NBA Draft)
Career Averages: 20.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists
PG13 has come under fire in recent times, most notably due to an underwhelming 2nd round exit last season with the Los Angeles Clippers. Nevertheless, he still boasts one of the most impressive CVs out of everyone drafted last decade.
George has been a 1x steals champion, MIP, 6x All-Star, 5x All-NBA selection, and a 4x All-Defensive selection. Moreover, he has come 3rd in MVP voting once, in 2019. He has also led the Indiana Pacers to two straight ECF appearances, getting defeated by LeBron James’ Miami Heat both times. His Playoffs resume has since been questionable at best.
The former 10th overall pick will look to redeem himself next season, lest more young guns take his spot in this list.
9) Klay Thompson (2011 NBA Draft)
Career Averages: 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists
Out of everyone in this list, no one has amassed more rings Klay Thompson.
The number 11 pick of the 2011 NBA Draft has turned out to be one of the best shooters in basketball history; he and partner-in-crime Stephen Curry dominate the NBA’s 3-point record books. Aside from his three NBA Championships in five Finals appearances with the Warriors, Thompson is also a 5x All-Star, 2x All-NBA selection and a 1x All-Defensive Team member.
Thompson is a player that any the NBA would want. Jerry West really was onto something when he vetoed the Kevin Love trade that would’ve brought Thompson to Minnesota.
The former 3-Point Contest champion has, unfortunately, been ruled out due to injury for the entire 2020-21 season; this is his second straight season in the sidelines.
8) Jimmy Butler (2011 NBA Draft)
Career Averages: 17.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists
Jimmy Bucket’s greatness should still be fresh on everyone’s minds, with him just concluding a heroic NBA Finals run with the Miami Heat. Everything between that and the day he was drafted 30th overall is also pretty important.
Butler has had his share of criticism through the years, mainly on his teammate relations. There was the issue of the he and Dwyane Wade going in on the Bulls’ young players while he was playing in Chicago. There was also the more recent controversy between himself and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, with Butler allegedly calling them “soft”. He has since silenced these criticisms in just one year of play in South Beach.
Besides that, he has consistently shown his impressive two-way ability all throughout his career. Like another two-way player on this list, he was also brought in for his defensive ability; his offense developed brilliantly later on. Butler is a former MIP, 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA selection, and 4x All-Defensive selection.
7) Kyrie Irving (2011 NBA Draft)
Career Averages: 22.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists
Over the past few years, Kyrie Irving’s reputation has taken several hits: he spent two rather underwhelming seasons in Boston, and an injury-ridden one in Brooklyn. He still remains a top player in this league, and one of the most clutch players to boot.
Uncle Drew is one of the league’s most lethal offensive threats, and is arguably the best ball-handler in basketball. Across 9 years, he been a 6x All-Star, and 2x All-NBA member. Most notably, he won an NBA Championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers as the second option in the greatest Finals comeback in basketball history. His star has somewhat diminished after leaving Cleveland, but he is nevertheless still one of the greatest players drafted in the 2010s.
Irving is one of just TWO #1 picks in this list, which tells us how difficult the Draft can be to predict.
6) Luka Doncic (2018 NBA Draft)
Career Averages: 24.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists
How good is this kid?
Luka Doncic, in his three years in the league, has been making history the moment he stepped foot in the NBA. Even before, he was already a world-beater in Europe; he’s won the EuroLeague MVP with Real Madrid, the youngest ever player to do so. He was already the go-to guy for the Dallas Mavericks in his rookie year. At 21 years old, he already holds several NBA records, and has just had an MVP-caliber sophomore season. That same season, he led the Mavs to the best offensive rating in league history, with a score of 115.8 points per 100 possessions. In two seasons, he already has an All-Star Game start under his belt, along with an All-NBA First Team selection.
The Don has GOAT potential written all over him. It is no question that he will move up in this list; he may go on to top it. Such is the promise of the young, positionless playmaker.
5) Nikola Jokic (2014 NBA Draft)
Career Averages: 17.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists
In the 2nd round of the 2014 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets selected unknown Serbian big man, Nikola Jokic, with the 41st pick. A Taco Bell commercial was playing as the pick was submitted, and Jokic himself was asleep at the time. This seemingly insignificant pick turned out to be the Nuggets’ franchise player for years to come.
The Joker’s rise along with his Denver Nuggets has been an amazing ride so far. The Nuggs have turned their franchise around incredibly well after losing Carmelo Anthony (without any significant signings or trades). Meanwhile, Jokic has turned into arguably the best center in the league, and perhaps the greatest passing big of all time. Since coming into prominence in the 2017-18 season, he has been a 2x All-Star and a 2x All-NBA team selection. He has also led the Nuggets to two successful regular seasons, and one Conference Finals run.
The 25-year old still has a lot of time to develop as a triple-double machine. As Jokic inevitably accumulates more and more accolades and success, he will undoubtedly be known as the biggest draft steal in the history of the league (if he isn’t already).
4) Damian Lillard (2012 NBA Draft)
Career Averages: 24.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.5 assists
If not for one Wardell Stephen Curry, Dame would arguably be recognized as the best point guard of the 2010s.
Damian Lillard has produced some of the greatest shots of the past decade, with his game-winners against the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder reaching iconic status. The man has had a phenomenal career as of yet; his resume consists of the 2013 ROTY award, 5 All-Star appearances, and 5 All-NBA selections. He also incredibly led the league in minutes played in his rookie year. The Portland Trail Blazers really hit the nail on the head with their 6th pick in 2012.
A knock on Lillard would be his lack of Playoff success. He has only reached the WCF only once, and has been swept several times; a number of these losses due to the aforementioned Curry and his Golden State Warriors. The Trail Blazers haven’t exactly done their level best to help Dame with this, either. Besides C.J. McCollum and a few seasons of LaMarcus Aldridge, Lillard never really had much help in the way of teammates. With their franchise cornerstone now in his 30s, Portland only has a few years left of Lillard’s prime to maximize and get themselves a 2nd Championship banner.
3) Anthony Davis (2012 NBA Draft)
Career Averages: 24.0 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists
Coming off a Championship season with the Los Angeles Lakers has done wonders for Anthony Davis’ career.
Davis has been known to be the best, most versatile big man in the NBA for a while now. He has indeed lived up to his early promise as a Kentucky Wildcat, getting selected to the 2012 London Olympics roster without a single NBA minute under his belt. 8 years on, he has become a 7x All-Star, 3x blocks leader, 4x All-NBA Team member, and 4x All-Defensive Team member. Prior to the his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, however, he has only had one Playoff series win with the New Orleans Pelicans. This was a stain on Davis’ resume, and one that has been washed off convincingly last season.
The Brow will inevitably be handed the keys to the Lakers offense soon enough, with LeBron James getting up there in age. He has the tools and the opportunity to become perhaps the greatest power forward in history, once he becomes a number one option once again.
2) Kawhi Leonard (2011 NBA Draft)
Career Averages: 18.7 points, 6.4 assists, 2.7 rebounds
The 2011 NBA Draft is the most represented one in this list, and there are a number of players who are truly unlucky not to make it here. The pick of the bunch, however, is Kawhi Leonard.
Coming into the 2011 NBA Draft, Leonard was looked at as a promising defensive stopper with not an unpolished offensive game. He fell to the 13th overall pick after a consensus All-American season at San Diego State; he ended up getting traded by the Indiana Pacers to the San Antonio Spurs in Draft Night.
9 years from that fateful day, the Klaw has grown to be one of the greatest players in the league today. He is now a 2x NBA Champion and Finals MVP, 2x DPOY, 2016 steals champion, 4x All-Star, and a remarkable 6x All-Defensive Team selections.
From not having a good offensive arsenal to being compared to Michael Jordan himself, Leonard is now seen as arguably the best two-way player in the league. He is near-unstoppable from midrange, can efficiently shoot the three-ball, and can finish strong at the rim. Defensively, he can guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player every night.
However, the criticisms for Leonard started to flow in last season; he is not a great playmaker, he needs a floor general, he didn’t take the regular season seriously, et cetera. The 30 year-old now sets his sights to redeem himself and his L.A. Clippers following a disappointing 2nd round exit in the Orlando bubble.
1) Giannis Antetokounmpo (2013 NBA Draft)
Career Averages: 20.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists
The Greek Freak has accrued a lot of criticisms in his superstar career: he can’t shoot beyond 3 feet from the rim, he’s a liability in the half court, he’s been exposed twice now in the Playoffs, and other nitpicks. These are indeed valid comments, but it’s rather hard to argue with back-to-back regular season MVPs and the highest PER in basketball history.
Antetokounmpo has solidified his status as one of the most dominant players in league history. He’s been on a crazy tear ever since his breakout 2016-17 season, winning the Most Improved Player that year. So far, the Greek-Nigerian has also been a 1x DPOY, MIP, 4x All-Star (2x All-Star captain), 4x All-NBA Team honors, and 3x All-Defensive Team honors. These, of course, go along with his consecutive MVPs. Not bad for the 13th overall pick deemed a “project player” who used to sell trinkets on the streets of Athens.
All of these individual accolades achieved at just 25 years of age. L0oking at it, Giannis has not even hit his prime yet. It’s downright scary for the league how much time he still has for improvement, and how he’s shown to be capable of stepping his game up each passing season. It’s in his MJ-like hands now as to whether or not he will improve his perimeter game and playmaking ability; in turn, it’s in the Milwaukee Bucks’ hands to surround him with the best complimentary pieces so that he’ll get the Championship rings that he’s surely destined for. Maximizing this unprecedently good Championship window should be in the Bucks’ best interests, and they’d do well to take advantage of it.