Every year, prospects slip under the cracks. Whether they’re undersized, lack specific skills or didn’t produce enough in college, there are always prospects that get selected late in the draft that later on turn out to vastly outplay their draft position.
Since 1989, the NBA Draft has consisted of two rounds. Before that, there were a lot more. We’re looking at players throughout the history of the NBA that despite being undervalued by scouts and teams, went on to become incredible players.
I won’t be counting players that went undrafted or were selected in later rounds when the NBA had less than 20 teams.
The “Iceman” was one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history by the time he retired in 1986. Drafted 40th overall in the third round of the 1974 draft by the Phoenix Suns, Gervin would almost immediately become a star in the league.
One of the best players in Spurs history, Gervin led the NBA in scoring in four separate seasons including 33.1 per game in the 1979-80 season.
One of the best sixth men of all time, the San Antonio Spurs hit the jackpot when they drafted a little-known Argentinian guard with the 57th pick in the 1999 draft.
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard was an integral part of four Spurs championship runs and was one of the craftiest scorers in NBA history. He was never a superstar, but Ginobili’s impact was consistent and often understated.
The Detroit Pistons selected an undersized big man out of small school Southeastern Oklahoma State with the third pick of the second round (27th overall) in 1986.
Rodman is seen by most as the best rebounder of all time. The Hall of Famer would lead the NBA in rebounds per game in seven straight seasons from 1992-1998.
Involved in a draft-day trade for his brother Pau, 2007’s 48th overall pick would go onto to become one of the best players in Grizzlies history.
Arguably the best player during Memphis’ “grit and grind” era of the early 2010s, Gasol is a two-time All-NBA honoree and was named as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
He’s not the same player today, but IT still has three seasons averaging more than 20 points per game. The 5-foot-9 point guard fell to the very last pick (60th overall) of the 2011 draft mainly due to his size.
However, Thomas has vastly outplayed his draft position including an incredible 28.9 point per game with the Celtics in 2017 that saw Thomas be named to the All-NBA Second Team.
Despite being the 41st pick in the 2014 draft, Jokic, still just 24 years old, has developed into one of the best centers in the NBA today. A great post scorer, rebounder with tremendous ability as a floor general, the Serbian is a threat every night to drop a triple-double.
Last year was Jokic’s breakout season as he averaged 20.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 7.3 assists and was named to the All-NBA First Team.
In his prime, ‘Agent 0’ was one of the most exciting scorers in the NBA. The three-time All-Star barely slipped to the second round (31st overall) where he was selected by the Washington Wizards.
Arenas peaked during the 2005-06 season where he averaged 29.3 points and 6.1 assists.
This one might be a bit controversial as Green has benefited from playing with multiple future Hall of Famers in Golden State.
Regardless, snagging a three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection with the No. 35 pick of the 2012 draft makes Green one of the best late picks in NBA history.
In his best statistical season, Green averaged 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks as the heart and soul of three championship teams for Golden State.