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10 biggest NBA draft steals in the last decade

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Every year, we spend so much time and energy focusing on the perceived top players in a given NBA Draft class, but quite often the best players are drafted later on and sometimes even in the second round. Every single year, All-Stars are available outside of the top-10 and often future Hall of Famers can be found.

With that in mind, here are the 10 biggest steals in the NBA Draft from the last decade...

10. Brandon Clarke, 21st, 2019 (Grizzlies)

Clarke fell into a common category for players on this list in that teams passed on him because he was an older upperclassman coming out of school. They bet on upside with younger players, yet Clarke has already flashed considerable potential at the NBA level with his elite athleticism. Clarke can jump out of the gym, but also play tough defense and he has an emerging outside jumper. Him and Ja Morant are going to make the Grizzlies fun to watch for many years.

9. Isaiah Thomas, 60th, 2011 (Kings)

The Kings haven't exactly been synonymous with nailing the draft in recent years (decades), but they got this one right. Teams stayed away from Thomas because he is only 5-foot-9, but he found instant success in the league and by the age of 26 was an All-Star. He also made the All-NBA team in 2017 with the Celtics. His best years were not in Sacramento, but the Kings did enjoy some of his rise. And even though they made a really poor decision in trading him for essentially nothing, the Kings still deserve credit for finding him in the draft.

 

8. Pascal Siakam, 27th, 2016 (Raptors)

Drafting Siakam late in the first round was one of the smartest moves Raptors president Masai Ujiri made along the way as he built Toronto into a title team. Siakam was a raw offensive player coming out of school, but has made a significant leap every year he's been in the league. In the last two seasons, he's made the All-Star team and All-NBA and it wouldn't be surprising if he made some All-Defense teams before his career was over with. He's about as versatile as anyone in today's NBA.

7. Malcolm Brogdon, 36th, 2016 (Bucks)

Brogdon was underrated in the draft process because he played four years in school and teams often like to bet on younger players who appear to have more upside. But in this case, everyone whiffed on a guy who has been a borderline All-Star ever since he stepped into the league. Brogdon is one of the toughest defenders at the guard position in the NBA and he continues to ascend as an offensive player, two years ago posting one of the most efficient seasons in NBA history.

6. Kawhi Leonard, 15th, 2011

The 15th pick may not seem all that low, but he has so far exceeded his draft slot that he earned a place on this list. Leonard has been the defensive player of the year and Finals MVP twice. He's a four-time All-NBA selection and well on his way to the Hall of Fame. He has plenty of time left to add to his resume, which could end up placing him among the all-time greats. Not bad for a guy taken outside of the lottery.

5. Rudy Gobert, 27th, 2013

Gobert has won two defensive player of the year awards and made All-NBA three times, yet he was the 11th big man taken in 2013, falling all the way to the 27th pick. Gobert has since anchored a Jazz team that has made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons. Gobert may never be a top offensive player at his position, but he has been one of the best defensive players in the game for years.

4. Jimmy Butler, 30th, 2011

Butler came out of Marquette with an undeveloped offensive game. He didn't have a reliable shot or a demonstrated skillset as a playmaker, and his defense wasn't enough to make him a lottery pick. The Bulls saw potential in him, however, and clearly he worked very hard to round out his game. Butler went from the last pick in the first round to a certified star, this year leading the Heat to the NBA Finals.

3. Draymond Green, 35th, 2012

Green is not as good as some of the players previously mentioned on this list, but he's likely going to be in the Hall of Fame someday and the fact Golden State landed him in the second round is a major reason why they were able to build a dynasty. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were the two best players in the original Warriors core, but Green complemented them perfectly and has been one of the most dominant defensive players of his generation, earning him the defensive player of the year award in 2017.

 

2. Nikola Jokic, 41st, 2014

The Nuggets have become one of the best teams in the NBA and their best player, amazingly, was a second round pick. Jokic was overlooked by everyone else in the league when he came out of the draft in 2014. Yet, since he has blossomed into a first-team All-NBA selection. He can do just about everything, though his passing probably stands out the most.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 15th overall, 2013

He may not have been picked late in the first round or in the second round like some on this list, but he is the most accomplished player, now with two league MVPs and a defensive player of the year award. The fact the Bucks found him outside the lottery is extraordinary and it arguably represents one of the best draft picks in all of recent sports history. It's not quite the Patriots finding Tom Brady in the sixth round of the NFL draft, but it's up there. Milwaukee somehow found the game's best player, and a potential all-time great, when 14 teams passed on him first.

Honorable mention: Jarrett Allen, Donovan Mitchell, Mitchell Robinson, Montrezl Harrell, Khris Middleton, Bam Adebayo