Most of the NBAs talent tends to come from the lottery, the first 14 picks in the NBA Draft. Those are the teams that need it the most, as they had just missed the playoffs. However, not every team can hit on draft night, leading teams to pick up great value picks later in the draft. This list features some of the best players since 2010 to fall out of the draft lottery as we look ahead to the upcoming draft.
10. Isaiah Thomas, 2011 NBA Draft, 60th pick
Isaiah Thomas was the last pick in 2011 draft. Despite being just 5-foot 9, Thomas impacted the NBA rather quickly after being drafted by the Sacramento Kings. Even though his career slowed due to injury, he dazzled at times.
Thomas made the All-Rookie team, and his second season saw him start 62 games. In his third season, he exploded from averaging 12.8 points and four assists in his first two seasons to 20.3 points and 6.3 assists per game. After his breakout season, the Phoenix Suns acquired him in a sign and trade, but Thomas only started one game for the Suns before being traded to the Boston Celtics, where Thomas didn’t start a game. However, he made an impact off the bench averaging 16.4 points, and in his 21 games with the Celtics, he averaged 19 points. His 2014-15 season off the bench earned him second place in that year’s Sixth Man of the Year Award and a starting job the following season.
In the two seasons from 2015 to 2017, Thomas became one of the most electrifying players in the NBA, making All-Star Games and one All-NBA Team. His 28.9 points and 5.9 assists during the 2016-17 season earned him the fifth-most votes for MVP. During those playoffs, he suffered a hip injury that slowed his career, as he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the massive Kyrie Irving deal. The Cavaliers traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers after 17 games, as Thomas has bounced around the league since.
9. Nikola Vucevic, 2011 NBA Draft, 16th Pick
Nikola Vucevic was selected 16th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, two picks outside the lottery. Though he has not had some highs as other players, he has been one of the most consistent centers in the NBA.
After a disappointing rookie season, starting 15 games for just 15.9 minutes per game, the 76ers traded Vucevic to the Orlando Magic in the blockbuster that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers. Outside of the 2016-17 season, he got better every season, becoming one of the best bigs in the Eastern Conference as a scorer and rebounder. When the league started prioritizing 3-point shooting, Vucevic did not hesitate to adapt, shooting 35% on 5.2 attempts since 2018. Expanding his range earned him his first All-Star Game selection in the 2018-19 season, and he was an All-Star for the second time in 2020-21. In his second All-Star season, the Chicago Bulls put together a package to acquire him.
Vucevic has been consistent, averaging over 15 points and 10 rebounds five times in his career. However, he could never be the superstar the Magic needed, winning two playoff games in eight seasons with the team.
8. Pascal Siakam, 2016 NBA Draft, 27th Pick
If we have learned anything from the Toronto Raptors since Masai Ujiri has been in charge, it is is their eye for talent with late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents. Pascal Siakam in the 2016 draft is a testament to that eye for talent within the Raptors front office.
Siakam has gotten better every season since entering the draft, starting in his rookie season and playing in the D-League most of the year. He led the Raptors affiliate team, Raptors 905, to a D-League Championship, winning Finals MVP.
He did start 38 games his first NBA season but only averaged 15.6 minutes with 4.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. His second season saw him gain regular minutes, 20.7 minutes per game, appearing in 81 games with just one start. The 2018-19 season saw the official arrival of Siakam, as he won Most Improved Player of the Year, averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds, becoming a crucial player in the Raptors winning the 2019 NBA Finals.
Since winning the Finals, and the departure of Kawhi Leonard, Siakam has become the leading man, making one All-Star and two All-NBA appearances. He has averaged 22.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists over the last three seasons while maintaining a tremendous defensive effort.
7. Rudy Gobert, 2013 NBA Draft, 27th Pick
Rudy Gobert was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the 2013 NBA Draft with the 27th pick and was later traded to the Utah Jazz that night. Gobert has since become one of the best defenders in the modern NBA.
In his rookie season, Gobert played sparingly, appearing in 45 games averaging 9.6 minutes per game with zero starts. He spent much of his time going back and forth between the D-League and the NBA. In his second season, he started to get noticed, coming in third in NBA Most Improved Player Award, starting in 37 games playing 26.3 minutes, averaging 8.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. His third season saw him deal with injuries, causing his stats to drop, but he started 60 out of 61 games, playing over 30 minutes. In his fourth season, he solidified himself as one of the best defenders in the NBA, leading the league in blocks and making his first All-NBA and All-Defensive teams. Goebert won the next two Defensive Player of the Year Awards, in 2018 and 2019, and a third in 2021. The 2019-20 season saw him finally make his first All-Star Game after winning two DPOY awards.
Gobert has averaged over 13 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks per game in the last six seasons. The one thing that has held him back has been his offense and the Jazz’s inability to find success in the playoffs.
6. Khris Middleton, 2012 NBA Draft, 39th Pick
The Detroit Pistons drafted Khris Middleton with the 39th pick in 2012t. His career saw him grow as a player going from a 3-and-D role player to becoming an All-Star and second scoring option on an NBA Championship team.
In his rookie season, Middleton spent most of his time in the D-League and only played in 27 games for the Pistons. He was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in a deal for Brandon Jennings, the main piece in that trade. Middleton made an immediate impact in his first season with the Bucks, starting 64 games, doubling his minutes, playing 30 minutes and scoring 12.1 points per game. His fourth season saw him expand his game, averaging 18.2 points, while also expanding his playmaking by averaging 4.2 assists. His fifth season saw a slight drop, only playing in 29 games due to injury, but he officially broke out the following season, averaging 20.1 points. The 2018-19 season saw him make his first of three All-Star games and was the first player to be named an All-Star who also played in the now-called G-League.
In the playoff run in 2021, he averaged 23.6 points, being the primary “go get us a bucket” player on that championship Bucks team. However, his streaky shooting has left him with many critics and no All-NBA appearances.
5. Draymond Green, 2012 NBA Draft, 35th Pick
The Golden State Warriors selected Draymond Green with the 35th pick in 2012, and he has been a crucial piece in the team’s dynasty. However, when he was drafted, it was unclear what role he could fill in the NBA until he made one for himself, ultimately playing a big part in the transformation of the NBA.
In his rookie season, Green played mainly at small forward, and with a low 3-point shooting percentage, he primarily came in as a defensive sub. He did play 79 games but averaged just 13.4 minutes per game his rookie season. In his second season, his minutes rose to 21.9 with an improved shot, but the most important thing happened was in the 2014-15 playoffs, starting the last four games with three outstanding performances. Those four starts inspired future head coach Steve Kerr to create a small-ball lineup centered around Green with floor spacing and a quick transition offense that revolutionized the NBA. Green and the Warriors won their first NBA Finals in 2016, going to the five straight NBA Finals, winning three of them. He anchored the defense, winning DPOY in 2016-17, and made seven All-Defensive teams.
The Warriors just won their fourth NBA title in eight seasons, with a big part of that having to do with Green.
4. Jimmy Butler, 2011 NBA Draft, 30th Pick
Jimmy Butler might be one of the hardest-working players in the NBA. He was drafted 30th overall in 2011 by the Chicago Bulls. He started his career as a hard-nosed defensive player who offered little on offense, but turned into an offensive bully averaging over 20 points by his fourth season.
In Butler’s rookie season, he only played 42 games averaging 8.5 minutes per game. His second season saw him play all 82 games with 20 starts, tripling his minutes to 26 but scoring just 8.6 points. His third season saw him battle through injuries, but he secured a starting spot, starting all 67 games he played, improving to 13.1 points per game. The 2014-15 season was when Butler arrived, becoming an All-Star, joining the All-Defensive team, and winning the Most Improved Player award. His next three seasons with the Bulls saw him improve as a scorer and playmaker. He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2017, where he continued to play great, making his fourth straight All-Star Game. After requesting a trade out of Minnesota, he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for a season and then signed with the Miami Heat. In his first season with the Heat, he led the team to the NBA Finals playing great on both ends of the court.
3. Nikola Jokic, 2014 NBA Draft, 41st Pick
Nikola Jokic was selected 41st overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets but did not join the team until a year after, deciding to continue his play in Europe. When he arrived, he quickly showed he had the talent to go down as one of the biggest steals in NBA Draft history.
In his rookie season, Jokic played in 80 games, starting in 55, scoring 10 points and seven rebounds per game. He ended the season third in Rookie of the Year votes, making the All-Rookie team. In his second season, he only improved with more minutes, averaging 27.8 minutes with 16.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Jokic was playing so well that the Nuggets decided to trade starting center Jusuf Nurki, who they selected 16th overall in the same draft as Jokic. With no competition for Jokic for minutes, he began to shine, showing off his skills as a passer that he had only shown in flashes. He averaged 6.1 assists per game in his third season and has not gone lower than seven since then. In the last two seasons, he has become a dominant force in the NBA, winning two back-to-back MVPs, averaging 26.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 8.1 assists.
Jokic needs to find more success in the playoffs and will undoubtedly go down as one of the best value picks in the history of the NBA Draft.
2. Kawhi Leonard, 2011 NBA Draft, 15th Pick
Kawhi Leonard was selected 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers and then was traded to the San Antonio Spurs. Being traded to the Spurs might have been the best thing as it allowed him to grow into the player he is today.
In his rookie season, Leonard avenged 24 minutes starting in 39 games. He was an okay shooter, shooting 37% from three on limited attempts and scoring 7.9 points per game, but he got his minutes due to his defense. Leonard was named to the All-Rookie team and earned himself the starting job in his second season. With more minutes, Leonard’s stats improved to 11.9 points per game, but the injury bug started, only playing in 58 games, in a season that saw the Spurs lose in the NBA Finals. The following season the Spurs made it to the NBA Finals again, exacting revenge on the Heat, with Leonard playing fantastic defense, earning him the Finals MVP. He won the two following DPOY awards and, in the second year, started to expand his offensive game, averaging over 20 points for the first time in his career, also reaching his first All-Star game. After another great offensive year, Leonard suffered an injury in the 2017 season that forced him to miss most of the season and accused the Spurs of mismanaging his injury. He requested a trade and was sent to the Raptors in 2018 and went on to have the best season of his career, capped off with his second NBA Finals and Finals MVP. After one season with the Raptors, he signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, where there have been two seasons of disappointment and more injury issues.
Leonard was drafted for his defensive skills and won a Finals MVP because of them. However, he did not stop at that. He became a great offensive player, making him one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 2013 NBA Draft, 15th Pick
It’s hard to argue that Giannis Antetokounmpo is not one of the best players in the NBA and the Bucks took a risk that worked out well by selecting him 15th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. It sounds crazy, but at 27 years old, we still might not have seen the best of Antetokounmpo, proven by the fact that he gets better every season.
In his rookie season, Antetokounmpo avenged 24.6 minutes in 23 starts with 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds. As one of the youngest players ever selected in the NBA Draft and looking extremely skinny, he made the All-Rookie team and earned a more significant role the following season. The next two seasons saw his minutes rise, along with all of his essential stats, and he showed he had the tools for an elite defender. The 2016-17 season saw him average 22.9 points, become an All-Star and All-NBA for the first time, winning Most Improved Player. He then took another leap, having his first season with over 25 points and 10 rebounds, and then the following season took another leap by adding playmaking, averaging over five assists. Antetokounmpo won back-to-back MVPs, with a DPOY award snuck in on the second MVP. The one thing he was missing was playoff success till he won the NBA Finals in 2021, winning Finals MVP and scoring 50-points in Game 6 to win the title.
Antetokounmpo has become one of the most dominant players in the league.