The worst part about any NBA draft is seeing your favourite high school and college players falter under the pressure of such a prominent stage. However, every now and again teams get lucky and find a diamond in the rough. With that said, here’s a look at five players who exceeded expectations and made teams regret the decision to pass them over.
41st pick 2014 NBA Draft
Nikola Jokic was selected in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft and while it may be early too tell, it’s safe to say that in his second season, Jokic has established himself as a perennial NBA star. After a slow rookie campaign, the Nuggets decided to put their faith in the young centre by trading away Jusuf Nurkic. Entering the Nuggets’ starting line up in December of last year, the Serbian wasted no time securing his spot, putting up 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists per game for the remainder of the season. Jokic would become one of the top 10 most efficient players in the NBA. In just his second NBA season, Jokic was putting up numbers that can be compared only to the elite players in the league. In his third NBA season, we’ve seen more of the same from Jokic as he continues to revolutionize the centre position with his own brand of flashy passes, dribbling, and unorthodox scoring methods.
30th pick 2011 NBA Draft
Jimmy Butler was selected with the final first round pick of the 2011 NBA draft. Earning countless awards and accolades along the way, Butler has established himself as one of the best two-way players in the NBA. The four-time All-Star was the most improved player in 2015, he made an All NBA team in 2017, and he has been selected to 3 All-Defensive teams. As if that weren’t good enough, Butler has been the leader of a play-off team in five of the past six years. A future hall of famer, it is unbelievable and almost comical that so many teams dismissed this guy.
15th pick 2011 NBA Draft
It has become a theme over the years for the Spurs to find a steal in the draft. It seems like just about every year the San Antonio front office walks away from the draft smiling, and the 2011 draft was no different. With the 15th pick in the first round, the Spurs elected to draft the little known 6’7 Forward from San Diego State, Kawhi Leonard, who many NBA scouts had tabbed as too raw. After just his third full NBA season, Leonard put those doubters to shame. He played a big role on one of the best teams in the league. In fact, at the end of the season, the Spurs won the NBA championship with Leonard leading the way. He would become the second youngest finals MVP in NBA history. To add to an already impressive resumé, he has won two Defensive Player of the Year awards, making 14 teams sorely regret passing him up along the way.
60th pick 2011 NBA Draft
Isaiah Thomas was selected with the final pick of the 2011 NBA draft, and standing at just 5’9, it was no surprise. After bouncing around the league for the first few years of his career, Thomas found a home in Boston, where Brad Stevens gave him the trust and responsibility to take charge of the team and his legacy. Since his move to Boston in 2014, Thomas has made two All-Star teams and an All-NBA team, while leading the Celtics to three straight playoff appearances. His achievements show that the league made a big mistake by letting him fall so far in the draft. An inspiration to all the little guys out there, Thomas has proved that it’s not about how big you are, its about how big you play.
35th pick 2012 NBA Draft
Draymond Green was a stud at Michigan State. As a senior, he led the Spartans to the Final Four, while being awarded a consensus All-American as well as National Player of the Year honour. However, standing at just 6’7, and weighing 235 pounds, Green did not have the prototypical body of an NBA player. Because his measurements were so far off league averages, many teams thought Draymond’s game would not translate to the next level. As a result, every team passed on him in the first round. Eventually, he was picked up in the second round by the Golden State Warriors, a move they will always remember fondly. During his tenure with the Warriors, Green has helped lead them to two finals victories in three appearances. Furthermore, he has been selected to three All-Star teams, three All-Defensive teams, two All-NBA teams, and he was even elected the Defensive player of the year in 2017. Green said in an interview that he used the motivation of being overlooked as fuel for his hard work. It looks like Green’s hard work is paying off, as he continues his quest of vengeance against the teams that passed him up.