NBA

The All-Time Biggest Draft Steals For Each NBA Team

What defines a “steal?” Good question. The truth is the NBA is a relatively young league and a lot of teams have never drafted a marquee player outside of the lottery. Thus, we’ve objectively defined a “steal” as a player who was an excellent pick for the value, no matter where they were selected…

Atlanta Hawks – Point Guards at No. 17

The Hawks’ draft history isn’t littered with brilliant picks (in fact, it’s unbelievably awful from Kevin Willis in 1984 to Al Horford in 2003), but Jeff Teague (2009) and Dennis Schroder (2013) were both great selections in their respective years. Atlanta also picked Pau Gasol at No. 3 in 2001, but traded his rights to Memphis for Shareef Abdur-Rahim…




Boston Celtics – Paul Pierce, No. 10 overall (1998)

Reggie Lewis (#RIP), the 22nd pick out of Northeastern in 1987, and Dino Radja, No. 40 in 1989 (debuted in 1993) are runners up, but the Celtics got a steal in Pierce, who was drafted after the likes of Raef LaFrentz, Robert Traylor, and Larry Hughes…

Brooklyn Nets – Ryan Anderson, No. 21 (2008)

Remember when the Nets traded 37 first-round picks for Pierce and KG? Or when they drafted Kerry Kittles instead of Kobe Bryant? Yeah, they’re terrible at drafting. They snagged an above-average player in Anderson late in the 2008 draft, but let him go before he reached his peak…




Charlotte Hornets – Adam Morrison, No. 3 (2006)

We’re obviously kidding with Morrison, undeniably the worst professional basketball player of all-time, but in Charlotte’s 29-year history, they’ve had exactly zero draft steals. They hit a triple with Larry Johnson at No. 1 in 1991, and a home run with Alonzo Mourning No. 2 in 1992, but haven’t made any savvy selections outside the top ten. Kemba Walker (No. 9 overall, 2011) is the closest thing to a steal in franchise history…




Chicago Bulls – Jimmy Butler, No. 30 overall, 2011

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Toni Kukoc (No. 29 overall in 1990) could all work here, but we’ll go with Butler — it’s rare you get a franchise player nowadays at No. 30…

Cleveland Cavaliers – Carlos Boozer, No. 34 overall (2002)

After whiffing on their first round pick in 2002 (Dajuan Wagner, No. 6 overall), Cleveland got a steal in the second round with Boozehound. Danny Green (No. 46 overall in 2009) was also in consideration…




Dallas Mavericks – Josh Howard, No. 29 overall (2003)

Dirk was technically drafted by the Bucks at No. 9 (1998), the same year Dallas acquired Steve Nash in a trade with Phoenix for Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells, the draft rights to Pat Garrity, and a first round pick that later turned into Shawn Marion. Another team with an absolutely woeful draft history, the one-time All-Star Howard sadly represents the best of their efforts…

Denver Nuggets – Nikola Jokic, No. 41 overall (2014)

A lot of people haven’t seen Jokic play because of Denver’s recent irrelevance, but he’s on his way to becoming a top ten player in the NBA…




Detroit Pistons – Mehmet Okur, No. 37 overall (2001)

Andre Drummond (No. 9 overall in 2012) was obviously up for consideration, but we’ll go with the 6’11 Turkish big man who quietly enjoyed an above-average NBA career…

Golden State Warriors – Draymond Green, No. 35 overall (2012)

The Warriors’ talent evaluators deserve major props for their work over the past decade, but nabbing “Everybody Loves (or Hates) Draymond” in the second round was the epitome of a draft day steal…




Houston Rockets – Calvin Murphy, No. 18 overall (1970)

The 5’9 point guard out of Niagara beats out Chandler Parsons No. 38 overall in 2011 and Cuttino Mobley No. 41 overall in 1998…

Indiana Pacers – Antonio Davis, No. 45 (1990)

The Pacers traded away their biggest steal (Kawhi Leonard, No. 15 in 2011), but hey, George Hill isn’t all that bad…




LA Clippers – DeAndre Jordan, No. 35 overall (2008)

The man still can’t make a free throw to save his life, but sweet Jesus can he fly…

LA Lakers – Kobe Bryant, No. 13 overall (1996) & Marc Gasol, No. 48 overall (2007)

Kobe’s obviously the biggest steal in Lakers history, but nabbing Marc (who was later traded for his big bro) late in the second round also equates to a gigantic steal…




Memphis Grizzlies – Kyle Lowry, No. 27 overall (2006)

The Grizzlies have actually drafted fairly well over the past decade minus the Hasheem Thabeet debacle, but nabbing an All-Star point guard in the tail end of the first round was their biggest steal…

Miami Heat – Josh Richardson, No. 40 overall (2015)

Getting Dwyane Wade fifth overall in 2003 was obviously Miami’s best pick of all time, but minus D-Wade, the Heat haven’t built their championship teams through the draft. Richardson’s still young, but already looks like Miami’s biggest steal…




Milwaukee Bucks – Michael Redd, No. 43 overall (2000)

Michael Redd was a quiet guy, but averaged 19 points per game over the course of his career. If it weren’t for myriad injuries, the sweet-shooting lefty might be one of the biggest draft steals of all time…

Minnesota Timberwolves – Kevin Garnett, No. 5 overall (1995)

Let’s call a wolf a wolf: Minnesota has drafted terribly since its inception in 1989. Minus Karl-Anthony Towns and Garnett, the Timberwolves’ draft selections have been abysmal…

New Orleans Pelicans – David West, No. 18 overall (2003)

New Orleans has only selected 23 players in the franchise’s 14-year history, and although CP3 (No. 4 in 2005) was obviously their best selection, nabbing Xavier’s West at No. 18 was their biggest steal…




New York Knicks – David Lee, No. 30 overall (2005)

Mark Jackson (No. 18 overall in 1987) and Trevor Ariza (No. 44 overall 2004) are the runners up, but D-Lee at No. 30 is the Knickerbockers’ biggest steal. Too bad they couldn’t keep him…

Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle Supersonics – Shawn Kemp, No. 17 overall (1989)

The Blazers passing on Kevin Durant for that Greg Oden guy probably applies too, but getting the little-known Kemp at No. 17 was a game-changer for Seattle…




Orlando Magic – Courtney Lee, No. 22 overall (2008)

It says a lot when Courtney Lee is your biggest steal. Minus Shaq, Dwight, CWebb (traded for Penny Hardaway and three future first-round picks), the Magic have had zero luck when their pick falls outside of No. 1…

Philadelphia 76ers – World B. Free, No. 22 overall (1975)

The Guilford College alum with the greatest name in NBA history averaged 20.3 points per game over the course of his 14-year career…




Phoenix Suns – Steve Nash, No. 15 overall (1996)

Steve Kerr (No. 50 overall in 1988) and Stephen Jackson (No. 42 in 1997) were solid picks, but Nash was the best in Suns history. Despite never winning a title, Phoenix has drafted well as an organization throughout its entire history…

Portland Trailblazers – Drazen Petrovic, 60th overall (1986)

Another team marred over the years by subpar selections, Portland got a deal in Petrovic even though he ended up starring for the Nets…

Sacramento Kings – Isaiah Thomas, 60th overall (2011)

It’s just like the Kings to get the steal of the draft, watch him in the early stages of stardom, and then trade him for pennies on the dollar. Tough life being a Kings fan…

San Antonio Spurs – Manu Ginobili, No. 57 overall (1999)

Kawhi Leonard wasn’t a shabby selection, but he was technically a draft pick of Indiana’s. Tony Parker at No. 28 was also a savvy pickup…

Toronto Raptors – DeMar DeRozan, No. 9 overall (2009)

Another franchise that’s picked terribly throughout the years, Toronto’s ability to get DeRozan in 2009 is their best pick (along with Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter) in team history…




Utah Jazz – John Stockton, 16th overall (1984)

Stockton, Malone, and…that’s about it for Utah. Those two picks served them pretty damn well though…

Washington Wizards – Steve Blake, 38th overall (2003)

A serviceable backup point guard? Pretty unexciting player to end on. Otto Porter — the third pick in a dreadful 2013 draft — might end up being the selection here, but Maryland’s Stevey Blake has the crown until Otto further solidifies himself as a steal behind the likes of Anthony Bennett, Victor Oladipo, Alex Len, and Cody Zeller…

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