The NBA draft is an inexact science. Throughout NBA history, there are plenty of examples of players who went much lower than they should've on draft night. Over the last decade, who was the biggest steal? We asked our BasketballNews.com staff members to share their thoughts:
Matt Babcock: I am admittedly a bit biased as my dad (Dave Babcock) played a key part in the Milwaukee Bucks selecting Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. However, I think it’s undeniable that selecting a player outside of the lottery who has now won two MVP awards and made five All-Star teams, all by the age of 26 years old, is an absolute steal. Giannis is the biggest draft steal in the last 10 years, in my opinion.
Alex Kennedy: Somehow, Nikola Jokic slid to No. 41 in the 2014 NBA Draft. Some of the players selected ahead of The Joker include DeAndre Daniels (who has yet to play in an NBA game) and Damien Inglis (who averaged 1.8 points and 1.6 rebounds over his 20 career NBA games). Now, Jokic is the MVP frontrunner and he's averaging 26.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.5 steals.
Chris Sheridan: Even though he hasn't won anything yet, Luka Doncic may go down as the best Euro player ever. But when I think harder, I realize I am shortchanging Nikola Jokic, who went No. 41 in 2014. So my answer is Jokic. (In Serbian, he is Највреднији играч). Translation: Most Valuable Player.
Nekias Duncan: The Denver Nuggets drafted Nikola Jokic, arguably the most offensively skilled center in NBA history, in the middle of the second round. This one’s easy.
Jannelle Moore: I’m torn between Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Draymond Green as the best draft steals in the past 10 years. Kawhi and Giannis were picked No. 15 overall. Both took time to develop into what we see now with their skill set and accolades. Draymond was a “tweener” who slipped to the second round in the 2012 NBA Draft and turned himself into one of the league’s best defenders and playmakers. He was self aware enough to develop and refine his flaws, and he's got the rings, All-Star appearances and a DPOY trophy to show for it. So, I’m going with him.
Ethan Fuller: The conversation has to be between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic. By pure surprise factor, I'm picking Jokic, the 41st overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft. Jokic is already a two-time All-NBA honoree and an MVP frontrunner this season. The 26-year-old brought Denver to the Western Conference Finals while establishing himself as a top-10 player in basketball. Not bad for a player whose draft selection was overshadowed by a Taco Bell commercial.
Spencer Davies: If you’re talking about a franchise who has kept said “steal” for the entirety of their career thus far, you’d have to say Nikola Jokic at No. 41 in 2014, wouldn’t you? Just by looking at the sensational impact he has had on the Denver Nuggets in such a short amount of time, and the fact that he’s still only 26 years old with room for improvement, it’s tough to say otherwise. He’s right up there for NBA MVP right now. Speaking of which, the Milwaukee Bucks’ selection at No. 15 of a would-be two-time MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo was a coup. When you go back and look at some of the greats and where they’ve been taken, it hasn’t always been in the lottery!
Jonathan Concool: Nikola Jokic was taken in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft; now, fast forward seven years later, The Joker sits atop the 2020-21 MVP leaderboard. Jokic had an immediate impact on the Nuggets franchise in his first year and has continued to improve in just about every statistical category since then. The Joker is averaging 26.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 8.8 assists in 35.4 minutes per game this season and has completely revolutionized the big man position. Not bad for a 41st overall pick!
Mark Gunnels: I have to go with Nikola Jokic. He wasn't selected until the 41st pick and now, in my opinion, he's the greatest passing center of all-time.