via Getty

via Getty

It is very hard to predict a player’s career trajectory in the NBA. Even though some top draft picks like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and so forth have worked well, there are also many high picks that have been major flops for one reason or another. Unfortunately, injuries have also ruined the careers of a lot of talented players like Derrick Rose who was the youngest MVP ever. So, it becomes highly impossible to predict how a late draft pick’s career will pan out. Therefore, it is safe to say that not much is usually expected from players who are picked later in the draft.

However, many players in the past and present have defied this and done incredible things in the league. Here, let’s take a look at some of the best players ever to be drafted #25 or above.

#5 Draymond Green


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Draymond Green might not be the most likable player in the NBA. However, his impact on the Golden State Warriors dynasty can’t be ignored. Green’s place in the Hall of Fame in the future has been a major debate already.

Many fans feel that any decent role player could have filled Draymond’s place with the Warriors because of the superstars the team has had over the years. Nevertheless, Green definitely punched above his weight in terms of his draft position, no pun intended.

The Warriors selected Draymond as the 35th overall pick in the 2012 draft. After Stephen Curry in 2009 and Klay Thompson in 2011, Green was the third and final piece of the puzzle. The forward immediately displayed his elite mentality. He was not happy about how teams did not believe in him. He named all 34 players drafted before him during a press conference and was ready to prove everyone wrong.

His intensity, defense, and leadership on and off the court instantly elevated the Warriors. Green’s size and versatility allowed the team to play a smaller and quicker lineup. He helped the Dubs win four NBA championships. Draymond won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2017 and has made four All-Star appearances as well. A decade later, Green has nothing more to prove but still plays with the same intensity.

#4 Dennis Rodman

We have another elite defender on the list with NBA legend Dennis Rodman who was part of two iconic teams. Rodman was a very average player in high school and did not get any offers to play college basketball. However, with a late growth spurt, he caught the eyes of a few suitors. After three years of college ball, Rodman declared for the 1986 NBA draft. However, there was not much hype about him and fell into the second round as the 27th overall pick for the Detroit Pistons. Notably, they picked John Salley with their 11th pick.

Detroit was already a good team led by superstar Isiah Thomas. So they were looking for role players to further strengthen the team and decided to go for Rodman. Under the tutelage of legendary head coach Chuck Daly, the Pistons were very strong defensively. With his help, Dennis soon became a great defender. Despite being only 6’7″, Rodman racked up rebounds for fun. With his athleticism and versatility, he could guard anyone from a point guard to a center. This helped the team massively.

He was a huge reason behind the Pistons’ first-ever championship in 1989. For his incredible defensive performances, the forward won his first DPOY award in 1990. In the same year, he helped the Pistons win their second straight title. As the team started rebuilding after a few poor seasons, he left.

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After a disappointing stint with the San Antonio Spurs, Rodman joined the Chicago Bulls in 1996 and helped them win three straight titles with his defense and hustle. Notably, he won seven straight rebounding titles from 1992 to 1998.

#3 Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili is the lowest-drafted player in this list. The Spurs selected Ginobili as the 57th overall pick in the second round of the 1999 NBA draft. Despite dominating European basketball for years winning multiple accolades, the Argentine was not rated highly. A lot of teams passed up on the opportunity to select the future Hall of Famer partly because of how European basketball was perceived at the time. Ginobili soon proved to everyone what he was capable of and helped raise the value of foreign players in the league.

He was a part of the revolutionary team building by the legendary Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. Winning their first-ever title in 1999 behind the brilliance of superstars Tim Duncan and David Robinson, the Spurs relied on smart recruitment and player development to continue their dominance. Ginobili had everything they were looking for in terms of demeanor, mentality, work ethic, etc. 

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However, he did not immediately join the team. After the team acquired him in 1999, he returned to Italy to play basketball. Two years later, he came back to the NBA and helped the Spurs win the championship in 2003 coming off the bench. He soon became a starter on the team and earned his first All-Star selection in his third year. Ginobili was incredibly athletic and bamboozled everyone with his iconic euro-step. Contrary to popular belief, he did not invent it. However, he certainly popularised it as he showed everyone how effective it could be.

The shooting guard played a crucial role in the Spurs winning three more titles. The 2x All-Star won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2008 averaging 19.5 points per game.

#2 Tony Parker

We have another Spurs legend on the list, Tony Parker. It is just an example of the excellent recruitment and player development of the organization which led them to success. Parker joined the team one year prior to Manu Ginobili’s arrival. Despite two years of impressive performances in the French league, there was not much anticipation about him in the NBA. However, the Spurs had their eyes set on their man. They selected him as the 28th overall pick in 2001, their highest pick that year. 

At 19, playing in a foreign country and in one of the toughest leagues in the world, Parker immediately took the starting spot. Gregg Popovich showed his huge belief in the young star with this move. In just his sophomore season, the point guard averaged over 15 points per game and helped the Spurs clinch the title. Parker continued his rise in the league in the years that followed and became a cornerstone of the franchise.

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The Frenchman was the second-best player on the team behind Tim Duncan for most of his career. However, Parker took over the mantle when Duncan entered the twilight of his career and led the team. He notably won the Finals MVP award in 2007 with his remarkable performances. Parker won four rings during his career and also made six All-Star appearances.

#1 Nikola Jokic

The Denver Nuggets hit the jackpot with Nikola Jokic! The Nuggets selected Jokic as the 41st overall pick in the second round of the 2014 draft. He is the lowest pick ever to win an NBA MVP award. To put things into perspective, the second lowest pick to win the award was Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steve Nash who were both 15th picks. There was no history of a player so low in the draft doing great things.


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So, nobody thought Jokic would do what he has done and continue doing in the league. Not just the Nuggets, it is possible that even The Joker himself might not have dreamt things would turn out the way it has. He was drafted during a Taco Bell commercial for crying out loud! That is how incredible Jokic’s story has been.

The Serbian did not fit the bill to be a star in the NBA. Ahead of the draft, most scouting reports stated he was unathletic, not fast enough, a bit overweight, etc. Bleacher Report‘s long-term projection for Jokic read, “If Jokic can deliver accurate shooting and make the right plays when the ball is in his hands, he could be a poor-man’s Diaw and a long-range threat like Antic. Jokic would probably be the fourth or fifth scoring option when he’s in the game, but all that matters is whether he plays efficiently. Unfortunately, his defense will likely prevent him from ever playing 30-plus minutes or starting. However, there’s no shame in being a respectable reserve on a winning team in the future.”


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However, the lack of belief and spotlight helped him develop without much pressure on him. The towering center soon became one of the best players in the league. The 5x All-Star won back-to-back MVP awards and was very close to winning his third straight last year. However, his eyes were on the bigger prize. Jokic then led the Nuggets to their first-ever title and won the Finals MVP award. If he continues his dominance in the league and wins more rings, he will end up as one of the best players ever.

Editorial DisclaimerThe views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of EssentiallySports.