The NBA Draft is an opportune time for a franchise to completely turn itself around. Sometimes, teams find players nobody expects to amount to much. Hindsight is 20/20, but here are the biggest steals of the NBA since 1996.
1. Kobe Bryant, 1996 (RD: 1, Pick: 13)
In 1996, Kobe Bean Bryant was picked 13th by the Charlotte Hornets and then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he'd win 5 championships, an MVP, and make the All-Star team 18 times. Among the names taken ahead of Kobe were Kerry Kittles, Samaki Walker, and Todd Fuller.
2. Manu Ginobili, 1999 (RD: 2, Pick 57)
In 1999, the Spurs were coming off a title, and in the draft that followed they picked up a guy that would be essential in starting their dynasty. Ginobili is one of the best sixth men of all time in the NBA. He never lacks tenacity, and his eurostep is something many players have adapted. This draft also had guys like Ron Artest, Shawn Marion and Richard Hamilton, but there's no way Ginobili would be passed on 56 times if that draft were to be redone.
3. Tony Parker, 2001 (RD: 1, Pick 28)
27 teams passing on Tony Parker was almost as bad of a decision as Tony cheating on Eva Longoria. In all seriousness, Parker was almost taken in the first round despite being one of the best point guards of the 21st century. He shoots a career 49 percent from the field and is durable, playing almost 1,200 games over 17 years. Tony even won a Finals MVP, something no one else in that draft can say.
4. Kyle Korver, 2003, (RD: 2, Pick: 51)
2003 was probably the most loaded draft of all time with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But Korver helps make this draft one of the deepest. He was picked 51st overall, but he went on to lead the NBA in three-point percentage four times. In 2010 he set the NBA record for three-point percentage in a season with 53.6 percent. At 37 years old, he's fourth on the all-time three point list, so he still has time to move up since athleticism fades away but three point shooting doesn't.
5. Rajon Rondo, 2006, (RD: 1, Pick 21)
2006 was a relatively weak draft, so it's more of a wonder why Rajon Rondo wasn't taken higher. Though he's a problem in the locker room, Rondo is one of the smartest NBA players ever. He's averaged double-digit assists in four seasons and has led the league in assists three times. He's known colloquially as "Playoff Rondo" because he elevates his game even higher when the playoffs come. He'll have a chance to shine again when he pairs with another incredibly smart player, LeBron James, in Los Angeles.
6. Marc Gasol, 2007, (RD: 2, Pick: 48)
Marc Gasol was initially drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, but he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for his brother, Pau, during a time Kobe Bryant almost left the Lakers. But what Marc has helped bring to Memphis is an era of tough, physical basketball that prides itself on defense. Gasol won Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, and has even changed his game to shoot beyond the arc to adapt to today's three-point-happy league.
7. DeAndre Jordan, 2008, (RD:2, Pick:35)
DeAndre Jordan was drafted behind the likes of two future MVPs, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Love. That's understandable, but he's one of the most effective centers in the modern era on both ends on the floor. On offense, he's lethal on the pick and roll. Jordan for his career averages 67.3 percent from the field, and there's no other player in history who even breaks the 60 percent mark. On defense, he's a monster, averaging as high as 2.5 blocks per game in the 2014 season.
8. Klay Thompson, 2011, (RD:1, Pick:11)
Klay Thompson is a three-point master and a three-time champion who can even play defense. But he was somehow drafted behind Jimmer Fredette, Jan Vesely, and Derrick Williams-- all of whom don't play in the NBA anymore after failed careers. Klay has benefited from playing under Mark Jackson and Steve Kerr, but his overall game has helped elevate the Warriors and make himself the premiere shooting guard in today's NBA. He's never shot below 40 percent from the three-point line, and as along as he stays in Golden State he could finish with five or more rings.
9. Kawhi Leonard, 2011 (RD: 1, Pick:15)
Two of the best players in the NBA today were taken just a few picks apart in the 2011 draft. Kawhi Leonard has grown each year in San Antonio and made the team his own, which is hard to do under the Gregg Popovich system. In the 2014 NBA Finals he was awarded the Finals MVP award, and he's since won two Defensive Player of the Year Awards. That's not bad for a guy taken outside of the lottery.
10. Jimmy Butler, 2011, round 1 pick 30
2011 was the year of great wing players because he's the third of his kind from that draft alone. Jimmy Buckets was the last pick of the first round, but he's evolved into nothing but a star since then. Injuries hampered him this past season, but in 2017 he set personal bests and averaged 24 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game.
11. Draymond Green, 2012, (RD: 2, Pick: 35)
After being drafted 35th in the 2012 draft, Draymond Green memorized the order and names of all 34 players taken in front of him. And honestly the only name worth being taken above him is the No. 1 pick Anthony Davis. Green has been instrumental in this Warriors dynasty by being a team leader and facilitator on both offense and defense. He's the best passing power forward in the league, and he gets it done on defense against players of all positions. In the 2016 season he flirted with averaging a triple-double before Russell Westbrook with 14 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game.