As we all gorge on NBA Conference Finals action, many teams around the league not fortunate enough to earn a postseason berth are toiling diligently behind the scenes, looking to uncover the next potential franchise-changing gem.
The 2021 NBA Draft Lottery drawing took place Tuesday night (ET), with teams salivating over the prospects of selecting a star such as Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham from a pool of players many evaluators view as strong among the top five.
But you can bet when the draft arrives on July 29 a few teams will nab steals we'll be talking about for years to come.
With that said, we take a quick look at 10 of the biggest steals selected over the last 10 years in the NBA Draft. It's an expansive list overall, so we're limiting it to players who were drafted outside of the top 10 and later selected to at least one NBA All-Star game.
Note: Players are listed alphabetically.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: He's the ultimate gem. The two-time MVP and five-time All-Star was selected 15th in the 2013 draft, and he's led the Milwaukee Bucks to the conference finals on two occasions. Headed into the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, Antetokounmpo has averaged 24.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.4 blocks in 10 postseason series going back to his playoff debut in 2015 as a 20-year-old. So far, Antetokoumpo is 0-1 in the conference finals. Perhaps he's finally due to break through.
Devin Booker: He was the 13th pick in a 2015 class that saw his college teammate Karl-Anthony Towns go No. 1 overall. Booker came off the bench at Kentucky, but is now leading the Phoenix Suns on a magical postseason run as a two-time All-Star. He is a study in perseverance considering all the losing seasons he endured over his first five seasons to get to this point.
Jimmy Butler: Butler's story is incredible. A native Texan, Butler played junior college ball, then matriculated to Marquette University before Chicago made him the 30th pick of the 2011 draft. His draft class includes six other All-Stars (Butler, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Isaiah Thomas, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Nikola Vucevic). A five-time All-Star, Butler just finished up his second season in Miami, where his relentless drive and work ethic seem like natural fits in the Heat culture.
Rudy Gobert: A two-time NBA All-Star coming off his third Defensive Player of the Year award, Gobert was the lowest pick (27th) of just three All-Stars from the 2013 draft class. He's averaged double digits in rebounds in six of his eight NBA seasons, and you know he's going to block at least two shots per game. The anchor to everything Utah does defensively, Gobert did suffer a disappointing exit in the 2021 Western Conference Semifinals.
Draymond Green: The three-time All-Star was the No. 35 pick in 2012 and is tied with teammate Klay Thompson for the title of king of the rings among this group. Green earned three titles with the Warriors, in addition to a Defensive Player of the Year award. He's a mainstay on the All-NBA Defensive team, making six appearances. Green's knowledge of the game is unmatched, and he's going to be a star on television once he decides to call it quits.
Nikola Jokic: His improbable rise started in a Serbian newspaper and reached its highest point this season. The Joker is coming off his first Most Valuable Player award, and he was the first Serbian to take home the honor and the lowest-drafted player (41st overall) to do it. Some could make the case that he's the biggest draft steal in NBA history.
Kawhi Leonard: The 15th pick in 2011, Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time Finals MVP on the hunt for his third championship with his third team. A five-time All-Star, Leonard was also the MVP of the 2020 All-Star game. He's been named All-NBA First Team three times, in addition to taking home NBA All-Defensive First Team honors on three occasions.
Khris Middleton: Every year when we discuss players close to earning entry into the 50-40-90 club, the two-time All-Star Middleton always seems to be in the conversation. Keep in mind that shooting feat has been accomplished just 12 times by eight players in NBA history, and seemingly every season the 39th pick of the 2012 draft is on the cusp of achieving it. Over nine NBA seasons, Middleton has started in 510 of 585 regular-season games, averaging 31.7 minutes.
Donovan Mitchell: At one point, baseball was Mitchell's main sport, and you halfway wonder what he could have achieved had he focused all his efforts on that endeavor. A two-time NBA All-Star and winner of the 2018 Slam Dunk Contest, Mitchell was the 13th pick of a 2017 draft that produced a trio of All-Stars (Bam Adebayo and Jayson Tatum). Mitchell is one of the league's most dynamic scorers, and one reason the Jazz should compete for titles for years to come.
Klay Thompson: We've sorely missed this sharpshooter's presence over the last two years, and hopefully he returns to full health soon. A three-time NBA champion, Thompson once lit up the Indiana Pacers for 60 points on just 11 dribbles. "I've never heard of anybody doing what Klay did, going to get 60 on 11 dribbles," Hawks guard Lou Williams told NBA.com. "Sixty on 11 dribbles, no, that's not ever happening again." The five-time All-Star was the 11th pick of the 2011 draft, and he's earned All-NBA Third Team twice (2015, 2016) in addition to making the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2019.
And five more: Bam Adebayo (No. 14 in 2017); Domantas Sabonis (No. 11 in 2016); Pascal Siakam (No. 27 in 2016); Nikola Vucevic (No. 16 in 2011); Zach LaVine (No. 13 in 2014).
Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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