Top 30 Post-Lottery First Round Draft Picks
Ranking the absolute steals since 1989.
17. Jameer Nelson | Drafted by Denver Nuggets | 2004 Draft | 20th Overall
Since his college days at St. Joe’s, Nelson has been overlooked because of his small stature more than his fair share of times, even after earning the Naismith and Wooden awards his senior season in college after leading the Hawks to a perfect regular season. After teams worried about his size, Nelson was finally plucked 20th by the Denver Nuggets but was immediately traded to the Orlando Magic for a future first round pick. Now, Nelson is a catalyst for a team that is at the top of the Eastern Conference year in and year out. Go figure.
16. Jalen Rose | Drafted by Denver Nuggets | 1994 Draft | 13th Overall
After attending Michigan in the “Fab Five” recruiting class, Rose was selected 13th overall by the Denver Nuggets in 1994. During the peak of his career with the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls, Rose was one heck of a southpaw shooter who could get the job done from just about anywhere on the floor. He helped Reggie Miller to lead the Pacers to three straight Eastern Conference Championships and one trip to the Finals (where they lost to the Lakers in 6). For his career Rose averaged 14.3 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game while operating the shooting guard and small forward positions.
15. Michael Finley | Drafted by Dallas Mavericks | 1995 Draft | 21st Overall
He scored the most points in the University of Wisconsin’s history by the time he graduated, netting 2,147 career points. But Finley still fell out of the lottery all the way to the 21st pick in the 1995 Draft where the Suns snatched him up. The shooting guard came in to the NBA and averaged 15 points per game in his first few seasons, picking up right where he left off at Wisco. But Finley will be best remembered for his tenure with the Dallas Mavericks where he played nine seasons and bridged the gap in to the Dirk era. After his time with the Mavs, Finley joined the rival Spurs and became an NBA champion in 2007 by reinventing himself as more of a role player after being a go-to scorer for most of his career, where he has averaged 15.7 points per contest over a 15-year career thus far.
14. Peja Stojakovic | Drafted by Sacramento Kings | 1996 Draft | 14th Overall
After being drafted out of Serbia with the 14th pick in 1996, Stojakovic finally was called upon to make his way to the NBA in 1998 and proved that he was one of the best sharp shooters of the era. Even though he has slowed down quite a lot because of injuries and age, it cannot be forgotten that he is a career 40 percent three-point shooter who excelled moving without the ball coming off screens. During his best year statistically in ‘03-04 Peja led the League in free throw percentage (92.7 percent) and three pointers made (240) while scoring 24.2 points per game. He never reached the Finals but his Kings had some memorable battles with the Lakers which always ended in bitter disappointment.
13. Josh Smith | Drafted by Atlanta Hawks | 2004 Draft | 17th Overall
I saw Josh Smith play in an open gym when I was in 8th grade and some of the things he did were, well, exactly like the Josh Smith we have come to know and love on the court. The way he runs the floor and uses his athleticism was amazing to me the first time I saw it and it still amazes me every time I see him make a highlight dunk. Since I attend Indiana University at the moment, I am bummed out a bit that he couldn’t be a part of our rich tradition, but I knew he was going pro all along. To this day, I still cannot believe that J-Smoove dropped all the way to the 17th pick in the 2004 Draft. With so many people taken on upside year in and year out I will never get how teams before him missed out on this absolute specimen.
12. David West | Drafted by New Orleans Hornets | 2003 Draft | 18th Overall
West enjoyed an excellent college career playing at Xavier University. After winning the National Player of the Year award his senior season he went on to be selected 18th overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Hornets. His mid-range shooting and aggressiveness around the rim have been on display regularly in New Orleans since his third year in the L. West is a talented player but there is no doubt that Chris Paul has helped him to showcase his skills in the pick-and-roll.
11. Zach Randolph | Drafted by Portland Trail Blazers | 2001 Draft | 19th Overall
He averaged 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds as a freshman 6th man off the bench for a squad that went to the Final Four, decided to turn pro and was drafted 19th overall. There was no denying Randolph’s talents—he was a 6-9 lefty with somewhat of a post game and a sweet stroke on his jumper, but he only stayed in school for one year which definitely hurt his Draft stock a bit. The power forward has enjoyed a career full of ups and downs with the Blazers, Knicks, Clippers and Grizzlies but when he is motivated there is no doubt that he is one of the most skilled post scorers in basketball.