Entering the league with high expectations also gives players a huge responsibility. If you’re drafted among the first picks, you’re supposed to lead your team to success, you’re supposed to be great and help them turn things around.
However, more often than not, hard-working players take the league for assault and shock the world. They’re not supposed to be as good as they are, but they still grind their way to the top of the league.
Giannis Antetokounmpo himself said so when the Milwaukee Bucks faced the Los Angeles Lakers less than a week ago. He wasn’t supposed to be there, but he worked his heart off for it:
“I wasn’t the number one pick. [Anthony Davis] was. LeBron [James] was. I wasn’t supposed to be here. I’m not supposed to go against these two beasts, so I’m just happy that I’m here and happy that I’m going through the process, and I always want to be better, do better for my team, and that’s what gives me joy,” the Greek Freak said.
So, let’s take a look at some other guys that – just like Giannis – weren’t supposed to be there, as we show you a lineup consisting of players taken out of the lottery:
Honorable Mention: Fred VanVleet
Point Guard – Kendrick Nunn (Undrafted)
No one even knew who Kendrick Nunn was entering the season. But, like he’s shown over and over, Erik Spoelstra is a master at finding diamonds in the rough and bringing the best out of unknown players, and Nunn isn’t the exception to that rule.
Making it to the league as an undrafted rookie, Nunn is now one of the frontrunners for the Rookie of the Year award. Averaging 16.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, he’s slid into the Heat’s starting lineup and looks like a savvy veteran already.
Shooting Guard – Jimmy Butler (30th overall)
Jimmy Butler was a bit of a late bloomer. He didn’t get many minutes early on, and he had to put a lot of work to earn Tom Thibodeau’s confidence. Needless to say, that hard work paid off as he’s now one of the highest-paid players in the league.
Butler is the leader of the most surprising team of the season. He’s become a vocal leader in this league, and one of the best two-way players in the world. He was homeless as a teenager, and now he averages 20.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game in the NBA.
Small Forward – Kawhi Leonard (15th overall)
Kawhi Leonard wasn’t supposed to be this good. No one, not even Gregg Popovich ever thought that Leonard would end up being the league’s most desired player, and a guy so dominant on both ends of the floor that teams needed to work weeks in advance before facing him.
Leonard was taken right out of the lottery by the Indiana Pacers and immediately traded to the Spurs. He broke out in the 2013 NBA Finals when he locked up LeBron James, and the rest is history. Now, he’s averaging 25.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game.
Power Forward – Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th overall)
Just like Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo was taken right outside of the lottery. Back then, people were mocking the Milwaukee Bucks for taking him that high, as most insiders saw him as a late-draft player that could’ve slid to the second round.
Needless to say, Giannis proved all of his doubters wrong. He went from selling crafts in the streets of Greece to becoming the league’s MVP, and he just keeps getting better and better as years go by. So far, he’s averaging 30.5 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game.
Center – Nikola Jokic (41st overall)
The Denver Nuggets got a major steal with Nikola Jokic, who slid all the way to the 41st pick. To be fair, he looked far from the star big man he’s nowadays, as he was slow, unathletic, and a huge liability in the defensive end of the floor.
While some of those things haven’t changed so far, he still blossomed as one of the league’s finest entertainers thanks to his passing and handles. Thus far, he’s averaging 17.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game, and has become the Nuggets’ X-Factor.