Not all great NBA players went through the ranks and got drafted during the NBA Draft every year. In fact, teams often look for diamonds in the rough when scouting players as they hope to find a special player that other teams have missed. This is very hard to do, and there have been some surprising omissions to the NBA Draft as some very good players in NBA history have gone undrafted.
While the vast majority of undrafted players didn’t make it in the league for good reason, some other players slipped through the cracks and ended up being very impactful pieces for their teams.
While most of these players are retired, there is one current guard playing in the NBA that makes this list of impressive talents. Here are the 10 greatest undrafted players in NBA history.
10. Jose Calderon – 2003 NBA Draft
The Spanish floor general is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Calderon shot a career 87.3% from the free-throw line and 40.7% from three. Calderon also had the single greatest free-throw shooting season in 2008 by shooting 98.1% from the line the entire year.
This is unheard of, and he wasn’t only a great shooter. Calderon was a strong playmaker who averaged 5.8 APG for his career and played 14 seasons in the NBA. Jose was consistently a productive player no matter if he started or came off the bench, and checks in at number 10.
9. Brad Miller – 1998 NBA Draft
Many seem to undervalue Brad Miller back in the day. The former 2-time All-Star had a unique skill set as a 7-foot tall shooter who could score points in bunches when he got hot. Miller made his first All-Star team with the Indiana Pacers in 2002 by dropping 13.1 PPG and 8.2 RPG, and a season later with the Sacramento Kings by averaging 14.1 PPG and 10.3 RPG.
Miller was one of the few shooting big men and a pretty good player in his prime. Brad Miller may not have made the Hall of Fame or any All-NBA teams, but he was certainly a skilled big man who deserves to be on the list.
8. Avery Johnson – 1988 NBA Draft
Johnson won Coach of the Year with the Dallas Mavericks, but he was a nice player in his day as well. Johnson scored over 8,800 points over his career and has over 5,800 assists in his career. To further put his value into perspective, the tough point guard won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999 and leads all undrafted players in total assists.
To conclude his great career, “The Little General” also has his jersey retired by the San Antonio Spurs. It will be interesting to see if Johnson wants another shot at a coaching job in the NBA as former players are getting a lot of attention nowadays.
7. Darrell Armstrong – 1991 NBA Draft
Armstrong is truly a nice player, winning both the Sixth Man of the Year Award and Most Improved Player of the Year Award in one single season. Armstrong averaged 16.5 PPG and 8.0 APG during the 1998 season, showing a great skillset of scoring and passing.
However, he is mainly remembered for making the Finals as a member of the Dallas Mavericks in 2006 in a losing effort to the Miami Heat. He wasn’t the fringe All-Star he was in 1998, but he played productive minutes off the bench when he was in the game.
6. Fred VanVleet – 2016 NBA Draft
The current star for the Toronto Raptors, Fred Van Vleet has seen his stock catapult after being one of the best players on the Toronto Raptors championship team last year. Van Vleet is a great shooter and scorer, averaging 17.6 PPG this year, and has plenty of time to continue adding to his career numbers and accolades.
As of right now, he is the reigning NBA champion and deserves to make this list. VanVleet seems to be the type of player to turn it on in the postseason, as he has this “dog” and ruthlessness about him. VanVleet has blossomed into a strong two-way guard and he has a long way to go.
5. David Wesley – 1992 NBA Draft
Wesley slides under the radar quite often, but he was quite a good scorer in his prime. David Wesley played a career of 949 games, averaging 12.5 PPG and 4.4 APG. He had his best seasons in Boston in 1996 by averaging 16.8 PPG and 7.3 APG, and later with the Charlotte Hornets in 2000 by averaging 17.2 PPG and 4.4 APG.
Wesley was more of a volume scorer but still shot 36.8% from three over his career. David Wesley may have had an up and down career with many stops in between, but he was a talented scorer who could get his team a bucket when needed.
4. Udonis Haslem – 2002 NBA Draft
Mr. Miami Heat himself, Udonis Haslem makes this list because of his incredible longevity and leadership ability in the locker room. Haslem was a very important member of the 2006 Miami Heat championship team as the starting power forward, but he has also been a locker room leader ever since then.
Haslem has amassed over 6,500 points and 5,700 rebounds in an impressive career. While he hasn’t been a rotational player for a couple of years at least, his experience as a “glue guy” counts just as much as his playing time. It will be interesting if Haslem can find himself as part of the coaching job soon.
3. Bruce Bowen – 1993 NBA Draft
Defensive enforcer Bruce Bowen is one of the most iconic perimeter defenders in NBA history. His opponents hated playing against him, and his teammates loved him. Bowen was known for his lockdown defense as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, and his battles with some of the best scorers in NBA history including Kobe Bryant are well documented.
Bowen made 8 All-Defensive Teams in his career and is the third greatest undrafted player ever. Bowen may have been an irritant, but he played his role very well and was one of the original 3-and-D swingmen who were extremely valuable on the floor.
2. John Starks – 1988 NBA Draft
John Starks is remembered for being a member of the tough and gritty New York Knicks in the ’90s. New York fans rant and rave about Starks, who was a tough-minded guard that was a very good scorer in his prime. Starks made an All-Star team and won the 6th Man of the Year Award as a member of the Knicks while averaging 12.5 PPG for his career.
Starks is one of the most memorable faces in New York Knicks basketball and certainly the second great undrafted player ever. His ability to create shots, score the ball and play with a toughness conducive to winning means his impact went beyond stats.
1. Ben Wallace – 1996 NBA Draft
The greatest player to go undrafted was Big Ben Wallace. The relatively undersized center stood tall and played with his heart and soul on defense. Despite being very limited offensively, Wallace hustled harder than every player on the NBA court and was one of the most dominant defensive players in NBA history.
Wallace won 4 Defensive Player of the Year Awards and made 4 All-Star teams along with earning an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. The fact that NBA teams saw an offensively inept player and ignored his defensive abilities is baffling, but Wallace ended up having a Hall of Fame career.