The NBA Draft is a time where teams across the league are hoping to get the highest possible pick so that they can draft the best young prospects still left on the draft board while they’re on the clock. Sounds like a pretty cut and dry concept, right? Well, not always. Especially since there are two rounds of every draft year, and even though there aren’t a ton of success stories from the second round, there have been some occasions where teams have found a diamond in the rough – and other occasions where some players who ended up being among their team’s best weren’t even drafted at all.
While they aren’t necessarily superstars, players such as the 10 men you will see on this list are players who are important in helping their team win games and do all the little things right as opposed to their court-dominating, early first-round pick teammates. A number of these players are also recruits from foreign countries such as Spain, Brazil and Argentina. One member of this list is even a three-time NBA champion after being an integral part of one of the biggest NBA dynasties of the 2000s, which shows that draft position isn’t always the sole indicator of how successful one’s basketball career will actually turn out to be.
Even if they’re not necessarily superstars – not that they’re really expected to be given their position as a non-first rounder – these 10 men have beaten the odds and risen up to have long, successful and enduring NBA careers, showing that not being a first-round draft pick doesn’t necessarily mean everything. Without further ado, here are the top 10 players currently in the NBA that were either not taken in the first round of their draft years, or even drafted at all.
10. Luis Scola – Indiana Pacers – $4.5 million in 2013-14
This 33-year-old native of Buenos Aires, Argentina spent a few years in Spain after being selected 56th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the 2002 draft. After seeing his Spurs contract get bought out, Scola had stints with Houston and Phoenix before landing in Indiana, where he currently plays with the Pacers. Scola is making $4.5 million this year. He’s represented his home country on a number of occasions, winning a FIBA Americas Championship gold medal in 2011 with Argentina. The power forward’s contract will run until 2015, where he will be an unrestricted free agent.
9. Jeremy Lin – Houston Rockets – $5.2 million in 2013-14
After a breakthrough season spent with the New York Knicks back in 2011-12, the hype surrounding Jeremy Lin’s sudden rise in the NBA has cooled down, and he now plies his trade with the Houston Rockets. Lin, who went undrafted in 2010, is making $5.2 million this season and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2015. The only member of this list so far – and probably ever – to make the TIME 100, the 25-year-old point guard is currently on a more than 13 point per game pace with the Rockets this season despite struggling with injuries earlier in the campaign.
8. Carl Landry – Sacramento Kings – $6.5 million in 2013-14
Kings power forward Carl Landry was unlucky to miss out on the first round in the 2007 draft by going 31st overall to the Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder), but his skills on the court have made up for his draft day misfortune. A journeyman of sorts, Landry is currently on his second stint in Sacramento, where he has returned to the lineup in a reduced playing role after missing the first few months of the season to injury. Now having just entered his 30s, Landry is making $6.5 million this year and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017.
7. Jose Calderon – Dallas Mavericks – $6.8 million in 2013-14
Now a 32-year-old NBA veteran, it feels like quite a while since Jose Calderon went undrafted in 2003 and the Toronto Raptors plucked the playmaking point guard out of the Spanish league in 2005. After eight years spent in Toronto, Calderon has since played for the Detroit Pistons and is currently with the Dallas Mavericks. He has built up a reputation for being one of the best free throw shooters in the league and continues to rack up high numbers of assists each season. Calderon is making about $6.8 million this season, and will stay under contract with the Mavs until he hits the free agent market in 2017.
6. Manu Ginobili – San Antonio Spurs – $7.5 million in 2013-14
Being the second-last player picked in an NBA draft would understandably have others expect not much to become of your basketball career. For Manu Ginobili, picked 57th overall in 1999, that’s exactly the opposite of what happened. The Argentine veteran shooting guard has won three NBA titles with the Spurs, played in two All-Star Games, and has won a number of medals playing international basketball with Argentina. The 36-year-old has spent the entirety of his 11-year career thus far playing in San Antonio, and has a paycheck this year of $7.5 million with his contract ending in 2015.
5. Trevor Ariza – Washington Wizards – $7.7 million in 2013-14
Taken 43rd overall by the Knicks in the second round of the 2004 NBA draft, swingman Trevor Ariza has developed into a reliable small forward/shooting guard for every team he’s played for so far in his career. The Wizards are his sixth team, and his paycheck amounts to $7.7 million this season with 2015 being the year he will be free to test the free agent market. Ariza is currently enjoying his best season points-wise since his 2009-10 campaign with the Houston Rockets, scoring more than 14 points per game and getting more than six rebounds on average.
4. Monta Ellis – Dallas Mavericks – $8 million in 2013-14
This speedy, prolific point-scorer has built up such a reputation that it’s hard to believe he was only drafted 40th overall by the Golden State Warriors in 2005. For Monta Ellis, he may not be one of the more appreciated players in the league, but this point guard’s scoring abilities are certainly nothing to shake a stick at. Ellis is being paid a salary of $8 million this season with a contract running until 2016, and his point totals for the Mavericks remain consistent despite the team having a mildly disappointing season so far, holding a loose grip on the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
3. Anderson Varejao – Cleveland Cavaliers – $9 million in 2013-14
He may have gained a reputation in the league for what some have interpreted as “flopping” on his part, but Anderson Varejao is still an important sixth man type player for the Cavaliers whose point totals improve steadily every season. The man known as “Wild Thing” was drafted 30th overall in the second round of the 2004 NBA draft, and much of his success has so far come through his international play with the Brazilian national team. Varejao’s contract runs until 2015, and he’s making about $9 million this season. His point totals have dipped this season, but the center still averages about 10 rebounds per game for the Cavs.
2. Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies – $14.8 million in 2013-14
Although he might live in the shadow of his more successful older brother Pau, Marc Gasol has had quite a solid NBA career despite that and also despite being taken 48th overall in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft by the Lakers – which led to he and his brother getting traded for each other in 2008, a first for the league. The younger Gasol has been an NBA All-Star once and won NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, and is making $14.8 million this season with a steadily increasing pay rate per year and a contract running until 2015.
1. Carlos Boozer – Chicago Bulls – $15.3 million in 2013-14
Carlos Boozer has come a long way from being drafted 35th overall in the second round of the 2002 draft by Cleveland, and has achieved certain things in his basketball career that many other second rounders don’t. Boozer has been an NBA All-Star twice and has built up a reputation for being one of the best rebounders and scorers with both hands in the league over the course of his career, as well as representing the USA twice at the Olympics – winning one gold medal in Beijing in 2008. Boozer is making $15.3 million this season, and with a track record like his, it’s not that hard to understand why.
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