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The most successful undrafted players in the NBA

Ranking some of the top undrafted players in the history of the NBA.

Reem Abdalazem
Ranking some of the top undrafted players in the history of the NBA.

The road to the NBA, the peak of professional basketball, is often a tough one, even for a high pick. For undrafted players, however, it is even more complicated to become recognizable stars in the league.

That’s why it is important to highlight the ones who made it under the spotlight. Meet the best undrafted players in the NBA’s history.

Top 10 undrafted NBA players

JJ Barea (2006-2014)

Barea, the Puerto Rican native, went undrafted out of Northeastern University before joining the Dallas Mavericks in 2006.

His most memorable career role was in the 2011 NBA championship win over the Miami Heat “Big 3″, when he scored in double figures seven times, with over 20 points two times, 17 points in Game 5 and 15 points in Game 6, leading up to a title win.

Barea became only the seventh Puerto Rican player in the NBA.

Jose Calderon (2005-2017)

The Spaniard, who played for the Raptors, Mavericks, Knicks, Hawks, Lakers, Cavaliers and finally the Pistons, led the NBA in free throw percentage in 2008-09, making 98.1 percent of his free throw attempts (151 of his 154).

During his 14-year career, Calderon was Toronto’s all-time assist leader, averaging over 8.0 assists per game four times.

Fred VanVleet - Wichita State (2016-2021)

VanVleet is one of the newcomers to this list, but has proved to be a key addition after signing a large four-year contract worth $85 million. A historical performance in the 2020 NBA offseason led to VanVleet’s richest undrafted deal annually.

The 28-year-old averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 assists for the Toronto Raptors’ championship run in the 2019-20 season.

VanVleet went for 54 points last season against the Orlando Magic, setting the single-game scoring record by an undrafted player and leading the Raptors’ record as well.

Avery Johnson (1990-2003)

Jonhson is best known for his time with the San Antonio Spurs from 1994 to 2001, after which he joined the Nuggets, Mavericks and finally the Warriors in 2003.

The once backup point guard proved himself later in his career as a primary ball handler for the Spurs (mid-1990s). During his 16 years in the league, Johnson won an NBA championship, clutching 11 double-digit scoring games and four double-digit assist games in 1999.

The 57-year-old is currently an NBA and College Basketball analyst for CBS Sports.

Udonis Haslem (2002-present)

Haslem is the NBA’s oldest active player. The 41-year-old joined the Miami Heat as an undrafted free agent in 2003 and is still going. His most memorable years with Miami were from 2005 to 2009, where he was a huge part of the franchise’s “Heat Culture” establishment, averaging 10.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.

Haslem was part of all three championship teams in Miami’s history, starting in all playoff games in 2006, 11 of 22 playoff games in 2012 and 19 of 22 playoff games in 2013.

Bruce Bowen- (1997-2000)

The lockdown defender found his home in San Antonio, playing a crucial role in the Spurs’ three championship teams.

During six seasons, Bowen shot over 40.0 percent from three-point range, and knocked down big shots as a 42.2% 3-point shooter in the playoffs.

Brad Miller (1998-2011)

Miller is one of only five undrafted players in the NBA’s history to become an All-Star, more than once.

During his 14-year career, hee was named to the All-Star team two consecutive years, 2003 and 2004. Miller averaged 11.2 points and was best known for his time with the Sacramento Kings as playoff contenders (2003-09), where he would man the middle for one of Sacramento’s best years in the franchise’s history, averaging 14.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.2 blocks per game.

John Starks (1998-2000)

Starks made a name for himself when he returned to the NBA with the New York Knicks from 1991 to 1998 after playing overseas. His persistent attitude helped end New York’s 21-year drought, leading the Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1994.

Averaging double figures, Starks scored in seven of his eight seasons in New York with 19 or more points in five of the contests.

Starks averaged 14.1 points, 4.0 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals for the Knicks.

Connie Hawkins (1969-1975)

Interestingly enough, Hawkins went undrafted for a different reason than all the other players listed. He was kicked out of Iowa and banned from the NBA after a huge college betting scandal in 1966.

Hawkins joined the Harlem Globetrotters for four years and bounced around in various professional leagues, while he sued the NBA for $6 million. After winning, he joined the league in 1969, playing for the Phoenix Suns in their first year as an NBA team.

He averaged over 20 points per game in his first three seasons with the franchise, and was named an All-Star in his first four years in the league.

Hawkins only played in the NBA for seven seasons due to knee issues. But during those years, he earned All-NBA honors in 1970 and made four consecutive All-Star teams. He was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame later for his contributions to the ABA and NBA.

Ben Wallace (1996-2009)

Wallace was a defensive force in the NBA anchoring the Detroit Pistons to a championship run in 2004, with six consecutive Eastern Conference finals.

Wallace was named All-NBA five times, won Defensive Player of the Year four times, and made the All-Defensive team six times, making him easily the best undrafted player in the NBA’s history.

How many undrafted players became NBA All-Stars?

Only five out of 438 undrafted players were named “All-Star”, Connie Hawkins, Moses Malone, Brad Miller, John Starks and Ben Wallace.

Malone was the only undrafted player to win MVP.


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