The road to the NBA is not always a straight line, and talent can be found everywhere. The stars are usually chosen at the top, but good players can be found anywhere in the project. However, many did not even hear their names called at the call-up night.
It’s hard enough to get to the NBA, the pinnacle of professional basketball, as a high choice. It’s even harder to do that as a non-draft player. Boys often play in minor leagues or abroad before they get a chance in the NBA.
With this year’s draft behind us, here are the top 10 non-draft players to break the odds and reach the NBA, guys who can serve as inspiration for prospects like Devon Dotson of Kansas, Ashton Hagens of Kentucky and Marcus Howard who were not selected on Wednesday night.
10. Fred VanWleet
A three-year Wichita starter, VanVleet signed with the Toronto Raptors and spent much of his first season in the G League. VanVleet exploded as a key contributor during the 2019 Raptors Championship and is poised to make money as one of the best names in this year’s free agent market, averaging 17.6 points per game in 2019-20.
9. Udonis Haslem
After playing for a year in France, Haslem, 40, signed a contract with his hometown of Miami Heath in 2003 and did not leave. A key element of three NBA title teams as a quarterback and rebound, Haslem is one of the most beloved players in the franchise’s history. Last week, he announced his intention to return in 2020-21 for his 18th season.
8. Raja Bel
Bell played 12 seasons as a three-dimensional winger before anyone knew what they were. He was a two-time All-Defensive team choice and a career scorer 40.6% of the 3-point range. Bell’s best years came as a key gear in the “seven seconds or less” Suns of the mid-2000s, along with two-time MVP Steve Nash.
7. David Wesley
Wesley spent a year with the Continental Basketball Association before signing with the New Jersey Nets in 1993. He played 14 seasons in the NBA as a solid combo keeper and a tough perimeter defender. Wesley averaged double digits in points in 10 consecutive seasons from 1995-96 to 2004-05.
6. Darrell Armstrong
Standing shy at 6 feet, Armstrong found his role as an offensive candle with the Orlando Magic in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He won Sixth Man of the Year and Best Player in 1999 after averaging 13.8 points and 6.7 assists. Armstrong played 14 seasons in the NBA.
5. Brad Miller
Miller created a 14-year career as a stretch center, a decade before the bigs who could shoot began taking over the league. Miller was a two-time All-Star who averaged 11.2 points in his career and was best known for his time as a key player in the Sacramento Kings (2003-09), when they were long-time playoff contenders.
4. Bruce Bowen
After four years at Cal State Fullerton, Bowen spent five years jumping between France and the CBA. Bowen finally tackled the San Antonio Spurs in the 2000s and became one of the league’s best defenders. He was named to the All-Defensive team eight times and won three spurs championships.
3. John Stark
Starks caught up with the New York Knicks in the early 1990s and became a fan favorite for eight seasons at Madison Square Garden for his rotten game and intransigence. He made the second All-Defensive team in 1993, was an All-Star in 1994 and won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 1997.
2. Avery Johnson
Johnson played 16 years in the NBA for six different teams, but was best known for his 10 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs for three teams. A steady hand in scoring, Johnson averaged 8.4 points and 5.5 assists in his career and helped the Spurs win the championship in 1999.
1. Ben Wallace
Wallace’s career summary ranks well with the best defenders in league history, easily making him the best unprepared player ever. He emerged as a defensive force in the early 2000s and anchored the Detroit Pistons, who went to six consecutive Eastern Conference finals and won the title in 2004. Wallace won four times the defensive player of the year, was named All Five five times. -NBA and became the All Defensive team six times.
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