Ranking the Best NBA Draft Steals of Past 25 Years

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Ranking the Best NBA Draft Steals of Past 25 Years
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Long before he developed a bald spot, Manu Ginobili emerged as a major draft steal. Who joins him?

The NBA draft is often such a crapshoot that teams can feel lucky when they manage to select a player who sticks in the rotation. When they find a player who exceeds the expectations in rather dramatic fashion, that's when draft steals are created and general managers pop the champagne. 

The traditional definition of a draft steal is a player who was selected late in the draft when a team managed to unearth a diamond in the rough. We think about players like Monta Ellis, who was picked at No. 40 and went on to become one of the better shooting guards in the NBA. 

It's tough for top picks to be steals because everyone expected them to be great. 

Not in my mind. 

To determine these draft steals, the 50 best picks of the last 25 years, I'm turning to a completely objective formula. It's one rooted in historical comparisons, as each draft pick has consistent expectations associated with it over the years. 

For those of you wondering, Monta is still a steal, but he's not one of the top 50 steals in the past 25 years. In fact, he'd fall in as the 107th-best pick since the start of the 1988 NBA draft. He's still a steal, but not one of the best picks we've ever seen.


Note: All statistics, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com and Sports-Reference.com/cbb/. 

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