The 20 Best Players Who Never Starred For the Team That Drafted Them
In the NBA, MLB, NHL, and NFL, most executives will stress the importance of building a team through the draft and developing young players.
Considering the high expectations of professional sports, teams often trade away their draft choices prematurely. Or, in some cases they just give up on them too soon.
It's funny how talent can slip right through a team's fingertips. They eventually catch on somewhere else and make their former teams wish they still had them in the fold.
Here are 20 of the best players that never starred for the team that drafted them...
20. Gerald Wallace
Drafted by: Sacramento Kings
21st overall, first round
2001 NBA Draft
Wallace did not receive much playing time as a member of the Kings. He was playing behind small forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Peja Stojakovic.
The Kings eventually left him unprotected in the expansion draft and he was chosen by the Charlotte Bobcats.
With increased playing time, Wallace's numbers improved in all categories
This past year, in his sixth season with the Bobcats, he finally became an All-Star and also received All-Defensive First Team honors.
19. Rajon Rondo
Drafted by: Phoenix Suns
21st overall, first round
2006 NBA Draft
Rondo was selected by the Suns and then promptly sent to the Boston Celtics with Brian Grant for a 2007 first round draft choice and cash considerations.
Now Rondo has developed into one of the league's best young point guards. This past season he made his first All-Star appearance and is considered the future of the Celtics franchise.
You think Phoenix would like to have him back with an aging Steve Nash?
18. Adrian Gonzalez
Drafted by: Florida Marlins
First overall, first round
2000 MLB Draft
Gonzalez was drafted with high expectations until a wrist injury and questions about his work ethic resulted in a trade to the Texas Rangers in 2004.
Blocked by first baseman Mark Texiera with the Rangers, Gonzalez was once again moved to the San Diego Padres in 2005.
A San Diego native, it is only fitting that he found success with more playing time as a member of the Padres, where his power numbers have improved every year since joining the club.
Gonzalez remains one of the league's most underrated players despite making the All-Star game the past two years and as well as earning consecutive Gold Glove awards.
17. Brandon Roy
Drafted by: Minnesota Timberwolves
Sixth overall, first round
2006 NBA Draft
On draft day 2006, the T-Wolves agreed to trade Roy to the Portland Trailbazers for Randy Foye, selected seventh overall. A trade that has already been ranked as one of the worst trades in NBA history.
Roy made an immediate impact for the Blazers by winning the Rookie of the Year award.
His next three seasons resulted in All-Star selections.
16. Matt Hasselbeck
Drafted by: Green Bay Packers
187th overall, sixth round
1998 NFL Draft
Hasselbeck did not see very much playing time with the Packers, throwing only 29 passes, while completing 13 over two seasons and one year with the practice squad. After all, he was backing up Brett Favre.
He was then dealt the Seattle Seahawks in 2001 where he was reunited with former Packers head coach Mike Holmgren.
With Seattle, he was able to establish himself as a top quarterback. Hasselbeck made the Pro Bowl in 2003, 2005, and 2007.
He now holds many of the Seahawks' franchise records for a quarterback.
15. Jean Sebastien Giguere
Drafted by: Hartford Whalers
13th overall, first round
1995 NHL Draft
Giguere played only eight games with the Whalers before being dealt to the Calgary Flames. He spent most of four years in the Flames' farm system and was once again traded, this time to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for a second round draft pick in 2001.
It is with Anaheim that Giguere burst into stardom. He fueled a Mighty Ducks team that was seeded seventh in the Western Conference to an improbable Stanley Cup run in 2003.
Giguere earned a Conn Smyth trophy for his performance despite being on the losing side of the championship. The Ducks and Giguere would eventually win the Cup in 2007.
14. Rich Gannon
Drafted by: New England Patriots
98th overall, fourth round
1987 NFL Draft
Selected by the Pats with hopes of turning him into a cornerback, Gannon balked at the idea and was subsequently traded to the Minnesota Vikings.
He then bounced from the Vikes to the Washington Redskins and to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Gannon finally got his break when he signed with the Oakland Raiders and excelled in the West Coast offense.
As a member of the Raiders he would earn four consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 1999-2002.
Gannon was named NFL MVP in 2002, the same season he led the team to a Super Bowl XXVII appearance.
13. Chauncey Billups
Drafted by: Boston Celtics
Third overall, first round
1997 NBA Draft
After entering the league, Billups bounced around the NBA, playing for five teams in five years. He finally found a home with the Detroit Pistons signing as a free agent in 2002.
It is with the Pistons that Billups turned his career around. He was the NBA Finals MVP in 2004 when a defensive-minded Detroit team upset the Los Angeles Lakers.
He eventually became an All-Star in 2006 and has since made five consecutive All-Star appearances.
12. Markus Naslund
Drafted by: Pittsburgh Penguins
16th overall, first round
1991 NHL Draft
Naslund is mostly remembered for a twelve year run as a member of the Vancouver Canucks where he holds the franchise record for goals and points. But before that, he spent parts of three seasons in Pittsburgh.
His trade to Vancouver for Alek Stojanov in 1996 is remembered as one of the worst trades in NHL history.
By 2000, he was appointed as Vancouver's captain and held that position for seven seasons. He also appeared in five All-Star games while a Canuck.
11. Jason Varitek
Drafted by: Seattle Mariners
14th pick, first round
1993 MLB Draft
Since being traded in 1997 to the Boston Red Sox with Derek Lowe in a deal that sent Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners, Varitek has played his entire 14-year career as a member of the Red Sox.
With the Red Sox he has been selected as an All-Star three times, earned a Gold Glove in 2005, and won two World Series in 2004 and 2007.
His contributions as a leader were rewarded in 2005 by being appointed as the captain of the team, only the third in franchise history.
10. Brett Hull
Drafted by: Calgary Flames
117th overall, sixth round
1984 NHL Draft
Hull was a promising youngster for the Calgary Flames but was traded to the Saint Louis Blues during his first full season with the Flames.
As a member of the Blues for 11 seasons, Hull became a prolific goal-scorer and a star. The 86 goals he scored in 1990-91 was a record for right wingers.
He won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings in '99 and '02, respectively.
Hull was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
9. Dirk Nowitzki
Drafted by: Milwaukee Bucks
Ninth overall, first round
1998 NBA Draft
The Dallas Mavericks traded for Nowtizki in a draft-day deal that sent number six pick, Robert Traylor to the Milwaukee Bucks and also brought Pat Garrity to Dallas. Garrity was then packaged in a separate deal that brought Steve Nash to the Mavs.
Dirk eventually became the cornerstone of the Dallas franchise, leading the team to the NBA Finals in 2006 and earning 2007 NBA MVP honors.
8. Jeff Bagwell
Drafted by: Boston Red Sox
110th overall, fourth round
1989 MLB Draft
As a young prospect with the Red Sox, Bagwell was traded to the Houston Astros to acquire veteran pitcher Larry Andersen for a playoff run.
Andersen stayed with the Red Sox only that season and Bagwell became a franchise player with the Astros and stayed in Houston for his entire career.
Bagwell won 1991 NL Rookie of the Year honors and the 1994 NL MVP award.
His no. 5 jersey is now retired by the Houston Astros.
7. John Smoltz
Drafted by: Detroit Tigers
574th overall, 22nd round
1985 MLB Draft
Most of us remember John Smoltz as a member of the Atlanta Braves, but before that he was a prospect for the Detroit Tigers.
As a 20-year-old, he was traded to the Braves for Doyle Alexander in 1987.
Smoltz eventually broke into the starting rotation in 1989 for Atlanta and became a member of the Braves' storied pitching staff the 90s that also included Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.
He won a World Series in '95 and a Cy Young award in '96.
After a twenty-year career with the Braves, Smoltz had very brief stints with the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals.
6. Cam Neely
Drafted by: Vancouver Canucks
Ninth overall, first round
1983 NHL Draft
It took three seasons and very little ice time for Vancouver management to consider a 20-year-old Neely expendable. He was packaged with a future first-rounder to the Boston Bruins for Barry Pederson.
With the Bruins, Neely excelled with more playing time. During his first full season in Boston, Neely doubled his goal scoring output.
He eventually turned in three 50-plus goal scoring seasons as a Bruin.
During his career, Neely personified what a prototypical NHL power forward should be like. In 2005, Neely was inducted as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
5. John Elway
Drafted by: Baltimore Colts
First pick, first round
1983 NFL Draft
Drafted by: New York Yankees
52nd overall, second round
1981 MLB Draft
Elway never starred for the Colts because he refused to sign a contract with the team and he was eventually traded to the Denver Broncos a week after getting drafted.
In 1983, despite playing two seasons in the Yankees minor league system as an outfielder, Elway decided to pursue a professional football career.
He spent his entire 16-year Hall of Fame career with the Broncos. Elway ended his career with two consecutive Super Bowl titles: XXXII and XXXIII
4. Randy Johnson
Drafted by: Montreal Expos
36th overall, second round
1985 MLB Draft
Known as the "Big Unit" for his 6'10" lanky frame, he was troubled with control issues but blessed with a dominating fastball during his younger years.
The erratic left-hander was then traded to the Seattle Mariners for Mark Langston in 1989. It is with the Mariners that Johnson would gain control over his pitches and breakout as a star.
His 100-mph fastball intimidated all hitters. Johnson won the 1995 AL Cy Young with the Mariners.
But it is with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he signed as a free agent, that his career took off to greater heights. He won four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards and a World Series MVP in 2001.
3. Brett Favre
Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons
33rd overall, 2nd round
1991 NFL Draft
Favre threw only five passes for the Falcons during his rookie season, going 0-5, including 2 INTs. It was believed that Atlanta coach Jerry Glanville did not have confidence in Favre.
Despite concerns about his health, Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf traded a first round draft pick for Favre the following season.
The rest is history. Favre became one of the most durable quarterbacks in history and spent 16 years with the Packers, leading them to a victory in Super Bowl XXXI.
He has had a very long and successful career, and he may be on the verge of returning for a 20th NFL season.
2. Steve Young
Drafted by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1st pick, 1st round
1984 NFL Supplemental Draft
Young started his professional career playing for the Los Angeles Express of the USFL. After two seasons, the team went bankrupt and Young moved to the NFL, he was plucked by the Bucs during the 1984 NFL supplemental draft.
He was labeled a bust after two seasons with Tampa Bay and a 3-16 record as the starter. Young was then traded to the 49ers to serve as Joe Montana's backup.
Young eventually took the reins as the starter and blossomed into a star quarterback and Hall of Famer. He spent the rest of his career as a 49er and earned Super Bowl XXIX MVP honors.
1. Kobe Bryant
Drafted by: Charlotte Hornets
13th overall, first round
1996 NBA Draft
Before he became one of the best players of all-time he was a Charlotte Hornet, at least for a day.
Kobe was acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal that sent center Vlade Divac to the Hornets.
He's gone on to win five NBA titles, two Finals MVPs, two scoring titles, an NBA MVP, eight First Team All-Defensive honors, and has become a 12 time All-Star.
And he's not done yet.