10 Best Undrafted Players in NBA History
Jeremy Lin is the latest undrafted sensation to break loose on the NBA scene, and calling him a sensation is a bit of an understatement. He's burst onto the scene perhaps in a more sudden and unexpected way than any player in the history of the game.
However, he does not yet belong in the conversation of the greatest undrafted players in the history of the game. There are some who have achieved more.
This is a list that Lin could crack, but it's going to take a few years to do it.
J.J. Barea is the least accomplished player on this list in terms of career accomplishments, but his postseason run last year and role in helping the Dallas Mavericks to their first-ever NBA Championship lands him in the 10th spot.
Last year in the postseason, he averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists in helping the Mavs off the bench with just 18 minutes of play per game in the postseason.
You can quibble with me that some other players deserve a spot over him, and I won't give you too hard a time.
Raja Bell was never drafted, but he's managed to work out a career as a role player with six different teams—most lately the Utah Jazz.
Bell has scored 6,949 career points and has more than 1,000 dimes as a mostly defensive specialist.
Bell has been named to the NBA All-Defensive team twice in his career.
Udonis Haslem has been a career "glue guy" for the Miami Heat, doing a lot of the unglorified dirty work for the team.
Perhaps the biggest thing, though, was when he took less money to take on a smaller role to come off the bench and stay with the team that gave him a chance when he went undrafted.
Haslem has more than 5,000 career points and nearly 5,000 rebounds already, and he has more ahead of him.
He is one of the unsung stories in the NBA and a big part of the reason (beyond the Big Three) why the Heat are contenders.
Brad Miller has been one of the better passing centers the game has seen.
His assist percentage is fourth all-time among centers who have played at least 10,000 career minutes.
Miller has the chance to become just the 25th player in the history of the NBA to score 10,000 points, grab 6,000 boards and pass for more than 2,500 assists while also getting 500 steals and 500 blocks.
He would be the first to ever do it without being drafted.
Miller is an underrated player who has a complete skill set.
Darrell Armstrong is the only player in NBA history to win the Most Improved Player and the Sixth Man of the Year awards in the same year.
In the 1998-99 season, he scored 16.5 points with 8.0 assists per 36 minutes.
His best postseason run was with the Dallas Mavericks when they lost to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Over the course of his career, he scored 7,712 points and passed for 3,394 assists.
Jose Calderon has been playing his entire career in Toronto, and as a result, he's gone largely unappreciated.
He's one of the best distributors in the game.
Calderon already has the second-most assists of any undrafted player in history and has a real chance to overtake the first-place Avery Johnson.
Bruce Bowen is one of those players who can't be measured by numbers and who was one of the most beloved players on his own team while one of the most hated by every other fanbase in the league.
Some called him dirty. Spurs fans said he played hard.
Whatever it was, it earned him eight NBA All-Defensive teams and three championship rings.
Complain about him or praise him—you can't deny his success.
Avery Johnson scored 8,817 points as a pro, and with 5,846 career assists, he's 32nd all-time.
That's the most assists of any undrafted player in the history of the game.
He was the starting point guard on the first championship squad the Spurs had, leading all players that postseason (1999) in assists.
He is also the first player in NBA history to go undrafted and have his number retired.
In a completely unrelated story, I once house-sat for his neighbor, and he said hello to me while he was taking out the garbage.
Jeremy Lin isn't even the best undrafted player to latch on with Golden State, only to be dropped and picked up by the Knicks.
That distinction goes to John Starks, who has scored more points by an undrafted player—10,829—than anyone in the history of the league.
Starks was also the Sixth Man of the Year in 1997 and went to the 1994 NBA All-Star Game.
Ben Wallace is one of only two players in the history of the game to win the Defensive Player of the Year award four times.
His four All-Star appearances are the most by any undrafted player in history.
His 10,308 rebounds are the most by any undrafted player in NBA history and are 32nd of any player in the history of the NBA, period.
Wallace has a chance to be the first player to go undrafted and make it into the Hall of Fame.