Udonis Haslem

Ranking the 10 Best Undrafted Players in NBA History

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Undrafted NBA players don’t usually make it far. They either get stuck in the NBA G-League forever, or they have to play overseas to make a living out of basketball, some because of the NBA draft eligibility rules. However, every now and then, an undrafted NBA player winds up finding stardom in the league, or at least a big role.

Needless to say, it’s not an easy thing to accomplish. It’s hard enough to make it to the league, and having a long and successful career is even more of a grind. That’s why the way these guys have been able to find success is as admirable as it’s worthy of praise.

That’s why today, we’re going to take some time to talk about some of the best players to make it in the NBA despite never hearing their names called during the two rounds of the NBA Draft. They should be an inspiration to millions of hoopers all over the world.

10. Udonis Haslem

Udonis Halsem is one of the best undrafted NBA players, not for his game itself, but because of how long he managed to stay in the league, sometimes even to a fault. He barely saw the floor in the final five years of his career, but he was an extension of the coach and a mentor.

Prime Haslem was a solid role player. He was a bruiser on the glass, and the last player you’d want to come across in a fight. He embodies Miami Heat culture like no one else, joining Dwyane Wade as the only two players to play during all three of the franchise’s championships.


9. Darrell Armstrong

Darrell Armstrong needed some time to find his footing in the league. He went undrafted in 1991 and it wasn’t until 1994 that he had an opportunity to join the Orlando Magic, where he was a role player until the 1998 season when he finally broke out.

He was named Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year in the very same season, later becoming a starter. Armstrong wound up becoming one of the best role players of his generation, not only for his versatile scoring but also for his defensive expertise.

8. Raja Bell

Those who don’t think of Raja Bell as one of the best undrafted players in the history of the league never heard Kobe Bryant talk about his defense. His numbers weren’t always impressive, but he was a bruiser and a tough defender night in and night out.

He was instrumental in perhaps the greatest Phoenix Suns team of all time. A pesky, suffocating, and physical defender, he was also an outstanding sharpshooter, helping set the blueprint for today’s 3-and-D sought-after role players.

7. Fred VanVleet

The Toronto Raptors, and more specifically Nick Nurse, deserve a lot of credit for finding and developing Fred VanVleet, one of the best undrafted NBA players in today’s game. Coming off the bench, he helped them win their very first NBA championship in franchise history.


VanVleet later became their starting point guard, and while the team wasn’t able to find the same level of success, he did manage to get a lot of money in free agency. Now, he’s leading the way for the Houston Rockets as a 3-and-D point guard.

6. Connie Hawkins

Draft eligibility rules cost Connie Hawkins a spot in the league early in his career. He was kicked out of Iowa and banned from the league because of a betting scandal, so he went on to play with the Harlem Globetrotters and overseas before suing the NBA for $6 million.

He won the lawsuit and got a chance to play for the Phoenix Suns in 1969, averaging well over 20 points per game and becoming an All-Star in his first four seasons in the league. Knee issues cut his career short, but he was an All-NBA player and wound up making it to the Hall of Fame as well.

5. Brad Miller

While not the most athletic or physical big man, Brad Miller still went on to have a long and successful career in the league. He was one of the first bigs who could legitimately stretch the floor with his shooting, not to mention an elite passer for his position.

Miller started off in Charlotte before becoming an All-Star with the Indiana Pacers, being just the second undrafted player to earn this honor. He was also instrumental for the Sacramento Kings because of his flashy passing, averaging over 13 points, almost nine rebounds, and four dimes per game, and he made another All-Star appearance.

4. Avery Johnson

Being 5’10”, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Avery Johnson going undrafted in 1988, especially considering the fact that he had played for a lesser-known program like Southern University. He struggled to find his footing in the league before 1994 when he had another chance with the San Antonio Spurs.

Johnson was an instant offensive spark for the Texan side in his first two seasons back with the organization, becoming an instrumental part of the offense for his playmaking. He helped them win an NBA championship in 1999 and even had his jersey retired after notching the second-most assists in franchise history.

3. Bruce Bowen

Bruce Bowen is the kind of role player every single team and coach would kill for. The ultimate defender, he’s the kind of stopper every perimeter player should strive to be. He was one of many undrafted NBA players in 1993 because of his lack of an offensive game.

He had to play in France and the CBA for four years before getting the nod in the league in 1997. Four years later, he became a starter for the Miami Heat, later joining the San Antonio Spurs and helping them win three championships in six years. He also made it to five consecutive All-Defensive First teams.

2. John Starks

John Starks has one of the craziest stories in NBA history. He went undrafted in 1988 and was signed and cut by the Golden State Warriors. Then, he got hurt during a tryout with the New York Knicks, and the team was prohibited from cutting him unless he healed before the end of December, which he didn’t.

They were pretty much stuck with him, yet he blossomed to become an elite playmaker and above-average defender, becoming an instrumental part of the Knicks during the 90s. He helped the team make it to the NBA Finals and even became an All-Star, but the Knicks eventually fell to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets.

1. Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace isn’t only the single-greatest undrafted player in NBA history, but also one of the ten greatest defenders this game has ever seen. He’s tied for the most Defensive Player of the Year awards (4) and was perhaps the only player who could legitimately hold his own on defense against prime Shaquille O’Neal.

He was a four-time All-Star (the most by an undrafted NBA player) and was the defensive anchor in one of the most dominant defensive teams of all time, helping the Detroit Pistons win a championship back in 2004 against Shaq, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. We haven’t seen such a fearful and physical defensive stopper since he walked away from the game.

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