7 Best Undrafted NBA Players You Probably Didn’t Know

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the pinnacle of basketball but it’s not easy. Teams only pursue the best high school players because they want top talent who can improve their teams. These players make the list of 60 who are annually drafted into the league. 

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This leaves a wide pool of players undrafted which doesn’t mean they can’t get to the league. In this article, we’ll tell you more about the best undrafted NBA players. 

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Udonis Haslem

Udonis Haslem’s best moments. Video Credit: ClutchPoints

Udonis was one of the best undrafted NBA players in the league. After he went undrafted in 2002, the power forward joined the French professional basketball club Chalon-sur-Saône where he played until 2003. 

After a year, the Miami Heat signed him and that’s where he spent the rest of his professional career. He won the NBA Championship thrice and was the team’s all-time leading rebounder. 

After he retired, he continued his association with the team as the Vice President of the Basketball Development at the club. 

Ben Wallace

Game highlights. Video Credit: House of Highlights

In 1996, no NBA team drafted Ben Wallace so he joined an Italian basketball team, Viola Reggio Calabria. In the same year, the Washington Wizards signed him and he played here until 1999. The Orlando Magic was his next team before joining the Detroit Pistons, where he won his only NBA Championship in 2004. The power forward was also: 

  • 4-time NBA All-Star
  • All-Defensive team 
  • Defensive Player of the Year. 

After leaving the Pistons, Wallace played for:

  • Chicago Bulls
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Detroit Pistons

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Bruce Bowen

7 Best Undrafted NBA Players You Probably Didn’t Know
Bruce Bowen of the San Antonio Spurs. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

After playing for a series of clubs overseas between 1993, when he was an undrafted player and 1997, Bruce Bowen first played in the NBA as a Miami Heat player. After a season, he moved to the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers before returning to the Miami Heat. 

Like his first spell, Bowen only played a season and then moved to the San Antonio Spurs for the rest of his NBA career. Between 2001 and 2009, he won three NBA Championships and made the NBA All-Defensive First Team between 2004 and 2008, making him one of the best undrafted NBA players in the game.

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Darrell Armstrong

Darrell Armstrong’s career highlights. Video Credit: Veoshock !!

Like many of the basketball players on this list who went undrafted, Darell Armstrong’s professional career began in a foreign league. He joined the United States Basketball League and other minor leagues before his big breakthrough arrived in 1995. 

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Orlando Magic signed him and during his five-year spell, the Point Guard was named the Most Improved Player in the league in 1999. In the same year, he was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year. Armstrong played in the NBA until 2008.

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John Starks

John Starks’ career highlights. Video Credit: Back Rim Basketball

The Golden State Warriors signed John Starks in 1988 after he was undrafted. However, he had limited playing time as the team preferred to use a drafted player in the shooting guard position, so he left and joined a non-NBA team. After a year out, he returned to the NBA, signing for the Memphis Rockets and played for four more teams:

  • New York Knicks
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Utah Jazz

The highlights of his career included being named to the 1994 NBA All-Star Team, Sixth Man of the Year award and the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.

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Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson’s highlights. Video Credit: All-around NBA

Despite going undrafted, Avery Johnson spent the major part of his career in the NBA. He first joined after the Seattle Supersonics signed him in 1988. 

The team traded him to the Denver Nuggets but was waived, paving the way for him to join the San Antonio Spurs. He lasted one season before moving to the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors.

His most successful stint came between 1994 and 2001 when he helped the team win the NBA Championship. He scored the decisive basket that won the title for the team and went on to win the NBA Sportsmanship Award. 

Spurs retired his jersey and listed him in the Spurs Hall of Fame. As a result, he deserves his place in our list of the best-undrafted players.

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Connie Hawkins

The story of Connie Hawkins. Video Credit: Andy Hoops

Hawkins wasn’t defeated in the NBA because he was expelled from Iowa after he allegedly participated in point-shaving. Despite that, Hawkins carried on with his basketball career, starting at the Pittsburgh Rens and later the Harlem Globetrotters

His NBA career began with the Phoenix Suns in 1969. During his time with the team, the power forward was listed in the NBA All-Star team four times and once in the All-NBA First Team in 1970. 

Our list of the best undrafted NBA players shows that those who don’t get into the league through the traditional draft system can still find their way in. More to that, they can be some of the most successful if they put the work in. Being drafted doesn’t mean you’ll be a good player so never count these players out.  

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