Greatest undrafted players in NBA history
From 1-to-20, the greatest undrafted players in NBA history.
Compiled by Bobby Bonett
On Feb. 4, 2012, Jeremy Lin had a career game for the Knicks, scoring 25 points and dishing seven assists to lead the slumping Knicks to a win over the Nets. Had Lin not had a breakout game, he may have found his way back to the waiver wire; instead, Mike D’Antoni named Lin the team’s starting point guard. The decision paid off, with the Harvard alum scoring at least 20 points eight times and finishing with at least seven assists 10 times in his first 12 games as a starter. Lin, an undrafted point guard, can find himself among the following undrafted players if his career continues to take off.
1. BEN WALLACE
6-time All-Defense, 5-time All-NBA, 4-time All-Star
Wallace, a 6-9 center, went undrafted out of Virginia Union before signing a deal with Washington. He was dealt to the Magic prior to his fourth season, and was a full-time starter in the league for the next 12 seasons. Wallace, who is in his 16th season now in Detroit, has led the league in rebounds twice, averaged at least 10 rebounds per game seven consecutive seasons, averaged at least three blocks per game three times, and won an NBA title with the Pistons in 2004.
2. BRUCE BOWEN
8-time All-Defense, 5,290 points, 1,089 assists
Calling Bowen’s numbers on offense underwhelming would be an understatement. But his skills as a lockdown defender made him a terror for the opposing team’s best scorer. Bowen’s defense was instrumental in the Spurs’ 2003, 2005 and 2007 championships . . . all teams he started 82 games for. Of his eight All-Defense honors, the final five were to the first team. He also led the league in 3-point percentage in the 2002-03 season, and is top 50 all-time in career 3-point percentage.
3. DARRELL ARMSTRONG
1998-99 Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year, 7,712 points, 16.3 career PER
After several seasons overseas, Armstrong signed a free-agent contract with the Magic at 26 years old. At 30, he broke out, averaging 13.8 points and 6.7 assists per game on his way to winning the above individual awards. Armstrong averaged double digits in points five separate seasons, and averaged at least six assists three times. He played until he was 39, his final season in New Jersey. And don’t forget, Armstrong participated in the 1996 Slam Dunk Contest . . . though his reverse layup didn’t get him the win.
4. BRAD MILLER
2-time All-Star, more than 9,000 career points and 6,000 career rebounds, 17.6 career PER
One of the most important cogs on the Kings teams of the mid-2000s, Miller averaged double digits in points eight times in a nine-year period. He also spent time as a starting center for the Bulls and Pacers. Miller was one of the league’s most efficient offensive players in his prime, leading the NBA in offensive rating (a measure of the points produced by a team while a player is on the court) in the 2004-05 season.
5. JOHN STARKS
1992-93 All-Defense, 1994 All-Star, 1996-97 Sixth Man of the Year
Starks signed a free-agent deal out of Oklahoma State with the Golden State Warriors and was released after one season. The Knicks signed him, and he became one of the faces of the franchise, a gritty defender who could also hit the three. Starks led the league in 3-pointers made and attempted in the 1994-95 season, and is 37th and 27th all-time in the two categories, respectively.
6. DAVID WESLEY
11,842 points, 4,159 assists, 12.5 career PPG
The leading scorer on this list, Wesley’s career spanned 14 seasons and five teams. The Nets signed the undersized shooting guard after he spent a year in the CBA, though he started to make his mark the following seasons with the Celtics. Wesley earned a full-time starting role by the 1996-97 season and maintained it in stints with the Hornets and Rockets. Wesley averaged double-digit points for 10 straight seasons, including a career-high 17.2 points per game with the Hornets in the 2000-01 season.
7. JOSE CALDERON
4,500-plus points, 3,000-plus assists
Signed by the Raptors after a long career in Spain, Calderon became the team’s starting point guard during the 2007-08 season, his third in the league. Calderon hit a ridiculous 151 of 154 free throws (98.1 percent, first in the league) during the 2008-09 season. He has also averaged at least 10 points and eight assists four of the past five seasons. Teamed with Andrea Bargnani in Toronto, Calderon could continue to move up the list the next several seasons.
8. AVERY JOHNSON
8,817 points, 5,846 assists, 5.5 career APG
A 5-10 point guard from Southern University and A&M College — not exactly an NCAA powerhouse — Johnson signed a free-agent deal with the Sonics in 1988. Over the next six seasons, he was traded once, waived twice and signed five different free-agent deals before finally landing a stable job with the Spurs in 1994. He started at point guard for San Antonio for much of the next seven seasons until he was 35, winning the 1999 NBA Championship with the team.
9. UDONIS HASLEM
9-plus points, 8-plus rebounds career averages
Despite an impressive career at Florida, Haslem went undrafted because of his lack of size at power forward (he’s 6-8). He didn’t help himself after showing up at Hawks camp overweight; he was subsequently cut, and headed overseas to play in France. He returned in the 2003-04 season, signing with the Heat where he’s been since. Now 31 years old, Haslem has averaged at least eight rebounds per game every season in the league except two, and won a championship with the Heat in 2006.
10. BO OUTLAW
4,970 career points, 4,437 career rebounds, 14.2 career PER
Outlaw’s professional career started in the CBA with the Grand Rapid Hoops, before he inked a deal with the Clippers. He stepped in as a reliable role player right away, averaging 6.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in 23.5 minutes his rookie season. In 1997, the 26-year-old Outlaw signed with the Magic, where he’d start for most of the next four seasons. Outlaw shot 56.7 percent from the floor over his career, ninth in NBA history.
11. RAJA BELL
More than 6,900 career points, 10.0 career PPG
Bell, who played college ball at Florida International, has played for six teams over his 12-year NBA career. After coming off the bench his first four seasons, Bell secured a starting role with the Jazz, and continued to start for the Suns, Bobcats and now back with the Jazz since.
12. MIKE JAMES
More than 5,000 career points, close to 2,000 career assists
An Amityville native, James has been an NBA nomad, playing for 10 teams in his career. James’ best season came with the Raptors in 2005-06, when he averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists in 37 minutes per game. He also won a championship with the 2004 Detroit Pistons, and is in the top 100 in league history in career 3-point percentage.
14. CHUCKY ATKINS
6,863 career points, 2,396 career assists
Atkins’ 11-year NBA career included six trades and eight teams. A 3-point threat, the 5-11 guard hit 934 treys in his career. His best season came in 2004-05 with the Lakers, when Atkins averaged 13.6 points and 4.4 assists per game.
15. ANDRES NOCIONI
More than 5,000 career points and 2,000 career rebounds
The Bulls signed Nocioni, a native of Argentina, out of Spain prior to the 2004-05 season. He was a part-time starter for four-plus years with the team before being dealt to the Kings in a package for fellow undrafted player Brad Miller in 2009. Nocioni, who is now withhis fourth NBA team (Philadelphia), has averaged double digits in points four different seasons and has shot better than 35 percent from three for his career.
17. EARL BOYKINS
More than 5,500 career points and 2,000 career assists, 15.8 career PER
The second-shortest player (5-5) in NBA history, Boykins signed a free-agent deal with the Nets prior to the 1998-99 season after a career at Eastern Michigan University. In his career, Boykins has been traded once, waived four times, and signed four 10-day contracts. He’s been a fearless scorer at each stop, though, averaging 8.9 points per game in his career.
18. CHUCK HAYES
More than 2,500 career rebounds, 5.7 career RPG
Not surprisingly, there wasn’t much demand for an old school, 6-6 power forward in the 2005 NBA Draft. Hayes spent a year in the NBA D-League out of college before signing with the Rockets. While he doesn’t score much, Hayes is tough on the boards, averaging more than 10 rebounds per 36 minutes in seven NBA seasons. Now 28, he signed with the Kings prior to the 2011-12 season.
19. CHRIS ANDERSEN
More than 2,500 career points and 2,400 career rebounds, 16.5 career PER
“Birdman,” a Blinn College alum, is one of the league’s most exciting players. A high-flier (he has participated in two Slam Dunk Contests) who prides himself on defense (career average of 1.6 blocks in just 17.9 minutes), Andersen, 33, is now in his fourth season with the Nuggets.
20. TROY HUDSON
4,637 career points, 1,748 career assists
Hudson was the prototypical combo guard in a college, undersized at 6-1 but a great scorer (21.0 PPG his senior year at Southern Illinois). He went undrafted, eventually signing with the Jazz. Hudson was waived five times in his career, but did have several decent seasons. His best came in 2002-03, when Hudson averaged 14.2 points and 5.7 assists as a starting guard for the Timberwolves.