Going undrafted is mostly a sign that players weren’t good enough for the NBA. After that, very few find a way to play with big guys.
Those who earn their spot under the NBA sun despite being undrafted are almost exclusively hard-working players, and some of them even become All-Stars and NBA champions.
Here, I bring you my list of the top 10 undrafted players in NBA history including one Hall-of-Famer.
Brad Miller had a solid college career at Purdue, averaging 17.2 points and 8.9 rebounds in his senior year. That didn’t help Miller to draw some attention at the 1998 NBA Draft, but he signed with the Charlotte Hornets and played 38 games off the bench in his rookie season.
Miller became an All-Star in 2003. That was his first full season with the Indiana Pacers, and Brad was averaging 13.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Next year, he joined the Sacramento Kings, earning a call to the All-Star weekend once more.
Brad was an important player for the Kings, averaging 13.3 points, 8.6 boards, and 4.0 assists per game in their jersey. Not bad for the undrafted big man.
Chris Andersen was a rare bird. His swan song came in 2013 when Chris won the title with Miami, though he played a few more seasons with the Heat, Grizzlies, and Cavaliers.
Andersen started his NBA career with the Denver Nuggets in 2001. He’s been a solid bench player for the Nuggets and Hornets before joining the forces with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in Miami. In seven seasons with the Nuggets, Andersen averaged 5.1 points, 5.1 boards, and 1.7 blocks per game.
Birdman was a solid defender and an excellent shot blocker. His tattoos were a special trademark, as Andersen was a really special player.
Despite the obvious physical disadvantage, J.J. Barea has been one of the best pick-and-roll guys around the league for years. This 5-foot-10 point guard was unstoppable at moments, becoming a true legend in Dallas.
Back in 2011, the Mavericks upset the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals to win their first championship. Barea averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists in 18.6 minutes on the floor per game in 21 playoff games and was tremendous in the final two games of the 2011 NBA Finals.
J.J had 17 points and five dimes in Game 5, making four of his five attempts from deep. He added 15 points, five dimes, and a couple of steals in Game 6.
Although Fred VanVleet is just 26 and playing his fourth NBA season, he’s fully deserved a place on this list. VanVleet played a huge role in the 2019 Toronto Raptors’ championship run, averaging 11.0 points and 4.8 assists in the regular season and 8.0 points and 2.6 assists in the playoffs.
In 24 playoff appearances last year, VanVleet shot 38.8% from deep. He exploded in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, dropping seven triples on the Milwaukee Bucks. Fred also shot 5-for-11 from deep in the ultimate game of the 2019 NBA Finals, finishing the series with his playoff-high 22 points.
When he joined the Spurs for the first time during the 1990-91 season, Avery Johnson was just a fringe player. After starting 14 games for the Spurs in the 1991-92 season, Johnson joined the Houston Rockets, but he returned to San Antonio for the start of the 1992-93 season.
Eventually, Avery will become a key player for the Spurs in the late ‘90s. He won the championship in the shortened 1998-99 season, starting all 50 regular-season games and tallying 9.7 points and 7.4 assists a night. He was terrific in the 1999 NBA Playoffs, posting 12.6 points and 7.4 dimes per game.
Avery Johnson was a true playmaker with an incredible basketball IQ. Hereof, it’s no strange he became a head coach in the NBA and led the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets. Johnson also coached the Alabama Crimson Tide from 2015 to 2019.
Rarely who was expecting Udonis Haslem to have such a wonderful career. He’s still active, playing his 17th season with the Miami Heat. Udonis was a local kid and spent four years with the Florida Gators before joining the Heat in 2004.
In his rookie season, Haslem averaged 7.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest. For the next eight years, he was one of the best role players in the NBA. Haslem won three NBA titles with Miami in 2006, 2012, and 2013.
During the Big Three era in Miami, Udonis showed how great professional he is. Everybody loved him in the locker room, and Haslem was a vital part of two Miami’s championship runs in the previous decade. During his career, Haslem averaged 7.6 points and 6.7 rebounds, and the Heat should’ve been happy to have him for all these years.
Bruce Bowen joined the Miami Heat for the 1996-97 season and played only one minute in his rookie year. After a few years of wandering around the Association, Bowen signed with the San Antonio Spurs in 2001. The rest is history.
Under Gregg Popovich, Bruce Bowen became the best lockdown defender in the NBA. He had great footwork and very quick hands, but Bruce was also known as a very dirty player. Bowen didn’t hesitate to put his foot under the jump-shooter, so it’s no strange that almost the entire league hated him.
Anyway, Bowen was selected in the NBA All-Defensive First Team for five straight years (2004-2008). He’s won three championships with the Spurs and was their key player on the defensive end. Bruce was also a 3-point specialist, making them exclusively from the corner. He’s been shooting over 40.0% from deep in five of his last seven seasons.
The five-time All-Star and a Hall-of-Famer, Carl Braun, is undoubtedly one of the most unique individuals in NBA history. Before becoming the first superstar in the New York Knicks history, Braun was trying to become the pitcher for the Yankees.
Due to a shoulder injury, Braun decided to leave baseball and turn back to basketball. He played 10 NBA seasons with the Knicks and two more in the BAA, averaging 14.1 points and 3.8 assists per game. Braun led the Knicks in scoring for seven straight seasons.
Carl decided to leave the Knicks in 1961 and play his ultimate NBA season with the Boston Celtics. He was averaging only 8.6 minutes a night, but Braun managed to win his first NBA title and summarize a fantastic NBA career.
As well as Bruce Bowen, Big Ben was selected in the NBA All-Defensive First Team for five seasons in a row (2002-2006). However, Ben Wallace is a four-time All-Star and a four-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Big Ben is tied with Dikembe Mutombo for the most DPOY Awards in NBA history. Wallace is undoubtedly one of the most dominant defensive players ever, and Big Ben was a rare guy capable of coping with Shaquille O’Neal.
Back in 2004, Ben Wallace helped the Detroit Pistons to win the NBA championship, beating the Lakers in five games. His defense on Shaq was crucial, while Big Ben posted a double-double of 18 points and 22 rebounds in Game 5.
Wallace entered the league in 1996 and played 34 games for the Washington Bullets. After three years in D.C. and one season with the Orlando Magic, Ben joined the Pistons in 2000. He spent nine years in Detroit and retired in the Pistons uniform back in 2012.
Big Ben has been averaging 5.7 points, 9.6 boards, and 2.0 blocks per game through his career and will be remembered as one of the most hard-working guys in NBA history.
Finally, here’s a guy who went undrafted and still managed to become one of the best guards of his generation. John Starks started his NBA career in 1988 as a member of the Golden State Warriors. He didn’t play next season and joined the New York Knicks for the 1990-91 season.
For the next eight years, Starks will be one of the key Knicks’ players. He averaged 14.1 points and 4.0 assists in the Knicks’ uniform while shooting 42.3% from the field and 34.5% from downtown. Starks is a one-time All-Star from 1994, while John won the Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1997, also with the Knicks.
John Starks will be remembered as a great fighter on the floor. He was very useful on both sides of the ball and never hesitated to guard the opponent’s best players. Unfortunately, Starks played in the Michael Jordan era, so his Knicks never won the championship.
Anyway, John Starks is a true Knicks icon. He even earned a verse in Beastie Boys’ song, and that’s always a special recognition. (See, I’ve got heart like John Starks, hitting mad sparks).