Tayshaun Prince (selected 23rd by the Detroit Pistons)
Prince was drafted out of Kentucky and became a staple role player of the Pistons for 10 years, winning a title in 2004 and being selected for the All-NBA defensive 2ndteam 4 years running (2005-2008). Fun fact – Prince wore the number 22 with the Pistons because that’s how many teams passed on him in the draft.
Carlos Boozer (selected 35th by the Cleveland Cavaliers)
Boozer was drafted out of Duke in the 2ndround and found his footing pretty quickly, averaging a double-double his sophomore season. He really flourished in Utah though, after signing in free agency two years later. Perhaps he was too loud and obnoxious for the Cavs, but he’s had a very successful NBA career and now plays for Chicago.
David West (selected 18th by the New Orleans Hornets)
West was drafted out of Xavier after 4 years and is currently one of the hottest free agents on the market. His dominant post game helped lead the Indiana Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals this year, where they narrowly lost to the Miami Heat in 7 games. West is a two time All-Star just like Blazer power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge.
Mo Williams (selected 47th by the Utah Jazz)
Williams was drafted out of Alabama and gradually developed into a scoring guard and a deadly 3-point threat. He made the All-Star team in 2009 while running point for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the LeBron era. He’s since traveled around the NBA and landed back in Utah, where he aided their late season run at the playoffs after returning from injury.
Al Jefferson (selected 15th by the Boston Celtics)
Jefferson was drafted straight out of high school (the first high school draftee in Celtics history) and spent two years developing before drawing the starting job in 06-07. Since then, he has never averaged fewer than 16 points a game. Jefferson is another big name free agent this year, and may end up with a new home as his current team, the Utah Jazz, might not be able to afford him.
Josh Smith (selected 17th by the Atlanta Hawks)
Smith was drafted out of high school as well (before the 2005 CBA required players to attend one year of college) experienced fairly immediate success. He was a starter his rookie season and within 3 years he was Atlanta’s second best player behind Joe Johnson. Now he is a top 10 power forward, and the best at his position on the free agent market.
Andrew Bynum* (selected 10th by the Los Angeles Lakers)
Bynum was drafted out of high school (again, before the 2005 CBA took effect in the 2006 season) and gets an asterisk because of his current injury predicament. It’s difficult for me to rank a perpetually sidelined man-child among the best mid-range picks of the last decade. Still, when healthy, he is a top 2 center in the NBA alongside Dwight Howard.
Danny Granger (selected 17th by the Indiana Pacers)
Granger was drafted out of New Mexico and eventually became the face of the Pacers (before the improvement of teammate, Paul George, during Granger’s absence due to injury). Granger became and NBA All-Star in 2009, winning the Most Improved Player award and leading the Pacers with an impressive 25.8 points per game.
Honorable mention: David Lee (selected 30th by the New York Knicks)
Rajon Rondo (selected 21st by the Phoenix Suns)
Rondo was drafted out of Kentucky and was immediately traded to the Boston Celtics with Brian Grant for Cleveland’s 2007 1st round pick and cash. Rondo piloted the Celtics’ ‘Big 3’ during the 2008 championship and took over Ray Allen’s place in the trio after contributing to Allen’s departure with sour behavior and childish demeanor.
Paul Millsap (selected 47th by the Utah Jazz)
Millsap was drafted out of Louisiana Tech late in the 2nd round. He is now Utah’s second leading scorer after the previously mentioned Al Jefferson. In 2009, the Trail Blazers signed Millsap to an offer sheet, but the Jazz matched it one week later and were able to retain his services. The Blazers successfully stole Wesley Matthews from the Jazz the following year.
Honorable mention: Kyle Lowry (selected 24th by the Memphis Grizzlies)