Arron Afflalo (selected 27th by the Detroit Pistons)
Afflalo was drafted out of UCLA and is still getting better. His impact has been less measurable than some of the previous players listed, but that can happen as the players drafted later have been in the league for a shorter amount of time. He’s still a great scorer, but future greatness has yet to be determined. He averaged 16.5 points for Orlando last year.
Marc Gasol (selected 48th by the Los Angeles Lakers)
Gasol was drafted out of Akasvayu Girona (a Spanish League team) and was promptly traded in a deal with Memphis for his older brother, Pau Gasol. Marc was an All-Star in 2012 and won Defensive player of the Year for the 2012-2013 season. He is arguably better than his brother now (a 3rd overall pick), but time will tell who will leave the stronger legacy.
Brook Lopez (selected 10th by the New Jersey Nets)
Lopez was drafted out of Stanford, just like his twin brother, Robin Lopez. Brook is now one of the best offensive centers in the NBA. At 7’0” 260, he controls the paint with ease. He made All-Rookie first team in his day, and made his first NBA All-Star appearance last year in the 2012-2013 season. He is an invaluable piece of the Brooklyn Nets’ lineup.
Roy Hibbert (selected 17th by the Toronto Raptors)
Hibbert was drafted out of Georgetown and was traded to the Indiana Pacers two weeks later. After just five seasons in the NBA, Hibbert is arguably the best rim protector in the NBA. The Trail Blazers pursued him in the 2012 offseason, but were let down when Indiana matched the max contract offer. In my opinion, he should have been DPOY last year.
Honorable mention: Serge Ibaka (selected 24th by the Seattle SuperSonics)
Jrue Holiday (selected 17th by the Philadelphia 76ers)
Holiday was drafted out of UCLA and began starting before the end of his rookie season. By the next year, he nearly doubled his points per game and solidified his role with the Sixers. Last season, he was in a tight race for Most Improved Player with Paul George of the Indiana Pacers. Jrue substantially as a facilitator in the 2012-2013 season.
Ty Lawson (selected 18th by the Minnesota Timberwolves)
Lawson was drafted out of UNC and traded on draft night to the Denver Nuggets for the 2010 pick that would become Luke Babbitt (go figure). Lawson is one of the absolute quickest guards in the league and a pleasure to watch on the fast paced Nuggets. Lawson led the Nuggets in scoring and assists last year and will likely do so in the future.
Honorable mention: Brandon Jennings (selected 10th by the Milwaukee Bucks)
Paul George (selected 10th by the Indiana Pacers)
George was drafted out of Fresno State and has taken the league by storm at 23 years old. Of the players on this list, George has potential to have the best career in the long run. In the absence of teammate Danny Granger, George won the Most Improved Player award, made his first All-Star appearance, and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Larry Sanders (selected 15th by the Milwaukee Bucks)
Sanders was drafted out of Virginia Commonwealth and received marginal playing time as the Bucks tinkered with different options to replace the injured Andrew Bogut. When they settled on Sanders partway through last season, he shined as one of the best defenders in the NBA, passing Serge Ibaka in blocks per game for much of the year.
Kawhi Leonard (selected 15th by the Indiana Pacers)
Leonard was drafted out of San Diego State and immediately traded to the Spurs as part of the George Hill deal. Kawhi does a little, no, a LOT of everything and will almost certainly become the future of the Spurs. How many players can defend LeBron James well in their 2nd season? He showcased his skills on the championship stage and earned his spot on this list.
Kenneth Faried (selected 22nd by the Denver Nuggets)
Faried was drafted out of Morehead State and quickly became my favorite player to watch. He requires 0 play calls; he just cleans up with sheer hustle. His basketball intelligence and athleticism is astounding. The Portland Trail Blazers will be kicking themselves for years to come for managing to draft Nolan Smith over Kenneth Faried (somehow).
Klay Thompson (selected 11th by the Golden State Warriors)
Nikola Vucevic (selected 16th by the Philadelphia 76ers)
Iman Shumpert (selected 17th by the New York Knicks)
Tobias Harris (selected 19th by the Charlotte Bobcats)
Jimmy Butler (selected 30th by the Chicago Bulls)
Maurice Harkless (selected 15th by the Philadelphia 76ers)
Harkless was drafted out of St. Johns and traded two weeks later in the 4-team blockbuster that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers and left the Sixers utterly depleted. It has only been one year, so you can’t expect him to be a powerhouse, but he strung together a great stretch of minutes near the end of last season that included a career high 28 point game.
Jared Sullinger (selected 21st by the Boston Celtics)
Sullinger was drafted out of Ohio State University after sliding out of the top 20 due to injury risk. That injury risk became a reality as back issues caused him to miss nearly half the season. Nevertheless, when he performed, he performed very well, which is great news for the C’s who need some competent youth under the rim for the impending rebuild of their team.