The 2021 NBA Draft took place on July 29, and 60 players heard their names called over the two rounds. While the NBA differs from the NFL in the fact that much of its greatest talent has been taken with the earliest picks, the past 70 years have shown that Hall of Famers and All-Stars can be found at any point in the draft. With that in mind and in honor of the upcoming draft, here is a rundown of the best players to be taken with each pick, starting with No. 60.
60. Isaiah Thomas, PG, Washington
2011 Draft, Round 2 — Sacramento Kings
Given the name because his father, a Los Angeles Lakers fan, lost a bet that his team would beat the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals, Thomas is a two-time NBA All-Star and averaged 28.9 points per game in the 2016-17 season. At 5'9", he is also one of the shortest players in NBA history. A hip injury when he was playing his best basketball slowed a very promising career.
59. Pat Cummings, PF, Cincinnati
1978 Draft, Round 3 — Milwaukee Bucks
The journeyman forward played for five different teams during his 12-season career. His best run came from 1982 to 1986 when he averaged more than 12 points and eight rebounds per game in four straight seasons.
58. Paul Walther, G/F, Tennessee
1949 Draft, Round 3 — Minneapolis Lakers
Walther averaged 7.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in his seven-season career and made the NBA All-Star Game in 1952.
57. Manu Ginobli, G, Viola Reggio Calabria
1999 Draft, Round 2 — San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs drafted the Argentinian shooting guard in 1999, but he chose to continue playing professional basketball in Italy. He joined San Antonio in 2002 and played for the team for 16 seasons, winning four NBA titles. He is one of only two players to win a EuroLeague title, an NBA championship, and an Olympic gold medal. The other is Bill Bradley.
56. Mickey Johnson, PF, Aurora
1974 Draft, Round 4 — Portland Trail Blazers
Portland immediately traded Johnson to the Chicago Bulls, where he made the starting lineup the next season. Johnson went on to average 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game during his 11-season career.
55. Patty Mills, PG, Saint Mary's
2009 Draft, Round 2 — Portland Trail Blazers
The co-founder of the "3 Goggles" trend signed with San Antonio Spurs after the 2011 NBA lockout. Since then, he has been a strong force coming off the bench for the team.
54. Sam Mitchell, SF, Mercer
1985 Draft, Round 3 — Houston Rockets
The Rockets cut Mitchell before what would have been his rookie season, and he played in the Continental Basketball Association and in Europe for four years. Mitchell signed with the newly formed Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989 and played until 2002, averaging 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
53. Anthony Mason, PF, Tennessee State
1988 Draft, Round 3 — Portland Trail Blazers
The late Mason really hit his stride when he signed with the New York Knicks in 1991 and helped comprise its strong, physical frontcourt of the Pat Riley era. He won the Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1995 and led the league in minutes the following season. He also made the All-Star team in 2001 with the Miami Heat.
52. Fred Hoiberg, SG, Iowa State
1995 Draft, Round 2 — Indiana Pacers
Hoiberg was a three-point specialist during his 10 season career and led the NBA in three-point percentage in his final season.
51. Kyle Korver, SF/SG, Creighton
2003 Draft, Round 2 — New Jersey Nets
The cash-strapped Nets sold Korver's draft rights to the Philadelphia 76ers, and he has gone on to lead the NBA in 3-point percentage four times. His 53.6 percent accuracy during the 2009-10 season with the Utah Jazz remains a league record.
50. Larry Kenon, PF, Memphis
1973 Draft, Round 3 — Detroit Pistons
Kenon opted to play for the New Jersey Nets of the American Basketball Association (ABA) and was a three-time ABA All-Star and two-time NBA All-Star. "Mr. K" also recorded an NBA record 11 steals against the Kansas City Kings in 1976.
49. Eddie Johnson, SG, Auburn
1977 Draft, Round 3 — Atlanta Hawks
The two-time All-Star helped lead the Hawks to three straight playoff appearances before drug use and mental illness derailed his career and life.
48. Marc Gasol, C, CB Girona
2007 Draft, Round 2 — Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers traded Gasol's draft rights to the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008 for his brother, Pau, and he went on to be a three-time All-Star and the 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. In 2019, the Grizzlies traded him to the Toronto Raptors, where he won an NBA title.
47. Paul Millsap, PF, Louisiana Tech
2006 Draft, Round 2 — Utah Jazz
Millsap has played 14 seasons with the Jazz, Atlanta Hawks, and Denver Nuggets. During his stint with the Hawks, he made the NBA All-Star Game four seasons in a row.
46. Jeff Hornacek, SG/PG, Iowa State
1986 Draft, Round 2 — Phoenix Suns
An extremely reliable third shooting option, Hornacek helped power great offenses with the Suns and Utah Jazz, including the latter's NBA Finals runs in 1997 and 1998. His No. 14 jersey is retired by the Jazz.
45. Bob Dandridge, SF/SG, Norfolk State
1969 Draft, Round 4 — Milwaukee Bucks
One of the best forwards of the 1970s won NBA titles with the Bucks in 1971 and the Washington Bullets in 1978. His 450 points in NBA Finals games are the most of any player in the decade, and his No. 10 jersey is retired by Milwaukee.
44. Bo Lamar, PG, Louisiana
1973 Draft, Round 3 — Detroit Pistons
The San Diego Conquistadors took Lamar with the top pick in the ABA Draft, so he opted for the rival league. There, he made the all All-Rookie Team and averaged 16.4 points and 3.9 assists per game in four seasons in the ABA and NBA.
43. Michael Redd, SG, Ohio State
2000 Draft, Round 2 — Milwaukee Bucks
Redd enjoyed a 12-season career with the Bucks and was an All-Star in 2004. In 2002, he made eight three-pointers in the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets. Redd also was notably a member of the gold medal-winning Redeem Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
42. Stephen Jackson, SF/SG, Butler Community College
1997 Draft, Round 2 — Phoenix Suns
The Suns waived Jackson before the 1997-98 season, and he played in the CBA and overseas before signing with the New Jersey Nets in 2000. He went on to average 15.1 points per game during his 14-season career and won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.
41. Nikola Jokic, C, KK Mega Basket
2014 Draft, Round 2 — Denver Nuggets
The Serbian center joined the Nuggets in 2015 and he has made the All-Star team three straight seasons. Jokic also took his game to another level this season, averaging a career-best 26.4 points with 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game on his way to being named the league's MVP.
40. George Gervin, SG/SF, Eastern Michigan
1974 Draft, Round 3 — San Antonio Spurs
After playing for two seasons in the ABA with the Virginia Squires and San Antonio Spurs, Gervin became eligible for the NBA Draft and was picked by the Suns. However, he opted to stay with the Spurs. When San Antonio joined the NBA in 1977, The "Iceman" was named an All-Star nine straight seasons and won four scoring titles on his way to the Hall of Fame.
39. Khris Middleton, SF, Texas A&M
2012 Draft, Round 2 — Detroit Pistons
The Pistons traded Middleton to the Milwaukee Bucks after his rookie season, where he has blossomed into one of the better forwards in the league. An All-Star in the 2018-19 and '19-20 seasons, Middleton averaged 23.6 points per game during the playoffs to help the Bucks win this season's NBA championship.
38. Louie Dampier, PG, Kentucky
1967 Draft, Round 4 — Cincinnati Royals
Dampier opted to play for the ABA's Kentucky Colonels, where he became the league's all-time leader in points scored and career assists. The ABA performance earned him a place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
37. Archie Clark, G, Minnesota
1966 Draft, Round 4 — Los Angeles Lakers
Clark played for 10 seasons with five teams and was a two-time All-Star. He earned the nickname "Shake and Bake" for his crossover dribble.
36. Maurice Cheeks, PG, West Texas A&M
1978 Draft, Round 2 — Philadelphia 76ers
The four-time All-Star quarterbacked the "Fo, Fo, Fo" 76ers offense that won the NBA title in 1983. In 2018, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
35. Carlos Boozer, PF/C, Duke
2002 Draft, Round 2 — Cleveland Cavaliers
Boozer averaged 16.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during his 13-season career and made two All-Star games. He also won a gold medal with Team USA in 2008 and a bronze in 2004.
34. Norm Van Lier, PG, Saint Francis (PA)
1969 Draft, Round 3 — Chicago Bulls
The Bulls traded Van Lier to the Cincinnati Royals but reacquired him in 1971. Back in the Windy City, "Stormin' Norman" became a fan favorite because of his tenacity and made three All-Star and All-Defensive First Teams.
33. Bob Love, SF, Southern
1965 Draft, Round 4 — Cincinnati Royals
The Royals initially cut Love, but he made the team in 1966 and played two seasons in a reserve role before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in an expansion draft. The Bucks then dealt him to the Chicago Bulls, where he played his best ball. Love made three All-Star Games in eight seasons in Chicago and was the second player in franchise history to have his number retired.
32. Bill Bridges, PF/C, Kansas
1961 Draft, Round 3 — Chicago Packers
Bridges forewent playing for the Packers (now the Washington Wizards) and spent two seasons in the American Basketball League before signing with the St. Louis Hawks. In his 13 seasons in the NBA, he averaged 11.9 points and 11.9 rebounds per game and won a championship with the Golden State Warriors in 1975.
31. Andy Phillip, PG/SG, Illinois
1947 Draft, Round 1 — Chicago Stags
"Handy Andy" led the league in assists twice and was part of the Boston Celtics first championship team in 1957 during his Hall of Fame career. He was a five-time All-Star and briefly coached after his playing career.
30. Spencer Haywood, PF, Seattle Supersonics
1971 Draft, Round 2 — Buffalo Braves
The Seattle Supersonics signed Haywood even though he did not meet the NBA's requirement of being four years out of high school. When the NBA protested, the case ultimately went to the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled in Haywood's favor. The ruling negated the Braves selection of him and opened the door for players to join the NBA straight out of high school or leave college early to do so. Haywood went on to average 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and won an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers during his Hall of Fame career.
29. Dennis Johnson, PG/SG, Pepperdine
1976 Draft, Round 2 — Seattle Supersonics
The five-time All-Star and Hall of Famer won a title in 1979 with the Seattle Supersonics, where he was named NBA Finals MVP. He finished his career with the Boston Celtics, where he won two more championships.
28. Tony Parker, PG, Paris Basket Racing
2001 Draft, Round 1 — Paris Basket Racing
The Spurs drafted the Belgian point guard out of the French League, and he immediately became a starter. In 17 seasons with the franchise, Parker was a six-time All-Star and won four NBA titles, including the 2007 NBA Finals MVP award. His No. 9 jersey has been retired by San Antonio.
27. Dennis Rodman, PF/SF, Southeastern Oklahoma State
1986 Draft, Round 2 — Detroit Pistons
Best remembered for his flamboyance and eccentric personality, the "Worm" won five NBA titles with the Pistons and Chicago Bulls during his Hall of Fame career. He notably led the league with 18.7 rebounds per game in 1991-92 and went on to win the rebounding title each of the next six seasons too.
26. Vlade Divac, C, KK Partizan
1989 Draft, Round 1 — Los Angeles Lakers
The Serbian center spent six of his best years playing in Europe but would still a force when he arrived in the NBA. He is one of seven players in history to record 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, and 1,500 blocked shots.
25. Gerald Wallace, SF, Alabama
2001 Draft, Round 1 — Sacramento Kings
Wallace averaged 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game during his 14-season career and led the league in steals in 2006. He is the only player to make an All-Star team with the Charlotte Bobcats (2010) before they changed their name to the Hornets.
24. Latrell Sprewell, SG/SF, Alabama
1992 Draft, Round 1 — Golden State Warriors
Sprewell was a four-time All-Star during his 13-year career. Unfortunately, his time in the NBA will always be marked by an incident in 1997 when he choked Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo during practice and was suspended for 68 games.
23. Alex English, SF, South Carolina
1976 Draft, Round 2 — Milwaukee Bucks
The Hall of Famer began an amazing run after getting traded to the Denver Nuggets midway through 1979-80 season. English became the leading scorer of the 1980s and led the Nuggets to nine straight playoff appearances. His No. 2 jersey is retired by the franchise.
22. George McGinnis, PF, Indiana Pacers
1973 Draft, Round 2 — Philadelphia 76ers
Having won two ABA titles with the Pacers, McGinnis decided to stay with the franchise after being drafted. He won his second ABA MVP award before signing with the 76ers in 1975. McGinnis finished his career with an average of 20.2 points and 11 rebounds per game.
21. Cliff Hagan, SF, Kentucky
1953 Draft, Round 3 — Boston Celtics
The Celtics drafted Hagan even though he still needed to play his senior year. Hagan then served two years in the military, and when he was ready to join the team, Boston traded him and Ed Macauley to the St. Louis Hawks for the draft rights for Bill Russell. In St. Louis, Hagan made five straight All-Star games and won the 1958 NBA title thanks in part to his excellent hook shot.
20. Larry Nance, PF, Clemson
1981 Draft, Round 1 — Phoenix Suns
The first winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1984 also averaged over 16 points and eight rebounds per game in each of his 11 seasons as a starter. His song, Larry Nance Jr., would also go on to become a first-round pick (27th overall in 2015).
19. Nate Archibald, PG, UTEP
1970 Draft, Round 2 — Cincinnati Royals
The Hall of Famer was a six-time All-Star and led the league in both scoring (34.0 ppg) and assists (11.4 apg) in 1973. Archibald also won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 1981.
18. Joe Dumars, SG/PG, McNeese State
1985 Draft, Round 1 — Detroit Pistons
Dumars and Isiah Thomas comprised an exceptional backcourt as the Pistons won back-to-back titles, and he was named the 1989 NBA Finals MVP. He played all of his 14 seasons with the Pistons and finished with 16,401 points, 902 steals, six All-Star Game appearances, and the league sportsmanship award being named in his honor. Oh, and Michael Jordan said Dumars was the best defender he ever played against.
17. Richie Guerin, G, Iona
1954 Draft, Round 2 — New York Knicks
After serving two years in the Marines, Guerin joined the Knicks in 1956 and immediately became one of the most beloved players with fans. He made six straight All-Star Games and finished the 1961-62 season as one of a handful of players to score more than 2,000 points, snag 500 rebounds, and complete 500 assists. Guerin was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
16. John Stockton, PG, Gonzaga
1984 Draft, Round 1 — Utah Jazz
During his Hall of Fame career with the Jazz, Stockton led the NBA in assists nine times and steals twice. His career record for assists (15,806) is at least 6,000 more than any current player, and his mark for steals (3,265) has a cushion greater than 1,000.
15. Steve Nash, PG, Santa Clara
1996 Draft, Round 1 — Phoenix Suns
Nash was a two-time MVP and had four seasons in which he completed at least 50 percent of his field goals, 40 percent of his 3-pointers, and 90 percent of his free throws. To give a little perspective, Larry Bird is the only other player to accomplish this feat more than once, and he did it twice.
14. Clyde Drexler, SG/SF, Houston
1983 Draft, Round 1 — Portland Trail Blazers
The 10-time All-Star was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team and had his number retired by both Portland and the Houston Rockets. He won his only NBA title in 1995 when the Blazers traded him to Houston after nearly a dozen years with the team that drafted him.
13. Kobe Bryant, SG, Lower Merion High School
1996 Draft, Round 1 — Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets drafted the late Bryant as part of a trade agreement and then sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers. The 18-time All-Star won five NBA titles with the franchise and was the first player in NBA history to record at least 30,000 career points and 6,000 career assists.
12. Julius Erving, SF, Virginia Squires
1972 Draft, Round 1 — Milwaukee Bucks
Because of contract disputes, Erving stayed with the ABA's Squires and then went to the Nets. When the ABA merged with the NBA in 1976, he went to the Philadelphia 76ers. All in all, "Dr. J" finished with one NBA and two ABA titles, 11 NBA and five ABA All-Star Game appearances, one NBA and three ABA MVP honors, and countless highlights.
11. Reggie Miller, SG, UCLA
1987 Draft, Round 1 — Indiana Pacers
A shooting threat from all parts of the court, Miller retired after his 18-season Hall of Fame career with the Pacers as the all-time leader in 3-pointers with 2,560. He also led the league in free-throw percentage five times, including a career-best 93.3-percent mark in his final season.
10. Gus Johnson, F/C, Idaho
1963 Draft, Round 2 — Baltimore Bullets
One of the first NBA forwards to spend more of his time above the rim than defending the area under it, Johnson shattered three backboards during his Hall of Fame career. He was a five-time All-Star and won an ABA championship in his final season with the Indiana Pacers.
9. Tracy McGrady, SG/SF, Mount Zion Christian Academy
1997 Draft, Round 1 — Toronto Raptors
A poster child for being successful coming to the NBA straight out of high school, McGrady was a seven-time All-Star and led the league in scoring twice. Injuries shortened what could have been an all-time great career, but he still was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.
8. Willis Reed, C, Grambling State
1964 Draft, Round 2 — New York Knicks
The Knicks moved the 6'10" Reed to power forward, and he helped turn the team into a contender. New York won its first NBA title in 1970, and Reed became the first player in NBA history to be named All-Star Game MVP, regular season MVP, and Finals MVP. He won another title with the Knicks before injuries cut his career short.
7. John Havlicek, SF/SG, Ohio State
1962 Draft, Round 1 — Boston Celtics
Boston coach Red Auerbach described Havlicek as the "guts" of a team that won eight NBA titles. Along the way, he became a 13-time All-Star and the Celtics all-time leader in points with 26,395.
6. Larry Bird, F, Indiana State
1978 Draft, Round 1 — Boston Celtics
The Celtics drafted Bird in the first round even though he had one more year to play at Indiana State. The move proved to be worth the wait, as "The Hick from French Lick" led Boston to three NBA titles in the 1980s and averaged 24.3 points and 10.0 rounds per game in a career that was cut short by injuries.
5. Charles Barkley, PF, Auburn
1984 Draft, Round 1 — Philadelphia 76ers
Barkley finished his career with 23,757 points (22.1 per game), 12,456 rebounds (11.7 per game), and 4,215 assists (3.9 per game). In 1987, he became the shortest player to lead the NBA in rebounds at 6'6".
4. Dikembe Mutombo, C, Georgetown
1991 Draft, Round 1 — Denver Nuggets
A four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Mutombo led the league in blocks three times and rebounds twice. His number was retired by both the Nuggets and the Atlanta Hawks.
3. Michael Jordan, SG, North Carolina
1984 Draft, Round 1 — Chicago Bulls
Arguably the greatest player in NBA history, Jordan won six league titles and five MVP awards. To give you a sense of his versatility, he led the NBA in scoring 10 times and steals thrice.
2. Bill Russell, C, San Francisco
1956 Draft, Round 1 — St. Louis Hawks
Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach traded the Hawks for Russell's draft rights and the rest is history. Russell earned league MVP honors five times as the Celtics won 11 titles to become the most dominant dynasty in the history of the NBA.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, C, UCLA
1969 Draft, Round 1 — Milwaukee Bucks
A number of greats have been taken with this pick, including Shaquille O'Neal, Magic Johnson, and LeBron James. However, Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer, won six championships with two different teams, and earned an unprecedented six league MVP awards.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.