The NBA is a competitive league, with many players trying to make it. It’s not easy to be drafted and get an opportunity, but sometimes teams decide to go in another direction. Sometimes this means that the player doesn’t have as good of a chance at making their team or getting playing time over other players who are more experienced or have more skills than them. These are some of the most well-known undrafted players who could never play on an NBA team, even though they had potential: Read below more on the Top undrafted NBA players.
Jason Collins – Drafted: Round 2 (#31 overall) by the New Jersey Nets during the 2001 NBA draft.
Collins was drafted in 2001 but was never signed to a contract with the Nets. He later went on to play for the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies before he became an unrestricted free agent and decided to play overseas. He then returned to the NBA and played for the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, and Brooklyn Nets.
Collins is the first openly gay player in American professional sports history.
Theo Ratliff – Drafted: Round 1 (#26 overall) by the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 1995 NBA draft.
Ratliff was drafted by one of the worst teams in NBA history, the 1995 Minnesota Timberwolves. While they had a promising young player in Kevin Garnett, Ratliff was at best third on their depth chart of prominent men. He only played three seasons for the Timberwolves, which he mainly spent on their bench. He got his big break when he signed with the Atlanta Hawks and won two NBA championships in 1999 and 2003. He later was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and helped lead them to an Eastern Conference Championship.
Ratliff is now a vegan chef who serves a plant-based diet to all his clients. He is also an environmentalist and helps rehabilitate children in need of assistance.
Bobby Jones – Drafted: Round 2 (#33 overall) by the Denver Nuggets during the 1993 NBA draft.
Jones was once considered one of the most promising Top undrafted NBA players in the league. He had a perfect size and was an excellent defender. However, he could never fulfill the many potential scouts saw in him because of a cocaine problem that led to his banishment from the NBA for almost four years. He returned to play for the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1999-2000 season and again during the 2001-2002 season but could not stay clean.
He was able to get back into the league in 2002 and played for the Washington Wizards from 2003 to 2006. His last professional basketball season was in 2009 with Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he won his first Israeli title. Jones now works as a motivational speaker and helps kids with drug or alcohol problems with their rehabilitation program.
Maurice Cheeks – Drafted: Round 1 (#6 overall) by the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1980 NBA draft.
Cheeks were drafted in 1980 by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was the first and only player from Villanova University ever to be taken as a number one pick, and he played for them from 1980 to 1985. During the 1985 playoffs, he suffered a knee injury while diving for a loose ball. He was never able to recover fully from his injury and retired in 1986.
He worked as an assistant coach for several teams, including the San Antonio Spurs (1986-1989), Detroit Pistons (2003-2007), and New York Knicks (2008-2012). The Knicks fired him before the 2012-13 season began, and he has yet to get hired by another team.
Tom Gugliotta – Drafted: Round 1 (#6 overall) by the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1993 NBA draft.
Gugliotta was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1993 but never signed with them. He then went to play professional basketball in Europe for three years, where he won a FIBA European Championship Gold Medal in 1994 and was named the European Basketball Player of the Year that same year. He becomes the top undrafted NBA players from that time up to date.
Gugliotta then came back to the United States and went on to play for several NBA teams: Golden State Warriors (1996–1997), Washington Wizards (1997–1999), Phoenix Suns (1999-2001, 2006–2007), Minnesota Timberwolves (2000-2001), Vancouver Grizzlies (2001-2002), and Charlotte Bobcats (2004–2005).
His last season was during the 2007-08 season with the Sacramento Kings, although he tore his ACL before the preseason. He then announced his retirement from basketball in 2008 at age 33.
He now works as a program director for an NBA scouting service called Pro Sports Scouting and also has his own real estate company in New York.
Gugliotta is not a vegan and eats meat occasionally. He often says that he could not get the proper nutrition as a player, so going veg would have been extremely difficult for him at the time. Nevertheless, he is interested in looking into the idea of going vegan now that he is retired from basketball.
Ralph Sampson – Drafted: Round 1 (#1 overall) by the Houston Rockets during the 1983 NBA draft.
Sampson was chosen as an All-American three times at the University of Virginia, which led to him being drafted first overall in 1983. He played for the Rockets from 1983 to 1987 and then for the Golden State Warriors during the 1988-89 season.
Sampson was a talented player who, unfortunately struck with injuries. His knees gave him problems throughout his career, which meant he only played five seasons in his prime years of basketball (ages 23–28). He retired after that season in 1989.
He is now a vegan and is often diagnosed as having an underactive thyroid gland, which results in him gaining weight quickly. He says that going vegan has made it easier for him to lose weight, and he enjoys the health benefits of eating this way. He is also a spokesman for the American Vegan Society.
Joe Smith – Drafted: Round 1 (#1 overall) by the Golden State Warriors during the 1995 NBA draft.
Smith was drafted as an All-American in his junior and senior years of college, which led him to be chosen first overall in 1995. He played for several teams from 1995 to 2006, including the Golden State Warriors (1995–1997), Minnesota Timberwolves (1997-1999), Portland Trail Blazers (1999–2001), Philadelphia 76ers (2001-2003), Milwaukee Bucks (2003–2004), Detroit Pistons (2005-2006).
Smith now works with several organizations as a commentator and motivational speaker on health issues. He also works with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm as a special assistant to help set up community events and raise funds for the team. Smith has been vegan since 2002 but admits that it was difficult at first to find satisfying vegan food in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. He says he is very frustrated by how generally uneducated people are about nutrition and the realities of modern factory farming and wants to set people straight about these things.
Lorenzen Wright – Drafted: Round 1 (#7 overall) by the Los Angeles Clippers during the 1996 NBA draft.
Wright was highly recruited coming out of high school. The Los Angeles Clippers drafted him but later traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies and signed a seven-year contract. During his time with the Grizzlies, he developed into a tough player who punched hard when hit first. In the 2000-01 season, he played for both the Grizzlies and his hometown team, the Atlanta Hawks.
He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2001-02 season but only played in 12 games and then retired. He went back home to Memphis and worked for a car dealership and manager at an Auto Zone store. His girlfriend had been shot to death just one day before his murder in July of 2010.
Finally, the above are Top undrafted NBA players you will need to know all time.