The Steals Of the 2012 NBA Draft
As the 2012 NBA Draft was getting underway this past Thursday, I sat in front of the stage in Newark with my HOOPSWORLD colleague Yannis Koutroupis and talked about how uninteresting the draft was likely to be. We had spent the previous two days talking to players, scouts, agents, trainers, coaches and everybody else you can imagine trying to gauge who would go where in this draft. By the time things finally got going, we felt pretty confident that we had a handle on how things would go, more or less.
As it turns out, we were really, really wrong. The Hornets were always going to take Anthony Davis, the Wizards were going to take Brad Beal if they could and the Grizzlies were dead-set on Tony Wroten, but outside of that, we just kept getting it wrong.
In a draft like that, there are bound to be some players who fall further than they should on the draft board. There were plenty of guys like that this year, and the following are a handful of the most notable:
Thomas Robinson, (5th Pick, Sacramento Kings) – There simply aren’t enough glowing things to say about Robinson. There’s a reason many scouts pegged him as the second “sure thing” in this class, and it did come as something of a surprise that Charlotte opted for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist rather than the kid who seems more primed for stardom. But whatever—Charlotte’s loss was Sacramento’s gain, and the second-best player in this draft fell all the way to #5, which was the best-case scenario for the Kings. They wanted an athletic big man to pair with DeMarcus Cousins, and they got it. Those two are going to be one of the scariest frontcourts in the NBA in no time.
Harrison Barnes (7th Pick, Golden State Warriors) – Those who read my stuff regularly know that I’m not a huge Harrison Barnes fan, but for Golden State to get him at #7 was an absolute steal. He was one of the top four talents in the draft and just so happens to play the exact position the Warriors needed to fill. I have no idea what kind of pro he’ll turn out to be, but if he’s as good as his projections say he’ll be, this will prove to be a great pick for Golden State.
Andre Drummond (9th Pick, Detroit Pistons) – Yes, there are questions about Drummond’s work ethic, but this is another example of a top talent falling into the lap of the team who needed him most. Greg Monroe is Detroit’s best player because he’s so good offensively, but he’s not particularly athletic and the Pistons really wanted to pair him with an athletic defensive specialist to build their frontcourt tandem of the future. Who better fits that bill in this draft than Drummond? He took the biggest fall of the top prospects, but he also found himself in an ideal situation for himself, which will give him the opportunity to prove wrong the eight teams who passed on him.
Tyler Zeller (17th Pick, Cleveland Cavaliers) – While Zeller, the last guy in this year’s Green Room, admittedly is a value at 17, what makes him a steal for Cleveland is the fact that they cashed out three lower picks they didn’t want anyway and turned them into a lottery-level talent that plays a position they needed help with. They weren’t going to get anyone that good at #24 or at the top of the second round, so Zeller is a serious upgrade of assets for the Cavs.
Jared Sullinger (21st Pick, Boston Celtics) – At some point, Sullinger is going to have to get surgery to repair the bulging disc in his back, but when he returns he’ll bring to the Celtics one of the best array of post moves of any player in this draft. He’s a great kid, a hard worker and very competitive. Under the tutelage of Doc Rivers and (perhaps) Kevin Garnett, he could turn into a really productive NBA player very quickly. Who else could Boston have taken there with the same potential for stardom? A year ago, Sullinger was a top-three pick. Getting him in the 20s was highway robbery.
Perry Jones III (28th Pick, Oklahoma City Thunder) – No one slipped more in this draft than the two kids from Baylor: Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller, the latter of which is featured on this list, as well. The word in Newark was that some concerns about Jones’ knee are what caused him to slide, but OKC got maximum value out of a pick that doesn’t traditionally make much of an impact in the NBA. Jones is a top-shelf talent, and a culture like the one in Oklahoma City is going to be great for him. This looks like another great pick for Sam Presti.
Marquis Teague (29th Pick, Chicago Bulls) – This has been a polarizing selection with the Chicago media because of the team’s obvious need for depth at the wing positions, but Teague shouldn’t have fallen this far and the Bulls jumped all over the 19-year-old national champion from Kentucky. Chicago worked out over 50 players in preparation for this draft, and Teague wasn’t one of them. They were truly shocked he fell into their laps, and it’s no real surprise why. That kind of talent doesn’t often slip that far without an injury or character concern. Teague has neither, and should get a great opportunity to contribute immediately next season with Derrick Rose out rehabbing his knee well into the spring of 2013.
Quincy Miller (38th Pick, Denver Nuggets) – At the start of the college season, some early mock drafts had Miller rated as a top-five pick, but a slow season knocked him down a few rungs on that particular ladder. Still, nobody considered him a second-rounder. It’s not fun to watch a talented kid slide, especially one who’s actually in the building, wearing a suit and tie and waiting not for David Stern but Adam Silver to call his name. Now, Miller has plenty of fodder to prove some people wrong. Denver is a pretty deep team, but they’ll find a role for Miller, and if he’s given the opportunity he could end up being one of the more egregious oversights of this class.
Will Barton (40th Pick, Portland Trail Blazers) – Barton was always going to be a bubble guy, with plenty of teams picking in the 20s showing serious interest in the Memphis shooting guard, but as big talents like Sullinger, Jones, Teague, and Arnett Moultrie slipped deeper into the draft than expected, Barton took a bit of a tumble, too. He’s got the talent to play right away in Portland, though, and he’s one of the few second rounders you can expect to actually have an impact in the league as a rookie. He’s entirely too good to have slipped this far, but the Blazers certainly aren’t complaining.
As far as draft-day steals are concerned, this year’s event was full of them. Loads of top-tier talent tumbled for all sorts of reasons, but that means teams are finding more value with later picks than usual. That’s a good thing for non-lottery teams looking for a diamond in the rough, because there plenty of them ripe for the picking this year.