NBA Draft Steals
It’s easier to find a star in the NBA Draft when you’re picking in the top five. Once the Lonzo Balls and Markelle Fultzs of the world are gone, it comes the real challenge for most GM: finding a rookie later on in the draft that can contribute to your team’s success. For every lottery-pick that flames out in the league, there are other success stories like a Steve Nash or Kawhi Leonard, who were lightly-regarded prospects that flourished under the right team.
For the three players listed below, each one goes to their new team the most equipped to provide an immediate impact without all the fanfare that accompanied their more hyped draft classmates. From a lightly regarded ‘tweener guard to deceptively athletic big men, here are three under-the-radar prospects coming out of this year’s draft.
Derrick White – San Antonio Spurs
White made his only season at the Division 1 level count, as he averaged 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game for the University of Colorado. That was enough to garner him a place as a 1st team All Pac-12 selection as well as All Pac-12 first team. White was a late-riser during the draft process and his ability to either handle the ball at point guard or move without the ball as a shooting guard, greatly enhanced his stock in the days leading up to the draft. While White will still need to put on some bulk and strength to survive in the pros, he has the framework in his game to be a quality NBA-player.
San Antonio may have Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili still hanging around, but with both players getting up there in age, it made sense to get a smart, heady player like White who could see quality minutes at either spot for this upcoming season. Whether it be at the point or off the ball, White will allow Parker and Ginobili to ease up on the number of minutes that they are forced to play, while keeping them fresher for the Spurs’ inevitable playoff run.
Zach Collins- Portland Trail Blazers
The dearth of big man at the college and pro levels boosted the value of Collins, but don’t be fooled, Mark Few and Company were disappointed that Collins wouldn’t be returning back to Gonzaga for his sophomore season. While not seeing the floor as much as some of his other, more experienced frontcourt teammates, Collins played an integral part in the Bulldogs falling just short to North Carolina in the championship game last season, despite averaging a modest 17 minutes per game. Still a bit of a project and needing to add some more dimensions to his game, Collins has the attributes in a big man that you can’t teach, like touch around the basket and the ability to run the court as well as he does for a guy his size.
The Blazers are in a bit of a bind this offseason. They have one of the more dynamic backcourts in the league with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum but don’t have the cap room to make any major improvements to the roster after they find a way to lock up center Jusuf Nurkic. Collins should give Portland another offensive threat down low and will also give the team a shot-blocking presence as well. As much as the Blazers scored points last season, they gave up their fair share as well, ranking 25th in league in points allowed per game. Collins has the ability to stop the revolving door Portland has trotted out at its power forward spot and become another piece for a team on the upswing.
Harry Giles- Sacramento Kings
The Kings may have hit on a goldmine with Giles. Once considered a lock to be one of the first few picks in the draft while in high school, Giles didn’t have quite the career he would have liked to had with Duke due to ACL injuries to both of his knees. Playing with a brace for all of last season, Giles didn’t have the explosiveness or quickness that most scouts saw in him before his time with the Blue Devils. Still, he showed enough upside physically to still be selected in the first round of the draft, despite only averaging 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
First things first, Giles is going to have to find a way to stay healthy, as that has been the biggest impediment to his career so far. If, or when, Giles puts the injury bug behind him, there aren’t many as potentially talented as the former Dukie. In Sacramento, he joins a young, but promising talent, in Buddy Hield as well as fellow draftee, De'Aaron Fox. In another two or three years, the Kings may be on the cusp of competing in the Western Conference.
A team’s front office can look like geniuses for getting it right when they select early on in the draft, but it’s that much harder to find talent after the first dozen or so picks. For White, Collins and Giles, their path to the NBA may have more twists and turns in it, but it still has the possibility of each player being a solid NBA contributor for many years to come.