The Biggest Steals of the 2011 NBA Draft
Every year, in every major professional sport, a draft is held to bring along the young stars of tomorrow. Dreams are fulfilled, franchises are saved and, every now and then, tears of joy are shed. Unfortunately, tears of sorrow and anguish are shed as well.
The 2011 NBA Draft was no different from any other year, as numerous talents fell deep into the depths of obscurity. The lottery picks came and went, and channels suddenly changed. The young men who worked their hearts out for the entirety of their lives were suddenly stripped of their dream of being a lottery choice. For some, this is a career-ending occurrence; their confidence is never the same, and in turn, their production on the court isn't either. For others, this form of exclusion is the worst thing that's ever happened...to their opponents.
The motivation is greater than ever, and before you know it, a true 'Steal of the Draft' has been born.
In the following slides, I will show you seven players who deserve that moniker. Some have begun to produce, while others have yet to receive the proper opportunity; no matter the situation, these players are going to make teams wish that they hadn't passed up on them after all.
MarShon Brooks, SG, New Jersey Nets (First Round, Pick 25 from Boston Celtics)
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For those who have seen Brooks in action, there's no denying his scoring ability. He's a lights-out shooter with prototypical size, making him nearly impossible to defend. His leaping ability makes getting a hand in his face a task in its own right, as it often requires full extension and a few more fingertips.
The quickness of his first step is also deceiving, and that's been on full display as he's made a living blowing by defenders and finishing in the paint. MarShon Brooks is a potentially elite scorer at the NBA level.
In order for Brooks to continue his ascension of the NBA ranks, he will need to improve in a handful of areas. His defense is better than expected from an offensive force, as he's provided greater than a steal per game. His non-statistical defensive ability, however, does need to improve. Another concern is his rebounding, which isn't poor, but is a bit underwhelming considering his height.
All in all, Brooks has all the makings of a scoring champion. With a few more pieces added to his game, he could be a superstar. Brooks is a pure steal.
2011-12 stats: 14.4 ppg, 45% fg, 4.2 rpg
JaJuan Johnson, F, Boston Celtics (First Round, Pick 27 from New Jersey Nets)
When news broke of Jeff Green's career-threatening heart condition, Celtic fans began to panic. The career of the man who was poised to take over for the Hall of Fame bound Kevin Garnett was suddenly in question, and the Celtics didn't have anywhere to turn. After trading MarShon Brooks to the Nets, things only seemed to get worse, as Ray Allen's potential replacement was gone before he had even arrived.
In turn, the player Brooks was swapped for, JaJuan Johnson, became the most important Shamrock in the NBA Draft.
Controversy may forever haunt Johnson if Green returns and excels, but there is no reason the former Boilermaker can't overcome such adversity and thrive at the 4 in Boston. While Jeff Green's all-around skills are undeniable, it's Johnson who is better fit to play the role of protege. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year can score, rebound, pass and defend, and most significantly, has size similar to KG's when he first entered the league.
With the proper guidance and development, Johnson could become the Celtics' starter for years to come. If his work ethic reaches his talent level, he should be a starter on an All-Star team someday, too.
2012 Stats: 3.1 ppg, 1 rpg, 5.4 mpg
5.8 points, 1.8 boards in 10.5 minutes per game over his last 10 games.
Norris Cole, PG, Miami Heat (First Round, Pick 28 from Chicago Bulls)
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It's hard for a rookie to find a foothold on a team with three of the biggest stars in the NBA. However, after Cole dropped 20 on the Celtics in the second game of the year, Miami fans showered him with MVP chants.
Cole has proven to be a serviceable PG option for the Heat, who were so desperate for stability in their backcourt last season they had to turn to Mike Bibby.
With Mario Chalmers dealing with some early injuries, Cole has stepped up and dropped double figures in nine games this season.
Cole is averaging 8.2 ppg and 2.4 apg in 21 minutes per. He's also started just once.
Chandler Parsons, F, Houston Rockets (Second Round, Pick 38)
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The former Gator has already surpassed expectations, starting games for the Rockets in his first year in the league. He’s shown better-than-expected rebounding, and between he and the Rockets’ first-round choice, Marcus Morris, has been the best of the Rockets’ rookie forwards.
Parsons' career may not bring him to any All-Star Games, but he’ll certainly be a valued role player for quite some time if he continues to play with such efficiency.
The biggest knock on Parsons may be the higher upside of his first-round counterpart. Until any of that comes to fruition, though, Parsons is as valuable as any coming out of the 2011 NBA Draft.
2012 stats: 6.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 20 starts
Darius Morris, G, Los Angeles Lakers (Second Round, Pick 41)
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As the Lakers frantically search for an upgrade at point guard, they appear to be blind to what they possess internally. Darius Morris is a natural playmaker, capable of both dishing and scoring; something neither Derek Fisher nor Steve Blake have been able to do over the past two seasons.
While he may not see the opportunities early on, Morris is a guy with the talent and the situation necessary to make him a steal. Fisher, who is an excellent leader, can help Morris hone the intangibles necessary to be a starting point guard in the NBA. Blake, on the other hand, can help him develop a consistent shot.
While players like Ramon Sessions and Gilbert Arenas have more on their respective resumes, Morris is a younger player who offers the Lakers a home-grown future starter. More importantly, they don't have to give anything up to get him; he's already there.
2011-12 stats: 3.3 ppg, 1.2 apg in 13 mpg
Andrew Goudelock, G, Los Angeles Lakers (Second Round, Pick 46)
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For a team with no first-round draft picks, the Lakers are turning out to have had one of the better drafts in the NBA. Goudelock has been, arguably, the best scorer on the Lakers outside of Kobe, Gasol and Bynum, reaching double figures in four of his past eight games.
Already nicknamed “Mini Mamba” by Kobe himself, Goudelock has shown all the signs of being a dependable player, shooting well and defending sufficiently.
He seems to have a high basketball IQ, which is why he’s been seeing such an increase in playing time. When he's on the floor, he doesn't make many mistakes, plays within his game and, most importantly, gives the Lakers some three-point aid.
He may not be a superstar in the making, but Goudelock is a valuable player who is coming into his own at just the right time.
2012 Stats: 4.5 ppg, 41% three-point shooting
Scored in double figures in four of five games form Jan 25-Feb 3.
Isaiah Thomas, PG, Sacramento Kings (Second Round, Pick 60)
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The last pick in the draft has been playing just as well as any rookie taken before him. Thomas averaged 18 minutes a night in December and had reached double-figure scoring in four consecutive games. Over that stretch, Thomas averaged 12.8 points per game, along with 4.5 assists, two rebounds and 2.3 three-pointers made.
He showed star potential as he replaced Marcus Thornton, who was out with an injury.
Thus far, Isaiah Thomas is proving that his talent is much more important than his size disadvantage. The 5'9" Thomas has displayed a full repertoire of talents, but he'll need to answer a serious question before his career truly develops. That question, of course, is whether he’s another version of fellow 5'9" Washington alumni Nate Robinson, or if he can develop into a pure point guard.
While neither option can be defined as bad, he’s more likely to find success if he can be the latter. So far, he has been.
2012 stats: 7 ppg, 2.4 apg in 17 mpg.