NBA Draft 2012: 10 Biggest Potential Draft Day Steals for Needy Teams

Rich KurtzmanSenior Analyst IMay 18, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: 10 Biggest Potential Draft Day Steals for Needy Teams

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    Ah, the NBA draft. The annual guessing game that penthouse-dwelling pencil-pushers play against one another in an effort to build the best basketball team money and brains can buy.

     

    With that game of chance comes the hype of lottery picks; the possibilities of booms and busts abound.

     

    Of course, some second-round picks will undoubtedly make their mark on the NBA as well; sleepers who could come in as role players and eventually develop into starters down the line.

     

    For team executives—like Denver's Masai Ujiri, who possesses pick Nos. 20, 37 and 50 in this year's draft—searching for sleepers will be important.

     

    This list details the 10 biggest potential steals in the 2012 NBA draft.

Perry Jones III

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    When you look at Perry Jones and his incredibly lanky frame, it's hard not to compare him to Kevin Durant.

     

    The 6'11", 235-pound Jones shot an extraordinarily high 53.7 percent at Baylor and began to develop his outside shooting in his senior season last year, bringing his percentage up to 30.3 percent from downtown. And he rebounds very well despite his slight build, grabbing 7.6 boards per, but there are some questions that will keep him from going too high.

     

    Does he have the skill level to thrive at the NBA level now? While nearly every other stat category increased in his second year, Jones' scoring dropped slightly.

     

    Will he ever be able to knock down jumpers with the precision that Durant and other long small forwards?

     

    He'll certainly have to improve, but he's capable and some team will land a solid player when they draft him late in the first.

Royce White

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    Royce White was dominant on the court last season for Iowa State, filling up every part of the stat line.

     

    He put up 13.4 points, 9.2 boards and 5.1 assists per game, destroying other bigs with his huge 6'8", 270-pound body.

     

    But two red flags spring up around White: He only played one year at the college level and his panic attacks that follow his fear of flying.

     

    White was so good in high school he was offered a scholarship at Kentucky but, as Scott Howard-Cooper wrote, after suffering a panic attack, he decided to attend the much-closer-to-home Iowa State.

     

    Now NBA teams are worried that fear of flying will affect his ability to take part in the demanding traveling routines that revolve around the ability to hop on a jet and jump from city to city for back-to-back games.

Draymond Green

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    Green's been a great player for Michigan State the last two seasons, carrying the Spartans to the Sweet 16 last year.

     

    The senior improved each of his four years at the school in nearly every stat category, pushing himself to a double-double per game average of 16.2 points and 10.6 rebounds, and it's a positive sign he's got even more potential to grow as a player.

     

    Another thing working in his favor is playing for one of the best basketball coaches in the country in Larry Izzo for four years, learning the ins and outs of winning not only in college basketball but in the game of life.

     

    What will keep him from being a high pick is his size. At 6'7", 230 pounds, he's a bit undersized to play the power forward position in the NBA. Although, if he puts the work in at the gym with that tremendous work ethic he's already proven, Green will be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA.

Meyers Leonard

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    At first glance, Leonard looks like a perfect candidate to be a true center in the NBA.

     

    He's 7'0" tall with a 7'3" wingspan, with solid mobility and agility for a man his height.

     

    But look again, and Leonard only weighs all of 215 pounds.

     

    Scouts believe he possesses a ton of potential. He'll be great in setting screens because he's fleet of foot, he will be able to slash to the hole coming off pick and roles and Leonard already knows how to operate with his back to the basket in the block.

     

    It all depends on him filling out his frame and gaining some bulk, though, because Leonard will be bullied by bigger, stronger and more physical NBA players immediately.

     

    That lack of weight will cause him to drop in the draft, and he will likely go in the mid-first round.

Marquis Teague

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    Marquis Teague, like many of the men on this list, is an intriguing player.

     

    The freshman led the Wildcats to the NCAA championship. Well, at least he led the break as the team's main ball-handler.

     

    Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones really led the team to the title, and while it will hurt his draft stock a bit, Teague's impact can't be missed.

     

    He's stupendous at running the break and the best point guard in the draft at getting to the rim.

     

    But, Teague's effectiveness dropped when the pace of the game slowed, and he played far too inconsistently to be prosperous in the NBA, at least right away.

     

    He will fall, and some team—even possibly Denver—will get a great young talent and an extremely gifted athlete in Teague this June.

Doron Lamb

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    Lamb, like Teague, was overshadowed by the big three at Kentucky.

     

    And while Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Jones were stellar all season, it was Lamb who scored 22 points to push the Wildcats over the top in the championship game.

     

    He's got a deadly jumper as possibly the top shooter in the draft, and his 46.6 percent from beyond the arc will definitely translate to the next level.

     

    Where Lamb is projected to be drafted, early in the second round, would be a steal for any team, though he will have to figure out if he wants to be a point or shooting guard at the next level.

     

    It's possible that reason is why David Aldridge of NBA.com has him rated as the No. 10 SG in the upcoming draft.

Festus Ezeli

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    Ezeli is projected to go in the late first, early second round, and as a near seven-footer (6'11", 255 pounds), he'd be a steal there.

     

    Sure, Ezeli might only project to being a backup big man in the NBA, but quality bench centers are difficult to come by these days.

     

    But that's not to say Ezeli doesn't come with question marks.

     

    His sprained knee sustained in preseason lingered all year long, as his scoring (10.1) and rebounding (5.9) both dropped in his senior season, bucking the trend of his career to that point.

     

    Something shocking for a man of his stature are the career-high 6.3 rebounds per game at the collegiate level—not nearly as high as one would expect. Ezeli will be forced to work to earn his keep in the NBA, but there's no reason to believe he won't.



Fab Melo

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    Fab Melo is a big name, a big player—if he goes anywhere near the second round, he'll be a definite draft day steal.

     

    Melo has the size (7'0", 250 pounds) to play center with the big boys in the NBA, and his conditioning vastly improved in his sophomore year, as did his leaping and quickness.

     

    He put it together to become an intimidating shot-blocker, at 2.9 per contest, and an all-around improved player on the defensive end.

     

    On offense, he continues to be very raw and extremely inconsistent, though he's already proven the unique ability to make great leaps in a single season and the potential to be an NBA starter is there.

Marcus Denmon

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    Denmon, a senior out of Missouri, is arguably the most polished point guard coming out of this year's draft.

     

    The skilled shooting guard knows how to fill up the rock, and he proved he could be elite in college with his expanded role last year, scoring 17.7 per while only turning it over 1.2 times a game.

     

    Denmon has the skills to challenge Lamb's claim as the top shooter in this year's draft, and scouts say he possesses a picture-perfect release before he sinks shots with ease.

     

    What hurts Denmon, and has likely caused him to fall all the way into the 40s on some projections, is his small 6'3", 185-pound frame. His lack of size and strength hurts his abilities to create off the dribble, and it will be a must to get into the gym for him.

Tu Holloway

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    Holloway is ridiculously rated as the 50th best prospect in this year's draft, and he'd be a huge steal late in the second round.

     

    Likely something hurting his stock is his height, at 5'10", and the fact that he does most of his damage on the offensive end by jump shooting. While he already had an arduous time getting Js off in college, it will be that much more difficult to do so in the NBA.

     

    And his three-point shooting lacked last year, his senior season, falling to 30 percent from 35 percent the year before.

     

    Holloway can get to the rack, but doesn't do so consistently, and his propensity to play in isolation may have him fall deep into the second round.

     

    Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. Follow him on twitter and/or facebook for links to articles, breaking news and need-to-know sports info.