2012 NBA Draft Results: The Biggest Steals of Round 1
Round 1 of the 2012 NBA draft is officially in the books, and it was easily one of the most surprising that the league has seen in a long time.
From guards like Dion Waiters and Terrence Ross going far higher than anticipated, to the precipitous slides of Perry Jones III and Jared Sullinger, there were plenty of moments that left basketball fans' jaws agape.
With the way the draft shook out, there were several picks that could make certain general managers look like absolute geniuses. Certain teams were able to fill crucial needs, add valuable and unexpected pieces, and grab players late who could have a tremendous impact on the court.
Every team was able to secure a quality player in the first round, and a slew of talent walked across the stage in Newark, New Jersey, but there were a few teams that really took advantage of their draft situation.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the biggest steals in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft.
No. 7: Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors)
It's no secret that the Golden State Warriors were looking for an upgrade at the small forward position.
Having clearly fallen out of love with Dorell Wright, who had a disappointing second season in Oakland, the team was hoping to snag a young, athletic small forward to pair with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry on the perimeter.
Believed by many to be targeting Perry Jones III or a veteran player like Andre Iguodala or Wilson Chandler through a trade, the Warriors caught a major stroke of luck when North Carolina's Harrison Barnes fell to them.
Though Barnes is not considered the franchise-changing player that he was after his freshman season, he is an extremely solid player and a great addition for Golden State. He averaged 17.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season, while connecting on 35.8 percent of his three-point attempts.
Barnes gives Golden State another lethal perimeter shooter to spread the floor and open up room for Andrew Bogut and David Lee, as well as create driving lanes for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. He can finish well at the rim and is another excellent transition scorer to match with the run-and-gun Warriors.
Barnes needs to be more aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and have better shot selection, but he is a proven talent who will be able to come into the league and make an immediate impact. For the first time in years, Warriors fans should be very optimistic about the future, because they have made their second great draft choice in a row.
No. 16: Royce White (Houston Rockets Via New York Knicks)
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Though Royce White was actually projected to go lower than 16th in many drafts, because of his versatility and talent he would be a steal going anywhere outside the top five. In one season at Iowa State, White played every position on the court and showcased an incredible skill set.
The Houston Rockets were looking for a playmaking big man who could fulfill their need for size but do more than just dunk and grab rebounds. In his one season as a Cyclone, White averaged 13.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists, running his team's offense as a point forward and also scoring on the inside.
He is not an elite athlete like some of the draft's other forward prospects, but he can get up and down the floor and does a nice job carving out low post position.
Houston created a serious hole for itself at small forward by dealing Chase Budinger for Minnesota's first-round pick, and White could potentially be the team's starting 3 in a few seasons' time.
He does not have a great jump shot, but he can knock down an open look and is not a defensive liability. He is a gritty, physical player who is willing to bang inside and provides Houston with another player who can make an impact on the boards and in the paint.
Whether Houston is stockpiling assets to make a trade for a superstar like Dwight Howard, or simply trying to add quality young players to their team, Royce White was an excellent addition and will be one of next year's most surprising successes.
No. 17: Tyler Zeller (Cleveland Cavaliers Via Dallas Mavericks)
Initially picked by the Dallas Mavericks, Tyler Zeller was quickly traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a deal for the 24th pick as well as two second-round selections. Projected as a late lottery pick, Zeller fell due to several teams reaching on guards and is an excellent addition to a rebuilding Cleveland roster.
A four-year player at North Carolina, Zeller may not have the upside of some of this draft's other first-round selections, but he is a very talented big man who will find a role immediately in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 16.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game en route to winning the ACC Player of the Year award.
A team in need of some quality size, Cleveland was wise to make a move to bring in a player of Zeller's caliber.
He runs the floor extremely well, can use his size to grab tough rebounds and has an improving face-up and post game. Though he needs to add some bulk to his frame to avoid being pushed around on the block, he is a very well-rounded big man who can be an impact player on both ends of the court.
Cleveland has Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao at power forward and center, but with Varejao's frequent health issues and Thompson still learning the NBA game, it makes sense that they add another young big man to grow around their core of Thompson and Kyrie Irving.
He may never be an All-Star big man, but to get a true seven-footer who knows how to use his size, has an extremely high basketball IQ and is a proven winner, is a great addition for the Cavs late in the first round.
Zeller will be an immediate and important part of the team's rotation and may leave the Mavericks disappointed that they didn't keep him.
No. 21: Jared Sullinger (Boston Celtics)
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Obviously this will not be a steal if Sullinger's back fails to hold up, but if he can have a healthy NBA career, this could easily end up as the biggest steal of the 2012 draft.
The medical red flag placed on him has been well documented, but there are only a handful of players in this year's draft as talented as Jared Sullinger, and he will make a great addition to a Boston roster that is sure to undergo a lot of change this summer.
Once considered to be a first overall pick talent, Sullinger saw his stock fall after a sophomore season where he did not make a ton of visible improvement and missed time due to back spasms. Still, no player in the draft had a more polished post game or relished physical contact the way he did.
Last season, he notched 17.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and a block and steal per game. He was a nightmare to guard on the block due to his bevy of moves, as well as his strength and length. On the glass, he was able to carve out position and out-muscle opponents, which offset his lack of hops.
He is a very consistent offensive option and showed improved range on his jump shot, potentially being a threat in the pick-and-pop as well as rolling to the basket.
With Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass as free agents, the Celtics certainly need size, so it made sense for them to take a dynamic big man. If Garnett and Bass do return, then Sullinger will have a pair of excellent mentors who can show him the ropes and bring him along as Boston's first big off the bench.
Jared Sullinger is an elite player and, if healthy, the kind that a team can build their core around. He will be excellent alongside Rajon Rondo and will be a difference-maker from day one.
No. 28: Perry Jones III (Oklahoma City Thunder)
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Unquestionably the most surprising aspect of this year's draft was watching Perry Jones III, considered by many a surefire top-10 selection, fall all the way to 28th after issues came to light about his knee.
Though Jones certainly had his share of disappointing moments this past season, he is an elite talent and one of the draft's more unique players thanks to his rare mix of skill, size and athleticism.
He did not improve as much as many had anticipated in his second season at Baylor, but Jones averaged 14 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists while showing flashes of being a dominant player at the next level.
He has a very solid handle for someone his size, and on several occasions could be seen bringing the ball up-court, going coast to coast or initiating the Bears offense.
One of the very few holes in Oklahoma City's roster was the reserve forward spot behind Kevin Durant. Jones will be able to come in and give the team minutes off the bench, with his ability to play in transition matching perfectly with the young, hyper-athletic Thunder. He can even play alongside Durant for stretches at power forward due to his lanky 6'11" frame.
The Thunder did not need to add someone who could make an immediate impact, and they can work on developing Jones' game, having him add some go-to post moves, improve his jump shot and add some bulk to his frame. The team does not have to throw him into the fire immediately, the way he would have been on a lottery team like the Toronto Raptors.
With James Harden and Serge Ibaka coming off contract in a couple years, the Thunder needed to add a player who could fill a role and save them some money for the future. If Jones can stay healthy and live up to his potential, he could be more than just that and would be another in a long line of brilliant draft decisions for Sam Presti and company.