Ranking Biggest NBA Draft Steals of the 2012-13 Season

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 12, 2013

Ranking Biggest NBA Draft Steals of the 2012-13 Season

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    An NBA draft steal is a player who's producing more value than their draft position suggests they should.

    Outside of the first 10 players selected in the 2012 NBA draft, we haven't really seen many big-time players. A lot of that has to do with these players not getting an opportunity yet.

    But some rookies have shown flashes of their potential in limited roles, while others have found ways to contribute regular production.

    And for the record, Alexey Shved went undrafted in the 2010 NBA draft, so he wasn't eligible for this particular list. The Minnesota Timberwolves signed him as a free agent this summer.

5. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

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    NBA Draft Position: No. 35

    Forget the stats with Draymond Green.

    The Golden State Warriors found themselves a rotation player in the second round, whether he's putting up numbers or not.

    You knew this guy would be a steal before graduating from Michigan State. He's the ultimate glue guy—Green defends, finishes and makes the extra pass necessary to keep the ball moving.

    He's struggling to make open shots, but it's tough to gain rhythm playing 14.3 minutes a game. With a team that has a surplus of shooters and scorers, Green's strengths as a utility man are very much needed in this lineup.

    If a steal means finding value that you don't have to pay for, then it's fair to say Draymond Green fits into that category.

4. Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic

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    NBA Draft Position: No. 19

    Per-Game Stats: 7.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 54.5 percent shooting, 17.84 PER

    Andrew Nicholson had been a well-known force at St. Bonaventure, but 18 teams passed on him since he didn't perform against top-tier competition.

    His role so far with the Orlando Magic has been minimal, but he's produced when given the opportunity.

    Nicholson is a solid offensive player who can create his own shot in the post. He doesn't have All-Star upside or offer a game-changing presence, but he'll be a solid rotation player in the league.

    Any time you can get regular production from a mid-to-late first-rounder, you're getting bang for your buck.

    As his role increases, so will his production and overall value.

3. Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics

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    NBA Draft Position: No. 21

    Per-Game Stats: 6.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 50 percent shooting, 14.48 PER

    Until his sophomore season at Ohio State, Sullinger seemed like a lock for a lottery pick. Just days before the draft, Sullinger had been red-flagged for back injuries, giving teams even more reason to be cautious.

    The flag will ultimately turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Boston Celtics, who got a top talent and potential long-term contributor after 20 teams decided to pass on him.

    He's not getting consistent minutes or offensive touches, but Sullinger is a skilled post player who can carve out space inside or step out and knock down a mid-range jumper. He brings size and toughness under the rim, and he will provide the Celtics with scoring and rebounding for years to come.

    You knew he'd be a steal anywhere outside the lottery, and Boston became the beneficiary of the unwillingness of a number of NBA teams to take a chance on Sullinger.

2. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    NBA Draft Position: No. 9

    Per-Game Stats: 7.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 59.2 percent shooting, 22.04 PER

    Before entering his freshman year at Connecticut, Andre Drummond was thought of as a potential No. 1 overall draft pick. But after struggling to create offense or string together consecutive productive performances, scouts became unsure just how high his ceiling was.

    It turns out that Drummond's struggles at UConn were a result of the methodical style and calculated pace of the college game.

    He's been productive in limited minutes for Detroit, contributing as a finisher, rebounder and shot-blocker. And his game is only going to expand. 

    With unteachable size and athleticism, Drummond is a factor whether he's creating his own offense or not. What we've seen so far is his basement. Now he's hopping into the elevator on the way up to the roof.

    It could be a while before he gets there, but when he does, his production will exceed No. 9 overall value.

1. Damian Lillard, Portland

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    NBA Draft Position: No. 6

    Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 6.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 17.01 PER

    Damian Lillard has made the Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats, two teams without point guards and with top five picks in last June's draft, look foolish for passing on him.

    Playing in the Big Sky Conference, Lillard came into the NBA with question marks considering the inferior competition he faced at Weber State. But now he's proving that a good basketball player is a good basketball player, regardless of who he's playing against.

    The Portland Trail Blazers have found their long-term answer at the point guard position, and they didn't need a top-five pick to do it. Lillard is your ultimate floor general capable of balancing scoring and distributing.

    He's lethal from downtown, can explode to the rim or pull up off the bounce. Dropping a career-high 37 points against the Golden State Warriors Friday night shows how dynamic he can be when looking for his own shot.