NBA Draft Steals Who Are Shining Bright in the 2014 Playoffs
It's amazing how many of the first-round stars of this year's NBA playoffs were late steals in their respective drafts. One of these guys wasn't even selected at all.
These are the players who got left behind in drafts and have emerged as major impact players in the postseason—specifically, guys who are playing at a higher level than we're used to seeing.
Some of these guys have been around; others are new to the scene. We've left out players like Monta Ellis, Lance Stephenson and Marc Gasol, who are putting up similar numbers as the ones we've seen them put up in the past.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com
Mike Scott, Atlanta Hawks
Drafted: No. 43 overall, 2012
As a senior at Virginia in 2012, Mike Scott hit six three-pointers in 32 games—a career high.
In Game 5 against the Pacers, Scott drained five threes in the second quarter alone, propelling the Hawks to a monster road win to retake the lead in the series.
He finished with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, after having already scored in double figures in Games 4 and 2.
Scott was one of those guys in college who gradually improved with each season, and by the time he was a 24-year-old senior, he had developed a jumper that turned him into a draftable stretch power forward.
But up until now, Scott's bread and butter was in the mid-range—he shot an impressive 40 percent outside the key yet inside the arc during the regular season.
If Game 5 was a sign of more long-range shooting to come, Scott's value in the pros could see a significant boost.
Trevor Ariza, Washington Wizards
Drafted: No. 43 overall, 2004
Former second-round pick Trevor Ariza is blowing up for the Wizards in the playoffs after his best regular season in years.
He's fresh off a 30-point explosion in a Game 4 win over the Chicago Bulls, which included six three-pointers, eight boards and two steals on 10 of 17 from the floor.
Ariza's jump-shooting confidence has just reached a new level—in four games this postseason, he's 13 of 27 from downtown.
And though not known for his ability to score off the dribble, Ariza has hit a couple of pull-ups and he's gotten to the rim off slashes and drives.
Ariza double-doubled for 16 points and 11 boards in Game 4 after going for eight points, eight boards and seven assists in a complete Game 2 performance.
Prior to the season, it appeared Ariza was on the downslope of his career, but as his teammates, particularly John Wall, have improved, Ariza's been able to play a bit more to his strengths. And it looks like he's back in a big way.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Drafted: No. 35 overall, 2012
Anyone who watched Draymond Green at Michigan State should have seen this coming. A born glue guy, Green's intangibles and jack-of-all-trade skill set were built to shine in a supporting NBA role.
He played 41 minutes in the Warriors' Game 4 rout over the Clippers, where he finished with five boards, five assists, two blocks and two steals. Green isn't out there to score—he's there to capitalize opportunistically as a shooter and passer, as well as bang on the glass, get physical on defense and commit a few good, hard fouls.
Green double-doubled with 13 points, 11 boards, four blocks and three steals in Game 3, he scored 11 in Game 2 and finished with seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in Game 1.
You're likely looking at Green's upside—the player you see today is probably the same one you'll see five years from now (unless his jumper improves), and that's why he went in the second round of the draft.
But it's pretty clear that Green's style of play holds value in the NBA. It sure does for the Golden State Warriors.
Greivis Vasquez, Toronto Raptors
Drafted: No. 28 overall, 2010
Greivis Vasquez has been huge for Toronto off the bench in the Raptors' first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets. He's averaging 7.7 assists to just 1.7 turnovers through four games, facilitating at the point and from the wing alongside Kyle Lowry.
He even drilled a big-time three-pointer in Game 4 to give the Raptors an 83-79 lead with just over four minutes left.
Vasquez has his flaws, but there's no denying his passing instincts and playmaking ability. He has great vision in the open floor, where he finds his shooters and hits them in stride. But it's not always the flashy dime on the move—sometimes, its just a quick, standstill pass from the wing to the corner that hits a shooter whose defender isn't in position to close out.
He went for nine points, nine boards and six assists in the Raptors' Game 4 win and 11 points and eight assists in their Game 2 win. In a Game 1 loss, he finished with 18 points and eight assists.
Though extremely productive in four years at Maryland, Vasquez was more of a shoot-first lead guard who turned the ball over a ton and was inconsistent from the perimeter. And it ultimately weighed on his draft stock.
Fast-forward a few years, and he's now playing a major role for the Raptors in the playoffs as a passer and playmaker. Go figure.
Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
Drafted: No. 38 overall, 2011
Could you believe this kid was passed on 37 different times in that 2011 draft—after giving scouts four years worth of material to evaluate?
It just goes to show how unpredictable these breakouts can be.
The Houston Rockets haven't played their best team ball, but Chandler Parsons is emerging into a legitimate star. He's averaging 20 points a game through four against the Portland Trail Blazers, and he's not even shooting it that well (33.3 percent from downtown this postseason).
From pull-ups in the mid-range to slick drives to the rack, Parsons has evolved into a complete scorer for the Rockets.
Once his laughable contract expires—the one set to pay him a whopping $964,750 in 2014-15, per ShamSports—Parsons could end up commanding a pretty serious deal.
Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls
Drafted: No. 26 overall, 2009
Taj Gibson had a terrific regular season, but if his postseason is any indication of what's to come in 2014-15, I'm not sure the Bulls will have much need for Carlos Boozer moving forward.
Through four playoff games, Gibson is averaging 19.8 points and 6.8 boards on 61.7 percent shooting. He went for 32 points on 13 of 16 in Chicago's Game 4 loss, and he double-doubled for 22 points and 10 boards in a two-point loss in Game 2.
Gibson has been a handful around the rim all series, where he's shooting 74.07 percent on 20 of 27. With a strong back-to-the-basket game, along with the ability to finish after contact or from tougher angles in traffic, Gibson has given Chicago a live low-post presence with a little extra bounce.
The Bulls' postseason might not last too long, but Gibson is turning into quite the story from a developmental perspective. Chicago made a wise move by locking him up until 2017.
Troy Daniels, Houston Rockets
Technically, Troy Daniels wasn't a steal, considering nobody chose to take him. He became leftovers after going undrafted last season, though both the Charlotte Bobcats and Houston Rockets both signed him and cut him earlier in the year.
And now he's back with the Rockets, nailing game-winning buckets in the NBA postseason and lighting up the Portland Trail Blazers from behind the arc.
After spending nearly the entire year in the D-League, Daniels has emerged as a key player for the Rockets in the first round. He hit three three-pointers in Game 3, including the go-ahead one with 11.9 seconds left in overtime.
And though the Rockets lost Game 4, Daniels was once again a bright spot—he went for 17 points on 4-of-5 shooting from downtown.
"I've always been a shooter," Daniels told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. "High school. Middle school. That's just been my mentality, and I've been blessed to be with a lot of coaches that love shooting the ball. And every team needs a shooter. That's my job."
Daniels didn't see the floor in Games 1 and 2, but he's earned the trust of coach Kevin McHale by providing a reliable shot-making presence.
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
Drafted: No. 47 overall, 2006
Paul Millsap has given Indiana's frontcourt all sorts of problems in the first round of the playoffs. He's just too quick off the dribble for the Pacers' slower-footed big men.
Indiana's bigs ultimately have to sag on Millsap and give up the jumper in order to prevent from getting blown by on the perimeter.
Through five games, he's averaging 21 points and 8.2 boards, and he's even connecting from downtown at a terrific 44.4 percent clip.
Millsap is just a bad matchup for the Pacers. And after signing a manageable two-year, $19 million deal, he's making Atlanta's management look pretty good.