Written by Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
The 2014 NBA Draft was one of the deeper ones in recent memory. With so many talented players, there was undoubtedly going to be some players that fell further down the draft board than originally expected. Those players would become steals for the teams in which laps they fell into. Here are the five biggest steals from the 2014 NBA Draft.
Cleanthony Early, Small Forward, Wichita State: The former Wichita State forward was expected to go anywhere from 14-24 in the first round. His scoring ability from the perimeter and interior was strong, and he rebounded well for his position. He also plays both ends of the court, as he is as much a capable defender as he is scorer.
The only negative that people had would be his transition from college power forward to NBA small forward, with his ball handling being the only thing holding him back. It also caused his falling into the second round, where the New York Knicks picked him up with the 34th pick. The rest of the NBA’s loss will be the Knicks gain as they finally have a small forward option behind Carmelo Anthony, who is returning to the team.
Early will have a chance to learn from one of the best scoring and rebounding small forwards in recent NBA history, and have the ability to grow as a player without immense pressure of a high pick. Sure he would have rather went earlier, but this is a strong landing spot for the former Shocker.
Early should have a role right from the start with the Knicks as a reserve wing. He fills a huge hole the Knicks had, as Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. can stop being played out of position and back to their normal spots in the backcourt. If given the chance to grow, which he should have with the Knicks, Early has a chance to become a more than solid contributor at the NBA level.
Jordan Clarkson, Point Guard, Missouri: Clarkson was another second-round pick that made a surprising tumble down draft boards on draft night. The athletic combo-guard put on great performances in the pre-draft process, but still found himself waiting to have his name called until the 16th pick in the second round.
Clarkson needs to continue on developing his jump shot, but he should have plenty of chances to grow as he landed on the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are desperate for a youth infusion, especially in the backcourt, and Clarkson should help with that.
He has excellent ball-handling skills, and can score from anywhere on the court. Even with the lack of a consistent jump shot, his size and athleticism combination from the point guard position gives him a big edge.
With a roster in transition, the Lakers have found themselves a strong piece to get them back to relevance. Clarkson should come in and be productive right away and see plenty of minutes on a Lakers team with very few other options.
Gary Harris, Shooting Guard, Michigan State: Harris falling to the 19th pick in the first round was one of the bigger surprises on the night. The Denver Nuggets will reap the benefits of that slide, getting Harris in a trade with the Chicago Bulls.
Harris is one of the only true two-way players in this draft. Offensively, he is strong and physical. He may be a little undersized, but he finishes at the rim with great efficiency because of good athleticism coupled with his physicality. He can score from the mid-range as well, with the only knock being his jump shot is a little streaky. It is a problem that can be fixed, but if he continued attacking the way he’s capable of it should not hinder him much.
Defensively, Harris is just as strong. His motor is always running, as he never takes plays off on either side of the court. His size hinders him slightly defensively, but he does not back down and sticks with it.
He will have an opportunity to grow in his first season behind the recently acquired Arron Afflalo, who is one of the better two-way guards in the NBA currently. Harris can learn from him and is in a great situation with the Nuggets.
Kyle Anderson, Forward, UCLA: This was too perfect a pick and is arguably the biggest steal in this draft. The point-forward from UCLA landed in the perfect situation with the San Antonio Spurs. This landing spot will be what makes Anderson into a lengthy career veteran instead of a three-year flame out.
The Spurs have the perfect mentor on the team already in Boris Diaw, as Anderson is essentially a Diaw clone. The versatility Anderson has will be a huge asset to the Spurs and the system they employ under Gregg Popovich. Like Diaw, Anderson possesses excellent court vision and has a sneaky offensive game. He is strong at the mid-range, but also has a vastly improving three-point shot that is becoming a strength.
He has some things to work on, as his athleticism and quickness are not strengths. This causes him at times to be a liability on defense, as he cannot keep up with the smaller, quicker players he is sometimes forced to guard against.
Another thing people will point out as a negative is the unique qualities he has as a player, but that is irrelevant here. The Spurs are the perfect system for him, and he should succeed right away given the support group there and the way he plays. This was a perfect landing spot for Anderson and makes him a big sleeper to succeed.
Marcus Smart, Point Guard, Oklahoma State and Julius Randle, Power Forward Kentucky:
These two make the list as not exactly the exact definition of a sleeper or steal, but as players who will surely out perform their draft slot. With a draft this loaded, players are surely to fall and these are two that slipped a little bit. The Boston Celtics and Lakers, two storied franchise in a hole right now, will benefit and kick start their rebuilds.
For Smart, he has a great chance to learn from Rajon Rondo, if the Celtics do indeed keep them. Neither are strong shooters, but the tenacity both bring attacking the basket and on defense, head coach Brad Stevens can make it work.
Randle will have an opportunity to play right away with the Lakers lacking many assets and Pau Gasol leaving this offseason. He is easily the most talented big man on the roster, and his work ethic and playing style should endear himself to the uber-talented and competitive Kobe Bryant.