5 biggest steals from the 2021 NBA Draft
The 2021 NBA Draft saw the best young prospects led by Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley make the jump to the big league and land at their respective destinations. However, a handful of talents also slipped through the cracks and surprisingly fell off the board on Thursday night.
Out of all the teams, the Detroit Pistons may have had the most impressive haul as they took the No. 1 overall pick in Cunningham along with two overlooked prospects that made it to this list. Ultimately, these young players are sure to carry a chip on their shoulders as they try to prove their worth and make an impact on their teams next season.
Here are the top five steals of the recently-concluded draft proceedings.
2021 NBA Draft Steals
5. Isaiah Livers
Michigan product Isaiah Livers may not be as well-known as his peers on this list but he definitely showed his potential to be a good NBA player during his four-year tenure with the Wolverines. Last season, he averaged career-best numbers of 13.1 points on 43.1% shooting to go with 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 23 appearances.
Despite having a good senior year, Livers still fell in the 2021 NBA Draft, as he was nabbed with the 42nd pick by his hometown Pistons. He is definitely a steal as he can knock down shots from the perimeter and has good size to play the forward spot at 6-foot-7. His defensive skills will need some polishing to be effective in the NBA but the Pistons still got a guy who can come off the bench and be a solid rotational player moving forward.
4. Jaden Springer
Tennessee Volunteers guard Jaden Springer is definitely not considered as a finished product as of the moment, especially after only having a one-and-done season in college. In 25 games, he averaged 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists as an irregular starter for the Volunteers in 2020-21.
Those numbers may not be eye-popping but Springer is still a valuable talent, given his ability to defend opposing guards highlighted by his average of 1.4 steals per game last season. Despite having a similar playing style with Tyrese Maxey, the Philadelphia 76ers still took a chance on him with the 28th pick in a bid to add another defensive ace to one of the league’s best defenses today.
Given how the Ben Simmons situation is turning out for the Sixers, Springer may potentially find himself in a good position to contribute right away to the team next season.
3. Luka Garza
Former Iowa standout Luka Garza doesn’t need any introduction as he was previously named the National Player of the Year last season. Throughout his amateur career, Garza has shown his continuous development as he emerged as the main man of the Hawkeyes with averages of 24.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in 2020-21.
Despite earning a ton of accomplishments in college, many teams still chose to pass on the 22-year-old until he was selected by the Pistons with the 52nd pick. Though his ability to defend pick-and-rolls remains to be in question, Garza can definitely score in bunches and help any team stretch the floor on the offensive end.
Hopefully, him dropping 25 to 30 pounds prior to the 2021 NBA Draft will help him as he tries to prove to many that he is capable of translating his game to the next level.
2. Moses Moody
The Golden State Warriors hit the lucky strike on Thursday night as they scored not one but two talented prospects with their lottery picks. In his lone season with the Arkansas Razorbacks, Moses Moody showed out with 16.8 points on 42.7% shooting from the field to go with 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 32 appearances.
Heading to the 2021 NBA Draft, he was already projected to be a lottery pick but no one expected him to fall at No. 14 where he was grabbed by Bob Myers and company. With his 7-foot-1 wingspan, Moody can definitely help a Warriors side that is in dire need of a 3-and-D weapon that can contribute on both ends of the floor.
It remains to be seen if his offensive game can be effective in the pros but if it does, then Golden State will surely have a player that can be a huge part of their future moving forward.
1. Sharife Cooper
Out of all the names on this list, none waited longer than Auburn star Sharife Cooper who had a first-round projection but fell all the way to the second round of the draft. In 12 games, the New Jersey native balled out as he averaged 20.2 points, 8.1 assists, and 4.3 rebounds for the Tigers last season.
His numbers definitely showed his level of talent but many still questioned his ability to compete at the next level, given his small size at 6-foot-1. Coincidentally, those remarks were also previously thrown at Trae Young who is now his teammate after the Atlanta Hawks drafted him with the 48th pick.
If the team can successfully mold him to be an effective playmaker like Young in the years to come then it is safe to say that they had the biggest steal of the 2021 NBA Draft in Cooper.