There are levels to this.
How exactly a team navigates those levels is crucial to its draft. Overreaching isn’t a good method of navigation. Picking up a falling talent or snagging a potential sleeper pick is a good way to navigate the draft. By sleepers, I really mean guys flying under the radar who were picked in later rounds. Basically, late steals. You’ll forgive me, I hope.
Let’s take a look at some of the top steals, reaches and sleepers from the draft.
It’s pretty clear who, in my mind, are the biggest steals of the draft. But since steals—which rely on a player being selected later than his or her predicted draft slot—are subjective, I’ll try and offer some quantitative metric as well. I’ll compare where each player was drafted to the average pick I had them at in my mock drafts (mocks 2-5), listed beside the actual draft selection in parentheses. While my mocks obviously were far from perfect, they do provide a solid estimation of where popular and team opinion generally pegged players.
BearDaBeast, T-Wolves Gaming
Drafted: 11 (5.5)
The T-Wolves scored a major steal at No. 11. Drafting outside of the lottery, they were hoping for Kina (nope) or Bear to fall to them, and thanks to the Bucks’ selection of Plondo at 6 and the Magic’s commitment to Reid at 9, the Wolves got their guy. This isn’t the most precipitous fall, but it played such an important role in determining the first round, and was such a coup for the T-Wolves, that it more than deserves to be here.
Breadwinner, 76ers GC
Drafted: 17 (7.25)
The 76ers could not be happier to see Breadwinner fall all the way to them at 19. Last year’s semifinalists were even in the market for a lock, too. Breadwinner was arguably a top-10 talent and slid in part due to the Plondo and Bully madness. Despite having only two picks in the draft, the 76ers are thrilled with what they did, in large part due to swiping Bread at the end of the first round.
No Autographs, CLTX Gaming
Drafted: 28 (11)
I had No Autographs going to the Celtics for a while, but in the first round. Consequently, the team was ecstatic to see him fall to their second-round pick. While he’s more a fit pick at 8 than a must-grab eighth-overall talent, any guy worth taking that high should be worth snapping up in the second round. To see him available for the Celtics at 28 after being passed up at 8 is remarkable. Luck of the Irish, or something.
Shuttles, Nets GC
Drafted: 31 (23)
Shuttles’ draft stock rose as the draft approached, and most expected him to go late first round or early second round. There were even indications—fairly unfounded, it seems—that the Celtics were prepared to take him at 8. Well, that didn’t happen, and so the Nets got away with highway robbery at 31. He fits so well with the team both on and off the court that the Nets were more than happy to take him with their late second-round pick.
Strainer, Cavs Legion GC
Strainer probably could have gone in the second round, but instead slid to the Cavs in the late third round. I think the efficiency and scoring that Strainer provides will fit in perfectly in the Cavs’ new-look offense. The team really needed backcourt scoring, and getting a legitimate, multi-purpose threat in the third round could supply the Cavs with an extra burst of danger come season two.
JMoney, Heat Check Gaming
Drafted: 52 (16.25)
Look at that discrepancy! The Heat landed a first-round caliber player at the end of the third round. That’s absolutely remarkable. The Heat went into the draft looking for a point guard, and they found one of the best ones in the draft with the 52nd pick. Teams may have been worried about JMoney’s attitude, but winning cures a lot of things and the Heat are a proven team with strong player and coach leadership—strong enough to make stopping JMoney’s slide a no-brainer.
Grant Monster, Mavs Gaming
This was an absolutely phenomenal pick. Grant proved himself as a lethal shooter for Blazer5 Gaming in season one. Per 2K Analytics, among players who took two or more 3-pointers per game, Grant ranked 1st in EFG% (84.3%) and 3P% (65.2%). He’s also shown his ability in the frontcourt over the offseason, and his quiet demeanour is an extra bonus for a Mavs team that needs to prioritize chemistry more than most teams.
TuckerLocksUp, Magic Gaming
Orlando worked some magic with its final pick last year (KingCamRoyalty), and they may have set themselves up to go two-for-two by landing Tucker in the fourth. Let me repeat that—in the fourth! A guy who would have been protected after season one on some teams, Tucker heads to Orlando poised to add experience and tough defense to a Magic team that needs more of that in the frontcourt.
Plondo, Bucks Gaming
Drafted: 6 (18.6)
This is less about the magnitude of the reach than the placement of it. While Plondo’s discrepancy isn’t so large, a lot of that hinges on the fact that I slotted him to the Raptors twice out of positional necessity. I truly think the Bucks could have gotten him at 26 and taken another great player at 6, assuming that Slay was locked into his hometown team at 17. Chemistry certainly matters.
Wavy, Nets GC
Drafted: 12 (NR)
Sometimes you roll with your gut and stay confident the doubters will be proved wrong come game time. That’s what OGKINGCURT and the Nets are doing with this pick, as—with Bear taken one pick ahead—the Nets went after the highest available point guard on their board. Could they have gotten Wavy in a later round? Without seeing the other 20 draft boards, it’s hard to know. Shuttles in the second and Lavish is a nice counter-balance, though.
Lord Beezus, Pacers Gaming
Drafted: 24 (NR)
I think Lord Beezus is a terrific player, both from when I’ve seen him play and from his successes in NBA 2K as a whole. However, the Pacers, in real need of a point guard, held back until the third round, instead choosing to take Lord Beezus in the second round. While he could fit in well, I think he would have been available later on. The second round wasn’t particularly point-guard heavy, and so there were other big men or frontcourt players on offer; the Pacers, hoping to get another PF in the fourth round, will have to hope that the pick arrangement works out in their favor.
Kev, Lakers Gaming
Drafted: 33 (NR)
The Lakers love Kev. There’s reason to. He’s a very good player, and he’s in the league for a reason. But one has to consider that Kev—who drew minimal predraft attention and wasn’t a hotbed of chatter around the league—might have been available in the third round, with the Lakers potentially going for a more certain secondary ballhandler in the second and then grabbing a reserve forward in the fourth. But the Lakers are confident, and will correctly just use this as bulletin board material.
MrUserPick, Wizards District Gaming
MrUserPick, despite going in the second round, is a terrific pick. He had some of the best analytics and traditional numbers among combine power forwards, and will play a really important part in the Wizards offense. He’s a sleeper not in the draft position sense but due to the conventional sleeper method, namely that he hasn’t gotten a lot of attention and is someone who will turn heads when the real season comes along.
Gliz2K, Utah Jazz Gaming
The Jazz snagged Gliz in the early third round. The man can flat out shooter, and could easily have been a second-round pick had things shaken out differently earlier in the draft. With Compete and Ria leading the way, the Jazz know they need complementary players, and Gliz could wind up being one of the best. The Jazz were at their best last year when Smoove was shooting at a league-best clip, and if Gliz replicates that the team could return to those playoff-caliber heights.
Man_in_a_car, Pacers Gaming
This could wind up being a really good pick for the Pacers. While he may not have been their initial fourth-round target, Man_in_a_car is a good player who could provide a spark for the Pacers off the bench with his off-the-bounce talent on offense. The team knows that Matty’s play at point guard will go a long way toward determining their season. But the Pacers know how to develop shooting guards—see Swizurk—and with a defensive-minded lineup they may be forced to find as much backcourt creativity as possible.
oCassius, 76ers GC
Let’s go with a deep sleeper here. The 76ers are another team who found something special in their final selection last year, and they really like a similar player in oCassius this year. With the 76ers lineup likely to be more malleable than last year, when sixth man TFreshyy never took the court, this could wind up being a very important pick for a team with championship aspirations. If nothing else, Cassius has ZDS from whom to get some tips about sticking as a late pick in the league.