What do Steve Nash, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Nate Archibald, Tony Parker, Kobe Bryant, Alex English, Dirk Nowitzki, Dennis Rodman and Manu Ginobili have in common?
They’re not only some of the NBA's best players of all-time, but they're also some of the biggest steals in NBA Draft history.
After every draft, the immediate question becomes who has the potential to become a star. Sometimes the top picks simply don't pan out to be anything special. Sometimes they do.
The 2017 Draft was headlined by Markelle Fultz going first overall to the Philadelphia 76ers, Lonzo Ball going second to the Los Angeles Lakers and Jayson Tatum going third to the Boston Celtics.
But, as already seen, there were a number of other rookies who are currently having a major impact for their respective clubs. Here are five of them that have an opportunity to be major steals given where they were selected in the draft.
Kyle Kuzma (26th overall, Los Angeles Lakers)
Kuzma entered the preseason as a relatively-unknown player out of the University of Utah. After dominating the Summer League and the preseason, Kuzma is currently averaging 16.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest for the Lakers. He trails just Ben Simmons among NBA rookies in terms of points per game and has established himself as a viable building block for Los Angeles moving towards the future.
If Simmons didn’t exist, Kuzma might be the frontrunner for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award at the current moment.
Lauri Markkanen (7th overall, Chicago Bulls via Minnesota Timberwolves)
After watching Markkanen step on an NBA court, it became instantly obvious why he has drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki and Kristaps Porzingis. As a seven-footer with an impeccable shooting touch from the perimeter, the former University of Arizona standout is averaging 14.6 points per contest for the Bulls and has also surprisingly averages the most three-pointers made per contest (2.4) of all rookies.
Since Chicago is in the midst of a rebuild, their future will seemingly center around Markkanen, who has a sky-high potential in the current NBA landscape of frontcourt players who can also extend their offensive game beyond the three-point line.
Donovan Mitchell (13th overall, Utah Jazz via Denver Nuggets)
Based on an injury to Joe Johnson and the general inefficiency of newly-signed point guard Ricky Rubio, Jazz coach Quinn Snyder has asked a lot out of Mitchell. The former University of Louisville star is third among NBA rookies in scoring at 14.8 points per game and has also been asked to take a high volume of shots. His 14.4 field goal attempts per contest ranks third behind Simmons and Dennis Smith Jr., who is the next name on this list.
Mitchell will continue to be counted on to supply offense on a defensive-minded club. After Gordon Hayward’s departure this summer, Utah is in need of a go-to scorer and Mitchell is the closest thing they have to that. He currently ranks second on his team in scoring behind Rodney Hood.
Dennis Smith Jr. (9th overall, Dallas Mavericks)
There is one major reason why Smith has drawn comparisons to Russell Westbrook dating back to his college days at North Carolina State: he’s incredibly athletic. Averaging 14.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 28.6 minutes per game for the Mavericks, Smith is far from a polished product on either end of the court, but he has shown the explosiveness that originally had scouts salivating over him.
What makes Smith’s development so intriguing is that the New York Knicks passed on him at the No. 8 spot to grab Frank Ntilikina, a virtually-unknown international point guard. Therefore, the two will be compared to each other for the entirety of their careers. As of now, Smith seems to be ahead of his counterpart from a development standpoint and is the point guard of the future in Dallas.
John Collins (19th overall, Atlanta Hawks)
In just 22.9 minutes per game, Collins has averaged 11.5 points and 7.1 rebounds, including five double-doubles so far. Despite his limited minutes, Collins has proven to be a dynamic big man with double-double upside every single night. His minutes were limited at Wake Forest as well and he put up outstanding numbers, so he seems to be comfortable with holding on to a low-minute, high-usage type of role.
He has recently been moved into the starting five for the Hawks, who are looking to rebuild towards the future. If Dennis Schroder leaves in the near future, there’s a solid chance that Collins becomes the face of the franchise.