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Breaking down the top-5 steals in the 2023 NBA Draft

Breaking down the top-5 steals in the 2023 NBA Draft

The 2023 NBA Draft produced one of the greatest rookie seasons of all-time. Victor Wembanyama, the most highly anticipated phenom since LeBron James, was selected No. 1 pick overall by the San Antonio Spurs and he hasn’t disappointed. Through 52 games this season, Wemby is averaging 20.7 points, 10.3 r,ebounds and an astounding 3.4 blocks.

While he’s impressed and lived up to the hype thus far, it's not a huge surprise that he's playing at such a high level. Several players who slipped on draft night have also exceeded expectations. Let's examine the top five steals of the 2023 NBA Draft thus far.

5. Jordan Hawkins | New Orleans Pelicans

Jordan Hawkins was the No. 14 overall pick in the draft and he’s been one of the most impressive players drafted in the lottery thus far. Shooting an efficient 37% from beyond the arc on 5.1 attempts per game, Hawkins has already established himself as a volume shooter in year one. He’s played 55 games this season and made 10 starts for the Pelicans. In those 10 starts, Hawkins averaged 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

His best performance of the season came against the Denver Nuggets when he had 30 points on 7-of-14 from three. He’s shown flashes of being an elite shooter and overall offensive player, but consistency is the only thing holding him back. With that said, he’s only averaging 19.2 minutes this season and has still averaged nearly 10 points per game. New Orleans did a fantastic job snagging him at No. 14.

4. Marcus Sasser | Detroit Pistons

Marcus Sasser hasn’t been as flashy as other players on this list, but he’s been incredibly efficient. Selected with the No. 25 overall pick, Sasser has gone above and beyond for Detroit. Playing 54 games, Sasser has yet to start but still has eight games scoring 17 or more points. He’s hitting roughly 40% of his three-pointers while attempting over six per game. That efficiency is ridiculous for any rookie, much less a 25th overall pick.

Sasser is on a team with a lot of young players who are still developing, including Ausar Thompson, the No. 5 overall pick of the draft. Thompson is averaging just one more point than Sasser despite playing nine more minutes per game. Perhaps most impressive is that Sasser is playing just 16.2 minutes per game, yet his production has been off the charts.

3. Jaime Jaquez Jr. | Miami Heat

To much surprise, No. 18 overall pick Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been one of the standout rookies this season. While his overall stats may not jump off the page, he has taken over games in ways that few rookies manage to do. Over a 26-game stretch from November 20 to January 15, Jaquez averaged 16.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Unfortunately, he suffered a groin injury and missed five games.

It took him a while to get back into rhythm, but he has since recorded two 25+ point performances. Jaquez could be a game-changer in the playoffs, which can’t be said about most rookies. Many view him as the steal of the draft, but there are a couple guys drafted later who have also impressed.

2. Cam Whitmore | Houston Rockets

Though Whitmore missed the majority of the first 30 games, he has been on a tear in 2024. Over his last 18 games, he’s averaged over 15 points in just 20 minutes a contest. His production has been unbelievable when he's played, as he’s averaging 24.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per 36 minutes. Whitmore was projected to be an early-to-mid lottery pick, and the Rockets drafted him at No. 20 overall. That’s the definition of a steal, especially since he's exceeding expectations. Houston added to an already stacked young coure, and their future is very bright.

1. GG Jackson II | Memphis Grizzlies

GG Jackson II has quickly taken the NBA by storm, averaging 16.1 points over his last 14 games. Over that stretch, he has made two starts and averaged 24 points, 6.5 rebounds, a steal and a block. He has been a hidden gem on an abysmal Memphis Grizzlies team, giving them something to be excited about each night. He recently had a 30-point performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 37 minutes of action. He also had 26 points and 4 rebounds against the Charlotte Hornets.

He’s shown some unbelievable flashes, especially considering he's only 19 years old and was drafted at No. 45 overall -- making him the only second-round pick on this list. As of late he’s been putting up elite numbers for a rookie and he has a ton of long-term potential given his age.

HONORABLE MENTION

Craig Porter Jr. | Cleveland Cavaliers 

Craig Porter Jr. has produced a lot in little time. After going undrafted, he stepped up when Cleveland's backcourt was decimated by injuries. In five games as a starter, he averaged 11.4 points, 7.4 assists, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals. Porter’s season-high came in a victory against the defending champion Denver Nuggets as he scored 21 points in just 25 minutes. Both honorable mentions have obliterated expectations, playing a key role despite being undrafted free agents. 

Ricky Council IV | Philadelphia 76ers

Ricky Council IV has played just 21 games this season, but he’s made his mark in Philadelphia. When he plays over 10 minutes, Council has averaged nearly 13 points per game. His most impressive performances of the season were a 17-point outing in just 10 minutes against the Golden State Warriors and a 19-point, 10-rebound showing against the Washington Wizards. Considering he was undrafted, he's been a solid find for Philly.

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