NBA Draft: Top 30 draft steals in league history

Adam Silver, 2019 NBA Draft. Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Adam Silver, 2019 NBA Draft. Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images /
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Bill Laimbeer, Detroit Pistons, NBA Draft steals
Bill Laimbeer, Detroit Pistons, NBA Draft steals (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Scouting Report. 65th pick: 1979. 156. Pick Analysis. Center. Bill Laimbeer. 17. player

Best NBA Draft steals of all time: Bill Laimbeer, Cleveland Cavaliers

Sometimes being a draft steal doesn’t mean the player has to have a long list of accolades.

Sometimes, getting a quality starter who has a long career and helps build the culture of a team is more important than All-Star appearances or All-NBA team selections.

For Bill Laimbeer, this is the case.

The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Laimbeer with the 65th pick (there were 10 — yes, 10 — rounds in the 1979 NBA Draft), but did not have him on roster until a year later due to Laimbeer’s decision to play a season overseas in Italy.

After just a year and a half with the Cavaliers, Laimbeer was traded to the Detroit Pistons, where he would become one of the infamous “Bad Boys” and complete his playing career.

While Laimbeer made four NBA All-Star Game appearances, his individual achievements aren’t what make him a draft steal.

In his 13 seasons with the Pistons, Laimbeer became known for his incredibly physical — and sometimes reckless — play. As a center, he provided the last line of defense for Detroit and was not a stranger to aggressively fouling players at the rim in order to send a message.

Laimbeer also posed a unique offensive threat during his career as a big man who could score both in the paint and out at the 3-point line — a skill that was incredibly rare for that era of the NBA.

His unique blend of offensive ability, a knack for rebounding and an itch for incredibly physical defense helped propel the Pistons to back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990.

While Bill Laimbeer’s name will never appear in a “greatest of all-time” debate and you won’t see him in much, if any, record books, his long-standing career and effectiveness as a role player make him a steal at the 65th pick back in 1979.