When you move outside the Top 10-15 picks, you have look beyond a player’s college production and look for guys who can fit a role at the NBA level. For the most part, guys drafted in the latter stages of the first round and into the second will never be given a chance to dominate the ball and be the primary option on offense. While just about everyone that will be drafted on Thursday was “The Man” in college, few will be given the same chance in the NBA.
That’s the key to finding sleepers once you are out of the lottery - players with the ability to do multiple things, which allows them to impact the game without the ball in their hands. That means guys with the physical tools to be impact defenders or the all-around offensive games to contribute in a variety of roles on offense. With that in mind, here’s a list of ten guys who haven’t gotten much pre-draft publicity but who could have long careers in the NBA.
- Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado
At 6’6 205 with a 6’8 wingspan, Dinwiddie would be the tallest and longest PG in the NBA. Unlike most point guards his size, he is a natural floor general, with the ability to control tempo, run the offense and create easy shots for his teammates. He’s a smart player whose size allows him to play under control - he can see over the top of a help defense and shoot over the top of any defender. As a result, his team can always get a good shot when he is on the floor.
He tore his ACL in January, which means the team that drafts him will have to be patient. However, players with his skill-set - athletic 6’6 PG’s who can stroke 3’s (42% as a junior) - don’t come around very often. He’s a five-tool PG who can do a little bit of everything - pass, score, shoot, rebound and defend - which allows him to help his team in a number of ways. He has a high basketball IQ and he can fit into almost any role on a team at the next level.
- Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
Clarkson is an example of a guy who put himself on the map by transferring and moving up the position spectrum. He had a 20.4 PER as a sophomore and a 20.2 PER as a junior, but there’s a world of difference between putting up those numbers as a SG in Conference USA and as a PG in the SEC. At 6’5 185 with a 6’8 wingspan, Clarkson is just another guy as a SG, but he has a very intriguing combination of size and athleticism at the PG position.
To be sure, he’s more of a converted combo guard than a true floor general. Clarkson is a very aggressive player who can get to the rim at will - he averaged 17 points a game on 44% shooting as a junior. And while he couldn’t be a primary playmaker at the next level, his positive assist-to-turnover ratio indicates he could play a Mario Chalmers role. As a 6’5 PG, he can always get his shot off and it allows him to impact the game as a rebounder and defensive player.
- Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
Brown was asked to be a scorer next to Marcus Smart, but he’s a solid passer in his own right with a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio as a senior and he averaged 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists a game on 48% shooting. At 6’3 185 with a 6’9 wingspan, he is a well-rounded guard with elite athleticism, even by NBA standards. Brown has a 43’ max vertical and could win a dunk contest at any level of basketball - he did in-game 360’s like it was nothing.
Brown can do a little bit of everything - stretch the floor, attack the rim, create shots for his teammates - and his time with Smart has made him comfortable playing without the ball in his hands. He is a consistent shooter (36% from 3 over his college career) who can dribble into a shot from anywhere on the floor. He could thrive in a Patrick Beverley role as a secondary playmaker who hounds opposing PG’s 94 feet, grabs rebounds and spots up off the ball.
- Jordan Adams, UCLA
Adams was the least heralded member of a recruiting class at UCLA that included Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, but he quickly established himself as the most potent offensive player of the bunch. All the guy does is get buckets - he averaged 15 points on 45% shooting as a freshman and 17 points on 48% shooting as a sophomore. He’s a pure shooter with unlimited range and a knack for scoring - he can post up, run off screens and attack the rim.
The big concern about Adams is his lack of elite athletic ability, but his measurements - 6’5 220 with a 6’10 wingspan - have put those concerns to rest for me. He’s a big SG with super long arms and a really high basketball IQ, so he knows how to put himself in the best position to succeed on both ends of the floor, even though he will never be a guy who jumps out of the gym. I like stat-stuffers and he averaged 5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals a game.
- DeAndre Daniels, UConn
At 6’9 195 with a 7’2 wingspan, Daniels was a combo forward in college, but he has the ball-handling and shooting ability to play primarily as a SF, where he will have elite length for the position. The key for Daniels will be adding enough weight to his frame so that he survive on the boards and the defensive end of the floor at the next level. His length should make a big difference, as he was able to rebound and block shots like a much bigger player at UConn.
He averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks a game on 47% shooting this season, but a lot of it came from his role in the UConn offense that featured two PG’s dominating the ball for most of the game. He never developed into much of a passer in college, which puts somewhat of a ceiling on his offensive game, but he has the potential to be a two-way starter at SF who can stretch the floor, put the ball on the floor, clean the glass and be a factor on defense.
- Khem Birch, UNLV
At 6’9 210 with a 7’1 wingspan, Birch doesn’t have ideal tools for the PF position, but he’s an absolute freak athlete who plays bigger than his size. He can regularly play at 11+ feet, which makes it almost impossible to shoot over the top of him. He averaged 4 blocks a game this season - he has the quickness to cover ground in a hurry and serve as the second-line of defense. Birch is a guy who can make an impact as an interior defender right away.
He is never going to be a primary option on the other end of the floor, but he’s turned himself into a credible offensive threat who can step out and hit mid-range jumpers. Birch’s free throw shooting improved in every season and he shot 69% as a junior, an indication that he was developing touch from the perimeter. Since he doesn’t have the bulk to operate as a C, the ability to space the floor is crucial when it comes to projecting him to the next level.
- Cory Jefferson, Baylor
Jefferson never really got the chance to show what he could do at Baylor, where he played behind five future NBA players - Ekpe Udoh, Quincy Acy, Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Isaiah Austin. And like the rest of the Bears big men, his effectiveness was limited by Scott Drew’s love of shot-happy perimeter players and unimaginative schemes. Nevertheless, Jefferson was a stud in his own right, a player who will be better in the NBA than he was in college.
At 6’9 220, Jefferson has NBA measurables as well as elite athleticism that allows him to play much bigger than his size. He’s a powerfully built and he has springs for legs - he can play well above the rim on both sides of the ball. Unlike most super athletic big men, Jefferson has a very polished game, with the ability to step out and knock down a 20-foot jumper as well as a refined series of post moves. He’s old for a prospect at 23, but he’s pretty much a finished product.
- Dwight Powell, Stanford
Powell, like Jefferson, was a talented player who was never in the situation at college to put up the monster stats NBA scouts look for. He shared a frontcourt with two other legitimate prospects - Josh Huestis and Stefan Nastic - and he didn’t play with the type of all-around guards who could get him easy shots. Under Johnny Dawkins, Stanford played a deliberate half-court offense that shared the ball, preventing any one player from racking up big stats.
An excellent athlete at 6’10 240, Powell hits all the check marks of a modern NBA PF. He has the size to hold his own near the basket as well as the skill-set to play out on the perimeter. While he’s not a three-point shooter, Powell is a career 72% free-throw shooter who can knock down mid-range jumpers, hit cutters out of the high post and put the ball on the floor. As a senior, he averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block a game on 46% shooting.
- Mike Moser, Oregon
Two years ago, Moser was seen as a sure-fire first round pick after a dominant sophomore season at UNLV, where he averaged 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block a game on 45% shooting. However, instead of declaring for draft, he returned to school, where he promptly broke his elbow, was forced to play out of position next to Anthony Bennett and saw his stats plummet. He rebounded with a decent senior season at Oregon, but the shine was off the rose.
Moser is 23 and hasn’t improved in two seasons, but he’s still a very interesting prospect with a game custom suited for the modern NBA. At 6’8 230 with a 6’11 wingspan, he’s an athletic stretch 4 who can knock down 3’s (38% on 4 a game as a senior) and guard players bigger than his size. Moser has a lot of Draymond Green and Mike Scott in his game - not only is he an athletic shooter, he can also put the ball on the floor and make plays for others. A real sleeper in this draft.
- Aaric Murray, Texas Southern
The red flags with Murray are a mile long - he’s 24, he played for three college teams and he’s had multiple run-ins with the law. This is a guy who couldn’t last playing for Bobby Huggins, which is really saying something if you’ve followed Huggy Bear’s coaching career. As a result, Murray hasn’t been talked about much and he’s almost certainly not going to be drafted. Nevertheless, his combination of physical tools and overall skill-set should get him a shot.
Murray is 6’11 250 with a 7’3 wingspan. He’s athletic enough to get 2.5 blocks a game and he shoots 74% from the free-throw line. The 21 points and 7 rebounds a game are just the cherry on top - Murray’s skill-set, in and of itself, is incredibly valuable at the next level. He can stand behind bigger centers and serve as a rim protector on defense and he can knock down a perimeter jumper and attack a close-out by putting the ball on the floor and finishing at the rim.