The NBA Draft is almost here, and there's plenty of hype surrounding the likes of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett.
Like every other year, the players drafted in the lottery are expected to make somewhat of an immediate impact to turn things around for the franchise that selects them. Some players take longer to develop than others, and sometimes the early selections just don't pan out the way teams intended them to.
Then there are the players drafted outside the lottery, often overlooked due to age, intangibles or minor flaws in their game. Yet some of the best players in the NBA today were selected outside the lottery, such as likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
Players like Draymond Green were selected in the second round, and he has set himself up for a future Hall of Fame bid. Guys like Fred VanVleet went undrafted, and he just played a crucial role on a championship team, even receiving one vote for Finals MVP.
With all that being said, who are the players that could go under the radar on draft night and make teams pay for passing up on them in the future?
In alphabetical order...
Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia
When you look at Nicolas Claxton, you're looking at the future of the NBA.
Though he stands 6'11", his game isn't defined by dunks and rebounds but instead by his ball handling and the plays he can make on the run. While you wouldn't normally evaluate a player his size by what he can do off movement, Claxton is that different, and being one of the most unique players in the draft could be the reason he's a sleeper.
Some teams aren't going to know what to do with Claxton as he doesn't exactly fit the mold of anything in the league right now and may pass on him because of it. More forward-thinking front offices are going to see the archetype of players in the future.
Wherever he ends up getting drafted, I think Claxton could overplay his position and end up looking near a lottery talent. In addition to his ability to drive the basketball, he's a spectacular defensive player who can thrive as both a primary and help side defender.
For all those reasons, he could be a gem in this draft.
Terence Davis, PG/SG, Ole Miss
Every year there is a player or two that explodes onto the scene due to their game translating better to NBA spacing than it did to the more compact floor of college. This year, I think that man is Terence Davis.
Powerfully built at 6'4" and 205 pounds, he has an extremely sudden first step that makes him a nightmare to guard in space. Using that burst to attack closeouts and get penetration off simple isolations, he could thrive in the NBA surrounded by elite shooters.
Davis is a sleeper because he struggled to shoot earlier in his college career before developing a 37% 3-point stroke as a senior. He also played for an Ole Miss team that didn't have success and operated away from the spotlight.
All in all, Davis has the physical makeup and toolbox of an NBA scoring guard, and I think he's going to surprise people at the next level.
Luguentz Dort, PG, Arizona State
When you see the way Luguentz Dort can create offence individually and hound opposing players defensively, it's hard to see how he could fail in a league predicated on winning individual matchups in space. He's got an NBA body ready to transition into the league and he can play the role of a scorer or a pure lockdown defender on the perimeter.
Dort's stock isn't as high as it should be because of the fact that he wasn't a heralded recruit entering college and he played for an Arizona State team that struggled in a bad conference that plays its games in the Pacific Time Zone after the East Coast goes to bed.
Considering Dort checks a lot of boxes for an NBA guard, he could easily overplay his draft position.
Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue
Carsen Edwards' height as a 6'0" point guard would be the main concern among NBA Draft scouts. His playmaking ability and defence is also often brought into question, and it seems as though he'll end up being selected in the second round.
But one thing is for certain - whichever team drafts Edwards, they're getting a gunner and a prolific scorer.
The Purdue-product is coming off of a historic NCAA Tournament in terms of scoring. He averaged 34.8 points over four games, carrying his team as far as possible before falling to the eventual champion Virginia Cavaliers in the Elite 8. Edwards dropped 42 points twice, shooting an impressive 45.9% from beyond the arc over the course of the tournament. He's lightning quick, has elite handle, fantastic body control and is physical attacking the rim despite being a smaller guard.
He's clutch and embraces the big moment. If he can find a rhythm at the next level, he could be a microwave off the bench for any team that needs instant offence.
Tacko Fall, C, Central Florida
Tacko Fall gained a ton of traction during the NCAA Tournament, standing at 7'7" with an 8'4" wingspan. He's Boban Marjanovic-like in the sense that he can both dunk and contest shots without jumping and often requires extra help in the post due to his sheer massive size. He's a solid rebounder, but could be better for someone with his height and length.
However, Fall is quite the athlete for someone of his stature, has good hands and finishes well around the rim with a decently soft touch.
He'd be tied for the tallest player in NBA history (Gheorghe Muresan), so there's bound to be some team that takes a chance on him due to potential as a rim protector and offensive force in the paint. The hold up would be in today's NBA where teams switch everything, Fall will be targeted in pick-and-rolls early and often. Asking him to step out onto the perimeter and switch onto the likes of Stephen Curry, James Harden or anyone of that sort is a nightmare, so team's would only be able to play him sparingly.
But a player like Marjanovic has found his way as a role player in the league. Why can't Fall?
Bruno Fernando, PF/C, Maryland
With the number of athletic centres projected to go in the first round, Bruno Fernando might find himself slipping into the early second round.
That could be a big mistake for teams that pass on this physical bruiser.
Fernando is a gifted athlete in general, nevermind for a player that's 6'10" and 240 pounds. He's fast and runs the floor extremely well, which matches his leaping ability perfectly as a prime lob target. He has fantastic footwork and great hands, often forcing defenders to double him on the block in college. He imposed his will on defenders when teams didn't double him in the post at the college level, and he was an exceptional passer once those doubles came. He has really nice touch on jump hooks and has shown potential as big that can knock down 12-to-15 footers, though his jumpshot is very much still a work in progress.
He was one of the best defenders in the NCAA last season and his quickness bodes well for this switch-heavy NBA. The hold up on Fernando would be his unpolished offensive game and he's not a great shot blocker despite his 7'0" wingspan.
At age 21, he may not have the upside of some of the younger prospects, but his demeanor and high motor to go with the flashes of offence he's shown at Maryland should be enough to make an impact in the league.
John Konchar, SG, Purdue-Fort Wayne
If you're looking for the next mid-major stud that could go from unknown college prospect to NBA mainstay, then take a look at John Konchar.
Playing for Purdue-Fort Wayne, he was out of the mainstream eye but his lethal offensive game commanded attention and put him on the NBA Draft radar. Offensive versatility is the name of the game for 6'5", 210 pound Konchar. You can put the ball in his hands and let him initiate, and he'll either get to the hoop or use his surgical passing to find a cutter. Or let him play off the ball and let him catch and shoot, where he can demoralize defenses with his 40% career stroke.
NBA scouts will see him as a queen on a chessboard that can move in any direction and fill any role you need him to.
Konchar is a sleeper because he played for the Purdue-Fort Wayne Mastodons and because he isn't a great athlete. While his lack of quick twitch ability may be a concern, I'm banking on his feel for the game and offensive IQ to work at the next level.
Terance Mann, SF, Florida State
NBA teams are starved for quality wings, so why Terance Mann hasn't gotten more attention as one of the most productive forwards in college this season is beyond me.
Playing for Florida State in the best conference in college basketball, Mann cut his teeth battling NBA prospects at Duke, North Carolina and Louisville while making a name for himself as a willing defender and a tough cover on the other end.
Coming in at 6'6" and 205 pounds, he's got a good frame and you don't have to squint to imagine him on an NBA bench. Always a potent scorer around the rim, it was the development of a 39% 3-point stroke as a senior that rounded out his offensive game and makes him a future NBA role player in my opinion.
Mann has gotten slept on because he played four years of college and the NBA's obsession with youth and upside has made college upperclassmen much less desirable. He may not have star upside, but Mann has the toughness and savvy of an everyday NBA player.
Eric Paschall, SF/PF, Villanova
Keep an eye on Eric Paschall as an impact player to be selected in the second round. His age - 22-years old - might cap his potential in the eyes of NBA scouts, but Paschall is a four-year college player who is a proven winner.
It was an interesting road for Paschall, who started his college basketball career as a scorer at Fordham. Once he transferred to Villanova, head coach Jay Wright found his niche as a defensive-minded stopper whose offence became a secondary skill.
Paschall is a freak athlete. His bounce has Dunk Contest-like potential and he's a physical defender with quick feet. He's a disciplined player with an extremely high motor who is willing to do whatever it takes to win - look no further than a National Championship as a leader at Villanova for proof of that. He's explosive and is tough to stop once he gets going downhill, but his offensive game remains unpolished, which is one of the bigger concerns for the next level. He can shoot from the perimeter but struggles to create his own shot without great ball handling skills.
At 6'7", he's undersized as a forward but his athleticism and attitude makes up for that. Whichever team drafts Paschall will get a very hard worker who will battle to earn his place in this league.
Grant Williams, SF/PF, Tennessee
As one of the best players in college basketball this year, it's a shock Grant Williams doesn't have more hype. People sleep on him as an undersized post player without great athleticism or a silky jump shot release but when you look at how productive he was against high-level competition, it's surprising why people might think there's not a place for him in the NBA.
Strong as an ox at 6'7" and 240 pounds, he'll be able to bang inside with NBA big men while also having deceptively quick feet to handle quicker matchups. Offensive instincts are tough to teach but Williams' innate ability to read the floor allows him to both rack up points by himself and put his teammates in positions to score with precision passing.
In a league where there are a growing number of undersized big men who can battle defensively and work within an offense, there is no reason why Williams shouldn't have a long career.
Dylan Windler, SG, Belmont
Dylan Windler might just be the best shooter in this draft class and that, along with his 6'7" size, has him shooting up mock draft boards everywhere.
He's coming off of an impressive senior season where he buried 100 3-pointers on 42.9% shooting on over seven attempts per game. Windler has a quick, lefty release, can shoot in a variety of ways - off the dribble, spotting up and coming off of screens - and his range shows the NBA 3-point line won't be a difference maker.
In addition to his sharpshooting, Windler is a surprisingly good rebounder. Though he spends the majority of his time around the perimeter, Windler still found a way to average 10.8 rebounds per game his senior year.
He is a low-risk pick for NBA teams selecting later in the first round and has lottery talent as a shooter. Should he have been a blue blood at a school like Duke, UNC or Kansas, I truly believe you'd see this marksmen as a lottery pick across every mock draft board.
If your favourite team is in need of a pure shooter, you should hope you hear Windler's name called on draft night.
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