2017 NBA Draft Preview: Who are the sleepers that could go undrafted?
Over the course of the last three weeks, we’ve been churning out NBA Draft Prospect Profiles of the best players in this loaded draft for the fellas at Pro Basketball Talk.
You can find them here:
- Is Markelle Fultz really worth the No. 1 pick?
- Will Lonzo Ball justify LaVar Ball’s hype? Does he fit on the Lakers?
- Is Jayson Tatum the next Carmelo Anthony?
- Is Josh Jackson a better prospect than Lonzo Ball?
- Will De’Aaron Fox ever shoot well enough to be a star?
- Malik Monk thrived at Kentucky, but does he have NBA star potential?
Today, we’ll be going through some of the draft’s sleepers, players that will be picked in the second round or go undrafted that should be able to carve out an NBA career.
Cameron Oliver, Nevada: Who is the next Draymond Green?
That’s what every NBA team is looking for, right? He’s the glue that holds Golden State’s small-ball assault on the league together. A 6-foot-6 forward that is as versatile offensively as he is on the defensive end of the floor. A play maker that can hit threes. A switchable defender that can protect the rim. A junkyard dog that is as tough and competitive as anyone in professional sports.
Let’s get this out of the way: There isn’t another Draymond Green coming. The combination of skills, physical tools and mentality that he has is as unique and as special as those possessed by the likes of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook.
But that won’t stop teams from trying to find a guy that can fit that mold, and there may not be a better fit this year than Cameron Oliver. His physical tools are elite -- he’s 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, a 40" vertical and a chiseled, 240-pound frame. He’s also one of those guys that can protect the rim on one end of the floor while spacing the court on the other end; he blocked 2.6 shots per game while shooting 38 percent from three on just under five threes per game. On paper, that’s great.
So why is he looking at potentially being a late-second round pick?
For starters, his motor is not all that great. He had a habit of coasting through games in the Mountain West, and the fact that he still managed to average 16 points and 8.7 boards should give you an idea of his talent. He’s also a guy with some question marks about his basketball IQ. People haven’t forgotten another Mountain West product -- former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett -- that quickly.
The difference here is opportunity cost. There’s virtually no risk in snagging Oliver with a late-second round pick, and the upside is impressive.
Deonte Burton, Iowa State: Like Oliver, Burton is another multi-positional talent and freak athlete that has question marks about things that don’t involve basketball.
Let’s start with the good: Burton was, more or less, Iowa State’s Draymond Green. Playing on a team that barely had a big man to speak of, the 6-foot-5 Burton spent much of his senior season playing the five. He wasn’t bad, either, as he has a 7-foot wingspan at 6-foot-5, he’s a strong (albeit probably overweight) 265 pounds and he can protect the rim, blocking nearly two shots per 40 minutes. He runs hot and cold, but he’s a career 41 percent three-point shooter that put together some absolutely mesmerizing offensive performances this season.
There’s more: Burton was strong enough to hold his own against Caleb Swanigan in the post against Purdue in the NCAA tournament and is quick and athletic enough to switch out onto guards in pick-and-rolls ... when he’s engaged. He’s a capable passer as well, and the fact that he’s left-handed certainly doesn’t hurt.
Now to the bad: Burton is not always engaged. His effort defensively and on the glass runs hot and cold, just like his jump shot. Remaining in shape has been a constant issue -- he showed up to Portsmouth at 266 pounds! -- and saying there are concerns about his unprofessional approach is probably the most diplomatic way to phrase it.
The issue isn’t Burton’s talent or his fit in the modern NBA. The issue is Burton himself. The potential is certainly there.
Davon Reed, Miami: Reed is a 6-foot-6 wing with a 7-foot wingspan that shot nearly 40 percent from three as a senior -- and 37 percent for his college career -- while making the ACC all-defensive team. If that doesn’t scream 3-and-D potential, I don’t know what does. There is some concern about his ability to make contested jumpers and what he will be able to do off the dribble offensively -- he has quick feet but he lacks explosiveness and burst -- but his frame suggests he’ll be able to handle the physicality of the next level.
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina: Thornwell capped a terrific senior season with a sensational NCAA tournament run. There’s not doubting what he can be as a defender at the next level given his size (6-foot-5, 215 pounds), his length (6-foot-10 wingspan) and who he played for (Frank Martin). Thornwell also showed off the ability to make threes consistently as well as pass the ball. He’s similar to Villanova’s Josh Hart, and while he has a bit more promise as a defender he does not project as well offensively.
Frank Mason III, Kansas; Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga; and Monte’ Morris, Iowa State: All three of these guys are cut from the same cloth: Smart, veteran and talented point guards that spent four years in college while putting together All-American seasons. Mason was the 2017 National Player of the Year. Williams-Goss was a First-Team All-American and led Gonzaga to the national title game. Morris spent three years in the conversation for All-American teams while posting inhuman assist-to-turnover ratios.
Like T.J. McConnell and Fred VanVleet before them, these three are good enough to carve out a role as a backup point guard on someone’s roster.
Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt: Rim protection and floor-spacing. The most valuable combination of skills in the modern NBA. Luke Kornet shot 32.1 percent from three as a senior -- that number was over 40 percent as a sophomore -- and blocked 2.0 shots per game as a senior -- a number that was down from 3.0 as a junior. That’s what will get NBA teams interested in him. The downside? He’s a slow-footed 7-footer that isn’t all that tough, that doesn’t rebound all that well and that is not all that explosive at the rim. There’s a reason he may go undrafted.
Jake Wiley, Eastern Washington: Wiley is an interesting prospect simply because his back story is so fascinating. He was a no-name recruit that played a year at Montana before quitting basketball, trying track and football, transferring to an NAIA program and, eventually, winding up dominating the Big Sky for Eastern Washington. He’s a physical specimen that blocks shots, rebounds, competes and can defend multiple positions, but he’s not a floor-spacer and is just 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds having never played above the mid-major level. Kenneth Faried made it work. Can Wiley do the same?
Rodney Pryor, Georgetown: Pryor is built in the mold of a 3-and-D wing. He’s 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and he shot 41.2 percent from three as a senior at Georgetown. He also turns 25 years old in October, meaning that he probably already is what he is going to be as a player. Is that good enough to play in the NBA? I have little doubt that Pryor will get a shot somewhere along the line to prove that it is.
V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame: Beachem is another guy whose NBA potential centers on his ability to be a 3-and-D role player. Standing 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and some hops in space, Beachem shot just under 40 percent from three during his Notre Dame career. That said, he’s not known as a great defender, he needs to add some strength to his 200 pound frame to handle the rigors of the NBA and a relatively disappointing senior season has soured some scouts on him. But the tools, they are there.