In the NBA Draft, much of the attention is focused on the projected top picks. Many of the league’s current stars, including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Chris Paul were drafted in the top five of the draft. Indeed, teams are most likely to find superstars at the very top of each draft class, and many fans are attracted to the much-hyped top prospects, many of whom have been in the public eye since their high school days.
However, many valuable players, including Klay Thompson (11th overall), Kawhi Leonard (15th), Jimmy Butler (30th), Marc Gasol (48th) and Manu Ginobili (57th) have been selected outside the top ten. Because most late picks are not expected to provide significant contributions to their teams, a franchise that is able to add an impact player later in the draft gains a significant advantage by acquiring a quality young player at a low salary.
Thus, the NBA Draft is not only for the fans of teams with picks in the top ten. Every team could significantly improve its future by making the right pick tonight, so here are some of the prospects to watch outside the first few picks.
The College Stars
Every year, there are a few players who dominated the college ranks but are met with skepticism in the NBA. This may be because of their size, body type, athleticism or lack of shooting ability, but in general, teams tend to shy away from players who do not fit the prototype for an NBA star. Here are some of the players who fall into this category this year.
Frank Kaminsky, 7’0” PF/C, Wisconsin
Kaminsky gained national fame by dominating the college ranks in his final two seasons. At 7-feet tall, his combination of size, skill, and outside shooting proved deadly to even the best collegiate defenses. However, Kaminsky’s slight frame leads some pundits to doubt his ability to play in the paint in the NBA both on offense and defense. He is expected to go somewhere in the early-to-mid first round.
Tyus Jones, 6’1” PG, Duke
One of the stars of this year’s NCAA Tournament, Jones is known for his clutch shooting ability late in games. He is a polished point guard who makes good decisions, can shoot the three-pointer and has a good handle. However, his draft stock is held back by his relatively ordinary size and athleticism. At 6-foot-1, he has average size for an NBA point guard, and is not explosively quick. Still, Jones proved himself to be a winning player as a freshman, and is expected to be selected in the mid-to-late first round.
Montrezl Harrell, 6’8” PF, Louisville
The former Louisville Cardinal was a brute force in college, using his size, power and strength to dominate opposing frontcourts. However, Harrell is a bit undersized for an interior player in the NBA, and although he has worked on it his outside shot is not up to par as of now. He will have to make significant adjustments in order to survive in the NBA, but for now his strength and determination will be enough for him to be selected in the latter half of the first round.
The Small-Conference Prospects
Each year, there are a few prospects from lesser-known conferences that display enough talent and production to be selected in the draft. However, teams often question the level of competition that these players have faced, and thus their draft stock can often be volatile.
Cameron Payne, 6’2” PG, Murray State
Payne dominated the Ohio Valley Conference, scoring 20.3 points and handing out 6.0 assists per game. He blends scoring and passing very well, and also made 2.5 three-pointers per game last season. It is unlikely that he will be able to have the same amount of success in the NBA, but he has reportedly impressed teams enough that he is expected to go in the second half of the lottery selections (the first 14 picks in the draft).
RJ Hunter, 6’6” SG, Georgia State
Hunter made arguably the most famous shot of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, a long three-pointer to give 14th seed Georgia State an upset win over 3rd seeded Baylor. His long-range shooting ability is his calling card, and at 6-foot-6 he has plenty of height to release his shot. However, he will need to prove himself against higher-quality competition if he wants to have a successful NBA career.
Tyler Harvey, 6’4” SG, Eastern Washington
As we know, the former Georgetown adversary is a sharpshooter from three-point range and has been compared to fellow small-conference prospect Stephen Curry. However, Harvey’s ball-handling and passing abilities are nowhere near Curry’s skills at the same point in their careers, and the comparison is unfair to Harvey. Still, three-point shooting is always in demand, and thus Harvey has a chance to be selected in the second round.
The Pure Athletes
These players lack some of the skills that are normally associated with NBA success, but they are such overpowering athletes that they will still be drafted based on potential.
Kelly Oubre, 6’7” SF, Kansas
Formerly a highly-touted recruit, Oubre’s physical profile fits the NBA prototype. At 6-foot-7 with long arms and above-average athleticism, it’s easy to look at him and envision an NBA star five years down the road. However, his production did not always match his physical ability during his one season at Kansas. Still, Oubre is talented enough to be selected somewhere in the middle of the first round.
Trey Lyles, 6’10” PF, Kentucky
Unlike fellow Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns, Lyles is a divisive prospect. His size and athleticism are ideal for an NBA forward, but he is not a perfect prospect. His outside shot is still developing, and he isn’t quite strong enough to push around NBA big men. Currently projected to go in the middle of the first round, Lyles is an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on.
Terry Rozier, 6’1” PG, Louisville
Simply put, Rozier is one of the fastest players in the draft. As a result, he is an absolute terror when he attacks the rim in transition. However, his half-court game has a long way to go. His shot selection is often questionable and he doesn’t shoot the three-pointer nearly as well as he thinks he does, at least based on his percentage (he made only 30.6 percent of his 157 attempts this year). Still, athleticism is a good place to start, and Rozier has enough of it to be drafted in the back of the first round or the beginning of the second round.
Tyler Park is a rising sophomore in the College. He is the current sports editor for The Hoya.
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