With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching, teams have been ramping up their workouts, not only trying to find who they will pick in the first round, but trying to find those under the radar players to take in the second round.
The deadline for international prospects to pull out came earlier in the week, and a number of them took advantage of that deadline to do so. Obviously collegians who want to decide to enter early get the short end of the stick given how early their withdrawal deadline is, but that is another post. With the number of international guys withdrawing, these collegains should benefit:
(Note: These are presented in no certain order, and include five under-the-radar prospects from the collection of mid-major conferences, in addition to the power conferences.)
1. Rakeem Christmas – Syracuse
Christmas had a great week at the combine, especially playing well in the 5 on 5 games. He’s got the size to be a good rim protector and rebounder in the NBA, and though there are concerns as to whether he can finish over length, his performance in the combine probably helped ease some of those.
2. Olivier Hanlan – Boston College
Hanlan has been one of the best scorers in college basketball, and has gotten a lot better at playing on the ball over the course of his career. He shot 36 percent on 3-pointers in his career, and at 6-4 he should be able to back up both the 1 and 2 positions.
3. Pat Connaughton – Notre Dame
Connaughton has shown the ability to both make shots and get to the rim, and has shown off really good athleticism both at the combine and his whole NBA career. He rebounds well for a guard, and likely will be able to defend at the NBA level.
4. JP Tokoto – North Carolina
Tokoto will probably be a mid second rounder, but if a team thinks he can shoot then I can see how he could get up into the top of the second or even bottom of the first round. He’s athletic, he runs the floor, and he defends. He shot under 27 percent from 3 in his career, however.
5. Montrezl Harrell – Louisville
Harrell will be a first rounder, so he probably isn’t much of a sleeper, but while I’m not high on his potential to be a star in the NBA, I think he’s guaranteed to be a contributor in the league. He rebounds like a maniac, is crazy competitive, and tries to dunk anything in the vicinity of the rim. The comparisons to Kenneth Faried are easy to see, and Harrell should have a good career as at worst a good backup.
1. Aaron White – Iowa
White offers a potential mismatch on the perimeter as a big man (6-9) who can handle the ball. He runs the floor well and should be able to score in transition and if he can develop a 3-point shot, White could develop into a key player off the bench.
2. DJ Newbill – Penn State
Newbill is already 23, but at 6-4 he’s shown good rebounding ability for a guard. He’s been an inefficient scorer against NBA talent, but he can knock down an open shot and can potentially back up both the 1 and 2.
3. Gabe Olaseni – Iowa
Olaseni is already 23, but as a native of England who started playing basketball at 14, he has a lot of room to grow left. Olaseni has good size, rebounds and protects the rim, and if he shows any type of offensive game could work out as a bit of a steal in the late second round.
4. Branden Dawson – Michigan State
With Draymond Green excelling for the Warriors, Dawson is naturally looked at as the next guy who could go from undersized Michigan State Spartan to NBA contributor. Dawson (probably) isn’t Green, but he has a 6-11 wingspan and was an efficient scorer inside the arc. His chances of contributing to an NBA team are limited unless he develops a 3-pointer: Dawson did not make one in his entire college career.
5. Shannon Scott – Ohio State
Scott was one of the best assist men and one of the best perimeter defenders in college basketball during his entire Ohio State career, which gives him a shot at finding a role as a backup point guard.
1. Cliff Alexander – Kansas
Alexander struggled in his lone season in Lawrence, but had to deal with nagging injuries as well as an NCAA investigation. Although he’s short for his position, his long wingspan (7-3.5) will give him a chance. He was a decent shotblocker and one of the better per minute rebounders in the country for the Jayhawks, so a rim protecting rebounder off the bench could be in his future. If he continues to develop his jumper and adds a post move, his future gets even more interesting.
2. TaShawn Thomas – Oklahoma
Thomas almost singlehandedly turned Oklahoma’s defense from one of the worst in the Big 12 to one of the best. Although not terribly big, he has a 7-2 wingspan and can both post up as well as face up offensively.
3. LeBryan Nash – Oklahoma State
From an NBA standpoint, the former top 10 recruit probably disappointed. But he turned in one of the best careers in Oklahoma State history and while the NBA probably isn’t in his future as a jump shooter who doesn’t shoot jumpers all that well (yet), Nash should be able to carve out a very solid career in Europe.
4. Jonathan Holmes – Texas
Holmes didn’t have a great year in Austin, but quietly had a very good career. Holmes isn’t a great shooter, but has a pretty well rounded offensive game, and should be able to play both the 3 and 4 in the NBA.
5. Dustin Hogue – Iowa State
I don’t love Hogue’s game, but the Big 12 doesn’t have much to offer in terms of sleepers this year. Hogue struggles defensively and doesn’t have much of a well rounded offensive game, but shot 43 percent behind the arc last season and might be a 3-point specialist either in the NBA or Europe.
1. Rondae Hollis Jefferson – Arizona
He’s not a sleeper to me, but Hollis-Jefferson is the best wing defender in the draft, is a good rebounder, can score inside the arc, and if he can develop a jumper could end up being one of the best players in this draft. I can already see the Spurs drafting him and then everyone saying in five years that the reason why the Spurs are always good is that other teams let them draft guys like Hollis-Jefferson.
2. Robert Upshaw – Washington
Upshaw was one of the best shot blockers in college basketball this season before being dismissed from Washington. He has a 7-5 wingspan, and if he can keep his head on straight he is a lock to be an NBA contributor.
3. Delon Wright – Utah
Wright will probably go in the first round, and has shown the ability to both score and pass out of the pick and roll. He is a good defender and although he needs to develop a jumper, my bet is that will come in the pros given his mechanics.
4. TJ McConnell – Arizona
McConnell had one of the best assist/turnover seasons in America last season, played good defense, and even scored efficiently inside the arc. He doesn’t have much of a jumper, and he isn’t very big, but he’s a winner (as much as I hate that description) and can lead a team.
5. Joseph Young – Oregon
One of the best scorers in the country, Young has a chance to stick if he can play the 1. He’s a good shooter who can get his own shot, but questions about his ability to defend and run a team might dog him.
1. Michael Frazier – Florida
Frazier should be able to benefit from the NBA’s new reliance on 3 and D guys. He isn’t a great defender, but competes hard on that end, and wouldn’t the Warriors rather have a guy who made 43 percent of his 525 career 3 point attempts shooting open corner 3s than, say, Harrison Barnes?
2. Josh Richardson, Tennessee
Richardson has good size, is a good defender, and was a young senior (22) last season. Richardson might not be a point guard as a pro, but has improved enough as a shooter in his career to where he could probably make it as a 2 guard.
3. Chris Walker – Florida
Billy Donovan never got much out of Walker, who entered Florida as an All-American, but left being basically kicked out. He has a chance to make it as a pro thanks to still possessing those tremendous physical tools, but he needs to learn how to play basketball, which isn’t something that should be said about someone who has played two seasons of college basketball.
4, 5. Aaron and Andrew Harrison – Kentucky
I wouldn’t touch either of them. They don’t defend well, they don’t shoot well, and have struggled against big guards. Given that the NBA doesn’t have many 6-1 guards running around, I don’t see either Harrison twin having much of a shot in the league.
1. Tyler Harvey – Eastern Washingon
Last year’s leading scorer in NCAA basketball, Harvey was more than just a volume scorer, shooting almost 52 percent on twos and 42 percent on threes. Harvey isn’t much of a passer or defender, but could emerge as an off the bench shooter for an NBA team.
2. Alan Williams – UC Santa Barbara
Williams doesn’t have the measurables to be an NBA player. He’s not uber athletic, he’s not a 7 footer, but he just produces. Williams had 12 points and 15 rebounds in his first NBA Combine game and 11 and seven in his second. Williams scores in the post, defends and rebounds well, and puts up numbers no matter who is across from him. If he gets a shot I guarantee he is a worthwhile NBA player.
3. Kiefer Sykes – Wisconsin-Green Bay
Sykes was one of the most athletic point guards at the combine, and though he is undersized, he has a really quick first step and can get into the lane easily. He’s a score first type of guard who will need to pass the ball better in order to make it in the league, but his athleticism will give him a shot.
4. Corey Hawkins – UC Davis
Hawkins is one of the best, and maybe the best, shooters in the class, as he shot 49.1 percent from three on 6.1 attempts per game this season. Hawkins showed the ability to both shoot off the catch and off the dribble, and his 6-8 wingspan will help him get his shot off against NBA defenses.
5. Richaun Holmes – Bowling Green
Maybe the winner of the evaluation process, Holmes has come from a near unknown and now looks like a lock to get drafted. Standing 6-10, Holmes can defend the rim well and has seemingly limitless energy on the glass. He doesn’t have a well rounded game, but looks like he can develop and grow into a contributor at the NBA level.