Every year we find ourselves noticing a common theme when it comes to the NBA Draft and every year we struggle to find an explanation of why.
Teams obsess over potential.
Why? It seems as if the productive collegiate veteran often gets no respect throughout the draft process. NBA Front Offices tend to chase the "raw unfinished" product, and on paper it makes sense. Teams often spend time convincing themselves that Player A hasn't "played his best basketball yet." Yes, I understand the thinking behind that. Take for example Russell Westbrook going 4th to the "Seattle Supersonics" in 2008 after averaging 12.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 4.3 APG. Did we all really see a potential MVP who would go on to average a triple-double for consecutive years? But on the other hand, let us take someone like Hasheem Thabeet who was described as a raw shot-blocking big and was selected 2nd overall by the Memphis Grizzlies after averaging 13.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 4.2 BPG his Junior year at UConn. That's when chasing potential can find you in a dangerous world.
Every year the same story happens and we as NBA fans are quick to point out the mistakes. Don't believe me? Let the evidence back up my point. Here's a chart listing some of the notable players over the last 8 NBA Drafts that went later due to their "upperclassmen" tag or lack of upside.
|2011||Jimmy Butler (#30)|
|2012||Draymond Green (#35)|
|2013||Andre Roberson (#26)|
|2014||Joe Harris (#33), Spencer Dinwiddie (#38)|
|2015||Montrezl Harrell (#32), Josh Richardson (#40)|
|2016||Malcolm Brogdon (#36), Pascal Siakam (#27)|
|2017||Derrick White (#29), Kyle Kuzma (#27)|
|2018||Landry Shamet (#26), #Jalen Brunson (#33), Jevon Carter? (#32)|
There are some obvious names on here that you can argue aren't entirely under the "upperclassmen" title such as Pascal Siakam and Kyle Kuzma, but they are important to point out here. Siakam was a 21-year-old transfer who was averaging north of 20 PPG and 11 RPG for New Mexico State. Kyle Kuzma was a Junior for Utah who was producing good numbers. So let's give them some recognition here for teams overlooking the upside.
In every draft class, you're going to find a number of prospects that are being overlooked. Limited upside is the common knock on these prospects and it seems as if we become blind to their already productive college careers. Because of this, we find ourselves defining these players as "sleepers" throughout the draft process. It's not a knock to their overall ability, but just a belief that these prospects could end up better than their overall draft projection.
Below you will find a list of 10 players that have shown the ability to be productive at the collegiate level. Most of these players had long productive collegiate careers, but we wanted to include one Sophomore we believe is getting overlooked. We aren't saying that all of these players will turn out to be "diamonds in the rough" but we are saying...don't sleep on them.
CAMERON JOHNSON, F, NORTH CAROLINA
Senior Year: 16.9 PPG, 5.8 REB, 2.4 AST, 50.6% FG, 45.7% 3P
- Johnson is the cream of the crop in terms of being on a lot of "sleeper boards." There's a terrible trend in NBA Drafts in which teams simply undervalue shooters. For example, we can look back at Kyle Korver or even recently Joe Harris who we mentioned above. Johnson had a very productive career in college, starting off at the University of Pittsburgh before eventually transferring to North Carolina. He showed us that he checks plenty of boxes that teams should be coveting. At 6'9" with a beautiful outside shot, Johnson has the ability to help out a team immediately with his shooting. I expect him to fall in the 20-30 range but I would hope a team picking in the late teens would take a chance on his potential to make an immediate impact. Johnson is being overlooked due to his age (23 years old) but he's going to be a factor right away.
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD, G, TENNESSEE
Senior Year: 16.5 PPG, 6.1 REB, 2.0 AST, 41.8% 3P
- Schofield is one of our favorites here at Backcourt Violation...guilty. But, don't let our obsession turn you away from the facts. Schofield is oozing with potential to be the steal of this draft class. The body-builder wing has the potential and high basketball IQ to be an incredibly valuable asset for his next team. Schofield has a lot of Shaun Livingston to his game. Before you question what I'm currently drinking...let me explain. Schofield, much like Livingston, knows his shot and where he has the best chance to succeed. His bread and butter is his midrange game. That might turn most teams off because that offensive style is becoming extinct, but Admiral does a bit of everything. With an already NBA body, I expect Admiral to open some eyes in his rookie year if he falls into the right situation. While most have Schofield projected in the early 2nd round, I think he's perfect for a playoff team in the early 20s.
TY JEROME, G, VIRGINIA
Junior Year: 13.6 PPG, 4.2 REB, 5.5 AST, 43.5 FG%, 39.9 3P%
- Jerome is a fantastic prospect because when you watch him on film, you immediately start to question if he will be able to keep up with the quickness of NBA guards. While Jerome might have one of the lowest "ceilings" in this draft class, his calling card is his size and elite anticipation skills. Jerome sees plays develop early and his 6'6" frame should be intriguing to teams who want size in their backcourt off of the bench.
CARSEN EDWARDS, G, PURDUE
Junior Year: 24.3 PPG, 3.6 REB, 2.9 AST, 39.4 FG%, 35.5 3P%, 23.2 PER
- Yes I know, it's a little difficult to consider Carsen Edwards a "sleeper" at this point but I strongly believe that he deserves to be in consideration earlier in this draft. Edwards is a FLAMETHROWER from outside. With the way the NBA game has transitioned, you would think teams would be kicking down doors in order to add Edwards offensive game to their treasure chest of goods. If Edwards falls into the right situation, he could become a 6th man caliber asset off of the bench immediately.
DANIEL GAFFORD, F/C, ARKANSAS
Sophomore Year: 16.9 PPG, 8.7 REB, 2.2 BLK, 66.0 FG%, 28.7 PER
- Gafford is one of the youngest players we will have on this sleepers list but it's important to give him some recognition. Daniel Gafford was projected to be a top 15 pick in last years NBA Draft but decided to return to Arkansas for some more seasoning. NBA Personnel were all pleased with his decision, and it was a good one at the time he made it. After an up and down season at Arkansas this year, scouts and NBA personnel started to nitpick Gafford's game a little more than he was expecting. I still believe that Gafford has the potential to be a tremendous asset to an NBA organization but overall fit might be the most important thing for Gafford compared to other prospects. Gafford is a fantastic athlete for a big man prospect and possesses the ability to become a defensive anchor. He's going to need to add to his thin frame, but the tools are there.
QUINNDARY WEATHERSPOON, G, MISSISSIPPI STATE
Senior Year: 18.5 PPG, 4.7 REB, 1.7 STL, 50.8 FG%, 39.6 3P%
- The more film I watch on Quinndary Weatherspoon the more intrigued I am. The combo guard for Mississippi State plays tough with a chip on his shoulder and he can score it in a hurry. Throughout the draft process, Weatherspoon has started to gain some steam as a player to keep an eye on. A very strong showing in the Portsmouth Invitational started his hype train, and its slowly been moving forward ever since. Weatherspoon is expected to be a 2nd round pick at this point.
DAQUAN JEFFRIES, G, TULSA
Junior Year: 13.0 PPG, 5.6 REB, 1.8 AST, 50.2 FG%, 36.6 3P%, 22.2 PER
- Yes, keep your eye on Dequan Jeffries as I am a fan. While Jeffries numbers won't jump off of the page, he looks to be a potential deep threat with good size that defends like a bat out of hell. Jeffries showcases a very impressive basketball IQ who doesn't shy away from doing the dirty work. He's going to be desired by a team that wants to add some nastiness on the defensive side of the ball. Don't be surprised if he slowly creeps up into the late first round conversation.
KY BOWMAN, PG, BOSTON COLLEGE
Junior Year: 19.0 PPG, 7.5 REB, 4.0 AST, 40.4 FG%, 37.4 3P%
- One word stands out when you watch Ky Bowman on film...explosive. The Boston College ball handler can jump with just about anyone in the gym and he's fearless when attacking the rim. Bowman can score in a hurry and was a former defensive back recruit for Alabama. Bowman had to carry the load offensively for BC and often made a lot of very tough shots. He could blossom with "less" attention at the NBA level.
MARIAL SHAYOK, G/F, IOWA STATE
Senior Year: 18.7 PPG, 4.9 REB, 49.6 FG%, 38.6 3P%, 22.5 PER
- Marial Shayok has been tremendous through the pre-draft process so far and he's going to find himself as a borderline 2nd round prospect. It wouldn't surprise me if a team doesn't want to take the chance of letting Shayok go undrafted though. Shayok is described as a workhorse in the gym and he just flat out knows how to play the game.
BONUS* TREMONT WATERS, PG, LSU
Sophomore Year: 15.3 PPG, 5.8 AST, 2.9 STL, 43.0 FG%, 32.7 3P%, 21.8 PER
- Waters might be one of my favorite ball handlers in this draft class because of one thing...defense. One of the best on-ball defenders in the country last year, Waters went on to average 2.9 steals per game after averaging 2.0 steals in his Freshman season. He's going to have his doubts, as he's undersized for the NBA and teams will question if he can hold his own when he's in switch situations, but Waters possesses an outstanding feel for the game. He could find himself carving out a long career in the NBA if he lands in the right situation.