Happy Draft Day!
With the draft quickly approaching, most teams typically have an idea of how it will unfold. This year is different. There is no consensus No.1 pick, there is no can’t-miss superstars, there is no certainty.
Despite the lack of front-end talent in this year’s class, the anticipation leading up to the draft is as high as ever.
I had the privilege of collaborating with our very own Kyle Neubeck to come up with five potential sleepers in this year’s draft.
1. Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
While counterparts like Michael Carter-Williams were facing off against similar aged kids in America, Schroeder has been a boy amongst men in Germany for Braunschweig. Don’t let his age fool you though – Schroeder already brings a lot to the table at 19.
Schroeder is similar in many ways to Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe. Standing 6’2” with a 6’7” wingspan, length and excellent athleticism are two of Schroeder’s biggest strengths. Unlike Blesdoe, who played next to the ball dominant John Wall in college, Schroeder has a fair amount of experience as a pick and roll initiator. He was also one of the most effective catch and shoot jump-shooters in all of Europe this season, making 53% of his shots in these situations.
To be an effective player at the NBA level, Schroeder will have to improve his decision making and add bulk to his developing body. Point guard needy teams would be wise to consider him in the mid to late first round.
2. Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Withey is the type of prospect that I typically would shy away from in the Draft. Already 23 years old, his ceiling is markedly lower than many of the big men that are in play for the lottery.
That sentiment is not necessarily a deterrent for teams picking at the end of the first round, however. Withey is what he is – a fairly athletic big man who is active on the defensive end and converts a significant amount of his offensive opportunities. This former volleyball player is light on his feet and challenges an almost impossible amount of shots, averaging 5.7 and 4.9 blocks per 40 minutes over his last two seasons at Kansas.
A team picking in the 25-30 range would get an instant contributor for their roster, and someone who has a defined skill set to work with. Add on a high percentage from the line (71%) and you have a player who can be trusted whether he’s playing minor minutes off the bench or contributing during crunch time.
3. Tony Snell, F, New Mexico
The rapidly evolving NBA places a heavy emphasis on guys who excel around the arc on both ends of the floor. One of the draft’s undervalued pieces in this regard is New Mexico’s Snell.
Shooting 39% from 3 on 4.7 attempts per contest, Snell is a high volume, high percentage shooter from deep. In addition to his range, he’s quick, long (6’7” in shoes, 6’11” wingspan), and versatile enough to have a defensive impact. Snell has the tools and smarts to make crisp rotations and close out on open shooters, a key skill in most modern defensive systems.
Snell is less refined where his handle is concerned, so he won’t be a guy who can be expected to play a point forward role. But guys who can knock down shots and stay on their man will always find a job around the league.
4. Reggie Bullock, F, North Carolina
Bullock will not be a star in the NBA, but that’s not what a sleeper is. A sleeper is someone who winds up being a lot more productive than originally expected by the majority.
In his junior season at UNC, Bullock managed to shoot an impressive 42.9% clip from beyond the arc. His three-point shooting will be his calling card, but that is not all that he can do.
Bullock averaged 4.5 rebounds last season, and he is also a lock-down defender at times. While he will not be a lock-down guy at the NBA level, his ability on that side of the ball has been severely underrated to this point.
Potentially, Bruce Bowen is the comparison that comes to mind. He may not defend as well as Bowen, but his shooting is more impressive. If his career goes the way that Bowen’s did, he’ll win titles. Going later on in the first-round will give him the chance to go to an already established team and contribute immediately as a role player.
5. C.J. Leslie, F, North Carolina State
The league’s new small-ball strategy is well documented. Teams want to get smaller, faster, more athletic, and space the floor better with shooters. For a team looking to go small more often, C.J. Leslie wouldn’t be a bad start.
Prior to the 2012-2013 season, Leslie was viewed as one of the top players at the college level. After a somewhat disappointing season for him and N.C. State, his stock has dropped drastically, leaving him as a projected second-round pick.
Leslie is one of the most explosive athletes in the incoming draft class. At 6’9″, he can run the floor with some of the best. His first step is lightning-quick, and he is easily capable of playing above the rim.
For a second-round pick, Leslie’s ceiling is through the roof. If he can improve his jump shot and put on just a little bit of strength, his game could ultimately resemble current Sixer, Thaddeus Young. Is Leslie can produce the way that Young has, and is taken in the second-round, he will easily be one of the biggest steals of the draft.