The NBA draft is where teams look to add young and potentially franchise changing players to their rosters. Whenever the draft comes around, most of the hype usually revolves around the projected top players, as most of the players who get selected towards the end of the draft never make an impact in the NBA. However, some teams have selected players later in the draft who turned out to be tremendously impactful.
One of the key players for the defending champion Golden State Warriors is their All-Star forward Draymond Green. Green was selected in the second round, 35th overall in the 2012 draft. Green's ability to distribute the ball, rebound, and defend players at all positions has made him a vital component of his team's success. Jimmy Butler, the All-Star guard for the Chicago Bulls, was taken 30th overall in the 2011 draft. The last pick of that same draft came 30 picks later where the Sacramento Kings selected Isaiah Thomas, who recently made his first All-Star appearance playing for the Boston Celtics.
The upcoming draft is loaded with talent at every position. The draft is also stocked with projected picks from across the globe, ranging from France and Germany to China and Australia. While teams often look at the draft to bring in guys that they can develop and hope will grow into NBA players down the road, we have recently been seeing many rookies making immediate impacts on their team. Josh Richardson, the 40th overall pick in last year's draft, is currently playing around 30 minutes a game in the playoffs. Finding players later in the draft is something that separates good organizations from great ones. You may be kicking yourself in a few years if your team ends up passing on one of these players.
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15 Isaiah Whitehead
What I love most about Whitehead is his competitive nature. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he was a highly touted prospect out of high school, ranking as the 11th best recruit in the class of 2014. The biggest concern surrounding him is whether he is point guard or a shooting guard. I find this to be a very minor issue, as many "Tweener" guards have made names for themselves in the NBA. At 6'4", 210 pounds, he has great size for a point guard. He turned into a fearless perimeter defender while playing at Seton Hall and his potential in every aspect of the game could make him a good fit for any team in the league.
14 Jaron Blossomgame
Jaron Blossomgame was the leader on the Clemson Tigers last year, averaging 18.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He has the build of a prototypical slashing small forward, but his athleticism is what really makes it easy to see him being able to take his game to the NBA. He has shown incredible explosiveness around the rim and can drive to the basket with ease. His 61.7% conversion rate around the rim is very impressive. He has the potential to put a lot of defenders on a poster because of leaping ability. If he can improve his jump shot, Blossomgame could be an offensive force in the NBA.
13 Gary Payton II
Like father, like son. His father was one of the greatest defenders the NBA has ever seen. Payton II appears to be following in his dad's footsteps, earning the Defensive Player of the Year award and a spot on the All-Conference First Team in the Pac-12. What I love most about Payton II is how he uses his athleticism in almost very aspect of the game. As a 6'3" point guard, he pulled down nearly 8 rebounds per game. Not only does he have incredibly quick hands and feet on the defensive end of the floor, but last year he turned into one of the most ferocious dunkers in all of college basketball.
12 Juan Hernangomez
While playing for Estudiantes in Spain, Hernangomez averaged more points and rebounds per game than current NBA players Kristaps Porzingis, Serge Ibaka, and Tiago Splitter did when they played in the same league. At just 20 years old, Hernangomez has all of the physical assets needed to succeed as power forward in the NBA. He currently stands at 6'9" and has a good frame that will continue to fill out. His offensive prowess is very impressive for someone his age. He has shown that he has a soft touch around the rim, while also improving his outside shooting, raising his 3p% from 25% in 2014-2015 to 34% in 2015-2016.
11 Chinanu Onuaku
Chinanu Onuaku is someone I can see easily becoming an elite rim protector in the NBA. His game reminds me a lot of Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, who made an immediate impact as a rookie last season. While playing at Louisville under Rick Pitino, Onuaku showed that defending the rim and rebounding come naturally to him. He moves quickly on his feet and is great at rotating to protect the rim. He is tenacious on the glass, posting high rebound rates on both offense and defense. On top of his defense and rebounding, he showed significant improvement scoring around the rim, something that should continue to develop as he enters the league.
10 Damion Lee
After playing a few years at the University of Drexel, Lee transferred to Louisville for his final year of college where he played under the elite and demanding coach Rick Pitino. Projected to be a small forward, I think Lee can carve out a roll for himself in the NBA because of how aggressive he is on the court. Lee will be 24 years old before the NBA draft, something that will hurt his draft stock. However I believe his years of experience will help be an instant contributor for the team that takes him. His scoring and defense make him a versatile wing player, something that is in high demand in today's NBA.
9 Zhou Qi
A 20 year old from China who stands at 7'2 with a 7.7 wingspan, Zhou Qi's potential is tantalizing. Aside from his towering height, what makes Qi such an exciting prospect is his ability to handle the ball. He possesses great basketball fundamentals as shown that he can dribble and penetrate much more effectively than other players his size. On the defensive side of the floor, Qi uses his height and great timing to block shots, something that previous big men from China have lacked. Qi will need to gain weight and build muscle in order to battle with the other bigs in the NBA, but if he can add some more strength, he can be a dominant big man for years to come.
8 Tyler Ulis
Tyler Ulis reminds me a lot of another 5'9" point guard who scouts thought was too short to play in the NBA, a player by the name of Isaiah Thomas. While playing under John Calipari at the University of Kentucky, Ulis was one of the most dynamic players in the country. Like Isaiah Thomas, Ulis uses his smaller size and explosiveness to create shots for himself. Not only does his ability to create space help his own scoring, but he creates opportunities for the rest of his team and his assist-turnover ratio was one of the best in the country. Ulis plays with a chip on his shoulder, and will continue to prove his critics wrong.
7 A.J. Hammons
Hammons may have the most NBA-ready body of any big man in the draft. A massive center at 7'0" and weighing 261, Hammons' strong build will allow him to contribute right away. Something I love about Hammons is that he already has a very polished post game, much like Jahlil Okafor did in last year's draft. He continued to improve his scoring by adding an effective jump shot to his game. However, the biggest improvement in his game last year was his defensive rebounding, where he averaged 13.3 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes. He has all the tools necessary to take his game to the next level.
6 DeAndre Bembry
DeAndre Bembry is a do-it-all kind of player and his versatility is something that should translate over to the NBA game. Bembry is a wing with solid size who has a tremendous feel for the game. While playing at St. Joseph's, he showed the ability to score the basketball, rebound and pass. His extensive skill set is why I think he can easily fit into any NBA team's offense. If he can just improve his jump shot, he could be as complete an offensive player as anyone in this draft. Improving his shot along with increasing his mental toughness could lead to Bembry being in the league for years to come.
5 Taurean Prince
Taurean Prince is easily one of the hardest working players in the draft. He was not highly recruited out of high school and had originally committed to LIU-Brooklyn before a coaching change allowed him to go to Baylor University. Prince barely played his freshman year and it wasn't until his senior that he was able to truly showcase his talents. At 6'7", he can handle the ball, shoot, and play off of the ball. Defensively, he is quick enough to guard perimeter players and strong enough to handle power forwards in the post. He looks like he can easily become a starting forward in the NBA.
4 Malcolm Brogdon
Malcolm Brogdon steadily improved his game all four years he played at the University of Virginia. At 6'5" and a 220 pound frame, he has prototypical size for a shooting guard. He improved his scoring each year he played at Virginia, averaging 18.2 points per game while shooting 39.1% from 3 point range in his senior year. I see him being able to succeed in the NBA because of the variety of ways he can score. He can create his own shots off of the dribble and showed great ability to shoot while coming off of screens. Brogdon is ready to knock down big shots right away for the team that drafts him.
3 Caris Levert
Caris Levert, who played a lot of point guard at the University of Michigan, also stands at 6'7". His height and wingspan at his position make him a really exciting prospect. Aside from his size, what also stands out to me is his efficiency. Levert shot 50.6% from the floor and 44.6% from beyond the arc last season. Combine those percentages with his averages of 16.5 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, and 4.9 assists per game, it becomes clear that Levert can do it all. The only reason his draft stock might take a hit is because he has had to sit games out due to injury in his last two years. If he can stay healthy, Levert could be an offensive dynamo for years to come.
2 Thon Maker
A 7'1" nineteen year-old born in Sudan, Thon Maker may be the most intriguing prospect in the entire draft. He has made headlines recently by being the first NBA player to jump to the draft from high school since 2005. One thing is for certain with Maker, his ceiling is as high as anyone in this draft. He has a slender build, but has been steadily strengthening his frame. His fearlessness and competitiveness, along with his raw skill set, reminds me a lot of another player drafted out of high school named Kevin Garnett. I see Maker taking a couple of years to develop in the NBA. However, if he is developed properly, the sky is the limit.
1 Timothe Luwawu
My only knock on Timothe Luwawu is that he may not be a sleeper anymore. Luwawu's draft stock has skyrocketed recently as scouts have begun to see the immense potential he has. A 6'7" guard/wing from France, Luwawu can do it all. If you search his name and watch his highlight videos, you will see clips of posterizing dunks, fadeaway jump shots and precision passes. Scouts say the most NBA-ready part of his game is his defense. This is something I particularly love, because you often see successful players with his athleticism and offensive ability make a name for themselves on defense first, like the Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler. His game reminds me of a young Paul George and I believe whoever drafts this kid will have drafted a future superstar.
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