NBA Draft: 5 Under-the-Radar Prospects
By now, everyone knows that players such as Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are going to be drafted very early on Thursday night during the NBA Draft.
Although these players are near locks to produce at an NBA level, there are several other players who will be drafted later in the night who can potentially turn into a late pick steal, such as Draymond Green or Jimmy Butler.
Who are some of them, and why can they make an NBA impact?
Kay Felder, G, Oakland
Coming from a school such as the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, Felder is not a household name. However, the diminutive 5’9” scoring guard could be the steal of the draft. In three seasons for the Grizzlies, Felder has proven to be an elite scorer despite his lack of height.
His strongest asset is his ability to get to the rim and draw fouls. Felder attempted 625 free throws in his three-year collegiate career (3,626 minutes), a total that ranked eighth among players with at least 2,000 minutes in that span. His 506 during his sophomore and junior years ranked second among players with at least 1,500 minutes.
Felder will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, who is also 5’9” and came out of Washington as a scoring guard with concerns about his defense. Felder did bump his defensive win shares up to 1.4 this season, and as you can see below, he certainly is athletic enough to play in the NBA.
Kay Felder with a 44 inch vertical... https://t.co/fWfrMEGo7q
— All Things Mavs (@All_Things_Mavs) June 19, 2016
Dejounte Murray, G, Washington
The top player on the Washington Huskies basketball team this year was Andrew Andrews, and the Husky flying up draft boards is Marquess Chriss, but it is Murray who might have the most NBA upside. Murray is a long athletic wing who was a four-star recruit last season for Washington and did live up to the hype much of the year.
In his freshman season, Murray posted a solid stat line of 16.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Those numbers helped him to produce a solid 1.2 offensive win shares and 1.6 defensive win shares. The stellar steals, defensive metrics, and a huge 6’9” wingspan suggest he could be a force early in his career on that end while his offensive game rounds into shape.
Although he does have a nice point-per-game average, Murray did struggle mightily from the floor last year with a 28.8% shooting percentage from three-point range. His true shooting percentage was not as bad at 48.5%, but he could wind up struggling offensively early in his career. Scouts have been pleased with his progress thus far in workouts, and he put on a nice display with potential number one pick Ben Simmons a few weeks ago.
[Chad Ford] Ben Simmons and Dejounte Murray trading NBA 3s via @Prasekh https://t.co/1CDLF5NiJL pic.twitter.com/79u1jHKoqF
— NBA News (@recentnbatalks) June 4, 2016
Caris LeVert, G, Michigan
LeVert comes in with a ton of versatility but a few major red flags that will likely drop him to the second round. The former Michigan Wolverine had a productive sophomore season, posting 12.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals.
Along with that, the 6’7” LeVert had a usage rate of 21.9%, a true shooting rate of 55.8%, and a turnover rate of a respectable 12.7%. Compare those numbers to Jimmy Butler's in his breakout NBA season of 2014-15 -- 21.6%, 58.3%, and 7.7%, respectively -- and you can see why NBA teams will be intrigued by LeVert.
However, the issue with LeVert will assuredly be on the injury front, as he was limited to just 33 games played over the last two years in Michigan. The foot injuries forced the Wolverines star to miss a majority of the last two seasons, and he has yet to be 100% cleared by doctors.
He will certainly be a risk wherever he is taken, but as you can see below, he certainly has the game on both ends of the floor to be a productive player in the NBA.
Caris LeVert was once projected to be a lottery pick, then injuries hit. https://t.co/SRMh1ssjwX
— All Things Mavs (@All_Things_Mavs) June 17, 2016
Ben Bentil, F, Providence
Like Murray, Ben Bentil was overshadowed by a teammate at Providence in possible top five pick Kris Dunn. Bentil was a four-star recruit who struggled in his first year for the Friars but who erupted this season to post 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest.
Much of his production spike has to do with a boost in usage rate to 29.6%, near elite NBA levels, along with a true shooting percentage of 56.7%. The Friars were able not only to post up the 6’8”, 230-pound forward, but also his 32.9% three-point rate also made it difficult for defenders to pinpoint where he would do the most damage.
Bentil also put up 0.9 steals and 1.0 blocks per game which translated to 2.0 defensive win shares, tying him for 94th in the nation. That will take a hit when he gets matched up with larger NBA players, but his frame should allow him to dish out some punishment as well.
A.J. Hammons, C, Purdue
In today’s NBA, a rookie who will start his first year as a 24-year-old, defensive-minded center is not a hot commodity. A.J. Hammons got the Purdue Boilermakers with a strong pedigree and did not disappoint in four seasons with the Boilermakers but also did not flash a ton of NBA upside.
Perhaps the thing that should stand out about Hammons is his continued growth on the floor. He bumped his scoring, field goal percentage, and rebounds in each of his four years in college. The 7’0” Hammons was also a force in the paint, averaging more than two blocks per game every year in college and boasted a phenomenal 2.2 defensive win shares mark his senior season.
He also is an efficient scorer around the hoop, who posted double-figure points every year for Purdue and had a gaudy true shooting percentage of 62.3% his last year in West Lafayette.
Although he lacks the upside and athleticism of the some of the top prospects in this class, Hammons is a polished product who could fill the need of a defensive big from day one.
If anything, he may be the best one-handed rebounder in the draft!
@SheaSerrano this is AJ Hammons. he grabbed his shoe with one hand & a rebound with the other. i love him very much.https://t.co/wedoNsjDmO
— Aneesh Ramaswamy (@aneeshswamy) May 6, 2016