Every year, once the NBA Draft comes around, teams sometimes can draft a guy late in the draft, and that player can turn into a “steal”. The Utah Jazz know a little bit about that, as they drafted Paul Millsap with the 47th pick, as well as Mo Williams with the 47th pick. For teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, and the Indiana Pacers, they are hoping to find a player like that since they don’t own a pick until the second round.
Is there a player late in this draft that could be a potential “steal”, or “sleeper”? Here are a few guys that could possibly turn out to be exactly that.
Mitch McGary – Michigan
After testing positive for marijuana in March of this year, McGary was looking at a year long suspension from the NCAA. McGary appealed the suspension, but the NCAA did not change it’s ruling. McGary wanted to return to school, but opted to enter the NBA Draft instead. On top of the marijuana testing, McGary also missed the last 27 games this past season due to back issues, which
McGary had a minor role during his freshman season in college, but really came on to the scene after a huge showing in the NCAA Tournament, which ended with the Wolverines losing to the Louisville Cardinals in the NCAA Championship game. Had McGary entered the NBA Draft after his freshman season, he was believed to be a lottery pick. Now, McGary is looking at falling somewhere in the early second round.
McGary is a big man who is quick for his size. He possesses a high basketball IQ and can do damage offensively as a play maker. Not explosive vertically but moves well laterally with good control. McGary seems willing to do the dirty work; hustles and seeks “garbage bucket” opportunities. He is a solid finisher around the rim with crafty post moves.
At 6’10″ 255 lbs., he has an adequate 7′ wingspan, and a very surprising 8’11.5 standing reach, giving him legitimate center size. He is very physical and uses size and strength to his advantage. McGary plays with passion and aggressiveness. Still has room for improvement, but did up his free throw percentage from 44% to 68% (although in limited attempts) from freshman to sophomore seasons. Through eight games in his sophomore season, averaged 8.3 boards in just 24.8 minutes.
McGary is as old as a senior in college, although he was only a sophomore. His age could work against him, as he could have limited potential. He has a lot of NBA skills that if he can work on, could really be a spark off the bench. As teams are worrying about the back issues of Joel Embiid, GM’s should also be worried about the back issues of McGary.
Markel Brown – Oklahoma State
Most people know Brown’s back court teammate at Oklahoma State, projected lottery pick Marcus Smart. However, Brown had a pretty solid year, not just this year, but the previous year also, playing next to Smart in the back court. Brown averaged 17.2
points and 5.3 rebounds per game this past season in a tough Big 12 Conference. Brown also earned All-Conference honors the last two seasons.
One of Brown’s biggest assets is his leaping ability. Brown recorded a 43.5″ vertical in the two step vertical measurement at the NBA Draft Combine. That leaping ability led to him being one of the top dunkers in college basketball last season. He is a threat on backdoor alley-oops or transition and is explosive enough to finish over bigger defenders.
Brown has improved his shooting every year that he was at Oklahoma State. In his freshman year with the Cowboys, Brown shot the ball 39.4% from the field, and 26.2% from beyond the three point line. After his senior year just wrapped up, Brown shot 47.3% from the field, and 37.9% from three. Brown mainly played at a shooting guard position, but had to run the point for a few games while Smart was suspended. Reportedly, scouts liked how he looked running the point and think that he may be able to play some minutes there eventually.
Even though Brown improved his shooting every year he was in school, he still struggles in that department. Scouts believe that he won’t be able to shoot the ball consistently. Also, at times, Brown relies on his jump shot more often than not. If he can learn to drive to the basket and create contact, he could have a lot of potential. Brown shot just under 80% from the free throw line, and averaged 5.7 attempts at the line this past season. Brown is a pretty good defender, but scouts are worrying if he will be able to defend more “physically gifted shooting guards” in the NBA.
The concerns on Brown seem to be fairly minimal. If teams are looking for a guard in the second round, Brown is a pretty good choice.
DeAndre Daniels – Conneticut
Only certain players can enter the NBA with the words ‘National Champion’ typed on their resume. Daniels is one of those players that can do that. Daniels played a big role in the Huskies run towards a National Championship this past season, averaging 16.0
points and 7.2 rebounds per game during the tournament.
Daniels is a very versatile athlete that can space the floor. Daniels has great length, however, he is extremely thin for his size. Daniels shot 41.7% from beyond the three point line this past season, to go along with his 47% shooting from the field. He can take the ball inside, and capitalize on mismatches against smaller or slower defenders. He is very effective from close range.
When scouts are looking at Daniels game, the shooting is something they will enjoy, but his size will be a major concern. At 195 pounds, the concern will be how he handles bigger forwards posting him up with their back to the basket. In college, Daniels played more of a power forward position, and at times did play against bigger forwards. Daniels only averaged 2.4 fouls per game last year, and never fouled out in a game.
Players that have played in, and won, a National Championship in college, at times can seem a little bit more NBA ready because of that experience. It doesn’t happen all the time, but in some players, it does make a difference. Daniels seems like the type of player that can have a role off the bench, because of his length and shooting ability.
Jarnell Stokes – Tennessee
If there is one player who could potentially be the biggest “sleeper” in this draft, Jarnell Stokes has to be that player. Stokes racked up 22 double-doubles this season for the Volunteers. His season averages of 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game very similar to projected lottery pick, Julius Randle. In fact, in the one game that Tennessee went head-to-head with Kentucky, Stokes went for 20 points and 15 rebounds on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor, while primarily being guarded by Randle. On the other side of things, Stokes kept Randle off the boards, as Randle finished with only two rebounds.
Stokes is a powerful big man and plays with an extremely high motor. The player comparison that he has listed for him is Dejuan Blair. At times, he looks a bit like former Jazz man, Paul Millsap. On top of being very strong, Stokes has length. Stokes measure a 7’1″ wingspan at the NBA Draft Combine last month. The combination of his strength and length, makes him a great option on the defensive end, as well as the offensive end.
The knock that Stokes will have on him is his height. Stokes stands at 6’7″ tall, but as mentioned, can get around that due to the length of his wingspan and standing reach. Millsap was told that he was too small to play the power forward position, and Millsap has become one of the better power forwards in the league. Because of how strong he is, Stokes is great at defending players down low with his back to the basket. However, when it comes to defending a “stretch four” type player that faces up to the basket, he does struggle a bit in that department.
Nevertheless, Stokes is a powerful and well-built power forward who has the maturity and the skill set to contribute as a role player right away for an NBA team. He’s a skilled post scorer and a tenacious rebounder. He could possibly go late in the first round, but there is a chance he could slip to the second round. As I said before, out of all the “sleepers” that could potentially come out of this draft, Stokes might be the biggest one.