Predicting the Best Sleeper Picks of the 2013 NBA Draft
The NBA draft is all about finding value, regardless of where you're picking. That value can manifest itself in many forms: NBA-ready skills, jaw-dropping athleticism, long-term potential or something else entirely.
The best-drafting teams properly identify the elite players at the top of the big boards, but they also notice the sleepers.
These sleepers aren't commonly talked about in draft discussions. They aren't usually projected to go in the first round (although there is one exception in this article), and their names may not resonate with anyone but the most hardcore college basketball fans.
That doesn't stop these diamonds in the rough from having enough potential to develop into quality NBA players down the road.
If a team wants to be truly successful, it should focus on drafting one of these guys. Anyone can pick out the studs at the top, but it takes a special eye to see something many other people may not have noticed.
Note: All measurements and stats come from DraftExpress.com.
Vitals: 6'6", 204 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
For a potential lottery pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sure doesn't get a lot of attention.
Perhaps it's because he went to Georgia, where he played for an underachieving team that didn't even have that much talent in the first place. Perhaps it's because his full name is prohibitively long and doesn't often get used in the normal course of conversation.
Regardless, KCP should be on the radar quite a bit more. He has the potential to develop into a franchise-changing scorer at shooting guard, and he's got lockdown defensive skills to boot.
The 20-year-old averaged 18.5 points per game during his sophomore season at Georgia, and that's particularly impressive since the lineup offered him virtually zero protection. Many games, he was the first, second and third scoring option, and defenses knew that.
Caldwell-Pope isn't the prototypical sleeper because he's actually expected to go in the first round, but he's still not getting the attention his game merits.
School: Illinois State
Vitals: 6'9", 241 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.0 blocks
Jackie Carmichael is a big, physical power forward with a good bit of athleticism to play with as well. He has long arms, he's tough and he plays with a high motor from tipoff until the final buzzer. His body and what he can do with that body make it seem like he should be talked about as a potential lottery pick.
And yet, he's probably going to fall out of the first round on June 27.
Jonathan Wasserman, B/R's resident NBA Draft Lead Writer, compared Carmichael to Carlos Boozer, and for good reason. The Illinois State standout's beard isn't as impressive, and his jumper doesn't seem like it's going to touch the rafters when it leaves his hand, but he still displays a fantastic nose for rebounds and his touch from mid-range is fantastic for a collegiate prospect.
The biggest knock on Carmichael is his lack of run against NBA-caliber competition, but he's excelled whenever he's stepped onto the court.
School: Long Beach State
Vitals: 6'7", 201 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 blocks, 1.3 steals
James Ennis has looked fantastic wherever he's worked out. Whether at the PIT, his combine in Chicago, or his group workout in Brooklyn, the Long Beach State small forward has consistently impressed.
Then again, he did that while wearing the coolest jersey in college basketball, so why are we so surprised?
Ennis has length that will translate to the next level, given his 6'7" frame and 6'11.5" wingspan. That has allowed the 22-year-old to show off some defensive potential while utilizing a jumper that is rarely swatted back at him. His high and quick release gives him the ability to create his own shot, although he's still adding to the range of that aforementioned jumper.
The senior took major strides during his second season for the 49ers, becoming a much better scorer while keeping his head up and looking for open teammates. Expect him to continue that trend once he reaches the sport's highest level.
School: Colorado State
Vitals: 7'0", 263 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.7 blocks
Colton Iverson already looks like he's in great shape in the picture up above, and he's in even better physical condition now. Leading up to the draft, he's been focusing on dropping some weight to improve his speed, and he's also spent time improving his jumper.
Hopefully he doesn't cut too many of the pounds, because part of what makes Iverson special is his physicality. He's big, strong and doesn't hesitate to bang around with the other bigs. If he gets pushed around at the next level, that'll be problematic for his ability to stick around in a rotation.
Iverson, unlike a much smaller player who shares his last name, is never going to be a star. There's no chance he'll ever become a truly great player.
That said, he could become a valuable commodity in the second round, when teams are taking fliers who could eventually earn a long-term spot in the rotation. Think of Iverson reaching a level much like the one occupied by Nick Collison on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He'll do the little things and become a key piece, even if he's not the one doing the glamorous tasks.
Vitals: 6'10", 232 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 5.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks
Grant Jerrett's stats are not impressive. There's no denying that—5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game aren't typically going to make you a second-round draft pick, much less a featured player on a list of sleepers.
But Jerrett isn't a typical prospect.
He's a high-potential 19-year-old who didn't wait for his opportunity at Arizona, instead choosing to bolt just one season after he was a McDonald's All-American. Jerrett received only 17.8 minutes per game under Sean Miller's tutelage, and he decided that was enough for him, much to the shock of just about everyone.
Make no mistake about it. Jerrett was not impressive as a freshman, but he did display some of the tools that once made him so intriguing. He has good defensive instincts and has some nice pick-and-pop potential with his above-average jumper.
The power forward is a bit of a mysterious prospect, and that could goad one team into taking a flier late in the second round.
Vitals: 6'11", 230 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 2.3 blocks
Opinions seem to be all over the place on this 6'11" center. Here's a tweet from The Basketball Post's Rafael Uehara that basically sums it up:
Based on his highlight clip, I think Mike Muscala will be a first ballot hall of famer. Or Chuck Hayes. But definitely one of the two.
— Rafael Uehara (@rafael_uehara) June 4, 2013
I suppose there's not too much of a discrepancy between those two extremes, right? Now, one more tweet, this time from Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com:
Teams are all over the map on Mike Muscala. Some thing he's a major sleeper. Others don't think he's a NBA player at all. I like him a lot.
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 17, 2013
I tend to agree with Givony. Muscala impressed me throughout his senior season at Bucknell thanks to the diversity of his scoring. He can go to work with his back to the basket, embarrassing defenders with a relatively advanced number of post moves, but he also has nice touch on his jumper.
Muscala no-showed against Butler during March Madness, but don't let that deter you from thinking he can compete in the NBA. His rebounding skills and versatile offensive play will translate.
School: South Dakota State
Vitals: 6'5", 196 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 22.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.1 blocks
The one time I got to watch Nate Wolters in person, he impressed me rather significantly, even though he had a lackluster final line. From the moment he stepped onto the court during warmups, you could tell this kid was a stud.
He finished that game against Georgia with 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting, adding seven rebounds and four assists. Not terribly impressive, but Wolters played within the flow of the offense and seemed to assert himself in every facet of the game.
When he's on top of it, Wolters is offense personified. He can score from anywhere on the court, masterfully runs offenses, and regularly has some of the most impressive offensive output in the country. Between his passing and his scoring, you know that Wolters is going to put points on the board.
He's deceptively athletic, and his length helps make up for his lack of lateral quickness. Wolters will never be Avery Bradley on defense, but he can certainly hold his own on that end of the court.
Don't be surprised when this South Dakota State product is starting at the 1 for an NBA team a few years down the road.
Vitals: 6'3", 179 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks
B.J. Young needs to develop a consistent release if he wants to find success at the next level. It's impressive that he was even able to shoot 22.7 percent from downtown as a sophomore, and it's absolutely shocking that he drained 41.3 percent of his three-pointers during his freshman season for Arkansas.
The 20-year-old has a scorer's instincts, but he needs a coach to break down his form and make him start over. If he can do that successfully, he'll quickly develop into a marksman.
Young was born to score the basketball. He's remarkably fast in the open court, plays well above the rim despite his 6'3" frame and routinely dazzles with his offensive moves. He just can't shoot anymore.
That lack of a consistent stroke—Young even air-balled some open shots at the combine—has depressed his draft value, but he'll be one hell of a steal if he puts it together once more. Given the fact that he's only 20 years old, I wouldn't bet against it.