With so much focus on the likes of Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo and others near the top of the draft, it should come as no surprise that several prospects have slipped through the cracks and missed out on the pre-draft hype machine.
While that may adversely affect their draft positions, that has nothing to do with how they will perform at the NBA level. Even if it's difficult to pinpoint potential breakout players right now, it's inevitable that several prospects who are taken in the middle and latter stages of the first round will go on to have very successful NBA careers.
In addition to a full, first-round mock draft, here is some further analysis on underrated players who will become high-quality NBA players for a very long time to come.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Although Nerlens Noel is probably a more polished prospect, Len may have more offensive upside. The Cavaliers are very likely to choose one of them with the top pick, and they'll roll the dice on Len in hopes that he reaches his full potential.
2. Orlando Magic: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
The Magic are in a position where they can do just about anything they desire with the No. 2 selection. Things are a bit thin in the backcourt in comparison to their frontcourt right now, so Oladipo would be a fine fit in Orlando.
3. Washington Wizards: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Although he has dealt with some injuries, former Kentucky point guard John Wall has been a great player for the Wizards. Look for Washington to go to the Wildcat well once again this year by taking Noel provided he is available.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Anthony Bennett, SF/PF, UNLV
After drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the first round last year, it's clear that the Bobcats are trying to build a team based on athleticism. Bennett is the most physically impressive power forward in this class, so he seems like an ideal pick for Charlotte.
5. Phoenix Suns: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
Despite his immense talent, work ethic concerns and a poor performance in the NCAA tournament could cause McLemore to fall a bit in this draft. The Suns are his safety net, though, as they simply won't allow the dynamic guard to fall any further.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
The Pelicans already have a promising inside-out combo with Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, so they could use someone to bring it all together. Porter is that type of player and New Orleans would be ecstatic to see him sitting there at No. 6.
7. Sacramento Kings: Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana
Sacramento can go in a number of different directions as the statuses of center DeMarcus Cousins ad guard Tyreke Evans are up in the air. Taking a big man with offensive skill is never a bad idea, so Zeller would make a lot of sense here.
8. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
The Pistons have a nice little core of young talent, but they lack a player who is capable of taking over games on the offensive end. Muhammad is a bit one-dimensional, but he can fill up the basket with the best of him when he gets hot, so Detroit would be smart to select him.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh
Even though C.J. McCollum averaged 24 points per game last season at Lehigh, he wasn't talked about much when it came to discussing the best college players in the nation. McCollum's level of competition obviously wasn't elite, but he was head and shoulders above his opponents on most nights. Things won't be so easy in the NBA, but Weber State product Damian Lillard proved that the transition doesn't have to be painful.
Lillard won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and was a dominant force in his first NBA season. That isn't to say that McCollum will do the same, but they are very similar players. McCollum is a smaller combo guard with score-first instincts, so he would be a particularly good fit with the Minnesota Timberwolves. According to Marcus Fuller of the Pioneer Press, the T'Wolves brass has been very impressed with McCollum thus far:
Even though level of competition will probably be a concern for some teams, McCollum proved capable of producing against the very best. He scored 30 against Duke in the 2012 NCAA tournament as Lehigh shocked the world by knocking out the Blue Devils. McCollum rises to the occasion in big moments, and all signs point to him doing that in the NBA as well.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson form a solid one-two punch down low for the Blazers, but they really lack depth at center and power forward. Even though Meyers Leonard is waiting in the wings, Olynyk would be an excellent addition to Portland's rotation.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
It may be a few years before he realizes his full potential, but Adams has the ability to be an All-Star-caliber player. Since the Sixers probably won't be overly competitive during the upcoming season, they can wait for him to develop.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto Raptors): Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
Dieng may not have the offensive upside that many of the other big men in this draft possess, but that shouldn't matter to the Thunder. OKC is stacked with scorers and would simply need Dieng to utilize his considerable defensive acumen in the paint alongside Serge Ibaka.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
While it probably seems like a fantasy to think that Burke could tumble to the Mavericks at No. 13, it isn't an impossibility. Provided the Pelicans pass on Burke at No. 6, it could be a long wait for the Michigan star before the Mavs happily pluck him at this juncture.
14. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
Carter-Williams could be a victim of team needs much like Burke. The Syracuse point guard falling to No. 14 is far more likely than Burke falling as well, so the Jazz have a definite shot at him. If MCW is there for the taking, Utah won't hesitate as its guard situation is dire.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Rudy Gobert, C, France
While Milwaukee has some question marks at guard with both Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings hitting free agency, there are pressing needs in the post as well. Gobert may not be ready right away, but he could develop into a fine NBA player with another year or two overseas.
16. Boston Celtics: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The Celtics have plenty of shooting guards on their roster, but none of them have proven to be capable of filling Ray Allen's shoes. Caldwell-Pope is a much different player than Allen, but he is an explosive player who can help start the rebuilding process in Boston.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Mason Plumlee, PF/C, Duke
With so much focus on centers like Alex Len, Nerlens Noel and even Steven Adams, it's easy to see why Duke center Mason Plumlee has faded into the background. Plumlee was a huge reason for Duke's success last season, though, as he made some major strides. He was a double-double machine with averages of 17 points and 10 rebounds per game, and he even pitched in nearly two assists and 1.5 blocks per contest as well.
The main concern with Plumlee is that he isn't an elite athlete compared to some of the other big men in this class. While athleticism is obviously an important attribute, the gap can be bridged through hard work and good technique. Plumlee exemplifies both of those things and has the desire to be great. He also believes that his ceiling is much higher than most pundits expect, according to Chris Haynes of SportsNet Northwest:
It's tough to argue with Plumlee has he got noticeably better with each passing season at Duke. In addition to impressive per-game averages, Plumlee shot 60 percent from the field and 68 percent from the free-throw line, so he's an all-around performer. The Atlanta Hawks need someone to play alongside Al Horford, and Plumlee seems capable of doing so for the foreseeable future.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Glen Rice, Jr., SG, D-League
Some teams may be apprehensive in taking Rice due to his rocky tenure at Georgia Tech, but he has revitalized his career in the D-League and is worth taking a gamble on as he was a dominant force in the D-League playoffs this past season.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
The Cavs already have a promising guard duo in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters as well as a center stemming from the No. 1 pick. Cleveland is sorely lacking when it comes to quality wing players, though, so Karasev would be an obvious pick here.
20. Chicago Bulls: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
Chicago has to find a shooting guard either in this draft or in free agency. Since it seems unlikely that a long-term solution can be found on the free-agent market, the Bulls would be wise to take Crabbe in hopes that his consistent shooting stroke translates to the NBA.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
The Jazz have a golden opportunity to reshape the makeup of their team in this draft. With a deep frontcourt and Carter-Williams already in the fold, Utah would benefit from a do-everything shooting guard like Franklin as he is a versatile player who can contribute in a myriad of ways.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Much like Plumlee, Jeff Withey is a talented big man who isn't being heralded as a potential NBA star. Withey is probably a bit more limited than Plumlee on the offensive end, but he is already a defensive stalwart who can help a team in that regard right away. Those types of players tend to stay in the league for a very long time, and Withey seems like a guy who will always be in demand.
Withey was an absolute force in the paint for Kansas last season as he averaged 8.5 rebounds and a shade under four blocks per game. The seven-foot center is a major asset as he is able to alter shots even when he isn't blocking them.
What many pundits seem to be discounting, though, is his offensive acumen. Withey averaged 13.7 points per game last season, and he is trying to showcase different offensive skills that weren't always on display at Kansas, according to Eric Patten of Clippers.com:
If Withey is able to add things like a mid-range jumper and perhaps a consistent hook shot to his offensive repertoire, he can become an asset rather than a liability on the offensive end. Even if the offense doesn't come, though, he should be a defensive force, and he would mesh well with Brook Lopez for the Brooklyn Nets.
23. Indiana Pacers: Reggie Bullock, SG/SF, North Carolina
The Pacers are a team that normally likes to funnel guys in and out of the lineup, but injuries made that difficult this past season. Bullock is a great shooter who would fit nicely on their bench, though, as they don't currently own that type of player.
24. New York Knicks: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami (Fla.)
New York is really lacking when it comes to point guard depth now that Jason Kidd is the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, so Larkin is an ideal selection, particularly since his skill set suggests that he is good enough to be a top-10 pick.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Tony Snell, SG/SF, New Mexico
Provided Chauncey Billups leaves via free agency, the Clippers could really use a guard off the bench. Snell is capable of playing both shooting guard and small forward, and he is the type of versatile player that L.A. can use in a number of different situations.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies): Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece
Since the T'Wolves have had a great deal of success with foreign players such as Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic over the past few seasons, they won't hesitate to go to the well again by selecting a promising player like Antetokounmpo.
27. Denver Nuggets: Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil
The Nuggets don't necessarily have a lot of room for depth players on their roster right now, so their best bet might be going with an international player. They have had success with a Brazilian center in the past in the form of Nene, so Nogueira is a definite option.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
While Schroeder probably deserves to go higher from a talent standpoint, the fact that he isn't ready for the NBA yet and the fact that he plays point guard could cause a drop. The Spurs would be happy to nab him and groom him to be the next Tony Parker.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Lorenzo Brown, PG, North Carolina State
Point guard isn't much of a need for the Thunder when Russell Westbrook is healthy, but there is a definite lack of depth when he's not, so Brown would be a nice speculative pick for OKC in case Westbrook finds himself on the shelf again.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
The Suns don't necessarily have to be married to any one position with the No. 30 pick, and they can afford to go with the best player available. Mitchell is an athletic forward with upside, so he is worth a gamble at this point.
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