Most of the talk in the aftermath of the 2013 NBA draft has centered on top picks such as Anthony Bennett and Nerlens Noel, but since there was a decent amount of depth in this particular draft, it stands to reason that some players taken late in the first round or even in the second will become productive NBA players.
A lot of that will have to do with what types of situations the players landed in and whether or not they receive an opportunity, but the talent is most definitely there. Perhaps these players weren't selected as early as they hoped to be, but that doesn't mean that they can't carve out a niche for themselves.
Here are three unheralded draft picks that will outplay their respective draft positions and become useful players at the NBA level.
With highly-touted centers like Noel, Alex Len, Cody Zeller, Steve Adams and a host of others in this year's draft, it was very easy to forget about Duke big man Mason Plumlee. That may have been a big mistake on the part of many talent evaluators, though. Plumlee was extremely productive against a high level of competition in the ACC, and he got better with each passing season, which suggests that he'll improve as an NBA player as well.
Seth Curry received much of the credit for Duke's success last season, but Plumlee's contributions shouldn't be forgotten. He averaged a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds per game while pitching in two assists, 1.4 blocks and a steal per contest as well. Plumlee was also an efficient player as he hit 60 percent of his shots. Plumlee's offense is an underrated facet of his game, but his post-up play was as good as it gets, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Mason Plumlee averaged 5.6 pts per game on post-up plays last season, most in the ACC #BKNpick— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 28, 2013
The Brooklyn Nets were lucky enough to nab Plumlee at No. 22 and there is little doubt that it will be a match made in heaven. The Nets are a top contender in the Eastern Conference thanks to the acquisition of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics, but they won't succeed without stellar play off the bench. Brook Lopez is unquestionably Brooklyn's starting center; however, Plumlee will serve as his primary backup and will surely earn significant minutes from the get go.
As one of the most explosive guards in college basketball over the past two seasons, many observers expected Murray State's Isaiah Canaan to sneak into the first round. That didn't happen, though, as he fell to the Houston Rockets at No. 34. The selection of Canaan appears to be a great value pick for the Rockets as ESPN's Andy Katz praised the selection and couldn't believe that Canaan was still on the board when Houston picked.
While we're at break, Isaiah Canaan just went to Houston at No. 34. Surprised Canaan dropped that far. Great pickup by Rockets.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) June 28, 2013
Since the Rockets didn't have a first-round pick, Canaan will essentially be treated as their first-rounder. He actually fills a big area of need for Houston as the Rockets didn't have a great deal of depth behind starting point guard Jeremy Lin. In addition to that, Lin is a fairly inconsistent player, so there is no telling how committed the Rockets will be to him. If he struggles next season or in the near future, Canaan will be waiting in the wings.
Canaan seems like a perfect fit for Houston's offense as the Rockets intend to get up and down the court and play with reckless abandon. That is Canaan's specialty as he averaged nearly 22 points per game last season. Canaan is capable of running the floor and getting to the basket, but he is also a great shooter as he hit three trifectas per game last season and made more than 45 percent of his threes one year earlier. He'll need to improve his playmaking, but Canaan is an explosive guard with a chance to play a lot of minutes for Houston.
Which unheralded pick will have the best NBA career?
Most teams selecting in the latter stages of the NBA draft take players they can stash overseas in hopes that they'll become something three or four years down the line. The San Antonio Spurs are no strangers to drafting international prospects, but in recent years they have found some diamonds in the rough late in the second round and it appears as though Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas could join that company.
It came as a bit of a surprise that Thomas fell as far as he did before San Antonio snapped him up at No. 58. Thomas was Ohio State's top offensive option this past season as he scored nearly 20 points per game and knocked down nearly two three-pointers per contest. He also has great size at 6'7", so he possesses a skill set that isn't often seen in bigger players. ESPN's Dick Vitale is a huge fan of Thomas and he believes that he landed in an ideal situation.
Trust me RC Buford & Gregg Popovich will make Deshaun Thomas a contributing player in their winning system - #ASTEAL— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) June 28, 2013
It's tough to argue with that assertion as the Spurs have done some great things with players of Thomas' ilk. Guys like Danny Green and Gary Neal immediately come to mind, and while Thomas is bigger than those guys, he has the potential to be a key bench player for San Antonio just like Green and Neal. Thomas will be entering a winning atmosphere, and he already knows how to win in his own right, so look for him to stick with the Spurs.
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