NBA Draft 2014: Sleeper Prospects Destined to Shine at Next Level

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIMay 21, 2014

Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown sails to the basket for a score against Gonzaga during the second half in a second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament Friday, March 21, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Denis Poroy/Associated Press

By now, we've all heard plenty about the top prospects of the 2014 NBA draft—Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and others. But what about the sleepers?

There are multiple intriguing prospects that are ready to make the jump to the next level. These players don't receive enough recognition because of the top talent in the class, but they are capable of stepping into NBA rotations right out of training camp and making an impact.

You've heard these names before, but maybe not in the right capacity. Look for these college studs—who aren't necessarily on the same level was Wiggins and Co.—to shine in the pros.

Markel Brown, SG, Oklahoma State

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Last season was a big one for Markel Brown, as he was able to showcase both his athleticism and improved offensive game to NBA scouts. compares him to Ray Allen—not bad for a relatively unknown prospect.

He's much different than Allen, though. Sure, he can shoot lights out when he gets on a roll, but Markel possesses the ability to jump out of the gym. The vertical element of his game is one that Allen has never even dreamed of having. Just take a look at this ridiculous dunk Brown threw down against West Virginia in January:

Brown has everything NBA fans like to see. He can shoot, play solid defense and leap over defenders standing in his path to the basket. His reputation as a high flyer will make him a fan-favorite, no matter what club decides to select him.

He might not develop into an Allen-like shooter, but anything close with that athleticism will make him a star in this league.

James Young, SG, Kentucky

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Lefty James Young can put on a show from beyond the arc. His length (6'6", 7' wingspan) allows him to shoot over defenders and reach over them when driving to the basket. That length also helps him defensively, but Young's biggest potential comes on offense.

NBA scouts have told Young they expect more than just shooting from him, via Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press:

"Rebounding and being able to defend, so I’ve been working on a lot of balance," Young said about what he needs to improve on. "It’s changed, and I handle the ball a lot more (in workouts), and I’m getting better with my footwork."

Footwork and ball-handling are crucial for Young. When defenders give him a step on the arc, he has shown the quickness to blow by them and finish at the rim. There have also been occasions where he loses the ball when taking that first step.

Getting in rhythm and syncing those movements together will be key for Young. If he can improve in those areas like he says, then Young will make a nice living in the NBA.

Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State

Expanding his body of work to include three-point shooting has really helped Adreian Payne in the eyes of draft scouts. He shot 42 percent from behind the arc last season, and we all know how coveted big men that can shoot are in the NBA.

His skills as a rebounder make him even more valuable to the second unit of any NBA franchise. As a power forward, Payne plays a solid overall game. Fundamentally, he pretty much does it all right.

There are a few concerns with Payne, though. He has a lung capacity issue, something he learned about during his freshman year at Michigan State. He described the feeling to Graham Couch of at the time:

"My lungs are small, so I can’t breathe in as much air. It’s sucks a lot. You’re running and you’re so tired, you’ve got to take short breaths and you’ve got to gasp for air. You’re trying to get as much air as you can get, but you can’t get it. That’s why I’m so tired."

If Payne can overcome those issues in a reserve role off the bench, he'll be a very valuable sixth man.