2014 NBA Draft: Highlighting Biggest Sleepers of Deep Class

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2014

Oklahoma State wing Markel Brown (22) is pictured in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

NBA draft sleepers are more rampant than usual in the 2014 edition of the spectacle thanks to what is widely regarded as one of the deepest classes in quite some time, headlined by the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. 

For teams that did not luck out and have the pingpong ball bounce their way, there is no need to sell the farm in order to trade up for a can't-miss prospect.

Yes, individual superstars rule the league, but grabbing one or more quality pieces can go a long way, too—just ask the Indiana Pacers, sans alleged chemistry issues.

Let's take a look at a few names who may turn out to be the biggest sleepers of all in hindsight.


K.J. McDaniels, Clemson

Joe Raymond/Associated Press

A prototypical NBA wing at 6'6" and 200 pounds, K.J. McDaniels has an immediate role with whichever NBA team elects to scoop him up thanks to his status as one of the most pro-ready contributors in the class.

A late first or early-second round pick, McDaniels scored at will last year with Clemson, as displayed by averages of 17.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Clemson Basketball captured some telling thoughts from analyst Jay Williams:

What's so attractive about McDaniels' game, other than the fact he is good to go already, is that he is an elite defensive prospect who can score in bunches in transition and still has plenty of room to grow as an offensive threat.

A combination of instant production and impressive ceiling is difficult to come by, but McDaniels presents a sound package of both for the team that rolls the dice on draft day.


P.J. Hairston, North Carolina

While he may be viewed as a risk by some teams thanks to his unnatural path to the NBA draft, P.J. Hairston's journey makes him an even bigger sleeper than ever before.

It is easy to scoff at Hairston, who after a falling out with the North Carolina Tar Heels elected to take his talents to the NBA's D-League. But once there, Hairston was a dominant force that turned heads, and he says the superior competition than that of which he would have faced in college makes him a better prospect, as captured by Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders:

Playing against [D-League players] really prepares you for that next level. You play against other pro guys, guys that have played in the NBA that were sent down to play in the D-League a few games. For example, I had Bernard James, Jae Crowder and Shane Larkin come down and play on our team. Just playing with those guys, you can tell how their mentality was and how they have such a pro outlook on things.

Standing at 6'6" and 220 pounds, Hairston is an obvious 2-guard at the next level. He can act as a slasher and score consistently, or remain on the perimeter and shoot well—as noted by his 39.6 shooting percentage from deep two years ago with the Tar Heels.

Some teams may be turned off by Hairston's journey, but he is a top-15 talent that will slide and make one franchise very, very happy for years to come.


Markel Brown, Oklahoma State

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Lost in the elite hype that is fellow collegiate backcourt member Marcus Smart rests a talented wing in the form of Markel Brown.

Brown's ability to leap out of the gym will make him a fan favorite no matter where he lands, but it is his lights-out shooting and steady improvement through four seasons with the Cowboys that should make most keen on his stock:


At 6'3" and 190 pounds, Brown is already an elite rebounder for his position and borderline great on-ball defender, even if he does not have the size to match up physically with some of the bigger 2-guards out there.

No, the hype about his hops is not unreasonable either, as Carson Cunningham of KOCO5 illustrates:

Pro-ready defenders with a knack for big plays and a wicked stroke from deep are not all that easy to find in any draft.

In a deep 2014 class, Brown has fallen a tad under the radar. In a few years, 29 teams will look back with displeasure on missing out.


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